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- Revisiting Cowboy Jack Clement, Country Music's Jester and King
- Audiobook Review: Tom T. Hall "The Storyteller's Nashville"
- Mac Wiseman Featured in The Wall St Journal
- Live Nation Moving Off of Music Row
- After SiriusXM Success, The Turtles Take on Pandora
- American Songwriter reviews new Sons of Bill album
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- The Telegraph "Sturgill Simpson: Space Cowboy"
- Jambands Reviews Cory Branan's "No Hit Wonder"
- Zoe Muth at WAMU's Bluegrass Country
- A night in the life of Austin City Limits ringleader Terry Lickona
- Review: Sturgill Simpson At Leaf Cafe, Liverpool, UK
- Can the people Nashville hopes to attract afford to move to Nashville?
Though we’re still only a few months removed from George Strait’s final show as a touring performer, it’s pretty safe to say that the record breaking concert will go down as one of the biggest concert events in the history of country music, especially for an event centered around a single performer. From shattering the indoor attendance record, to all the special guests, to the circular stage, to the songs and performances themselves, country music may never top what happened on June 7th, 2014 as a farewell to a legendary country performer.
When it came to how the show would be sold to those who couldn’t attend, we knew to anticipate that commercial interests would be considered heavily in the deal. When a selection of the performances from the concert were broadcast via CMT on August 29th, it was no surprise there was a heavy dose of Jason Aldean, Sheryl Crow, and other performers that could attract eyeballs to the broadcast, even though they would also attract the ire of some of George Strait’s traditional country fans. And the same could be expected for the album The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from At&T Stadium when it was released on September 16th.
But what nobody could anticipate is that a George Strait album would be the vehicle for the most excessive, and most blatantly obvious use of the pitch correction software known as Auto-Tune that I have ever, ever heard in the history of recorded music, barring projects purposefully using Auto-Tune as a special effect. The use of Auto-Tune on The Cowboy Rides Away is egregious, and embarrassingly obvious to the point where I can’t believe that a project like this would ever be released for public consumption, especially when such a legendary performer, and such a legendary event, are involved. This is outrageous. It is an abomination. And whomever is responsible for mixing in and mastering this Auto-Tune hatchet job should be marched into someone’s office, forced to listen to King George’s masterful vocals getting transmogrified by 1′s and 0′s like lambs to the slaughter, and then be unceremoniously fired. Then a new version of The Cowboy Rides Away sans the Auto-Tune should be offered to anyone who spent good money on this album. And all this should be done posthaste.
What the hell were they thinking? Who approved this? Who believed that they could slather such excessive Auto-Tune on this project, and people simply wouldn’t notice?
Beyond the deceit that the use of Auto-Tune presents in itself, it is especially difficult to employ in this particular context where you have a live performance, and a performer who doesn’t use Auto-Tune on a regular basis. George Strait sings at times with a cadence that Auto-Tune can’t keep up with. Many times he purposefully sings by beginning a note out-of-tune to eventually bend it back into place in an attempt to squeeze the emotion out of a lyric. This is called “Twang,” and is a critical part of the George Strait experience that someone in a studio decided to destroy because of some silly notion that George Strait’s singing must be perfect. Performers who regularly sing with the aid of Auto-Tune like Rascal Flatts, they know what to do to make sure to not send the program into overdrive. When you add Auto-Tune on to a live performance after the fact, it almost always results in obvious artificial electronic sounds that erode the authenticity of the listening experience.
Auto-Tune was never meant to be used in the way it was used on The Cowboy Rides Away. As audio engineers will tell you, “Everyone in Nashville uses Auto-Tune,” and to an extent, this is probably true in the studio. But the point of Auto-Tune originally was to take errant notes here and there in an otherwise excellent vocal performance, and fix them slightly and harmlessly so an entire new vocal take wasn’t necessary. It was a tool, not a crutch. Almost immediately of course, artists like Cher, and eventually T-Pain began to use it as a vocal enhancement. But when it is administered en masse as it is on this album, the result is something much worse than what a few missed notes would ever sound like. No care, no love was put in the vocals on this album and how the Auto-Tune was administered. Even if some Auto-Tune correction was decided to be used here and there, to the extent it was used on this album is an insult to the listener’s ears.
