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So many of pop country’s celebrities have such a vacuous amount of life skills, without being propped up as pretty faces by the country music industry, they’d be clueless in the real world. Others probably have some skills outside of singing into Auto-tuners at concerts, and that’s probably what they should be doing instead of trying to be artists.
Always wanting to be helpful here at Saving Country Music, we have compiled some ideas/suggestions of what some big pop country stars could do if they had to find other employment.
Star: Justin Moore
Yes, because he’s barely tall enough to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl, and is no more than 95 pounds soaking wet. Gotta work what God gave you.
Star: Joe Diffie
Profession: Mall Cop
“No Mr. Diffie, no need to cut the mullet or shave the mustache. You’ll fit right in here at The Shops at Westcreek.”
Star: Gary LeVox of Rascal Flatts
Profession: Gynecologist / Youth Minister / Celebrity Chef / Professional Karaoke Singer
I know, quite a breadth of professions. But with hair that great, the possibilities are endless!
Star: Brantley Gilbert
Profession: MMA-World Ball Sack Sniffer
He can pump iron and down copious amounts of steroids, but doesn’t have the instincts or smarts to actually handle it mono e mono in the octagon. So he stands in a corner with a towel thrown over his shoulder, holding a water bottle, waiting to wipe up a nosebleed and maybe pick off a sloppy second groupie stumbling away from one of the contenders.
Star: Brain Kelley of Florida Georgia Line
Profession: Mannequin / Wallflower
Doesn’t really sing, doesn’t really play guitar. This dude does less than Congress.
Star: Colt Ford
Profession: Grimmace at McDonaldland / Transvestite Truck Driver
I don’t know what mental image is more disturbing: Colt Ford cooped up in a big purple suit (just imagine the butt sweat), or his rippling thighs confined by fishnets, with a dash of eau de toilette perfuming his pasty inner thighs. (Worth noting he tried his hand at professional golf for a while.)
Star: Luke Bryan
Profession: Male Stripper
You may want to check the ID’s on some of those girls, Luke.
Star: Gretchen Wilson
Profession: Leg Breaker / Diesel Mechanic
She can beat you at arm wrestling, or strip down an engine and machine your headers all before lunch.
Star: Dave Haywood of Lady Antebellum
Profession: Non-threatening male elementary school teacher / puppeteer
Has there ever been a more emasculated star in the history of country music?
Profession: Roided-out, AA-level, baseball wash out
Aldean actually almost went to college on a baseball scholarship and had some moderate skills in that direction. Our ears could’ve only been so lucky….
Star: Kenney Chesney
Profession: Sandals / flowery shorts model
Oh great, yet another damn song about hanging out on the beach. And what the hell’s going on in this photo? Does he even have pants on?
Star: Blake Shelton
Profession: Manure Shoveler
After all, isn’t that what his initials stand for?
Eric Church has been stirring the pot quite a bit lately, calling out Blake Shelton & Miranda Lambert amongst others in a recent Rolling Stone article for their reality show past, before issuing an apology that was curiously devoid of an apology to Blake Shelton, the main protagonist of Church’s criticisms.
Now as Church continues to make the media rounds in support of his current tour with Brantley Gilbert, he stopped to talk to American Songwriter where the topic of being an “Outlaw” came up. Church is regularly lumped with the crop of “new Outlaws” that can include people as varying as Justin More and Gretchen Wilson, to Jamey Johnson.
Justin Moore famously proclaimed himself an “Outlaw” on his album Outlaws Like Me, to the chagrin of many. But Eric has been smart heretofore of straddling the Outlaw line, allowing others to use the term when referring to him, but stopping short of using the term on himself to be insulated from any backlash. For example, at the CMA awards in November, Brad Paisley introduced Eric as “country’s latest Outlaw” before his performance.
These award shows are so choreographed and exquisitely planned, it is ridiculous to think that Church’s management was not at least briefed on how he would be introduced. Church has certainly never refuted that term when it has been used to describe him. Until now:
American Songwriter: People have been calling you an outlaw. Is that an image you’ve tried to create for yourself?
Eric Church: Oh god. No! Not at all. I think we get thrown into that category because of our career path. For a long time, it wasn’t cool to play the kind of music we did. It wasn’t cool to talk about what we talked about. We were pariahs, and when we got fired from the Rascal Flatts tour, we were troublemakers. I think that’s where the outlaw name comes from, but I prefer to think there’s already been an outlaw movement, and I think we can leave it at that. I’m not into branding what we do, because that just sensationalizes things, when it should be about the music.
Yet as one Saving Country Music reader named Chris easily sniffed out, a quick check of Eric Church’s website finds a whole page dedicated to “Outlaw” branding, with “a brand new “Outlaw T-Shirt” now available for sale in the online store, which features Eric’s signature Skull logo. Be one of the first to own it!”
Ouch. Sucks to miss that one. And these products were added in July 2011, so there no back pedal of saying there was a breakdown in communication with his merch store.
But in classic Eric Church fashion, he keeps open the idea of plausible deniability by not directly calling himself an “Outlaw”. Or as I’ve said before Eric Church Wants It Both Ways.
Meanwhile the beautiful “Outlaw” term and how it pertains to country music continues to be besmirched where even the most loyal “Outlaw” fans want to take the term behind the barn and put it out of its misery like an old dog with cataracts and arthritis in its legs and a tumor the size of a tennis ball clogging its airway.
It’s a shame, because when it comes to country radio, there is much worse than Eric Church. But his continuing missteps and insistence on image, Outlaw or otherwise, continues to make him very hard to like.
