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The grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Jr. falls in line with the other country artists covered in Saving Country Music “10 Badass Moments” series by being a rough and tumble character both on and off the stage, but also in showing great character by giving back and using his famous name for good.
Here’s 10 Badass Moments from Shelton Hank Williams III, or Hank3.
1. Playing Charity Concerts for Homes For Our Troops
When you heard that The Marines had been called to the Hank3 concert at The Meridian in Houston, TX in March of 2010, you could only expect the worst. After all, the son of Hank has been known to throw some pretty rowdy shows. But the occasion that called for a military dispatch including a Marine Color Guard was not an unruly crowd. It was meant to honor Hank3 for donating all the proceeds from the concert to the charity Homes For Our Troops that provides housing to wounded veterans. And this wouldn’t be the last time. Hank3 has also done other charity shows for Homes For Our Troops, as well as animal rescue organizations (see below).
Pretty cool moment before The Meridian show:
2. Playing For 5 Straight Hours at The Valarium in Knoxville
Hank3 is known for his long, sometimes 3-hour+ shows with only a 5 to 10 minute break between his country and his punk/metal lineups, but this particular set was one for the record books.
Exactly what happened at The Valarium in Knoxville, TN on July 15th, 2009 that stimulated Hank3′s marathon, 5-hour set depends on who you talk to. But when Hank’s manager, assistant manager, and five other people were arrested for “disorderly conduct,” Hank3 felt the best way to protest the injustice was by playing one of the longest sets in the history of country music. Without any break, Hank3 held forth with his “Damn Band” staring at 10:00 PM Wednesday night, and the music didn’t stop until almost 3 AM Thursday morning. When Hank3 ran out of material with his band, he switched to an acoustic show and kept on going.
The show went so long, an after party at the adjacent Cider House featuring the local band J.C. and the Dirty Smokers didn’t start until 2 AM, and nobody was there. “Basically, I said, āSince weāre already set up and already have a stage, we might as well work on a couple of originals,ā Dirty Smokers frontman J.C. Haun said at the time. āSo we ended up having a rehearsal, basically.ā
And as if Hank3 hadn’t already done enough, he called Valarium owner Gary Mitchell after the show to apologize for not playing the Assjack metal portion of the show. “He felt like heād stiffed his hardcore fans,ā Mitchell told the Metro Pulse.
3. Playing Charity Concerts for Animal Rescue
For years Hank3 has been playing charity concerts to benefit animal shelters in his home of middle Tennessee. āWe are thrilled that Hank3 would support our mission,” says Kat Hitchcock, who has worked with numerous animal shelters in the area. “He doesnāt just support it, he lives it. He is a genuine advocate for animal welfare. We are extremely fortunate. We canāt thank him enough.ā
The 4th show Hank3 played to benefit Happy Tails Humane in Franklin, TN was on August 3rd, 2012 at the Marathon Music Works in Nashville, and raised a whopping $18,000 for the organization. A DVD was also made of the event, and you can watch the entire footage of the concert below:
4. Taking In Stray / Abandoned Animals
Beyond throwing benefit concerts over the years for animal rescue, Hank3 has been known to pull his tour bus over to check on stray animals, and take them in if the proper owner can’t be found, or use his famous name to help find the furry friends a new home. Hank3 goes beyond the call for animals, and over the years it has become his pet issue (arf arf). Check out this PSA he made a couple of years back.
5. The “Fuck Curb” Campaign
Hank3ā²s entire 14-year career with Curb Records was filled with turmoil. The first major conflict arose over an album called This Aināt Country. Hank3 turned it into Curb, just to have Mike Curb deem it was not fit for release. Curb shelved the album, and then released it after Shelton left the label and after heād fulfilled his contractual obligation for the number of releases. It was a way for Curb to squeeze another album out of Hank3ā²s contract.
Hank3ā²s 3rd album Thrown Out of the Bar was slated to be released in late 2004, but Curb refused to issue it. This prompted Hank3 to start a āFuck Curbā campaign that included T-Shirts, stickers, and the words āFuck Curbā written prominently on Hank3ā²s guitar. Hank3 also took Curb to court, and like so many other artists with Mike Curb grievances, the court found in favor of Hank3 and made Curb issue the album that was later reworked into the album Straight to Hell. Curb also delayed the release of Hank3ā²s 4th album Damn Right, Rebel Proud for undetermined reasons, and since Hank had signed a non-defamation clause to his contract to get Straight to Hell released, he couldnāt even speak out against Curbās actions.
At the time Hank3 was seen as a foul-mouthed yob. But since then, public issues arising with Curb Records and many of its artists, especially Tim McGraw, shows that Hank3 was ahead of his time, and that his salty language was warranted.
6. Including Three Songs by Wayne “The Train” Hancock On His First Record
On Hank3′s first solo record Risin’ Outlaw from 1999, he included 3 songs from one of his early mentors and heroes, Texas singer-songwriter and the King of Juke Joint Swing, Wayne “The Train” Hancock. By including “87 Southbound,” “Thunderstorms & Neon Signs,” and “Why Don’t You Leave Me Alone,” it introduced Wayne Hancock to a whole new generation, and a whole new segment of fans. It also would help Wayne with what songwriters call “mailbox money”—royalties from song credits—for years to come.
7. Calling Out Kid Rock
In his song “Not Everybody Likes Us” from the album Straight to Hell, Hank3 calls out Kid Rock, saying:And just so you know, so it’s set in stone, Kid Rock don’t come from where I come from. Yeah it’s true he’s a Yank, he ain’t no son of Hank, and if you though so goddamn you’re fuckin’ dumb.
The anger was stimulated when Hank3′s father, Hank William Jr., began to refer to Kid Rock as his “Rebel Son” around 2002. At the time, Kid Rock and Hank Jr. were collaborating together on music. The “Rebel Son” talk stimulated rumors that Kid Rock truly was another son of Hank Jr., and Hank3 got tired of answering the rumors. It all boiled over one night at a show in Kid Rock’s home of Detroit when Kid Rock and his fling at the time Pamela Anderson tried to board Hank3′s bus to patch things up between Hank3 and Hank Jr.
Hank3 told Blender Magazine in 2006:
…he kept trying to come on the bus—you know, him and Pam [Anderson] and all that shit —and I said, “Tell that motherfucker I got nothing to say to him,” and then he finally gets his way back in there and tells me how I need to be treating my father and I’m like, “All right, you just crossed the line motherfucker.” And I don’t know how many times I have to say it: “No, he’s not my fucking brother…
8. Recording The Album Straight to Hell DIY Style
Considered Hank3′s opus, Straight to Hell released in February of 2006 was recorded on a $400 consumer-grade Korg D-1600 machine in Hank3′s steel guitar player’s house. It was the first true DIY recording made outside of the conventional studio setting to ever be released through a country music major label and the Country Music Association. It was also the first album to be put out through the CMA with a Parental Advisory sticker.
The point was not just for Hank3 to gain control of his own music, but to inspire a generation of new artists to do the same thing, to see that they didn’t need to sign big deals and have lots of money to make and release music. And that’s exactly what it did.
9. Standing Up to the Grand Ole Opry
For years Hank3 has been trying to get The Grand Ole Opry to show respects to his grandfather by reinstating him into the institution he loved so dearly. Hank Williams was kicked out of the Opry for drunkenness and missing rehearsals with the idea that once he sobered up, he could be reinstated. Unfortunately Hank Williams never got that opportunity. He died on New Years Day, 1953 as an ostracized member of the institution he helped bring to prominence.Ā All Hank3 is asking is a symbolic gesture be made to the legacy of Hank Williams by reinstating him to the Grand Ole Opry, also known as Reinstate Hank. The issue has also come to symbolize the fight to keep the purity ofĀ The Grand Ole Opry institution alive.
10. Shaking Every Hand And Signing Every Album After Shows
This may not sound like some altruistic task for some artists whose shows stretch to top 75 attendees, but when you’re constantly selling out concerts with hundreds of tickets sold, and every one of those people wants to meet you, this simple gesture has become one of Hank3 signature symbols of showing how he’s willing to go the extra mile for his fans, sometimes patiently spending many hours after two and three hour performances to shake hands, sign autographs, and take pictures.
BONUS – 11. Playing Bass for Phil Anselmo’s Superjoint Ritual
Showing that the show didn’t need to be all about him, while Hank3 was fighting with Curb Records and trying to get his album This Ain’t Country released, he took his friend Phil Anselmo—the former lead singer of Pantera—up on the offer to join his band Superjoint Ritual on bass. Between 2002 and 2004, Hank3 could be seen banging his head on stage as a side man in concerts across the country. When Superjoint Ritual shut down around 2004 and Hank3 returned to the country world and released the album Straight to Hell, he showed legions of punk and heavy metal fans the virtues of traditional country music and created many country music converts.
The grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Jr. is having to deal with yet another post-contract release from Curb records, this time called Rambin’ Man, slated for release on April 1st. Insert your April Fool’s jokes here. The album will include 8 tracks of outtakes, unreleased material, and cover songs Hank3 contributed to tribute albums and other projects during his Curb years. Most of the music is stuff Hank3 fans have already heard, repackaged to look like a new album.
Hank3 entered into a 6 album contract with Curb in the late 90ā²s after a child custody suit and a judge forced him to get a āreal jobā. Curb was able to stretch Hank3ā²s album count to 7 by releasing Hillbilly Joker in 2011; a āhellbillyā album Curb initially rejected, but released after Hank3 had fulfilled his contract at the end of 2010. Then Curb released an outtakes album in 2012 called Lone Gone Daddy that brought the total of Curb releases on Hank3′s 6-album contract to 8. Ramblin’ Man would make it 9.