Veteran producer Chuck Ainlay is given credit as a producer on The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from At&T Stadium. So is George Strait. I have no idea if George Strait had any say so with what happened with this album and the Auto-Tune or not. But even if George Strait himself doesn’t have a problem with it, many fans do. And those fans should demand either their money back, or an unadulterated version of this album. Because this artist, and this concert were too important to mar in such an unnecessary manner.
Harris Interactive has just released a new poll that queried the American public about their favorite music artists, musicians, and bands, and some noteworthy country music names made the list. When pollsters asked for unprompted responses to the question, “Who is your favorite singer/musician or band?”—George Strait was the 5th highest answer, and the highest amongst country music stars. Garth Brooks also made the top 10, coming in tied for 7th with The Eagles, Celine Dion, and Neil Diamond.
Willie Nelson also made the top of two of the lists broken down by demographics, even though he did not make the top 10 overall. Willie was the favorite artist of “Mature Adults” (69 or older), and was tied with The Beatles for the favorite musical artist amongst Republicans (despite Willie’s left-leaning politics). The Beatles came in #1 overall in the poll, right in front of Elvis at #2.
What is even more interesting for country music fans is who is not on the list, and who slipped off the list since the same poll was conducted the last time in 2010. Four years ago, Tim McGraw was #5, Rascal Flatts was #8, and Alan Jackson was #9. None of these country artists made the top 10 again. In 2010 George Strait was #7 in the poll.
With all three of the country entries into this year’s poll being more classically-oriented artists, and none of them being current stars (where is Taylor Swift in this poll?), it speaks to the continued appeal of older country artists and classic country music we’ve seen in similar studies by Edison Research, and in the move to split the country format to give more radio representation to older artists.
The younger artists that made the top 10 of the poll were BeyoncĂ© at #3, and Bruno Mars at #6 who was potentially boosted by his recent Super Bowl appearance.
The Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 16th and July 21st, 2014 among 2,306 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.
“Who is your favorite singer/musician or band?”
Base: All adults
DROPPED OFF OF LIST IN 2014
U2 (was No. 2), Tim McGraw (was No. 5), Lady Gaga (was No. 6), Rascal Flatts (was No. 8) and Alan Jackson and Frank Sinatra (both ties for No. 9)
TOP MUSICIAN AMONG DIFFERENT GROUPS
|Gen X (38-49)||
|Baby Boomers (50-68)||
|Parent of child under 18||
|Not parent of child under 18||
Ever since the joint venture between Cumulus Media and Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group called NASH Icons was announced, one of the biggest questions on the minds of consumers has been what the actual scope of the venture will be. Sold to be the solution to the problem of aging artists getting shuffled off of mainstream radio, NASH Icons looks to revitalize the careers of artists from the last 25 years; artists like Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, and Reba McEntire that are seen to still have great appeal, but have been left behind by country’s current obsession with youth.
On Wednesday it was announced that NASH Icons had made its first hire, and it’s a heavy hitter in the music business. Jim Weatherson, a 35-year veteran of music management has been tapped to be the NASH Icons General Manager; a move that signals a deep commitment from both Cumulus and Big Machine to the endeavor.
Jim Weatherson’s resume includes a recent stint at the Nashville office of 19 Entertainment, best known for its ties to American Idol. Weatherson also worked at artist management group ’13 Management’ which oversees Taylor Swift, and was also previously the general manager of Walt Disney Records. He’s also worked previously with Brad Paisley and Rascal Flatts. âI have known Scott Borchetta for nearly 25 years,”Â Weatherspoon says. “And I am honestly thrilled and honored to finally get to work directly with him and his team as well as Cumulus on this groundbreaking concept.âÂ
âJim Weatherson is the perfect executive to lead the charge for NASH Icons,” says Scott Borchetta. “We have a longstanding relationship of working together on some of the biggest Country artists and album releases in history. To land him and have his 100% focus on Icons will only lead to one thing: success.â
Â âJimâs experience and the respect heâs earned in the music business will enable NASH Icons to quickly become a leader in recording and live events for the Country stars we hold in such high regard,â says John Dickey of Cumulus.