This weekend, former guitarist for the Drive By Truckers and current solo artist Jason Isbell accused Dierks Bentley of ripping off his song “In A Razor Town” through his Twitter feed. “‘Dierks’ has officially ripped off my song ‘In A Razor Town.’” Isbell fired off on Friday. “Dierks is a douchebag. The song of Dierks is called ‘Home.’” Dierks defended himself and the song’s co-writer Dan Wilson by referring to an interview with Dan from ASCAP about the writing of the song. El Trash seems to think the Dierks camp ripped off Matt King as well.
So now what happens is people break to whatever side they were predisposed to break to according to their fandom affiliation with either Isbell or Bentley, and I guess since I run a website called “Saving Country Music”, I am obligated to post an article about it, while the rest of folks listen hard to subtleties in YouTube videos to see if they can rule one way or another.
The simple fact is that songs get ripped off all the time, and artists accuse each of ripping off songs all the time, but when you break it all down there is an actual hard science that goes into determining if a song was ripped off or not that is used by the only entity whose opinion truly matters: the courts. When you take a song and write out the notes and rhythms and chords, either they match up, or they don’t. Even then, sometimes the similarities are coincidental, or too subtle to to judge. Or maybe the reason the two songs are similar is because they both ripped off another song with a similar structure, or because that is a popular structure for songs currently.
Both Isbell and Bentley occupy a place for me that as soon as I start hating them, they do something cool, and as soon as I start warming up to them, they do something stupid, like I don’t know, rip someone’s song off, or take to Twitter to call someone a “douche” instead of handling the matter more civilly.
I can’t help but think back to the situation surrounding Old Crow Medicine Show’s unbelievably overplayed but nonetheless catchy song “Wagon Wheel”. Old Crow’s Ketch Secor admits he took the chorus of the song from an old unfinished Dylan outtake and really only fessed up to it when he went to copyright the song in 2003 after already putting it on an EP and playing it for years. However Dylan was cool about it. They both are now credited as songwriters on the track, and the song has gone to become the new “Free Bird”, guaranteed to whip all of our asses to infinity by being massively overplayed for years to come. I also think back to the Gretchen Wilson/Black Crows brushup a few years back, where the Robinson brothers ended up being credited as songwriters on “Work Hard, Play Harder” in a feud that was handled rather privately.
As I’ve been saying for years, there is too much music, and these songwriting feuds are just a symptom of it. I guess some people fancy Jason Isbell as an independent artist, and Dierks Bentley as a mainstream artist, but as the songs and the conflict illustrate, their sounds are very similar, which begs the question, why do we need both? Is mainstream music mining song ideas and structures from the independent world for use with their franchise entertainers? Well of course they are, it’s been going on for years. Is Dierks Bentley a franchise mainstream country star? It depends on who you talk to. Some people you talk to would say that Isbell is a pretty big franchise as well.
I guess my point is that I’ll wait for the courts to decide, while maybe giving a slight edge to Isbell. But this is only going to become more and more common, and much harder to sort out as every single pattern and possibility of notes and chords gets occupied by the unnecessary amount of songs, albums, and artists out there taking advantage of the Western World’s excessive amount of free time and capitol. There’s plenty of music out there right now to last us until eternity. So write a song to bare your soul, not to meet some predetermined release schedule to keep your career on track, or to live out your American rock n’ roll fantasy. And if you do that, I’d bet dollars to donuts you won’t get accused of getting your roses from another man’s vine, and you’ll have a song that is so wholly original, it is impossible to steal.
I’ve always had a distant but sincere appreciation for Miranda Lambert, despite her obvious dalliances with the devil that is the big Music Row machine. The grit displayed in her albums Kerosene and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, that unlike a Gretchen Wilson album, still held an element of class, and her unwillingness to hide her east Texas accent, scored some pretty big cool points with me. Then in 2009 came the more tame, but still not bad Revolution, and then the sham, celeb marriage to uber tool Blake Shelton. It seems like a crime that triple-breasted fart knocker has a legal right to handle up on those fun bags, but I digress.
The fact that this album with Angeleena Presley and Ashley Monroe even exists seems like a miracle in this day where superstar franchises like Miranda are micro-managed, and every bit of “product” is controlled to make sure the optimum amount of dollars can be drawn from a name. Side projects, or just generally allowing artists to do what they want, is traditionally not allowed in any shape or form. However Hell on Heels slipped through the cracks for whatever reason, and for mainstream fare, it is not bad at all.
You first have to appreciate this album is slanted toward the delicate frauline of the populous. I may be endowed by my creator with the finest in male plumbing, but I can still get in touch with my feminine side and appreciate the perspective of this album. Also understand this album is meant to be fun. The girls have fake handles for the gig, “Hippie Annie, Holler Annie, & Lone Star Annie”. Just like the current trend on primetime drama of having the hero be a heroine in knee high boots with heaving breasts, that takes down sleeper cells after the kiddos are asleep, the same trend of a troika of crass, slutty, pill-popping girls is popular in music these day (see Those Darlin’s and many others). The Pistol Annies, with their thick accents and bravado-driven songs, fall right into that mold.
A few of the harder-edged songs I just can’t get into, including the first single and title track “Hell on Heels” along with “Bad Example” and “Takin’ Pills”, but I’m willing to give them a slight pass on being the tracks that help establish the persona of the Pistol Annies. Then there’s a couple of songs, “Family Feud” and “Hunter’s Wife”, which just like many mainstream country songs these days, are simply vehicles for throwing out countrisms that targeted demographics can easily identify with as opposed to offering any real substance.
But if you shove those songs to one side of the table, what you’re left with is some very excellent, soulful, well-sung, well-written and produced songs that really touched a nerve with me, even though they’re from the juxtaposed female position. The Angaleena-led “Lemon Drop” about a young girl struggling to get on her feet is a solid track. “Boys From the South” is the catchiest song of the bunch, with the steel guitar right out in front, and a simple approach that employs some countryisms without exploiting them, though I admit, this song has been written many times. Neither of these songs are spectacular, but just like Miranda’s “White Liar” and “House That Built Me”, you don’t feel insulted by hear them coming out of your radio’s speakers.