With the news of the release of Long Gone Daddy, Hank3 fans knew Curb still had unreleased material from the 3rd generation star, because a cover of Johnny Paycheck’s “I’m The Only Hell (My Momma Ever Raised)” that was rejected on his Damn Right, Rebel Proud album had yet to surface. Though Curb decided at the time that the cover song was not fit for public consumption, similar to how they rejected Hank3′s Hillbilly Joker album altogether, they see perfectly fit to release the song now on this new record.
Hypothetically, Ramblin’ Man would be the last of Hank3′s material from the Curb era, though the inevitable “Greatest Hits” card has yet to be played by the label.
Some other interesting notes from the track list: “On My Own” was a song from Hank3′s previous Curb record Risin’ Outlaw. “Ramblin’ Man” is a song by Hank Williams that Hank3 once recorded a cover of with The Melvins, as was Merle Haggards “Okie From Muskogee”. “Fearless Boogie” is a ZZ Top song Hank3 once covered on the tribute Sharp Dressed Men. “Marijuana Blues” originally appeared on Rare Breed: The Songs of Peter LaFarge.
Hank3 has previously encouraged fans to burn these albums and share them instead of buy them. He’s also indicated intention to release new material in 2014.
Ramblin’ Man Track List:
- Ramblin’ Man
- Fearless Boogie
- Okie From Muskogee
- The Only Hell (My Momma Ever Raised)
- On My Own [Full Length Version]
- Marijuana Blues
- Hang On
- Runnin’ & Gunnin’
Not since Blake Shelton called traditional country fans Old Farts and Jackasses has a sitting country music star painted such a grim and disparaging picture for traditional country music as Clay Walker did in a recent interview with Taste of Country. The 44-year-old Curb-Asylum artist says that “Traditional country music died,” and that George Strait’s win for Entertainer of the Year was a “closing of the door” for traditional music in the country format.
Traditional country music died. I think that George Strait winning Entertainer of the Year at the CMAs was, to me, a symbolic and a real closing of the door. It was, to me, as if the industry was saying, āThank you George for everything that youāve meant to traditional country music.ā Iām not saying George Strait wonāt be played, but Iām saying I donāt think any new acts, including myself ā Iām not new, but ā¦ I think people are fooling themselves if they think for a second that the recording industry is going to accept any more traditional country music on the radio. I think that is the end of a world, the end of an era.
Itās kind of like Rome. Rome has fallen [laughs]. Thereās a new world and a new era. I feel like I totally accepted that. Now Iām not saying that fans are not going to continue loving traditional country music and playing it and listening to it and maybe even downloading some of it. But I donāt think youāll see this town record what we call ātraditionalā country music ever again. I believe that era is completely over.
But is Clay Walker happy about this fall of Rome, or is he remorseful about it?
No. No remorse whatsoever. I think itās the perfect evolution and itās the way it should be. Itās time. Itās time for that change. And, albeit rough at the moment, itās a beautiful rough. I donāt think that weāll be heavy metal, as some of the bands are doing and calling it country. I donāt think that weāll be rap. I just think that weāre trying to find where the absolute limitations are and then work within those limitations. I believe that right now weāre stretching the limitations out as far as theyāll go and the fans will bring them back in.
Clay also seems to feel like with this perception that traditional country music is dead, he can use this to his advantage in plotting his career path.
I feel like recognizing where music is, and itās really cool to have this particular view that I have right now. I would call it more like a catbird seat because I can see whatās happening and I accept it.
Clay Walker made his country music debut in 1993 and considers himself in the class right after country’s big explosion of popularity that saw the rise of artists like Garth Brooks, George Strait, and others. However a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 1996, and the strange career track Curb Records has taken with many of its artists including Clay have kept his name out of the headlines as much as in them. Clay has only released two albums in the last decade, which is par-for-the-course with Curb, including his last one She Won’t Be Lonely Long in 2010 that Curb first issued as an EP with 3 singles from his previous album Fall before eventually releasing it as a full record.
Interestingly, Walker also hinted in the interview that Curb Records is no longer receiving star treatment from Nashville songwriters, and instead has to get what falls to them as far as potential songs, further speaking to the diminished power of Mike Curb in the wake of multiple controversies in how his label handles artists. “Record labels are smart business people and they know itās all about the songs,” says Walker. “So they pretty much join up with the powerhouse publishing companies who have the powerhouse songwriters and those songs stay in those labels. At least, they have first shot at them. Every now and then, drippings for the poor will come off the table, but not very often.”
The declaration of death for traditional country and Clay’s excitement for ushering in a new era tells us what we can very likely expect coming up from him in the way of new music. Whether traditional country is completely dead on radio or the mainstream in general, it sounds like Clay Walker is willing to take a “If you can’t beat them, join them” attitude about it.
After releasing a total of seven Greatest Hits releases in an attempt to keep Tim McGraw under contract indefinitely, after refusing to release his last album on the label Emotional Traffic, after insisting McGraw owed them yet another album and losing virtually every court case and decision while in a protracted legal battle with both McGraw and his new label Big Machine Records, finally releasing Emotional Traffic after they had found out they had lost, and releasing a duets album in an attempt to counteract Big Machine’s first Tim McGraw release, Curb Records is releasing yet another album from Tim McGraw; an artist that hasn’t called Curb Records home officially for over 2 years.
The album will be called Love Story and will feature Tim McGraw’s “12 biggest love songs,” two previously-unreleased recordings, and will be released exclusively through Wal-Mart on February 2nd, 2014.
Mike Curb and Curb Records have a long list of transgressions against their artists, refusing to release music in a timely manner to keep artists under contract, repackaging music to mislead consumers, and releasing music against the wishes of their artists. Along with Tim McGraw, Frank Zappa, The Beat Farmers, LeAnn Rimes, Hank Williams Jr., Hank Williams III, Jo Dee Messina, Clay Walker, Lyle Lovett, and others help comprise a long list of Mike Curb’s transgressions against artists.
- It’s You Love – Featuring Faith Hill
- Just To See You Smile
- My Best Friend
- When The Stars Go Blue
- She’s My Kind Of Rain
- Not A Moment Too Soon
- Watch The Wind Blow By
- My Little Girl
- Tiny Dancer
- I Just Love You (Previously Unreleased)
- What About You (Previously Unreleased)
The last few weeks might go down in history as one of country music’s most feud-laden moments. From Gary Allan going off about country music and indirectly accusing Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood of not being country, to Zac Brown calling out Luke Bryan’s song “That’s My Kind of Night,” and Jason Aldean calling out Zac Brown in Luke’s defense.
Though country music feuding may be on a sharp rise here recently, it is not an uncommon or recent occurrence in country music by any stretch. Many artists have had a beef with the Grand Ole Opry over the years, including Johnny Cash and Stonewall Jackson. Curb Records has been in the middle of many feuds, most notably with Leann Rimes, Hank Williams III, and a big one with Tim McGraw that pitted cross-town heavyweights Mike Curb and Scott Borchetta against each other. But nothing gets folks talking like a good old artist on artist donnybrook. Here are some of the most infamous over the years.
Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner were one of country music’s most legendary pairings, but when Dolly wanted to leave the Porter Wagoner camp in 1974, things turned heated. Parton did the best she could to leave Porter’s side in an amicable way, even penning and performing her legendary song “I Will Always Love You” for her long-time singing partner. But Porter turned around and sued her for $3 million in a breach of contract suit in 1979.
However, the two made up eventually, and Porter performed with Dolly on her TV variety show in 1988. Dolly Parton was also by Porter Wagoner’s side when he passed away in 2007.
In the midst of Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart” success, Travis Tritt was asked what he though about it, and always willing to be a lightning rod, Travis Tritt responded, “I haven’t seen his show so I can’t say anything about that. I haven’t seen the man personally, so I can’t say anything about him personally. I haven’t listened to his albums, so I can’t make a statement about that. But I have seen the video and I have heard “Achy Breaky Heart”, and I don’t care for either one of them. It just seems kind of frivolous. The video doesn’t appeal to me because it shows him stepping out of a limousine in front of thousands and thousands of fans, and nobody’s even heard of this guy.. Garth Brooks didn’t even do that. It doesn’t seem very realistic to me.”
Travis Tritt recalled in his autobiography Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof, “I apologized to Billy Ray, told him I hoped he sold ten million copies of the record. Went home. I sent Billy Ray a peace lily and a get well card because I heard he’d been feeling bad enough to cancel his Fan Fair appearance. Headline in the local paper the next day. ‘Travis Tritt Trashes Billy Ray Cyrus.’ The more I said about it, trying to rectify the situation, the worse it got.”
Waylon Jennings really didn’t like Garth Brooks, and wasn’t very good at hiding it. Though in the portions about Garth in Waylon’s autobiography he was careful not to use Garth’s name, during interviews in the 90′s Waylon would regularly let his anti-Garth anger slip. For example in an interview with The Inquirer form September, 1994, Waylon said about Garth, “I think he’s the luckiest s.o.b in the world. He’s gotten more out of nothing than anybody I can think of. I’ve always accused him of sounding like Mr. Haney on Green Acres.”
There’s another Waylon quote about Garth that goes something along the lines of “Garth Brooks did for country music what panty hose did for finger fucking.” But there has yet to be a verifiable attribution of the quote.