In late May, Cumulus Chairman Lew Dickey said that he expected NASH Icons to recruit big names like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson, and that announcements on the signings would be happening within a month. Though no artist names have been released yet, the announcement of Jim Weatherson would be a first step to recruiting talent for the label. Meanwhile the rest of country music looks on curiously, wondering if the launch of NASH Icons will result in a true format split.
Time was in country music when the Southern drawl was going the way of the dinosaur. I know, strange to think because of how pronounced Southern accents are today and since they’re usually considered part and parcel with country music. But in the mid to late 00′s when soccer moms were country’s most coveted demographic and artists like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Rascal Flatts were ruling the roost, the Southern accent began to lose its prominence and be seen as unsavory by an industry trying to soften its image and appeal more to a pop-oriented crowd. Strong Southern accents were discouraged in country’s sippy cup era.
Nowadays it is a much different story. Southern twang is back in a big way baby, as bro-country dominates the format, and female performers try and turn up the sass to compete. As opposed to trying to apologize for their Southern roots, today’s country artists can’t shut the hell up about them, regularly reinforcing all things country in laundry list form with elongated drawls. This has seen the rise of the Southern accent once again, but along with it, questions about the authenticity of some of the performer’s twang.
Miranda Lambert, one of country’s leading ladies, seems to have the ability to accentuate or turn off her Southern drawl depending on the mood of the song she is singing. There is little doubt listening to the Lindale, TX native talk that her Southern accent is real. The question is if she enhances or diminishes it in an unnatural way when she sings, and if so, does that diminish the authenticity of her music or the performance?
Tyler Hubbard of the band Florida Georgia Line has one of the most pronounced Southern accents when singing of any popular country music artist today. From Monroe, GA, once again you just have to hear Tyler speak to know his Southern accent probably isn’t a put on. But is it unnaturally bolstered in Florida Georgia Line’s music? Interestingly enough, much has been made about the other member of the duo, Brian Kelley, not singing lead much at all. Whether it’s the way the songs were written or the way their producer (Joey Moi of Nickelback fame) arranged them, it was quickly identified that Tyler’s twang was the money maker, not Brian Kelley’s more normalized tone.
Big Machine artist Justin Moore from Arkansas may have the most accentuated Southern accent of them all, almost caricaturist compared to even some of his most twangy peers. Once again it makes one wonder if it’s faked until you hear him talk and his accent is just as pronounced, if not more than it is in his music. He would be an interesting person to ask about another concern facing the Southern twang, which is non Southerners all of a sudden sporting an accent once they get behind a microphone and start singing country music. This is exactly what radio station DJ Broadway from Country 92.5 in Connecticut did in a recent Justin Moore interview, and the conversation quickly veered toward how people think Justin Moore is sporting a fake twang.
“It seems like everyone, once they get to Nashville they have an accent, whether they’re from Michigan or Arkanasas, it doesn’t matter where they’re from,” Broadway observed to Justin Moore. “Does that drive you mad? Do you ever turn you head and go, ‘You were just talking to me, you’re from Michigan and that’s where you were born and all of a sudden you’ve got a Southern accent? Where did that come from?’”
Justin Moore replies, “People have said in my career that mine’s fake. But I mean, you and I have known each other for what, seven years or something? I mean I feel like going, ‘If you think I talk redneck, go hear my mom talk.’ I don’t have the time or the energy, or whatever has the thought process out there for people who have said that mine’s fake. Why in the world would I want to talk fake for the rest of my life?”