The real gems are the heartbreaking “Beige”, the exquisite “Housewife’s Prayer”, and “Trailer for Rent”. All three really dig deep down to convey the heart-wrenching struggles of the female condition, with a soul that can only come from a song inspired by real life. The haunting “Housewife’s Prayer” channels Emmylou Wrecking Ball-era arrangement, and combines it with the universal theme of desperation. “Beige” paints a gray picture with broken dreams and an all-too-familiar story of forced wedlock, and for my money, is the marquee song on the album.
One issue I found in “Trailer for Rent” and a few other songs is that the Southern accents at times feel a little put on. Back in the 90′s and early oughts, a thick Southern accent would preclude your single from radio play, but in this era of country checklists and excessively-mined stereotypes, ratcheting up the twang is not only accepted, it is encouraged. When it is authentic, a Southern accent is beautiful on a gorgeous Southern girl, but on a few occasions my radar was sounding for over-accented singing, though again, this might be part of the Pistol Annie gimmick.
This album is not bad. My guess is, what is bad about it is what will be presented to the masses while the best songs are left at home forgotten like the ugly girl on dance night, that is, if Big Brother doesn’t bury it in total from business concerns. But it is good to see Music Row allow Miranda to have a little fun, while helping to promote a few budding and beautiful songwriters in the process, which after all, is another country music tradition corporate country has allowed to whiter on the vine.
The Pistol Annies are tits in my book.
1 1/2 of 2 guns up.
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You have to give credit to “country” rapper Colt Ford for at least one thing: his boldness. While wearing a grin like a mule eating garlic, he’s hoodwinked the country music consumer out of millions of dollars by trashing traditions and self-admittedly having little talent. In some ways I cheer for Colt Ford’s success. Hell, lets give him the CMA for Entertainer of the Year. Because his success just proves the point that most of the stuff coming from Music Row is no more than a punch line, and that we are in a headlong sprint toward all popular music coalescing into one big mono-genre presiding over the death of contrast.
I know that Colt Ford is a guilty pleasure for many. Some of his lines are catchy, or whatever. I find it hard to work up any venom for someone who isn’t shy about speaking on how much of a gimmick he is. What really gets me hot under the music collar is the who’s who of country music that come out of the woodwork to collaborate with this knucklehead. Look at the list of people that signed up to appear on his next album Every Chance I Get: Charlie Daniels, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, and my favorite “new Outlaws” Eric Church and Josh Thompson. You can add these names to people like Kevin Fowler, who Colt Ford had running around with women’s underwear on his head, or other previous collaborators like Montgomery Gentry, and yes, even the beloved Jamey Johnson.
I expect nothing less from Josh Thompson. If his music is your speed, then don’t let my opinionated ass get in your way, but since I roasted him for his stupid “Outlaw” song, it seems like wherever stupid is going down, he’s there getting his pony tail stuck in the spokes of it. As for Eric Church, since my first reactions to his music, he’s been keeping his nose surprisingly clean, and putting out some songs that I dare say show some promise for being very progressive and engaging. So then why regress to cutting a song called “Country Thang” with the gringo version of Grimace? That’s “Thang” with an “A”, yo. Word to yo mutha’. Wiggety wa wa.
So please, all the Josh Thompson and Eric Church apologists, explain to me how I’m supposed to overlook this. I thought these were the guys that were Saving Country Music, and I was a fool for not seeing they were the key to upholding traditions. I know, they’re just trying to get their name out there, but at what expense?
And why is Colt always associated with these “New Outlaws”? Last year Hank Jr. put Colt Ford on his “Rowdy Friends” tour with the aforementioned Eric Church and Josh Thompson, along with the other “New Outlaw” Gretchen Wilson, and the untouchable Jamey Johnson.
If you want to listen to a true, creative meld of hip hop and country, go listen to some Beck or some Paul’s Boutique-era Beastie Boys. But this Colt Ford stuff is garbage, despite a few catchy lines, and as far as I’m concerned, lending your name to a Colt Ford project lands you a card carrying membership to the “Colt Ford Collaboration Blacklist”. Here’s the names I’ve amassed so far:
Colt Ford Collaboration Blacklist:
- Eric Church
- Josh Thompson
- Jamey Johnson
- Kevin Fowler
- Charlie Daniels
- Montgomery Gentry
- Tim McGraw
- Luke Bryan
- Trent Tomlinson
- Craig Morgan
- Tyler Farr
- JB & The Moonshine Band
- Frankie Ballard
- James Otto
- Randy Houser
- Ty Stone
- Josh Gracin
- Sunny Ledfurd
- Darryl Worley
- Rhett Akins
- Joe Nichols
- Rachel Farley
- Ira Dean
- Jason Aldean (for recording Colt’s “Dirt Road Anthem”)
- Hank Williams Jr. (for putting him on his “Rowdy Friends” tour)
I thought we had moved on from the “new Outlaw” era, to pop country stars trying to be the next Taylor Swift. Well apparently not. Now Miranda Lambert’s hubby Blake Shelton wants in on the fun, releasing a song called “Kiss My Country Ass”, an unapologetic, unveiled attempt at the Music Row “Laundry List” songwriting formula (written by Rhett Atkins apparently), that takes it to another level by rehashing David Allan Coe’s “If That Ain’t Country” and introducing “Outlaw” Blake to the spoon-fed masses.
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Gretchen Wilson’s Body Odor has more country boy in it than you do Blake Shelton. I do hope David Allan Coe hunts you down and drives a motorcycle square up your ass. At least the other “New Outlaws” like Eric Church and Josh Thompson have a shred of country cred. All you got is a drummer that looks like he belongs dancing at Chippendales, and a $400 Affliction shirt with sparkly fairy wings on the back.