Still to this day, not much is known about the exact details of the feud between these two men, but in the mid-70′s you couldn’t find two artists more tied to the hip than Waylon and Tompall. Tompall was the proprietor of Hillbilly Central in Nashville—a renegade studio where Waylon mixed and mastered his album Honky Tonk Heroes, and recorded his album This Time. Waylon and Tompall appear together on Wanted: The Outlaws—country music’s first million-selling album. The two became close friends and were kindred spirits from their hated of Music Row’s business practices. They would spin long hours battling each other on pinball machines or picking out tunes or playing pranks on each other. But when the friendship went south in the late 70′s, it went south hard, and the two men never resolved their differences before their respective deaths, despite both men still insisting on their deep love and appreciation for each other.
The crux of the beef between two of country music’s most famous sons is that Hank3 felt Shooter Jennings stole his persona. Hank3 had a song called “Dick In Dixie” that included the line, “I’m here to put the Dick in Dixie, and the cunt back in country.” Shooter, who previously had been in a rock band called Stargunn, came out with his first country record entitled Put The ‘O’ Back In Country in 2005, and Hank3 perceived the title was a little too close for comfort.
If you wanna go down that road and rip us off, mutherfucker, Iāll see you in ten years and five thousand shows down the road.” Hank3 said. Weāll see where the fuck youāre at. You know, I called him out and just flat out said, āfuck you if youāre gonna rip us off like that on your first release.ā
Shooter for his part seemed unwilling to reciprocate the feud, saying “You know what, I donāt even comment on these things, really. I donāt even know him. I met him once, I think, for a second. And somehow all this stuff started about how he hates me. I donāt know. Itās, like, stupid.”
In fairness to Shooter, Carlene Carter had used the line “If that doesn’t put the cunt back in country, I don’t know what will” at a show in New York in 1979 when her mother June Carter and father-in-law Johnny Cash were in attendance. Eventually Shooter and Hank3 reportedly buried the hatchet.
Hank3 is the legitimate son of Hank Williams Jr., but Hank Jr. was not Hank3′s everyday father. Hank3 was raised by his mother, and usually only saw Hank Jr. once a year when growing up. In 2001, Hank Jr. began collaborating with Kid Rock in songs like “The ‘F’ Word” and others, and Hank Jr. often referred to Kid Rock as his “rebel son.” This stimulated a rumor that Kid Rock was in fact Hank Jr.’s biological offspring. Though both men denied it, the urban myth grew legs, and Hank Williams III began to be asked by people if Kid Rock was his brother, which didn’t sit too well.
Then the situation escalated when Kid Rock accosted Hank3 at a show in Detroit, trying to patch up the strained relationship between Hank3 and his father. “He kept trying to come on the bus, you know, him and Pam Anderson, and all that shit,” Hank3 recalls. “And I said, ‘Tell that motherfucker I got nothing to say to him,’ and then he finally get his way back in there and tells me how I need to be treating my father, and Iām like, ‘All right, you crossed the line motherfucker.’ And I donāt know how many times I have to say it: No, heās not my fucking brother . . .”
The altercation eventually led to the line in Hank3′s song “Not Everybody Likes Us,” “Just so you know, so it’s set in stone, Kid Rock don’t come from where I come from. Yeah it’s true he’s a Yank, he ain’t no son of Hank, and if you though so god damn you’re fucking dumb.”
It is considered one of country music’s most legendary moments—when Charlie Rich took out his lighter at the 1975 CMA Awards and burned the envelope announcing John Denver as Entertainer of the Year while Denver watched via satellite. Rich had clearly been drinking, and his antics were taken as an act of defiance against the intrusion of pop influences into country music, and have since become a rallying cry for country music purists.
Recently when video surfaced of the incident, people began to question what Charlie Rich’s true intentions were because Rich didn’t appear to look as malicious as the moment had been materialized in many people’s minds without the aid of the archived footage. Though historians and the Country Music Hall of Fame clearly spell it out as being considered a conflict at the time, Charlie’s son Charlie Rich Jr. says that his father was simply trying to be funny. So maybe there was a Charlie Rich vs. John Denver, or maybe there wasn’t, but the moment still makes for great country music lore.
Probably not much more than the names of these two needs to be said to to infer that they wouldn’t get along. Maines started the scuffle in response to Toby Keith’s song “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue” saying, “I hate it. It’s ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant. It targets an entire cultureāand not just the bad people who did bad things. You’ve got to have some tact. Anybody can write, ‘We’ll put a boot in your ass’ … ”
Toby Keith’s response? “I’ll bury her. She has never written anything that has been a hit…” Maines kept up the heat, wearing a shirt with the letters F.U.T.K. on the 2003 ACM Awards. And of course, all of this was exacerbated when Maines criticized President George Bush at a concert in London a month before.
Keith was the one to publicly bury the hatchet, saying in August of 2003, “You know, a best friend of mine lost a two-year-old daughter to cancer. I saw a picture of me and Natalie and it said, ‘Fight to the Death’ or something. It seemed so insignificant. I said, ‘Enough is enough’ People try to make everything black and white. I didn’t start this battle. They started it with me; they came out and just tore me up. One thing I’ve never, ever done, out of jealousy or anything else, is to bash another artist and their artistic license.”
Toby Keith vs. Kris Kristofferson
It sure made for a juicy story at the time, but according to both of the named belligerents, it was a feud that never was. In April of 2009, actor Ethan Hawke published a story in Rolling Stone that without naming his name, accused Toby Keith of saying to Kris Kristofferson at Willie Nelson’s 70th birthday in 2003, “āNone of that lefty shit out there tonight, Kris.ā According to Hawke, a rolling argument ensued that ended with Kris Kristofferson saying, “āTheyāre doinā to country music what pantyhose did to finger-fuckināā (see Waylon Jennings vs. Garth Brooks above.)
However, according to both Toby Keith and Kris Kristofferson, the incident never happened. Even more damming to Ethan Hawke and Rolling Stone, though Toby Keith became famous from his flag-waving songs, he’s a registered Democrat, making the likelihood Kieth saying to Kristofferson “lefty shit” very unlikely. Ethan Hawke and Rolling Stone stood by their story, but the press who perpetuated it got an earful from Toby about it at the 2009 ACM Awards.
Feuds that involve accusations of songs getting ripped off can get especially nasty, and this was the case when Jason Isbell took to Twitter to accuse Dierks Bentley of ripping off his song “In A Razor Town.” āāDierksā has officially ripped off my song āIn A Razor Town.āā Isbell fired off. āDierks is a douchebag. The song of Dierks is called āHome.āāĀ Isbell continued to pummel Dierks through Twitter, even getting political because of the flag waving nature of “Home.” Dierks in his defense referred to an interview one of the song’s co-writers Dan Wilson did with ASCAP that explained how the song came together.
The result? Though Isbell went silent after he said he was told to do so by his lawyer, if there was ever litigation over the song, the results were never made public. Isbell has since in interviews blamed his heavy drinking at the time for his Twitter tone. Though the two songs do sound similar, whether it was truly a ripoff or not seems to remain inconclusive.
Robert Earl Keen put Toby Keith in his crosshairs when he believed Keith lifted the melody from his song “The Road Goes On Forever” for his 2010 song “Bullets In The Gun.” Keen recalls, “I got all these calls from my friends. They were saying, āThis is ridiculous. What are you gonna do? I felt like this individual had been picking on me for a long time, and I was sick of it. So instead of getting really ugly about thingsāI donāt really believe in lawsuits or threatsāI took the Alexander Pope road and answered this guy in song.”
Keen recorded “The Road Goes On And On” as a shot at Toby Keith (though he never mentions his name), with lines that included:
You’re a regular jack in the box
In your clown suit and your goldilocks
The original liar’s paradox
Your horse is drunk and your friends got tired
Your aim grew weak and uninspired . . .
Toby Keith has never formally responded to the accusations.
This battle of heavyweights ensued when Eric Church was quoted in Rolling Stone in late April of 2012 saying, “Honestly, if Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green turn around in a red chair, you got a deal? Thatās crazy. I donāt know what would make an artĀist do that. You’re not an artist. Once your career becomes about someĀthing other than the music, then that’s what it is. I’ll never make that mistake. I don’t care if I starve.”
Miranda Lambert, who is married to Blake Shelton and also has a reality show past, came out swinging, saying through Twitter, “I wish I misunderstood this . . .Thanks Eric Church for saying I’m not a real artist. You’re welcome for the tour in 2010,” referencing Church’s opening spot on one of her tours.
Eventually Eric Church apologized, saying, “The comment I made toĀ Rolling StoneĀ was part of a larger commentary on these types of reality television shows and the perception they create, not the artists involved with the shows themselves. The shows make it appear that artists can shortcut their way to success… I have a problem with those perceived shortcuts, not just in the music industry…I have a lot of respect for what artists like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, and my friend Miranda Lambert have gone on to accomplish. This piece was never intended to tear down any individual and I apologize to anybody I offended in trying to shed light on this issue.”
As some have pointed out since, Eric Church apologized to Miranda, but never apologized to Blake.
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Eric Church also created a firestorm with Rascal Flatts in 2006. While playing in an opening slot, he purposely played too loud and for too long after numerous requests to respect the tour’s wishes, resulting in him being kicked off the tour. It also resulted in a young starlet named Taylor Swift getting a chance to open on the big tour, which many experts give credit for helping Taylor’s meteoric rise.