But a few will probably still believe that Justin Moore is faking it, probably because other performers without native accents will probably continue to employ it in their country music. Why? Because the Southern accent is a hot commodity in country music right now, and we can probably expect things to get even more twangy and drawn out from here.
With Martina McBride at the crossroads that every big country music superstar knows they must ultimately face at some point in their career, where their radio relevancy is slipping through their fingers and the industry is slowly relegating them to the ranks of legacy acts, Martina does something very, very curious: she releases an album solely consisting of soul and R&B standards.
It was only a few years ago when Martina McBride was one the names on the list of nominees for the ACM and CMA Female Vocalist of the Year on a perennial basis. When her name slipped from those lists, that is when we entered this almost comical round-robin era we’re currently in, exemplified by shoehorning names into that fifth spot like Kelly Clarkson who isn’t country, Sheryl Crow who just recently turned country, and Kacey Musgraves before she even had released her first major album. After winning the CMA Female Vocalist three consecutive years between 2002 and 2004, if they could in any way justify McBride’s name being on a nominations list, it would be. Hell, it seems like just yesterday she was performing her big sentimental Cancer hit “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” on the CMA Awards. Now she seems like refugee of the country music industry.
This isn’t the first time Martina has done an album of standards. 2005′s Timeless featured McBride performing 18 classic country songs. Martina’s last album, 2011′s Eleven was championed by the Scott Borchetta imprint Republic Nashville. Borchetta has made a mint picking off aging talent from other labels, including Tim McGraw and Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood, and Rascal Flatts. However Everlasting was released through Kobalt Music Services, which by looking at their roster, specializes in being a safety net for aging talent and boasts about allowing artists to retain their rights. That’s all well and good, but it leaves Martina without the mainstream industry she’s enjoyed for nearly 20 years. Martina’s name still held enough strength to see Everlasting debut at #1 on the country charts, but with only an anemic 21,000 albums sold. I remember when Toby Keith once won the dubious distinction of having the lowest-selling #1 ever when his 2010 offering Bullets In The Gun sold 71,000 copies. My, how the times have changed.
Country music needs Martina McBride—or at least it did need her. With the showing of women in country in nothing short of a crisis, and Martina still possessing one of the most powerful female voices the genre has ever witnessed, it would have been nice for her first album in three years to be a retrenching; to bring some worthy singles to the table to at least challenge country radio’s male-dominated oligarchy to consider them. You can’t fault Martina for doing what she wants to do, though. Pardon me for mentioning a lady’s age, but she’s 47-years-old now and has been playing the game for many years. If Everlasting is the album she wanted to make, then that’s all the justification anyone should need. “You have to follow your instinct and your creative voice, and my creative voice was saying, ‘This is what you need to do at this time,’” Martina says. Though it may have been nice to see Martina challenge country’s ageism and sexism with a serious country offering, it just wasn’t in the cards.
What was in the cards was recruiting noteworthy producer Don Was, and working through a fairly recognizable list of Motown-style hits, including “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted”, and Van Morrison’s much-covered “Wild Night”. What’s there to hate about these songs? Not much. Don Was brings in horn sections to bolster the recordings, and Martina of course nails every damn performance. The record is very cohesive, made to listen to from cover to cover. But they played it very safe here with these songs; very down-the-middle. No risks were taken, no “interpretations” or true liberties were made with the songs. They’re simply Martina’s versions.
There’s a lot of reasons one could find to hate on this album. Why did Martina abandon country? I’m not sure she has for more than just this album, so this may not be a fair accusation to make. Why did Martina not put out an album of original music? Maybe because she’s finally free to do what she wants, and she didn’t want to. Why couldn’t she at least given these songs some sort of a country twist? That’s a good question, but she may have wanted to stay within the original spirit of the compositions.
On paper, I wanted to take this album and Frisbee it across the room. No offense to Martina, but there’s just very little useful purpose for an album like this in regards to championing the cause of music. But listening to it, I surprisingly didn’t want to immediately turn it off. It was well done, for what it is, and Martina McBride can still sing.