Marlboro cigarettes and Wrangler jeans? Is this a country song or a fucking commercial? So I have to smoke Marlboro Reds to be country? What does brand loyalty have to do with being country? If you want a cigarette Blake, I got a butt you can suck on.
I hear you mention a “Rebel Flag” but I don’t see one. Is that because the makers of this video identify the stars and bars with hate and not heritage? And then I love this: “Well there’s a whole lot of high class people out there that’s a lookin’ down on me.” Oh fucking please Blake, you have more money than 95% of Americans. You’re trying to manufacture some sense of oppression so you can feel the pride of being identified with a lower social class than you actually are; a selfish, pathetic conceit that is insulting to people that really are kept down in life because of prejudice.
And it gets even better. “Don’t wear no fancy clothes, no ties or three piece suits.” What do you think I’m stupid? I’m watching your video right here, the video for this very song, and your guitar player is wearing a fancy dress vest from a three piece suit, and your drummer is wearing a flaming lipstick-red necktie, looking like he should be a cage dancer for Oingo Boingo.
As for these idiots in the crowd shots of the video, sorry folks, but you can’t claim any country cred from living in a KB Home or Toll Brothers tract house. I actually tried to get in this video, but they told me I didn’t qualify unless my megachurch was big enough to have its own Starbucks. These clueless sheep in this video are seriously pissing me off more than Blake Shelton. Look at these assholes rubbing their backsides together like a bunch of blue-assed baboons. I’ve seen more rhythm in a random orbital sander. And if you’re going to disgrace yourself and country music, stay the hell off the steps of the Ryman, for serious. There’s nothing wrong with being a suburban sissy puppy, until you lie to yourself that you’re not, and engage in this type of subversive escapism-style culture worship.
And as for Blake saying, “If you’re not down with my “Outlaw” crowd…” I love how these “new Outlaws” go all the way up to the line, but don’t have the balls to cross it. Are you saying you’re an Outlaw Blake Shelton, are you? Or not? Actually I used to care about people calling themselves “Outlaws” while completely misunderstanding the term, but now I understand that anyone listening to this song thinks the country music started with Garth Brooks, so the point is moot.
Look Blake Shelton, up to this point I had no excuse to bring your name up. So why cross that line now? Why sell your dignity, alienate your purist fans and rocket up the Saving Country Music shit list? The American rural culture is not for sale so the suburbs can stay satiated, subdued, and consuming. Well actually, yes, yes it is. You song and video is a perfect example of this.
Two guns down!
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(This rant was written by The Triggerman, who lives his mom’s basement, has no friends, and wants to invite terrorists to American and teach your children about homo sex. He also thinks that all guns should be illegal. His name is ironic, like a hipster’s curly-end mustache. He wrote this rant exclusively because he is jealous of Blake Shelton.)
Tonight is the maiden voyage for the dumb “American Country Awards,” Fox TV and Rupert Murdock’s own personal pop country infomercial, and before it even gets off the ground it’s littered with controversy.
It’s only fitting that the theme song in all the promos for the awards show is “Work Hard, Play Harder” from the fake Outlaw Gretchen Wilson; a song which was found to be a ripoff of The Black Crowes’ “Jealous Again,” with Gretchen being forced to put the Robinson brothers in the credits as songwriters and pay them royalties. Ripping off ideas seemed to be a theme for the “ACA’s.”
When they first announced the new awards show, they touted it as “The first and only country music awards show where fans determine all the winners by voting for their favorite nominees in music and video categories.” The problem is this is a complete lie, and a ripoff of what the CMT Awards have been doing since 2002. From CMT:
While CMT congratulates this mysterious organization (ha!) on its first awards show, we are amused by their self-proclaimed title as the first and only fan-voted award show. All within the country music community know that CMT has produced country music’s only fan-voted awards show for nearly a decade. . . While we wish this new show every success, we would like to take this opportunity to remind them that the CMT Music Awards have been entirely fan-voted since their inception.
The Executive Producer of the ACA’s Bob Bain had this very cryptic and undoubtedly lawyer-screened response for The Boot:
The American Country Awards gives fans the opportunity to vote for their favorite artists not only in traditional categories but also in previously unrecognized areas of the business such as touring — encompassing the entire spectrum of country music and bestowing honors that no other award show has.
And these ACA assholes continue to run promos touting they are the first ever to allow fan voting.
What an absolute embarrassment this whole thing is. I hope it goes over like a poop in a punch bowl for these media tycoons, and they take a bath in red ink.
I won’t be watching.
After the 2010 CMA’s some wanted to hang a “Mission Accomplished” banner for saving country music because folks like Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert walked away with big awards while the usual cast of pop country performers got the razz. Little they know this is all theater to keep us purists from not getting to restless, and setting up Taylor Swift to sweep the awards in 2011. Right it down and remember it: Taylor Swift will sweep the 2011 CMA Awards. (The Triggerman 11-16-2010 8:20 PM CST)
But the one chink in the “Nashville returns to sanity” armor was the Single of the Year win for the highly emasculated Lady Antebellum and their dumb song “Need You Now.” What they might need now is a good lawyer, as members of the Alan Parson’s Project posse are pissed off, claiming that the chorus of the song is a clear ripoff of the creepy “Eye In The Sky.”
Here’s a statement from an affiliation of the Alan Parson’s camp, cut and pasted from Nashville Cream:
Alan Parsons has been nominated 11 times by the Grammy Committee throughout his 35 year career. He also engineered Pink Floyd, Dark Side of The Moon, as well as the Hollies, Oh Ho Ho it’s Magic by Pilot, Al Stewart and countless other artists. He even became boss of Abbey Road Studios in London.Our fans are reaching out to us by the hundreds telling us how Need you Now by Lady Antebellum is one of those “lazy rip offs” of Eye in The Sky by The Alan Parsons Project.