Blake Shelton vs. Ray Price
When Blake Shelton’s comments about how he considered country music’s traditional fans “Old Farts and Jackasses” came out, Country Music Hall of Famer Ray Price shot back, saying, “Every now and then some young artist will record a rock and roll type song , have a hit first time out with kids only. This is why you see stars come with a few hits only and then just fade away believing they are Godās answer to the world. This guy sounds like in his own mind that his head is so large no hat ever made will fit him. Stupidity Reigns Supreme!!!!!!! Ray Price (CHIEF āOLD FARTā & JACKASSā) ā P.S. YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY AS US OLD-TIMERS. CHECK BACK IN 63 YEARS (THE YEAR 2075) AND LET US KNOW HOW YOUR NAME AND YOUR MUSIC WILL BE REMEMBERED.”
Blake Shelton later apologized, saying, “Whoa!!! I heard I offended one of my all time favorite artists Ray Price by my statement āNobody wants to listen to their grandpas musicā..And probably some other things from that same interview on GAC Backstory.. I hate that I upset him.. The truth is my statement was and STILL Is about how we as the new generation of country artists have to keep re-inventing country music to keep it popular. Just EXACTLYā¦ The way Mr. Price did along hid journey as a main stream country artist.. Pushing the boundaries with his records. āFor The Goodtimesā Perfect example with the introduction of a bigger orchestrated sound in country music.. It was new and awesome!!! I absolutely have no doubt I could have worded it better(as always ha!) and I apologize to Mr. Price and any other heroes of mine that it may offended.”
Ray also later apologized to Blake Shelton for being so harsh, and along with wife Miranda Lambert, they attended a Ray Price show in Oklahoma to patch things up in person.
After a six year wait to release an album of original material at the mercy of Curb Records’ career-shattering and sometimes illegal talent retention program, prolonging the release process for artists on their final album with the label nearly indefinitely, the embattled and bruised LeAnn Rimes has finally released Spitfire—a diverse country pop record with a few interesting moments, a few moments that are not so interesting, but an intriguing mix of content and influences that is worth a deeper sniff than your average Music Row fare.
These days with so many of country music’s women setting the bar higher and higher in regards to quality and progressiveness of content, you almost can’t discount any country female project without a closer investigation. As the men try to outpace each other in their headlong dash to see who can reach the newest low in country on a daily basis, the women are doing everything they can to keep country out of the dirt road ditch. And after all, you have to be a pretty hard critic to not hear some of those very first LeAnn Rimes hits like “Blue” and not feel a stirring in your country heart and keep hope that LeAnn will at some point in her career re-discover her original, unblemished magic.
But LeAnn Rimes has been her own worst enemy over the past few years. A big glossy magazine cover story cheating scandal erupted for her a few years ago, and more recently a strange story about her tipping off photographers to where to snap her wearing a bikini in hopes to draw positive pub. When you’re a bona-fide superstar at 14-year-old, it can do strange things to the psyche, and that is what we’ve seen with LeAnn over the years. One minute she wants the cameras to respect her privacy, and another she wants their focus.
The chatter around Spitfire has been polarizing to darn near bellicose, with the main focus being the album’s lack of commercial appeal. While in the mainstream world this accusation might be poison, to independent country fans this is a flag that maybe this album is one of those rare Music Row gems, similar to Kellie Pickler’s 100 Proof from 2012. But what you get with Spitfire is an album that is neither here nor there, resting in sort of the demilitarized zone of country music where neither the mainstream nor independent world really want to claim it or sing its praises.
But when stripped down to just the songs, there is still some material on Spitfire worthy of both mainstream and independent ears. The second song on the album “What Have I Done” is surprisingly mellow, subtle, and artistic, without being sappy or mawkish like many mainstream ballads can veer towards. It’s a sincere little song right off the bat that let’s you know that Spitfire is not going to be some cookie cutter album. It also sets the tone in the album of LeAnn directly addressing her now well-chronicled infidelity, giving Spitfire a personal feel. And then how does LeAnn follow this up? With another song that delves into these very same subjects, and with a similar understated and artistic approach in “Borrowed” that is brushed with mournful steel guitar.
But in between these songs is the busy and overdone “Gasoline and Matches.” Just like the title track of the album, it tries too hard to evoke this overused theme in modern pop country of badass women oversinging songs that always involve fire in some way and that completely sap any soul out of a composition. As complimentary as one can be about female country in 2013, this audio equivalent to three snaps in a ‘Z’ formation is as unsavory as it gets to the active music listener, and so is the oversinging that usually accompanies it. This formula rears its ugly head again in the very rhythmic, almost rapping “You Ain’t Right.” Though you can hear how the lyrics would be a fun listen for some women, these songs illustrate that in female pop country in 2013, it’s not what you sing, but how you sing it, squeezing in silly, acrobatic vocal runs that ruin the story of the song, ignore the sweet spot of the singer’s range, and stretch the song’s pocket until it just comes across as saccharine diva-ish show-offidness. It’s the singing competition show influence on popular music.
Another song from Spitfire that has some people talking is “I Do Now.” The track mentions Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, and delves into how you may love classic country artists and their songs when you’re young, but never really understand the subject matter until you’ve lived through the themes yourself. Though the story of the song works very well, once again LeAnn’s vocal approach centers your attention around her singing, and will keep traditional country fans that the song would otherwise appeal to at arm’s length.
And that is pretty much how Spitfire goes. It may be too heady for a wide mainstream audience, but there’s a little too much fluff to enact a resurgence of LeAnn’s traditionalist roots. Or, if you want to see the glass half full, there’s a little something for everyone. Maybe this album was destined to be misunderstood, and seeing how it has fallen pretty precipitously in the charts, this would seem to be a proper diagnosis (though it may be just as much a commentary on Mike Curb’s eroding powerbase). But instead of letting one song or LeAnn’s personal missteps outside of music turn you off of this album, if you’re subject to liking some of the music coming from the mainstream when it’s not positively awful, you may want to give Spitfire a fair glance and decide for yourself.
1 1/4 of 2 guns up.
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Two guns up on the two songs below.
Saving Country Music started in the spring of 2008 as an organization called “Free Hank III” meant to help Hank Williams III who was suffering at the time from the repressive business practices of Mike Curb and Curb Records. From its inception, many perceived Free Hank III as a bunch of foul-mouthed yobs attempting to prop up a punk artist by over-zealously portraying Curb’s deceptive and dangerous business practices.
Now Mike Curb’s repressive stance towards artists and his sharky dealings with other labels is a given amongst the informed country music community, with his latest ploy being the release of a duets album from Tim McGraw two weeks before the former Curb artist is slated to make his debut on Big Machine Records.
But Hank3 and Tim McGraw are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Mike Curb’s draconian business dealings. Mike Curb’s rap sheet is long, so let’s take look at some of the most memorable Mike Curb wrong steps over the years.
Mike Curb Fires Frank Zappa
Mike Curb started his first record label Sidewalk Records in 1963 when he was 18. In 1969, Sidewalk merged with the ailing MGM Records, giving Mike a 20% stake in MGM and appointing him president. One of Curb’s first orders of business was to fire any artist that he felt advocated drug use, including Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground. However neither Frank Zappa nor his music promoted drugs. He was one of the few clean artists in southern California in the late 60′s, often referring to drug users as “assholes in action.”
Mike Curb Abuses Political Power, Pisses off California Gov. Jerry Brown
After working on the political campaigns for Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford in the late 70′s, Mike Curb decided to enter politics and ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1978, winning despite no political experience and not even regularly voting in elections. While then California Governor Jerry Brown was out of the state running for President, Mike Curb used his executive powers to fiat through legislation and judicial appointments that Jerry Brown flatly disapproved of. Curb signed anti-crime legislation and appointed a controversial, ultra-conservative judge to the influential California Court of Appeals. Jerry Brown was a liberal Democrat, and had to rush back to California to rescind Curb’s actions. Mike Curb became so controversial, the California legislature created the “Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission” to keep Mike from making any new judicial appointments. The Sacramento Bee editorialized that Mike “tried to take advantage of [the] situation by making a controversial judicial appointment, but mostly succeeded in making an ass of himself.”
Mike Curb ran for Governor later, and lost.
Mike Curb vs. The Beat Farmers
Way before Mike Curb would bombard the country music public with incessant “Greatest Hits” releases from Tim McGraw (see below), or release albums with out the consent or knowledge of Leann Rimes (see below), he would pull the same stunts with San Diego’s offbeat country rock outfit The Beat Farmers. Signing a 7 album deal with Curb in 1986, the band first got sideways with the label when they found out Mike Curb authorized the release of a live album Loud and Plowed…And Live!! without the bands knowledge or consent. Then in 1993, after the band signed to Sector 2 Records in Austin, TX, Curb released Best of the Beat Farmers without the band’s knowledge or consent. The release nearly coincided with the band’s release of the album Manifold on their new label.
Mike Curb vs. MCA over “How Do I Live” Single
No, Big Machine was not the first label to be in a competing radio war with Mike Curb. That distinction falls to MCA. In 1997, MCA wanted to record the song “How Do I Live” for the soundtrack of the movie Con Air. LeAnn Rimes and Trisha Yearwood were the two artists tapped to contribute versions of the song, with Yearwood’s version eventually winning out because LeAnn Rimes’ voice was considered “too young” and her version “too pop.” When MCA released the Yearwood version on May 27th, 1997, Mike Curb in retaliation released Rimes’ version on the same exact day–a total contradiction of one of Music Row’s most hard and fast unwritten rules. Rimes was a Curb artist, and Mike Curb had a long-standing beef with MCA. The result? Neither version ended up making it on the soundtrack. Yearwood’s version did well on the country chart while LeAnne’s version stalled. So Mike Curb released LeAnne’s version to pop radio, where it set a record 69 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100.
