This week was the first week Something More Than Free has not graced the #1 spot on the Americana Radio Airplay chart in the last 20—an all-time record. The only other records to come close to the accomplishment were Isbell’s previous release Southeastern from 2013, and Robert Plant’s Band of Joy album, which both spent 15 weeks at the top of the charts.
Over the last couple of weeks, Saving Country Music headquarters has received a fresh new onslaught of emails on the subject of pop country über DJ Bobby Bones—the morning show personality for iHeartMedia’s syndicated network and the single-most name at the forefront of homogenizing American mainstream country music radio. Let’s tackle some of these subjects . . .
It’s one thing to mischaracterize my opinions, or the opinions of Chris Stapleton fans, or concerned country music fans in general. It’s another thing to use the name and visage of a respected country music legend to assert the wrongful and misguided opinions of your think piece, especially when the aim of that think piece is to attack active and concerned country music fans.
Heading into the final couple of months of 2015, there may not be a hotter name in country music among critics and distinguished listeners than Chris Stapleton. The long wait for his often-rumored and much-delayed debut album was finally rewarded on May 5th with the release of the Dave Cobb-produced “Traveller,” and fans were not let down.
In a season that started out so promising for America’s Team, including a 2-0 record with key wins against division opponents and a roster that some believed was good enough to make another run at the Super Bowl, adversity has struck once again. The Dallas Cowboys have received the devastating news that that Bro-Country star Luke Bryan will be performing the halftime show of the team’s annual Thanksgiving game.
So what’s to learn from hitching a ride in Marty McFly’s time machine and traveling back to 1985? That the problems country music is facing today are virtually the same ones that were being faced 30 years ago. It’s all cyclical, as canonized in the old Gospel tune enshrined in the architecture of the Country Music Hall of Fame asking the question, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?”
Alan Jackson, Bill Carter, Bobby Bare, Chris Stapleton, Clint Black, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Jason Isbell, Keith Whitley, Kris Kristofferson, Mo Pitney, Randy Travis, Ray Charles, Ricky Skaggs, Sturgill Simpson, The Highwaymen, Travis Tritt, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson
“18,700”: This is the number of albums Toby Keith sold upon the debut of his new record 35 MPH Town, and it got me to thinking, which artists and bands have beat that number in a year of unprecedented ascent in independent country music? 2015 is the year it became common to see one of your favorite independent acts and aging legends compete at the top of the album charts.
Beyond sharing bills, big rocketing career trajectories, and both employing the services of super producer Dave Cobb, the two artists appear to have a greater kinship off the stage. But for whatever reason, we’ve never seen the two men on stage together, until now.
Like a slow moving thunder roll, Whitey Morgan continues to tour, night in and night out, delivering crisp, throbbing performances every time that leave crowds embedded with Whitey passion in every town they tackle until the crowds are swelling, and the word is spreading about this bearded guy from Flint who refuses to compromise, who has his heart in the right place, and who puts on amazing shows.
Henley’s been out there outwardly criticizing the state of country music and the state of music in general, though doing so with a lot more of a thoughtful and informed tone than many others, including tracing the problem back to the disappearance of the agrarian way of life that was once prevalent throughout America, and now finds itself quickly receding.
Andrew Combs, Ashley Monroe, Bill Monroe, Cale Tyson, Cass County, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Dottie West, George Jones, Hank Williams, J.P. Harris & the Tough Choices, Jamey Johnson, Jason Isbell, Jed Hilly, Jeffrey Foucault, Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Kelsey Waldon, Kitty Wells, Merle Haggard, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Patsy Cline, Shovels & Rope, Striking Matches, Sturgill Simpson, The Eagles, The Milk Carton Kids
American Idol is not going down without a fight, and is looking to field their strongest roster of participants yet. No stone is being left unturned apparently, and they’ve even resorted to reaching out to some quite unusual individuals with special VIP invitations for private tryouts, proving just how clueless the show’s talent scouts are, while also offering an interesting insight into how they actually find contestants.
Jason Isbell is on a roll if there ever was one, and he’s not planning to slow down anytime soon, at least not after he takes some well-appointed time off in September to spend with his newborn daughter. After that, it’s back on the road hard and heavy. Meanwhile his July 17th release “Something More Than Free” continues with strong sales.
I know you probably receive dozens of these types of letters, and they all make strong cases for who the author wishes you select for the next season. But in the case of Ray Wylie Hubbard, I really think it would not only mean a tremendous amount to Ray, but it would mean a tremendous amount to Austin City Limits to finally and formally recognize one of Austin’s most important performers, and help preserve his place in Austin music.
Last week it was neck and neck heading into the final tally. Would it be country legend Alan Jackson coming in with the #1 album in country music, or upstart Americana songwriting maestro Jason Isbell claiming the top spot? Either way, the winner was country music by being granted a much-needed reprieve from the dominance of Bro-Country on the album charts, at least for a week or two.
The legendary Newport Folk Festival is the new old place to discover the music that is righteous and relevant at this very moment in time, however loosely used the term “folk” has become when perusing the fest’s lineups of recent years. The place where Dylan first went electric, and where Johnny Cash first introduced the world to Kris Kristofferson has been working extra hard over the last few seasons…
The idea that Jason Isbell saved country music when his latest release Something More Than Free inched out Alan Jackson for the #1 spot on Billboard’s Country Albums chart has been offered as a discussion topic by cosmic songwriter and east Nashville sage Todd Snider. Above all else, how awesome is it to have the old version of Todd Snider back in our midst?
Boy how the entertainment media loves to ruminate on country music’s female dilemma, and how unfair it is that so many fine and talented female voices are going unheard. It’s the perfect topic for Northeast-based periodicals to piggy-back their political and sociological parallels onto, to prove the patriarchal oligarchy is still very much alive in America’s rural and Southern landscapes.
Along with his multiple Americana Music Awards, and many accolades from critics declaring him one of the best songwriters of this generation, Jason Isbell is now the owner of the #1 album in all of country music according to Billboard. Isbell’s album Something More Than Free—released by Isbell’s Southeastern Records via Thirty Tigers—pulled off a last-minute rally to best Alan Jackson’s latest.
In one corner you have the wily veteran who’s sold more than 80 million records worldwide and racked up untold awards and accolades during his quarter century career. In the other corner you have the scrappy young upstart who after years of paying dues on the club circuit can now sell out three consecutive nights at The Ryman Auditorium in 30 minutes and is on the tip of everyone’s tongue as the name of one of the best songwriters around.
Okay all you Texas, Rocky Mountain, and West Coast Sturgill Simpson fans that were bitching you had no tour dates on the left side of the Mississippi, the Sturgill Simpson train is going to be coming your direction hard and heavy, so stretch out your ticket ordering fingers because he’s just announced a new slew of dates and many of the shows will be selling out fast.