Martina McBride made something very clear here: If she was going to be put out to pasture, she was going to do it her way. And it’s very hard to fault her for that.
1 1/4 of 2 guns up.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
The alert and conscientious country music fan has always held deep suspicious that country music award shows, especially the ACM’s, featured lip-synced performances on an annual basis, but we may just now be discovering the depth of the deception on the American public during the presentations.
Country trio Rascal Flatts faced a lip syncing controversy coming out of the 2014 ACM Awards after they decided to pantomime to a pre-recorded track of their song “Rewind” for the presentation. The lip-sync was so obvious, the band was forced to come clean the next day, telling fans, “After having performed several shows earlier in the week, Gary [LeVox] lost his voice. So, instead of cancelling our commitment to do the show, we made a last minute decision to lip-sync. Weâve never done it before, and weâre obviously not very good at it. We look forward to singling live again in the very near future!”
That’s all fine and good, maybe it was just a once-in-a-lifetime thing and Rascal Flatts and the ACM’s had learned their lesson, right? Well, not so fast. The executive producer of the ACM Awards RAC Clark while speaking to Country Aircheck in their latest issue and looking to sweep the lip-sync controversy under-the-rug as no big deal, instead allowed the skeletons to come cascading out of the ACM’s lip-syncing closet.
“There have been plenty of people who have lip-synced on our show,” RAC Clark said, thinking this knowledge would somehow make the Rascal Flatts subterfuge not as big of a deal. Instead it finally validates the suspicions of many viewers and country music fans that what they’re seeing on the ACM Awards many times is not real.
We knew there was an issue in dress rehearsal. In talking with [managers] Clarence Spalding and Randy Goodman, they said he canât sing. We talked about the options, which were basically canceling and lip-synching. And I told them, thatâs up to you. And they didnât want to cancel. I think it was a good move. There have been plenty of people who have lip-synched on our show. Iâll never reveal who, but there are a lot of activities in Las Vegas with other concerts, private shows, radio remotes â there is a lot of talking. Not to mention the lack of humidity and hotel air. Some artists, especially those with a finely tuned instrument like Gary LeVoxâs, can only handle so much.
Making the matter worse is the fact that the 2014 ACM Awards started off with host Blake Shelton cracking a joke at the expense of current Las Vegas residency performer Brittney Spears (and sis of Jamie Lynn Spears who was sitting in the audience) saying viewers shouldn’t expect a lip-synced show, but “real live music.”
ACM executive producer RAC Clark also explained why Album of the Year winner Kacey Musgraves was not given a performance slot on the night, saying, “It started as a shorter performance, and she declined. We came back with something a bit longer, and it eventually came down to her wanting a full performance. We kept pushing at time, but couldnât make it work. No disrespect to songwriters, but the viewing habits of the public are now at about 1.5 minutes.”
The lip syncing revelations come in a rough year for the ACM Awards where concerns about the lack of female performers on the show and Justin Moore’s ineligibility for New Artist of the Year tainted the year’s festivities in some fan’s eyes. Ratings for the show were slightly down in 2014, but came the year after a 15-year ratings peak for the presentation.
The 90′s deadlocked R&B pop band Milli Vanilli will be collaborating with country pop trio Rascal Flatts on an upcoming project called “Vanilla Flatts“, with an album tentatively scheduled to be released in the Fall according to representatives of both groups. Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus, and Joe Don Rooney are said to be excited about the upcoming project, while Milli Vanilli’s Fab Morvan is said to be “excited to have any work, at all, whatsoever.”
The idea for the collaboration came about when Rascal Flatts frontman Gary LeVox reached out to Milli Vanilli’s Fab Morvan to get advice on how to handle the recent lip sync scandal the group found themselves in after admitting to pre-recording their recent performance on the 2014 ACM Awards. “Fab Morvan was very understanding and helpful when Gary called,” says Rascal Flatts spokesperson Annie Frankenfurter. “He was able to give Gary and the rest of Rascal Flatts some perspective of how to handle, and not handle the public backlash.”