Mike Curb Releases Ill-Conceived LeAnn Rimes Album I Need You
LeAnn Rimes was also in the middle of Mike Curb’s first major record dispute. In 2001, Rimes was working heavily on the movie Coyote Ugly, both playing herself in the film and contributing to the soundtrack. Instead of the current Curb practice of delaying the release of albums to keep artists under contract indefinitely, Curb had a stipulation that LeAnn Rimes had to release at least one album per year. Since LeAnn hadn’t recorded an album yet in 2001, Curb cobbled together various B sides and alternate versions to songs and released it as an album called I Need You. Curb then booked LeAnn on a nationwide tour to promote an album neither LeAnn nor her management being asked for permission to make or even notified about until right before the release. So LeAnn decided to fight fire with fire, using the nationwide tour to instead let the public know she did not support the release, including a very public admonishment of I Need You on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Hank Williams III’s This Ain’t Country & Thrown Out of the Bar
Hank3′s entire 14-year career with Curb Records was filled with turmoil. The first major conflict arose over an album called This Ain’t Country. Hank3 turned it into Curb, just to have Mike Curb deem it was not fit for release. Curb shelved the album, and then released it after Shelton left the label and after he’d fulfilled his contractual obligation for the number of releases. It was a way for Curb to squeeze another album out of Hank3′s contract, the same move Mike Curb attempted with Tim McGraw’s Emotional Traffic.
Hank3′s 3rd album Thrown Out of the Bar was slated to be released in late 2004, but Curb refused to issue it. This prompted Hank3 to start a “Fuck Curb” campaign that included T-Shirts, stickers, and the words “Fuck Curb” written prominently on Hank3′s guitar. Hank3 also took Curb to court, and like so many other artists with Mike Curb grievances, the court found in favor of Hank3 and made Curb issue the album that was later reworked into the album Straight to Hell. Curb also delayed the release of Hank3′s 4th album Damn Right, Rebel Proud for undetermined reasons, and since Hank had signed a non-defamation clause to his contract to get Straight to Hell released, he couldn’t even speak out against Curb’s actions.
Mike Curb Loses Long-Time Friend Hank Jr.
When Hank Williams III was born, there were two men in the hospital: Hank Williams Jr. and Mike Curb. For years Mike and Hank Jr. were very good friends and close confidants, until once again Mike’s oppressive business practices got in the way. In July of 2009, Hank Jr. announced his album 127 Rose Ave. would be his last with Curb after a 25 year partnership, and he did so with some choice words. “āYou want to know the bottom line? This is my last album, and heās (Mike Curb) history. . . We will move onward and upward, You just wait. Weāll have a lot to talk about. Iāve had some recording ideas that they didnāt care for. Well, thereās a lot of other labels that do care about it. Weāre going to get off this old, dead sinking ship.”
By losing both Hank Jr. and Hank3, Mike Curb had officially squandered the Williams family legacy.
Mike Curb Jobs Jo Dee Messina
Jo Dee Messina signed with Curb as a teenager and released 3 albums in the first 4 years of her contract. But then Mike Curb, like he’s done with so many of his artists, put the brakes on Messina’s output. Her last full-length release was 8 years ago, 2005ā²s Delicious Surprise. In the fall of 2006 she recorded the album Unmistakable that was originally scheduled to be released on November 6th, 2007. But Curb shelved the album, slowly releasing a number of singles from it in 2008 and 2009, but waiting 3 years after the albumās original release date to make it public, and then it was released it as an āEP Trilogyā with two of the extended plays only made available in MP3 format. “āFor me, my fans just want to hear the music,ā Jo Dee says. āThey just want to be able to get it.Ā And itās been such a struggle for the lastā¦ eighteen years.Ā I signed when I got out of high school.Ā So for eighteen years Iāve been just kind of struggling with the label and having them release stuff or not release stuff.”
In December 2012 Messina became the latest artist to finally be released from her Curb contract.
Mike Curb Ticks Off Tim McGraw
Of all of Mike Curb’s transgressions over the years, his treatment of Tim McGraw must be the most comical, unless you’re Tim McGraw and his fans. Mike Curb released no less than 7 “Greatest Hits” compilations as a filibustering tactic to keep McGraw on the label indefinitely. This was followed by a protracted legal battle over his album Emotional Traffic that the courts finally ruled was McGraw’s final album on Curb, even though Mike Curb insisted Tim owed him yet another. And then when Tim went to release his first post-Curb album, Mike reared his ugly head again by licensing material from other labels and releasing a duets album two weeks before Tim’s Big Machine Records debut.
And this doesn’t take into account the countless other grievances artist and music entities have had with Mike Curb and Curb Records over the years. Lyle Lovett, a 20-year Curb prisoner, entitled his final album with the label Release Me with an image of himself tied up on the cover, symbolizing the binds of his Curb stint. Clay Walker also had public issues with Curb and how the label releases music, or doesen’t. His album She Won’t Be Lonely Long was released both as a full length, and an EP, both with two completely different track lists. āThere can only be one boss,ā Clay said, āand we know who that is.”
The last artist to leave Curb Records, please turn the lights out.
Curb Records’ talent roster continues to contract. The latest defector is Jo Dee Messina, whose charted 9 #1 hits and sold more than 5 million records worldwide during her 18-year career. The reason? Just like Tim McGraw, Hank Williams Jr., Hank Williams III, Clay Walker, Lyle Lovett, and LeAnn Rimes to name a few, Jo Dee Messina is fed up with Curb refusing to release her music.
After releasing 3 records in the first 4 years of her contract, the big Nashville-based music label put on the brakes on releasing new music like they’ve done to so many of their artists. Messina’s last full-length release was 8 years ago, 2005′s Delicious Surprise. In the fall of 2006 she recorded the album Unmistakable that was originally scheduled to be released on November 6th, 2007. But Curb shelved the album, slowly releasing a number of singles from it in 2008 and 2009, but waiting 3 years after the album’s original release date to make it public, and then it was released it as an “EP Trilogy” with two of the extended plays only made available in MP3 format.
“For me, my fans just want to hear the music,” Jo Dee told Chicago Now. “Do you know what I mean?Ā They just want to be able to get it.Ā And itās been such a struggle for the last… eighteen years.Ā I signed when I got out of high school.Ā So for eighteen years Iāve been just kind of struggling with the label and having them release stuff or not release stuff.Ā Now, weāre pretty much just free to do whatever we want with this new project so Iām veryĀ excited.”
Both Hank Williams III and Tim McGraw went through high profile fights with Curb near the end of their respective contracts. Curb’s modus operandi for the last few years seems to be to refuse to release artists’ last contractually obligated album to keep the artist signed to the label virtually indefinitely. Though Curb has lost most all of the court battles they’ve fought with artists trying to leave the label, their “catch and not release” program seems to still be in practice.
Many believe the character Marshall Evans, the controlling and manipulative record executive from the new ABC drama “Nashville” is based on Mike Curb. Marshall Evans continuously threatens actor Connie Britton’s character Rayna Jaymes with releasing a “Greatest Hits” album. Mike Curb famously released no less than 7 Greatest Hits albums for Tim McGraw while he was trying to keep McGraw under Curb contract.
Jo Dee Messina will be releasing a new album in 2013 on a new label.
On Tuesday (9-25-12), the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a lower Chancery Court ruling denying a request by Curb Records to block Tim McGraw signing and recording with another record label. Barring another appeal being accepted by the Tennessee Supreme Court, this means Tim McGraw is finally free from Curb Records, his label for 20 years who tried to keep him perpetually under contract by claiming the material from his final Curb album Emotional Traffic was recorded too soon after his previous album, and by releasing a comical parade of “Greatest Hits” compilations.
The court battle began in May of 2011 when Curb Records sued Tim McGraw for breach of contract. It got even muddier when during the litigation process, McGraw signed with Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Records on May 21st, 2012 and announced he’d recorded 20 songs with the label. Curb refused to acknowledge the new signing, asserting that McGraw was still under contract with them and the 20 songs were their intellectual property. Then in a battle of Music Row heavyweights, Curb and Big Machine began releasing competing singles. The courts have since ruled against Curb in a number of smaller decisions leading up to Tuesday’s big decision that should put McGraw’s label status mostly to rest.
“All recordings made after December 1, 2011, belong to McGraw,” the Tennessee Appeals Court ruled. “We find no error in the trial court’s preliminary determination regarding the ownership of masters…We affirm the judgment of the trial court and assess the costs of this appeal against the appellant, Curb Records.”
However Tim McGraw still must navigate the trial hurdle for the original breach of contract issue. Though the courts have ruled that McGraw can now make and release music with a new label, they still must determine if he indeed recorded the music for his last album Emotional Traffic to soon, and if so, what the penalty will be. Curb released a statement after the court ruling, saying in part:
The fundamental issue in this case is whether Tim McGraw fully performed under his contract with Curb Records. That issue has yet to be ruled on by any court, and will be the subject of a full trial on the merits scheduled for later this year.
We respectfully disagree with todayās ruling by the Court of Appeals on that issue, and we intend to continue to pursue this issue, including through the further appeals process as appropriate, in light of the significance of the underlying principles involved.
Those principles include our belief that contracts must be enforced as written, and in particular that exclusive personal services agreements with individuals, such as Mr. McGraw, who possess unique and extraordinary talent, must be subject to enforcement by injunctive relief.
The heavyweight fight between Curb Records and and Scott Borchetta of Big Machine over the rights to Tim McGraw and his music continues, on the airwaves in the form of competing singles, and in the courtroom in the form of legal briefs by both parties in an ongoing legal battle. McGraw, who just announced a Las Vegas residency with wife Faith Hill, has been in a battle with Curb Records for years over the length of his contract.