Here’s a mashup that illustrates the point:
Ripping off songs might be business as usual for Music Row; Gretchen Wilson was caught red handed ripping off The Black Crowes earlier this year. But never has it been for a song sporting a CMA award. If anything, the accusation proves what I’ve been saying for years: radio country these days is nothing more than rehashed classic rock.
We will keep our “Eye In The Sky” (tee hee hee) on this story and let you know what happens.
A review of Jamey Johnson’s new album The Guitar Song is coming, but since every time the words Jamey and Johnson are mentioned a brew ha ensues, I hope with this to get some of the drama and positioning statements out of the way so the review can purely be about my take on the album, and not the sideshow the mention of his name creates. After all, this might be one of the most important album releases in years.
Jamey is a polarizing figure. Sitting here before listening to a note of the album, my jury is still out, and I can see it both ways. Last week I was told by people on both sides, that if I did not deliver either a glowing review of the best country album in 30 years, or call it a hoax from a fake Outlaw, that the whole mandate of Saving Country Music would be revealed as a sham. The truth about Jamey Johnson and this album probably lies somewhere in the middle. Everyone needs to take a deep breath and understand that both sides are fighting for the same thing here: the integrity of country music.
For The Jamey Johnson Haters:
Listen, I know he wrote the song “Honky Tonk Badonka Donk.” We all had a fun time roasting him for it, and I was shouting him down as much as anybody. But that is in the past. 5 years in the past, and it is not relevant to his current music. It was a gimmick song that he wrote as a joke. It doesn’t make it right, but I can’t listen to his new album and say I hate all the songs and justify it by saying, “He wrote Bandonka Donk.” If I don’t like Jamey Johnson or his music, it is going to be because of what he is doing right here, right now. That way I know my arguments will have solid foundation, and not be a flimsy case based solely on an old grudge or personal taste.
And yes, we should be speculative of anything put out by Nashville, but writing off everything Nashville-based before we hear it is bigotry, the same bigotry that keeps great independent music off of radio, simply because it’s not industry based. It is important to draw distinctions in mainstream country to create solid arguments. I don’t know if Jamey Johnson is an Outlaw, but he sure as hell is much closer to one than Josh Thompson, Gretchen Wilson or Eric Church.
For The Jamey Johnson Lovers:
I’m tired of the whining about how Jamey Johnson doesn’t get mainstream radio support. The man’s songs have been played on the radio, and that is something that dozens of deserving bands will never have happen. Any radio support for any music that is not pop country is a marvel these days, and should be appreciated. Same goes with awards, which Jamey has won and been nominated for, and he’s also performed on award shows. Jamey is not suffering from lack of attention from the music industry, and to assert so is insulting to independent artists who’ve received nothing.
You also have to understand where some of the suspicion and anger for Jamey Johnson comes from, and that it is the same anger that you have when you can’t hear Jamey’s latest single on the radio, but you hear Taylor Swift’s twice. Right now Nashville is attempting to exploit is own anti-Nashville sentiment with manufactured “Outlaws” who sing songs about how pop country sucks while they use the same infrastructure as the pop artists do to get ahead.
So those are my positioning statements. I’m not trying to tell anyone to be or not be a Jamey Johnson fan. I give my opinions with the idea that they will educate you to help you form your own. Feel free to bash me, or bash Jamey lovers, Jamey haters, NYC Mosque supporters, Arizona Immigration haters, or whatever below, but I’m off to finish my review of the album.
Today is the 4th of July: the birthday of The United States. It is also arguably the birthday of the Outlaw movement in country music.
Nailing down an exact date when the Outlaw movement started depends on who you talk to, but a popular one is when Willie Nelson’s legendary 4th of July Picnics started in 1973. The Dripping Springs Reunion happened the previous year, but this was held in the Spring, and was marked by classic country performances from people like Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn, and Roy Acuff. 1973 is when native Texans Willie, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson famously reunited to headline the festival.
There’s been a lot of questions on what really makes a country music Outlaw swirling around lately, especially with the controversy surrounding the “New Outlaws” (Eric Chruch, Josh Thompson, Gretchen Wilson, etc.) Misconceptions abound. That is why the original Outlaws hated the term, and why new artists as well as fans use the term incorrectly. So I thought I would clarify:
Being a country music Outlaw has nothing to do with having tattoos. It has nothing to do with motorcycles, or how much you cuss in your music or reference drugs. It has nothing to do with rock influences in your music, nothing to do with if you “party” a lot or live an “Outlaw” lifestyle. Being an Outlaw has very little to do with the music itself. You can play traditional country, neo-traditional country, country-rock. There is NO definable Outlaw country sound. As long as it is country music, it can be Outlaw music.
“Outlaw” is a business term more than anything. Yes, all the above can be and have been elements of the overall Outlaw culture, but neither Willie, Waylon, or Kris had tattoos, rode motorcycles, and none of them were big drinkers. What they had in common with Outlaws that WERE big drinkers like Johnny Paycheck, or that rode motorcycles and had tattoos like David Allan Coe, was that they had all fought for creative control of their music from the country music establishment, and won it. THAT is what makes a country music artist an Outlaw.
And just for the record, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and George Jones were never considered Outlaws, though you could say that Cash became an Outlaw near the end of his life with The Highwaymen project, and the Rick Ruben American Recordings later on, and he did have many dealings with The Outlaws over the years.