Milli Vanilli was one of the biggest bands in all of popular music in the late 80′s and early 90′s, and were awarded the Grammy’s Best New Artist in 1990 as both a critical and commercial favorite. Then it was found out the duo hadn’t sung any of the music on their debut album Girl You Know It’s True. Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus were stooges hired for their looks by producer Frank Farian in Germany who was looking to feature the work of vocalists deemed unmarketable. The ruse was exposed by LA Times writer Chuck Phillips, and resulted in a public backlash and the eventual implosion of Milli Vanilli.
Much of the music of Milli Vanilli has endured in popular culture however, and apparently the members of Rascal Flatts are big fans. “Gary and Rascal Flatts found a lot of strength in this crisis by going back and listening to Milli Vanilli’s work,” spokesperson Annie Frankenfurter continues. “And the trio and their label Big Machine Records were surprised to find out just how similar Milli Vanilli’s music sounds to the pop country music of today, and specifically the music of Rascal Flatts. As Gary was confiding in Milli Vanilli’s Fab Morvan amidst the scandal, they found they had so much in common musically that they felt the calling to collaborate.”
In true Milli Vanilli fashion, their contributions will be done solely by other uncredited artists, which is especially helpful since the second Milli Vanilli member Rob Pilatus died of a drug overdose in 1998. “Basically they’re two overhyped bands best known for their hair,” says Frankenfurter. “And joining forces should create the type of vacuum of substance that thrives in today’s music marketplace.”
Superstar country music group Rascal Flatts has confirmed that they indeed lip synced their performance Sunday night on the 49th Annual Academy of Country Music awards. The Big Machine Records trio lit up twitter when they took the stage, with observers wondering why the performance looked so wonky and wondered if lip syncing was the answer. Saving Country Music has been waiting since the performance for clear video evidence of the lip sync, but today the band spilled the beans and ended all suspicion by releasing a statement through Twitter.
After having performed several shows earlier in the week, Gary [LeVox] lost his voice. So, instead of cancelling our commitment to do the show, we made a last minute decision to lip-sync. We’ve never done it before, and we’re obviously not very good at it. We look forward to singling live again in the very near future!
Though lip syncing has always been suspected from many country music artists in multiple award show performances, this is the first one that has been openly admitted to on record. Apparently the group felt since it was so obvious, it was better to open up about the issue instead of continuing to perpetuate the lie to their fans. Ironically, the ACM presentation opened up with hosts Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan making a joke about Brittney Spears lip syncing, and how people would only see live music on the show. However backing tracks and other non-live sounds have also been used at country award shows, including in 1994 when Alan Jackson told his drummer to play with no sticks to tip off his fans the rhythm section wasn’t live.
Rascal Flatts is just the latest to get swept up in a lip sync controversy. In January, the Red Hot Chili Peppers admitted to not playing live during their Super Bowl performance.
2014 is turning out to be the year of the celebrity crotch sniffer in country music. The word is out that country is fertile ground for advertisers and is a fast-rising subject in popular culture, so interlopers and carpetbaggers are rolling out the red carpet for country all over the place, and it’s getting quite stupid.
If you have anything to do with “media” the chances are you’re betting big on country music in 2014. Clear Channel’s trying to build a country music empire that would give Napoleon a stiffy, Cumulus has the brilliant idea of making country music food, paint, clothes, and furniture, Rolling Stone has even promised to get into the country music game, but the stoners at Rolling Stone got beat to the punch by none other than People Magazine, who has just launched their own dedicated country music website. Yes, how did we ever get along without this before?
I know, you’ve been wondering who’s going to broach such hot button, riveting, in-depth country music stories like “Luke Bryan Is the Kevin Bacon of Country’s Gang of Georgia Boys” (No, I didn’t make this title up), or “Third Child on the Way for Joe Don Rooney” (That’s the non weird-looking dude from Rascal Flatts), or “Dan + Shay: 5 Things to Know About Country’s Hot New Duo” (The only thing you need to know is their label have anointed them superstars because of their looks, despite not having the talent to even deserve a developmental deal). Well now we’re all in luck, because People CoUnTrY is HERE!