Earlier this year, the courts ruled McGraw could begin recording new music while the court hashed out whether McGraw had actually been in violation of his Curb contract for recording his last album Emotional Traffic too early, and if he was, what the penalty should be. Meanwhile, McGraw signed with Big Machine and now has released a competing single “Truck Yeah” to the singles Curb has been releasing from Emotional Traffic.
Now the legal situation has created another potential problem from Scott Borchetta and Big Machine. In late June, Curb asked and received from the court a delay in the legal process to evaluate Tim McGraw’s new relationship with Big Machine, and asked to receive a wide range of documents and access to Big Machine materials, including McGraw’s current contract, his distributor deal with Universal Music, the ability to directly question Scott Borchetta and top Big Machine brass, as well as emails, press materials, etc. that involve Tim McGraw’s signing.
But more than just shedding light on Big Machine’s relationship with Tim McGraw, these documents and interviews could also unlock reams of Big Machine business secrets that could give Curb new strategic advantage over the much-younger Big Machine who is steadily gaining market share from Music Row’s old guard.
āCurb, having lost in its effort to stop McGraw from making music now sees the ability to use the power of this Court to gain access to the inner-most workings and financial documents of a primary competitor,ā said Big Machine lawyer John Day in a legal filing.
One of the primary reasons Curb wants to see the Big Machine documents, and one reason the court may allow it, is to determine just exactly when Big Machine began to reach out to Tim McGraw to join the label. If it was while Tim was still under contract with Curb (and according to Curb, he still is under contract with them), then Big Machine could be held liable.
Just because Curb requests the documents though, doesn’t mean they will receive them. They must prove the documents are relevant, will contain evidence pertinent to the case, and that there’s no other way the evidence or information can be obtained. Also, the Big Machine documents may only be made partially available, or only available to Curb attorneys in a closed-room situation.
And the stakes couldn’t be higher. Curb insists that Tim McGraw is still theirs, and that his first Big Machine single “Truck Yeah” along with 30 other songs Tim has recorded for Scott Borchetta are Curb intellectual property.
Both parties return to the court August 17th to decide what documents Big Machine must produce.
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In my opinion, Curb is dreaming if they think that they will come into possession of the new Tim McGraw material and then get yet another album out of him before he fulfills his contract as they are asking for. But Scott Borchetta’s aggressive moves, signing Tim and released an unprecedented competing single before the court has decided the status of McGraw’s Curb contract opened up the possibility for Curb to receive reparations from Tim McGraw and/or Big Machine, and apparently so does the court when they ruled to delay the trial in late June. As irrational as Curb was being when they released one Tim McGraw Greatest Hits album after another to extend his contract, Big Machine was being irrational by not waiting a few more weeks for the court to make some key rulings before moving forward with McGraw.
Tim McGraw had Curb right where he wanted them–in the rear view mirror–when the court ruled he could begin recording new music. Now, it may be vice versa.
For more information on the case, check out The Tennessean: Tim McGraw, Curb Records battle now ensnares Big Machine
I was really surprised in November of 2011 when after a minor initial court ruling in favor of Tim McGraw against his label Curb Records, it resulted in a victory lap by the McGraw camp. All the court had ruled was that McGraw could begin recording music with another label, not that he wasn’t still under contract with Curb, or owed them reparations for violating his contract when he recorded the music for his album Emotional Traffic too early. As I said in my story on the November court ruling:
The win means McGraw is now free to record new music and pursue a new label āoutside of his contractā with Curb, but in no way means heās out of the woods. A full trial is set for July, when the decision will be made if McGraw was in breach of his contract, and if so, what the penalty is. Despite the win, McGraw may still be bound by certain elements of his Curb contract, and by court orders from the ongoing lawsuit.
However McGraw immediately began recording new music, signed with Scott Borchetta and Big Machine records, and stated plans to release a new single “Truck Yeah” on Tuesday all before the trial and penalty phase of his court battle had even began.
Now the court has ruled in favor of Curb Records to postpone the trial until it can investigate the legal relationship between Big Machine Records and Tim McGraw. But once again, some outlets are falsely reporting the story, saying that Curb won and now all the music Tim McGraw has recorded with Big Machine is now the property of Curb. This is simply what Curb records is requesting from the court because they feel Tim McGraw is still under contract with them, and so any music he records would be their property.
The actual finding by the court if in fact McGraw is still under contract with Curb Records, if he still owes them another album, or if the 20-something songs he’s recorded recently belong to Curb, will be decided in a trial set for July. You can read the full Curb Records request for the court HERE.
I don’t begin to have any idea what the court will rule, but I was really surprised at the confidence both Tim McGraw and Scott Borchetta approached their new relationship with, way before the trial with Curb had taken place, a trial whose date has been set for July 2012 since late last year. The fact that McGraw has now signed another contract without allowing the trial process to resolve, and then with Borchetta planning the unprecedented move of releasing competing singles with Curb’s material, I can only imagine the court looking unfavorable towards McGraw and Borchetta’s aggressive moves, just like they did to Mike Curb’s aggressive move of asking McGraw for a whole other album before releasing him from his contract.
What is clear is we are seeing a battle of epic proportions transpire on Music Row, whose implications and court decisions could set historic precedent and shape Music Row politics for years to come.
An outright street fight of mammoth proportions is breaking out on Music Row in Nashville, the legendary stretch of asphalt where many of country music’s major labels hold their headquarters. The brawl is pitting two of Music Row’s heaviest hitters against each other, Mike Curb of Curb Records, representing the old guard and the heavy-handed restrictive way of handling artists, and the up-and-comer, Scott Borchetta, the Country Music Anti-Christ.
The two Nashville-based record labels, located mere blocks from each other are lobbing competing Tim McGraw radio singles at each other like grenades, a very unique and virtually unheard of scenario in music. McGraw, who was signed to Curb for some 20 years, signed with Borchetta’s Big Machine label last month. At the press conference announcing the new McGraw signing, Borchetta hinted competing singles may be released, and today made it official when Big Machine announced that they will release “Truck Yeah” from McGraw on Tuesday, July 3rd.
Curb, who had been holding back McGraw’s last album Emotional Traffic in hopes to indefinitely extend his contract, immediately began releasing singles from the album as soon as they lost a key court battle that allowed McGraw to record with another label. McGraw has a current single from Emotional Traffic “Right Back Atcha Babe” out right now, climbing the charts. Now the two singles, the two labels, and the two men, Borchetta and Curb, will be competing for the attention of the general public.
This development is very significant for Music Row, a usually tight knit fraternity of music business colleagues. Now you have arguably the two most significant Music Row citizens duking it out. Many major labels have satellite offices on Music Row, but are based in other cities like New York, LA, or London. Curb Records and Big Machine are the two major Nashville-based, independently-owned labels that call Music Row home.
“Truck Yeah” also marks a significant change in Tim McGraw’s style. Aside from his first major single, the controversial “Indian Outlaw”, McGraw has been known for more serious material, sometimes labeled as the adult contemporary star of country music. “Truck Yeah” with it’s heavy guitar smacks of the arena rock, laundry list songs that have become so popular over the last couple of years in mainstream country music.
Who will win this battle we will have to see. But the most significant development to take away from this is that Music Row now is not only battling the forces from the outside–illegal downloaders, traditionalists mad at the direction of country, artists wanting more freedom, etc.–it is now fighting itself.
When Mike Curb first set up shop in Nashville, he had a strategic advantage over his competition: he was local, and he was independent. One of the reasons many major label country artists have such weak control over their music compared to artists in other genres goes back to how the major labels moved into Nashville during the advent of commercial country. Since most of the record labels were based in New York or Los Angeles and owned by larger parent companies, the Nashville offices were managed from afar, with tight controls on cost and content.
Mike Curb didn’t have to work with these restrictions, and this enticed a bevy of talent to his roster. Hank Williams III, maybe Curb Record’s biggest opponent over the years says this factored into him signing with the label even in the late 90′s, with his manager Jack McFadden telling him, āShelton, I want to deal with Mike Curb because heās in Nashville more than heās in California or New York.ā
Yesterday Tim McGraw announced in a press conference that he had signed with Scott Borchettaās Big Machine Records after a 20-year career and protracted legal battle with Curb. The symbolism and significance surrounding the signing was striking, and spoke to the titanic shifts that are rearranging the country music landscape in Nashville at this very moment.
McGraw and Borchetta initially signed the new deal at Nashville’s Greyhound bus station to symbolize the new beginning. Tim had arrived as a young man from Louisiana with a suitcase and guitar in hand some 20 years before by Grayhound. One of the first people in the music business McGraw was to meet in Nashville was Scott Borchetta’s father, Mike. Mike Borchetta was the man responsible for signing Tim McGraw to Curb Records.
The press conference announcing the new deal was held at the Country Music Hall of Fame, an institution decorated with the Mike Curb name, as are many Nashville landmarks. Holding the presser there was almost like holding it in the belly of the beast, with Borchetta openly criticising Mike Curb, saying that Tim’s first album would be entitled Greatest Hits 4, humorously referring to the incessant greatest hits releases Curb was comically known for towards the end of McGraw’s contract. Soon the Curb name may not be as synonymous with the Hall Of Fame as the one of “Swift”. Taylor Swift, the first artist Borchetta signed in 2005 when he started Big Machine just made a $4 million dollar donation to The Hall of Fame for a new education center, eclipsing any single donation ever made to the institution previously, including any from Mike Curb.