The original Outlaw was Bobby Bare, who was the first to fight for creative control of his music, and the first to open up new themes that before were taboo in country. This is typified by the 1966 song Streets of Baltimore, which very subtly is about a woman leaving her man to become a prostitute. The song was written by Tompall Glaser. Another taboo hurdle was cleared by Kris Kristofferson’s Sunday Morning Coming Down, which references wanting to be “stoned.” But Tompall started the Outlaw revolution in earnest when he built a renegade recording studio called “Hillbilly Central” on 19th Ave in Nashville.
At the time almost everything in Nashville was controlled by a few men: mainly RCA producer Chet Atkins, and the Acuff-Rose Publishing Company. Nearly all music coming out of Nashville was recorded at RCA’s “Studio B”. The songs recorded by artists were written by dedicated songwriters, and selected and arranged by record label producers. All studio musicians were selected by the producer, and were unionized so as no outside musicians (say from an artists touring band) could be used.
Enter not a musician, but a slick lawyer from New York named Neil Reshen. Reshen helped two disgruntled RCA artists, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, break their RCA contracts and wrestle control of their music. (You can read more about Reshen HERE.) Willie and Waylon were inspired to do this by watching Bobby Bare and rock musicians have almost unilateral control over their music. Willie left RCA, and eventually singed with Atlantic, a rock label, with complete creative control. Waylon stayed with RCA, but established control over his music the likes of which had never been seen inside Music Row.
The first thing Waylon did was record an album in 1973 of Billy Joe Shaver songs, Honky Tonk Heroes, at Tompall’s Hilllbilly Central. This was one of the most significant moves in country music history, because after Reshen’s legal maneuverings, it broke the back of the Music Row monopoly, and opened a floodgate for artists to be able to record their music outside of RCA’s “Studio B” (or Studio A) and without using union studio musicians. It also ushered in a period where label-owned studios became virtually extinct, and independently-owned studios thrived.
The next significant move was Willie Nelson releasing Red Headed Stranger in 1975, considered by many as the greatest country music album ever. It was done in a small studio in Garland, TX with Willie’s own musicians on a shoestring budget. The next year RCA released Wanted! The Outlaws, which became the first million-selling album in country music history. All the songs on those two albums were recorded with the artists having the final say.
So when Josh Thompson says to blame his Outlaw ways on Waylon, meaning his college-style coed drinking antics and pop-style “partying,” I have to object. Waylon’s “Outlaw Ways” would be to insist on not putting out music that was tooled from beginning to finish by industry producers. I also have to object when someone thinks being an Outlaw means getting a skull tattoo and interjecting devil and drug references into their music.
“Outlaw” is a state of mind; an approach based on strong-willed principles. Anything beyond that is lesser qualifying points based on opinion or simple elements of culture.
The sheer speed at which American pop country is devolving before our very eyes can only be described as “awesome.” It is the evolutionary equivalent of if we could witness a species of apes evolve into a new race of humans in the length of a football season. As the creatively bankrupt boardrooms of Music Row’s major labels refuse to face reality, their marketing schemes for new artists get more convoluted and sinister, yet still remain so woefully transparent it can only be taken as a backhanded insult to the country music consumer.
An expert example of this is the super-fecta of pop country specimens: one Eric Church. He has it all: Exemplary skills at rehashing formulaic pop country themes, lyrics, and sounds, a marvelous ability to sell himself as an “Outlaw” in the Josh Thompson/Gretchen Wilson fashion while playing Top 40 trash, and the undying support of one of the most evil labels on Music Row, Capitol Records Nashville.
But Eric takes it a step further. His particular Madison Avenue-style marketing scheme involves him being an “outcast,” not giving a damn what anybody thinks about him and doing it his own way. So in every interview he does, he’s swerving all over the place, bumping into people, trying to start fights and bitching about “critics” of his music. Problem is these critics existence is questionable at best, and nobody but his fans are buying his bad boy brand. Nonetheless he perseveres, tilting at windmills to preserve this overthought Outlaw image.
Well, being a very conscientious and proactive member of the country music community, I thought I would help Eric Church out. If he needs a critic to tussle with, I’d be happy to oblige.
Hello Eric Church, my name is The Triggerman and I’m from Dallas, TX. Prepare for me to take a big shit on you.
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In a nutshell, Eric Church is a talent-less asshole. I made ready a paper bag and a nose plug and investigated his music thoroughly, and it is the lowest of the low. I’d rather have an elephant take a dump on my face that to listen to his stuff. I’d rather listen to my parents fuck.
His song Love Your Love The Most is the epiphany of what trash pop country has always strived for: stupid “laundry list” lyrics, vocals that bottom out at the beginning of phrases ripping off Garth Brooks, and a lovey dovey fop theme that falls flatter than Rascal Flatts vocals without Auto-tune. This song is enough to drive a pacifist to kill baby animals with their bare hands. It isn’t just bad, it is a frikkin harbinger for the downfall of Western civilization. I’d rather be held down and force fed poo while my pubes are being pricked out one by one than to listen to this.
His worst transgression is the song “Lotta Boot Left to Fill.” This is one of these pop songs that trashes pop songs, talking out of both sides of the mouth. But again emphasizing Eric’s overachieving attitude, he once again breaks the glass ceiling for bad pop. In this song, he figures out how to shoehorn overtly ripping off Waylon’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” George Jones’s “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” and still leaves room to blasphemy Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings. This is a feat of dexterity that would make a Cirque de Soleli contortionist look like a paraplegic. Even I have to admit this takes talent.
This song is such an abomination I am surprised the sheer mention of it doesn’t cause a rip in the country music space/time continuum.
Oh and Eric, Peter Frampton just called and said he wants his voice box back, and his silver-lined outer-space panties.
Is this really how Willie and Waylon done it? Eh, not so much.
And for all this talk from Eric about how he hates overpolished pop country, he has Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum in his top friends on his MySpace site, and once toured opening for Rascal Flatts.