The theme of the McGraw/Borchetta press conference seemed to be the freedom of the artist, with Borchetta insisting that Tim would be able to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants; a trademark of Big Machine, and the big criticism of Curb. For 15 minutes, it seemed the Mike Curb approach to the music business was on trial, and found guilty. “It’s time for Tim to take over,” said Borchetta. “This is about music. It’s music business. That means music comes first. And that’s what we’re gonna do.”
And that may not be where the grenade lobbing stops between these two Music Row demigods of Curb and Borchetta. Borchetta left the idea very open, if not hinted that Big Machine would be willing to release competing singles from McGraw’s new material to counter the singles being released by Curb from McGraw’s final album Emotional Traffic that Curb delayed for years, and only decided to release after losing in court. “It’s going to be sooner than later,” Borchetta said about McGraw’s new music. “It’s going to take a nation of millions to hold us back.” This could create a country radio dog fight between Curb and Big Machine to a caliber Music Row has never seen.
Just like Hank3, Lyle Lovett, Hank Williams Jr., and the majority of other artists leaving the Curb label, there was a dramatic sense of relief in the face of Tim McGraw. From the music of Hank3, to the cover of Lovett’s last release with Curb, the Curb Record’s restrictionary approach to their artists has become an indelible artifact of the country genre in this time period, one that the future will be able to reflect back on, to an era when artists were forced to sometimes wait half a decade to get their music to their fans.
But that era is coming to a close. Mike Curb is no longer the Titan of Tune Town. His roster is depleted, his relevancy is waning, and with Tim McGraw joining a stable that includes Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, and The Band Perry to name a few, it is hard not to label Scott Borchetta and Big Machine as the most dominant label in Nashville, and in all of country music right now. In no uncertain terms, Tim McGraw was a massive, maybe historic acquisition.
Scott Borchetta and Big Machine Record’s success speaks to two things: talent evaluation, and freedom for the artist. Artistic freedom is one of the cornerstones Big Machine is built on, and where much of their success is derived from. In a copycat business in a copycat town, it is encouraging to think that Big Machine’s success and Curb Records’ failures will breed a new era of artistic freedom throughout Music Row.
However similar things were likely said about the rise of the independent, and locally-based Curb Records. Money and power are very effective at eroding values over time. And Big Machine holds no values or promise for the forces fighting for the purity and integrity of country music itself. Looking up and down the Big Machine roster, it is hard to find any true country music at all. How ironic it is to finally see artistic freedom trending upwards on Music Row, yet true country music being left out of that trend in favor of country pop.
Make no mistake about it, there is a new king on top of the country music hill, and his name is Scott Borchetta.
As first reported here on Saving Country Music, Curb Records is releasing a new album from Hank Williams III that includes outtakes from his first two solo albums, Risinā Outlaw from 1999, and Lovesick, Broke & Driftinā from 2002. The album has now been made available for pre-order through Amazon and is entitled Long Gone Daddy. It will be released on April 17th, 2012.
Hank3 entered into a 6 album contract with Curb in the late 90ā²s after a child custody suit and a judge forced him to get a āreal jobā. Curb was able to stretch Hank3ā²s album count to 7 by releasing Hillbilly Joker last year, a āhellbillyā album Curb initially rejected, but released after Hank3 had fulfilled his contract at the end of 2010. Long Gone Daddy will bring the total to 8 albums Curb squeezed out of the 6 album contract.
The title track is likely the version of the original Hank Williams song that first appeared on the Hank Williams Timeless tribute album put out by Lost Highway Records in 2001. The original “If The Shoe Fits” appeared on Hank3′s first solo album Risin’ Outlaw, and “The Sun Comes Up” was a standard of Hank3′s early live sets and appeared on a Live From Scotland bootleg that was recorded by the BBC. “‘Neath a Cold Grey Tomb of Stone” is likely another re-purposed track from the very first album Hank III appeared on from Curb called Three Hanks. “This Ain’t Montgomery” includes Alabama recording artist Joey Allcorn.
This newest album will again leave Hank3 fans conflicted if they should respect an ongoing Curb Records boycott that has now stretched to fans of Tim McGraw, who along with many other artists, has had their issues with Curb, or purchase the new material from one of their favorite artists. Hank3 suggested that fans steal, copy, and bootleg Hillbilly Joker, which had already been in circulation as a bootleg years before Curb released it, but that did not stop the album from charting in the top 10 on Billboard. And unlike Hillbilly Joker, this Long Gone Daddy album includes some material never heard by the public before.
|1. I m A Long Gone Daddy|
|2. Sun Comes Up|
|3. The Bottle Let Me Down|
|4. Wreck Of The Old 97|
|5. Neath A Cold Grey Tomb Of Stone|
|6. The Wind Blew Cold|
|7. Good Hearted Woman|
|8. This Ain t Montgomery – w/ Joey Allcorn|
|9. What They Want Me To Be|
|10. If The Shoe Fits – Shuffle Mix|
For those fans of Hank Williams III that wished he’d stayed or go back to his early 2000′s neo-traditionalist country style and release more material reminiscent of that era, you may have just received your wish. And for the Hank3 fans that are worried that his post-Curb career will be marred by incessant album releases of rehashed material and leavings swept up on the cutting house floor, your concerns have just been validated.
Saving Country Music has learned from multiple sources that Curb Records is at work on releasing a new Hank3 (or more aptly titled, “Hank III”, his Curb-era handle) album. Though a track list and title are not available at the moment, the material is said to be mostly constructed from outtakes from the recording of Hank3′s first two solo albums, Risin’ Outlaw from 1999, and Lovesick, Broke & Driftin’ from 2002.
Hank3 entered into a 6 album contract with Curb in the late 90′s after a child custody suit and a judge forced him to get a “real job”. Curb was able to stretch Hank3′s album count to 7 by releasing Hillbilly Joker last year, a “hellbilly” album Curb initially rejected, but released after Hank3 had fulfilled his contract at the end of 2010. This new outtakes album will bring the total to 8, hypothetically with additional Hank3 material still left in the Curb coffers, including a Johnny Paycheck cover rejected as part of the Damn Right, Rebel Proud album, and the almost inevitable “Greatest Hits” card Curb has yet to play.
This newest album will again leave Hank3 fans conflicted if they should respect an ongoing Curb Records boycott that has now stretched to fans of Tim McGraw who along with many other artists, has had their issues with Curb, or purchase the new material from one of their favorite artists. Hank3 suggested that fans steal, copy, and bootleg Hillbilly Joker, which had already been in circulation as a bootleg years before Curb released it, but that did not stop the album from charting in the top 10 on Billboard. And unlike Hillbilly Joker, this new outtakes album will likely contain material never heard by the public before.
The Hank3 camp is planning to release a statement about this album once more information is known about it. Stay tuned to Saving Country Music for info on this developing story.
When Tim McGraw went to court with Curb Records at the end of November in an attempt to get an impasse with the record label resolved, all of the country music world was watching. A Tim McGraw win could have reverberations beyond the Emotional Traffic album he was trying to get released, his final with Curb Records. And in the following weeks, it did. McGraw’s win not only meant he could begin recording music with another label or independently, but Curb decided to release a new single for the album hours after the decision, and finally gave Emotional Traffic a release date.
The court decision was also proceeded by a couple more announcements of releases from Curb artists also on their last album with the notoriously-shrewd label. Lyle Lovett is releasing Release Me on February 28, 2012, his final with Curb who he’s been signed with since 1986, and LeAnn Rimes will be releasing her final album this summer. But in the shadow of the Tim McGraw court win came the curiously quiet announcement that Rodney Atkins had re-up’d his contract with Curb. As the headlines were making people wonder why anybody would ever sign with Curb in the first place, here was a big country star re-signing with the label he’s been with since 1996, yet has only released 4 studio albums in that time.
We would later find out the potential reason for the curious move. On November 21st, police were called to the home of Rodney Atkins after an alleged night of alcohol-fueled fighting with his wife Tammy Jo Atkins. According to Tammy, the fight became physical when Rodney grabbed her by the face, and threw her down a hallway, all in front of their 10-year-old son. And then later, she alleges Rodney tried to smother her with a pillow.
All of these ugly allegations remained under wraps before Curb re-signed Rodney Atkins on December 7th. It was a week later, on December 15th when Rodney filed for divorce that the details of the altercation became public. “Rodney Atkins represents everything that we believe in,” is how Mike Curb’s statement began when announcing the re-signing. Rodney’s attorney refutes the charges, and calls the altercation an “unfortunate verbal dispute”.
As the particulars of a very public and nasty divorce continue to materialize, one can’t help but wonder about the timing. Did Rodney sign with Curb, which continues to shed talent from it’s shady business practices, knowing his commodity as an artist was about to be severely compromised? And did Curb finally get duped by one of it’s artists, instead of vice versa?
Tim McGraw still has the main trial with Curb Records ahead of him this summer, where it will be determined if he violated his Curb contract, and if so what the penalty will be. But as one of Curb’s last remaining workhorses, Rodney Atkins’ court dealings may be just as important, as the allegations of domestic abuse get digested by the traditionally-pliable country music public.
On Monday Curb Records released a brand new single from Tim McGraw’s long-disputed album Emotional Traffic called “Right Back Atcha Babe”. This is the second single Curb has released from the album. The first, “Better Than I Used To Be” was released mere hours after Tim McGraw won a crucial court battle against Curb that allowed him to pursue recording music with a new label or independently if he so chooses. The single is available on iTunes.