He did eventually get kicked off the tour for playing “too loud,” and “too long” but for once I’m going to have to agree with my Rascal Flatts frosted hair friends. I’ve listened to Eric Church’s music, and it IS offensive at ANY volume, for ANY length of time.
And maybe he’d earn some points with me if he got kicked off for telling it like it is and trying to educate Rascal Flats fandom. But instead he was just being an asshole. Rascal Flats gave him a big opportunity, and he spit in their face. Hey Rascal Flatts are what they are, and they don’t pretend to be anything different. They’re not name dropping Waylon. Someone has to give teen girls something to sing into their shampoo bottles to. But Eric Church plays the “bad boy” while the only difference between Rascal Flats and him is their preferred brand of hair products.
Oh, and Eric was replaced by Taylor Swift on that tour; a move some say lent to Taylor’s meteoric rise. So we have that to thank this asshole for as well.
In closing Eric Church is the lowest form of a country music human being that can be found on the whole world planet. I want to apologize to Eric for not recognizing this before, and forcing him to fight with phantoms to protect his image. No more Eric, no more. Henceforth I’m right here for you brother.
Thank me later.
Remember back when Taylor Swift won the CMA for Entertainer of the Year? We thought it couldn’t get worse for country music. There was a lot of surmising of where country music might go next after that win. Would there be a traditionalist backlash? Would country become even more pop oriented to try to mimic Taylor’s success?
No, try a sinister option #3: Take the fervor for a traditionalist backlash and roll it into even more pop oriented, cliche riddled radio ready songs that further trash the soul and name of country music. With new artists like Josh Thompson, and new albums like Gretchen Wilson’s I Got Your Country Right Here, Music Row proved that the depth of their shrewdness cannot be measured.
But maybe the have gone too far this time. Nashville’s collusive reality tunnel has blinded them to the fact that they are becoming the brunt of jokes, literally. And not just in the seeing-eye core of country fandom, but in the overall culture. People who always hated country, are now wondering what the hell is going on with country.
But don’t take my word for it.
Chet Flippo, long time country music writer, whose been a senior editor for Rolling Stone and wrote the introductions to the classic Outlaw country album Wanted: The Outlaws is now getting into the fray. In a Nashville Skyline article, Chet calls out the same Josh Thompson and Gretchen Wilson songs that I’ve been ranting about for weeks:
“Junk songwriting and shallow lyrics and shorthand shopping lists of objects that supposedly should be desired by country fans have always existed in country songs, but I don’t think they’ve ever been as celebrated as they are now. Or as ubiquitous. Or as successful. . . One reason is that there seem to be no — or very few — musically-knowledgeable people at radio because of radio consolidation and perhaps because the bosses don’t want anyone messing up the process with talk of quality or of good songs.”
“Another reason is the old cycle of record labels recording artists and songs that radio says it wants, and that usually calls for the lowest common denominator. And for songs that test well with the right demographic. And then that means songwriters have to write the kinds of songs that will actually get recorded and played. And that cycle repeats over and over.”
Chet doesn’t name names, but with his “shallow lyrics and shorthand shopping lists of objects that supposedly should be desired by country fans” he is clearly talking about the Josh Thompson and Gretchen Wilson songs that rip off the Black Crowes and rip off each other.
But Chet is still part of the country music fold, so let’s take a broader look. A recent Wall Street Journal Article about the Pulitzer Prize awarded to Hank Williams wondered if the award was also backhandedly criticizing the creatively bankrupt culture of modern country:
“The acknowledgment of Williams comes at a time when country music seems under assault from within, as its biggest stars promote glossy, cookie-cutter hybrid that owes more to pop than acoustic country and its writers have reduced to a litany of well-worn clichés the kind of lyrical insight Williams displayed. Though Williams was a star in his day who understood the power of image, at the core of his work was his ability to write and sing lines that resonated not only in the mind but deep in the heart of his listeners – which is why his songs so easily cross genres for other performers: His words speak of what we know to be true.”
A lot of people would say people who are not knowledgeable about country music have no right to criticize it. Chet Flippo has said that much himself, and I disagreed with him. But when something becomes so obvious that even people not paying full attention to the country music world can see how ridiculous it has become, how far it has gone, this is the perfect sign that it has gone too far.
When I was down at South by Southwest a few weeks back, I was in a restaurant, and saw this sign below, completely by random. Whether it’s this sign, a Pulitzer Prize, or a Wall Street Journal article, there’s no more need for debate, the signs are everywhere throughout our culture: Country music has lost its way.
There is a war going on right now for the heart of country music my friends, and we just had a salvo shot right into our belly. I would love to be sitting here writing about one of the countless original, highly-talented bands out there that Music Row won’t even let sniff it’s panties, but every day I have to watch an art form that I love get dragged through the mud and exploited for every last dollar possible, and I must comment.
The latest felonious assault on country comes from pop country’s Gretchen Wilson, from her new album I Got Your Country Right Here. Her song “Work Hard, Play Harder” was legally found to be a ripoff of a Black Crowes song, and yet, this isn’t even the most sinister song on the album. That distinction belongs to the song “Outlaws and Renegades.” The first verse goes:
Well just the other day I was driving down the road
And I thought I turned on my country radio
Well I didn’t recognize a single song, or none of the names
But it didn’t really matter because they all seemed to sound the same
Where’s all the Outlaws and renegades?
Some might think that I would applaud lyrics like these coming from a mainstream country artist, even though in my world they were cliche half a decade ago. But the problem is their just words, and Gretchen’s actions speak louder.
I Got Your Country Right Here is a pop album. I have listened to it cover to cover, and not only hear nothing Outlaw, but nothing original. Some of the ballads are somewhat decent, but I can’t even dress this album up as being traditional, like a George Strait or Miranda Lambert album, it’s just pop. So that means these lyrics did not come from an Outlaw inspiration, but an inspection of the country music landscape and how to profiteer off of it.