The timing of the single release is somewhat puzzling. The “Better Than I Used To Be” single was released only 3 weeks ago. Curb has been recognized for being on the cutting edge of waiting much longer in between releases of albums and singles as the song cycle elongates in the contracting music environment. So the “Right Back Atcha Babe” release seems counter-intuitive to Curb’s modus operandi. Meanwhile many Tim McGraw fans are refusing to partake in Emotional Traffic and it’s singles, not wanting their money to go to the label that kept McGraw under thumb for many years. One reviewer on iTunes wrote:
Please don’t buy this. Curb Records has been screwing over Timmy and his fans for years…download this illegally, and support Tim McGraw some other way, like buying a ticket to one of his shows.
McGraw’s Emotional Traffic was finally given a release date from Curb of January 17th, 2012, but in a statement to his fans, McGraw alluded to moving on from the Emotional Traffic content, and that “After the first of the year Iāll have a brand new single which I can hardly wait to share with everyone.“
Back in 2005 when Hank Williams III entered into a public feud with his label Curb Records and it’s owner Mike Curb, it might have been easy for many to laugh off the young tattooed musician as an ungrateful punk with no respect, and overlook the cause he was taking up. It may have been more difficult to overlook when the courts sided with Hank3 and forced Curb to release his album Straight to Hell, but the event still remained obscure aside from Hank3 fans and a few industry types.
Now with the very public brush-up between Curb and Tim McGraw, and with McGraw winning a crucial court battle, both anti-Curb sentiment, and the knowledge of Curb’s very restrictive business practices has gone mainstream. As thousands of Tim McGraw fans searched for answers to why his Emotional Traffic album was yet to be released, they learned about Hank3′s story, and the stories of LeAnn Rimes, Hank Williams Jr, Clay Walker, Jo Dee Messina, and many more artists who’ve had major problems with the Nashville-based label.
And maybe even more alarming is the fact that these public feuds between Curb and artists may just be the tip of the iceberg. Many currently-signed Curb Records artists may be afraid to speak out like Hank3 and Tim McGraw did, in fear their projects and careers could be further restricted. As part of the ruling for Hank3 to have his Straight to Hell album released, he made a concession in his contract that said he could not publicly criticize Curb Records. There may be some, or many Curb artists with similar clauses in their contracts right now, and unlike Tim McGraw, they cannot get their story out to their fans or to the public.
I don’t think it is a stretch to surmise that many, if not the majority of Curb’s artists at this point are engaged in some point of conflict with the label. After the Tim McGraw ruling, LeAnn Rimes fired off on Twitter: “Omg, I am doing the happy dance like its going out of style. Congrats Tim McGraw!!!!!!” Unlike McGraw, Hank3, and Hank Jr., LeAnn Rimes is still under the thumb of Curb, who seems very content with waiting a prohibitive 5 years between it’s artist’s album releases, to keep them on the label as long as possible.
When in Nashville this summer, I took the opportunity to walk downtown Nashville. All of it, with a map in my hand, walking around every city block, observing the buildings, the improvements, how everything was related and laid out. Then I walked down to Music Row and did the same thing. As the Holy Land of country music, every square foot of the downtown Nashville corridor could be considered as important to the country music legacy as the artists and songs themselves.
I compiled a few observances from my walk, and a few concerns. One of the concerns was how much I saw Mike Curb’s name. I saw his name more than I saw the name of Hank Williams. From his star on the Music City Walk of Fame, to the “Mike Curb Conservatory” and “Mike Curb Courtyard” that are an integral part of the front of the Country Music Hall of Fame right across the street, to his ownership of the whole block surrounding 16th Avenue and South Street on Music Row where the Curb headquarters are, the name “Mike Curb” is everywhere as the millionaire has been been unloading his war chest over the last few years to proliferate it all over the city.
And let’s not forget the “Curb Center” at Vanderbilt University, the “Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music,” “Curb Event Center,” and “Curb Cafe” at Belmont University, the “Curb Family Music Center” at the Harpeth Hall School, or the numerous other Nashville landmarks that as a token, or a consequence for taking Mike Curb money, must embolden his name in columns and cornerstones to be seen forevermore.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to criticize the practice of philanthropy, or any of these specific entities that partook of Mike Curb money. My question is with the motivation, and the long-term outcome for some of these institutions. Many have opined that Mike Curb’s motivations for manipulating artists like Tim McGraw are not about money, but about power and legacy. I think it is fair to ask, where did the money come from for these building projects, from manipulative contracts and manipulating artists? From overpriced music and overbearing business practices? And in the current tax scheme, many times ultra-wealthy people are better served to donate their money as a tax write-off, which pays off in etching their legacy on landmarks, instead of simply getting a paper receipt from Uncle Sam.
And what makes the Mike Curb story that has unfolded in the last five or six years that much more disturbing is that Mike Curb is supposed to know better. The fundamental reason country artists based on Music Row have always been dealt with differently than artists from other genres is because most Music Row labels are subsidiaries of bigger companies that have to answer to folks in New York or LA, so a restrictive environment is insisted upon to keep costs in line and a system in tact; to keep the big bosses outside of Nashville happy.
But as a Nashville-based, independent label, Curb was supposed to be the musicians savior from the traditionally-restrictive Music Row culture. As Hank3 explains, he signed with Curb Records because his manager Jack McFadden wanted to deal with someone local, instead of someone splitting time between Nashville and one of the coasts. Now Mike Curb is arguably the poster boy for the restrictive, combative, and sometimes outright illegal practices by Nashville-based music labels.
As Nashville and Nashville-based entities are erecting what will be landmarks, and looking for funding for capitol improvements, before taking money from Mike Curb, or maybe when negotiating the terms of how that money changes hands, maybe they should take to heart the headlines that have hounded the Mike Curb name over the last few years, and ask themselves if that name is a legacy their building, their institution, or the City of Nashville wants to tie their future to.
Tim McGraw’s long battle with independent label Curb Records is now coming near an end. After a court win on Wednesday that allowed McGraw to be able to record new music and pursue another label, Curb has apparently capitulated their previous stance that the music on his album Emotional Traffic is not “topical,” and has decided to finally give the album a release date of January 17th, 2012.
Curb has been holding the album back for over a year, claiming the music was recorded too soon after his previous album, and had been seeking for McGraw to record a new album above the 5 album deal he signed when he joined the label. Less than two hours after the court decision, Curb released a new single from the album called “Better Than I Used To Be.” In a statement, McGraw also iterated he will be releasing a new Christmas song, “Christmas All Over The World,” something he would have been unable to do while still under the heavy constraints of his Curb contract.
I fought very hard for the release of Emotional Traffic, itās an album full of music of which I am very proud. Itās extremely unfortunate that it wasnāt released earlier this year in conjunction with the Emotional Traffic tour but all I want to do now is focus on the positive and look to the future. Iām really excited about the new music Iām recording. Next week Iām puttingā¦ out a holiday song Iāve just recorded called āChristmas All Over The World.ā After the first of the year Iāll have a brand new single which I can hardly wait to share with everyone. I am so appreciative of the support Iāve received over the years, and Iām looking forward to this next chapter of my career.
Wednesday’s court ruling was only a preliminary finding in a much larger lawsuit and counter-lawsuit between Curb and McGraw. The full trial to determine if McGraw violated his contract with Curb, and if so, what the penalty will be, is set for July. Curb was under no obligation from the preliminary court ruling to release Emotional Traffic.
Curb Records has finally granted a release date to Tim McGraw’s album Emotional Traffic of January 17,2012.
On Wednesday, Tim McGraw won an initial court battle against Curb Records in his long bout to be absolved from his Curb contract and get his album Emotional Traffic released. The win means McGraw is now free to record new music and pursue a new label “outside of his contract” with Curb, but in no way means he’s out of the woods. A full trial is set for July, when the decision will be made if McGraw was in breach of his contract, and if so, what the penalty is. Curb wants McGraw to make another original album, beyond Emotional Traffic and his contractual obligations, because they say Emotional Traffic’s music was recorded too soon after his last album.
McGraw has said before that he wants to have new music out by March. Despite the win, McGraw may still be bound by certain elements of his Curb contract, and by court orders from the ongoing lawsuit. The full findings from the judge are expected in about a week. However less than 2 hours after the court ruling came down, Curb finally moved on releasing some of the Emotional Traffic music. The verdict came down at 2:30 PM, and by 4:30 PM, radio stations and media outlets had been informed that Tim McGraw’s latest single “Better Than I Used To Be” was being released to radio.
The release of “Better Than I Used To Be” is Curb Records showing its ass. It makes Curb look desperate, and is contradictory to Curb’s own statements. The crux of their argument for not releasing Emotional Traffic is that the content is not “topical” enough, though Curb has proven over the years, this has never stopped them before. They also asserted that there weren’t any good singles on Emotional Traffic, however their first action after the court ruling was to release one, and the other single they released from the album “Feel Good On My Lips” became a #1 hit.
Record labels are rarely bound to release singles from albums unless they see fit.
Emotional Traffic could make Curb Records millions of dollars, but if McGraw is able to move on from the project and release new music with another label, it could trump Emotional Traffic’s impact. So Curb may be rushing to release a single, and may finally give Emotional Traffic a release date soon instead of allowing the content to spoil. They also might be trying to trump Tim McGraw, similar to how they did with Hank3 when they released his album Hillbilly Joker they previously rejected. Curb released Hillbilly Joker right before Hank3′s first independent releases, diluting sales of Hank3′s new albums, and confusing consumers.
Whatever Curb’s motivations or plans, it looks like the tide has turned for Tim McGraw. However the battle is far from over, and fans should not be happy about the single release, they should be wary of its motivations. Mike Curb is shrewd if he is anything, and no doubt this move was pre-calculated to coincide with the court order.
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