Where’s all the Outlaws and Renegades Gretchen? Haven’t you heard of JB Beverly and The Wayward Drifters? Or how about Lucky Tubb? Or what about Hellbound Glory, or Hank III, or Bob Wayne, Rachel Brooke, Dale Watson, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Brigitte London, Peewee Moore, William Elliot Whitmore, Whitey Morgan & The 78′s, Jayke Orvis, James Hunnicutt, Joe Buck, Dex Romweber, The Deadstring Brothers, The Calamity Cubes, Pete Berwick, Ronnie Hymes, Kara Clark. . . .
Let me catch my breath for a sec . . .OK.
Little Lisa Dixie, .357 String Band, Split-Lip Rayfield, Scott H. Biram, The Honky Tonk Hustlas, Devil Makes Three, Karling Abbeygate, Hillstomp, Highlonesome and many many more?
And thanks for noticing, but Willie Nelson is still around, putting out relevant music, and so is Billy Joe Shaver, and David Allan Coe, and Roger Alan Wade. The Outlaws have always been here Gretchen, you were just too busy to notice because you were riding that same gravy train that you’re now flame throwing because you think it is expedient from a marketing standpoint.
Great, you started your own label, but you were more Outlaw when you fought for creative control of your music and the radio was ignoring you. Now you’ve gone back to selling out to keep your 30 employees and 300-acre spread in the black. Being an Outlaw is about priorities and principles, and you can’t make up for leaving all those behind by paying lip service to the disgruntled country music fan in a pop song. Being an Outlaw means doing it YOUR way, money be damned.
Since Hollywood has gone country, Nashville has gone Outlaw. Unfortunately the music hasn’t followed suit, it’s only the Nashville suits throwing around music terms to try to move more “units”. Instead of fighting against the REAL country music insurgency, Music Row is trying to incorporate it, assimilate it, steal our vigor and our words to try to keep the agro music consumer within their fold.
It will not work.
Gretchen Wilson is not an Outlaw, a renegade, a redneck, or a blue collar. She’s not even white trash. She’s just trash, period, for stealing songs and our message to get a sputtering pop country career back on track.
I’ve had a working theory for a while that 75% of what you hear on mainstream country radio today can be traced back to a small handfull of songs by Bob Seger and The Black Crowes. Darn near 1/3 of them can be traced back to Seger’s “Night Moves” alone. Well it might be time to graduate my theory to an axiom.
On Tuesday (3/30), pop country’s Gretchen Wilson will release her fourth album, I Got Your Country Right Here. The name of the album intrigued me, because lately I’ve been on the look out for Nashville’s major country labels trying to take advantage of how the backlash against pop country is going mainstream. Labels like Sony BMG and Columbia Nashville may be dumb, but they’re not stupid. They know that the rise of pop acts in the country genre, acts like Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts, is causing some country fans to question just how country their country music is.
The Nashville oligarchy doesn’t want their “demographics” looking to smaller labels or independent artists to find their country fix, so they are trying to manufacture their own “Outlaws” and “REAL” country artists. An example would be Columbia Nashville’s Josh Thompson, who I took to task a few weeks ago. Gretchen’s new album made me wonder if the same handiwork was in play, so I started hunting around for info on the new material, which led me to her song, “Work Hard, Play Harder.”
As soon as I started watching the video for the song what IMMEDIATELY struck me was how it was almost EXACTLY the same song as Josh Thompson’s Beer on the Table. The notes sung at the beginning of the verses are nearly spot on. The lyrics are on the same exact subject matter, not only in the song overall, but how they play out in the specific verses. Even the way the chorus comes in is almost exactly the same in the two songs. It IS the same song, just with different singers and a few re-arranged lyrics.
So I was going to have a little fun breaking down these two songs, using them as an example of the lack of creativity in pop Nashville and how cubicle farms of songwriters use simple formulas to manufacture “hits.” But as I was hunting down lyrics for both songs I found something even more sinister: Right now The Black Crowes are suing Gretchen Wilson, because they say her song “Work Hard, Play Harder” is a rip off of their 1990 song “Jealous Again.” In other words, Josh Thompson’s song is a mirror of Gretchen Wilson’s song, and Gretchen’s song WAS RIPPED OFF FROM THE BLACK CROWES !!!
From The Black Crowes manager Pete Angelus:
“We find the musical verses of Wilson’s song to be such an obvious example of copyright infringement that I expect all parties to reach a relatively quick resolution to avoid litigation.”
The lawsuit also names Sony BMG and TNT who was using the song in a TV promo. John Rich, another guy who likes to ballyhoo his “REAL” country music, was a co-writer on the Wilson song as well. So far no word on an outcome of the lawsuit; it was filed in July, 2008.
I can’t think of a better example of the incestuous, creatively stagnant environment that pop country music has become. It’s pretty telling that before Gretchen’s new album even hits stores, one of the top singles is being pursued directly for copyright infringement. Maybe she should stop taking whiskey shots and perpetually whipping shitties in the mud around her doublewide like her marketeers like to make us think she does, and start crunching out some new ideas. Even if any lawsuit, past or future, fails to find pay dirt, it’s hard to listen to these two songs and any others on pop country radio and say that any variety or creativity is being offered up.
The other thing I can’t stop thinking when I hear these songs is that I’m not only hearing crap music, I’m hearing rap music.
But don’t take my jaded opinion, watch and judge for yourself:
According to this article in the Nashville Scene, Gretchen conceded the battle with The Black Crowes, meaning the song was indeed found to be copyright infringement. Chris and Rich Robinson will now be credited as songwriters on Gretchen’s “Work Hard, Play Harder,” and will receive royalties from the song.
Gretchen’s “Work Hard, Play Harder”