You can’t say that People Magazine hasn’t been on the country beat before though. Remember when they ran that story all about how Jason Aldean was the perfect husband and father …. the same week he was caught feeling up some American Idol castoff in L.A.? Now there’s a scoop.
Actually, I give People Country credit on this point: there’s so many country music outlets these days where the music is just an excuse to talk about people in the public eye instead of anything substantive, at least someone has the rocks to do it without pretense. Plus, I scored some killer makeup tips from their tour of Taylor Swift’s makeup drawer!
The fact the People Magazine now has a dedicated country wing proves the theory that people aren’t into popular country music for the music, but for the celebrity culture and image that surrounds it. They’re too busy fighting off the glare from Jason Aldean’s sparkling white teeth to pay attention to the fact that the music sucks. The only way I know how to solve this country music conundrum is to call in the Kinkster.
Preach it Kinky!
Former Hootie & The Blowfish frontman turned country artist Darius Rucker was on sports personality Dan Patrick’s radio show Tuesday (3-4), and had some interesting things to say about who the new torch bearers are for country music’s Outlaw legacy. Outlaw artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe, and Johnny Paycheck shook up the country music world in the mid 70′s by re-instituting a harder country sound and taking back control of their music, and now according to Darius Rucker and Dan Patrick, the new Willie and Waylon is Luke Bryan and Eric Church.
The Darius Rucker interview starts out with Dan Patrick giving some playful ribs to Rucker about his lack of country music bad boy credentials. “I mentioned at the end of last hour that, you know, Luke Bryan’s the new bad boy, and Eric Church is the new bad boy in country,” said Patrick. “Darius Rucker can’t be a bad boy ’cause he was the lead singer of Hootie & The Blowfish. Right? No matter what …. How can you be a bad boy? You know you can’t be Tim [McGraw], you can’t be Hank Williams. You know, you were Hootie & The Blowfish.”
“That’s funny but true,” Rucker responds, laughing. “You’re absolutely right. I’m always going to be country lite, there’s nothing I can do about that … Brad [Paisley]‘s not a bad boy. Rascal Flatts, they’re not bad boys. Not everyone can be a bad boy. You know, that’s cool.”
Then Dan Patrick asks, “But there’s so much money in country now that can you be a bad boy and be crazy like Waylon and Willie used to be?”
“Yeah man, we’ve still got those guys,” Rucker says. “You know, Jamey Johnson, he’s a bad boy that’s for sure, and he’s doing well. You know, like you said Luke and Eric, Eric’s probably the closest we got to Waylon & Willie I think.”
This was not the first time Darius Rucker has made interesting statements on the Dan Patrick Show. In November of 2013, Darius said on the show that he thought he deserved a Grammy nomination for his cover of the Old Crow Medicine Show / Bob Dylan song “Wagon Wheel” or quote “country music’s screwed.” Dan Patrick and Darius Rucker are good friends, going back to the time when Darius was winning Grammy Awards with Hootie & The Blowfish.
You can see the entire interview below.
Glam metal band MĂ¶tley CrĂŒe confided in the world today that they are calling it quits after three decades, and are doing so in a dramatic fashion by signing a legally-binding contract that stipulates that the band cannot tour after 2015—the time after an upcoming 75-city final tour is scheduled to wrap up.
But buried in the litany of announcements and side stories about the MĂ¶tley CrĂŒe retirement was a little nugget of info with a country music angle. Apparently the band has signed a contract with Scott Borchetta and Big Machine Records—the home of Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, and Tim McGraw—to produce a country-themed MĂ¶tley CrĂŒe tribute album to be released this summer.
Scott Borchetta was at the press conference announcing the MĂ¶tley CrĂŒe retirement, and proclaimed himself a “not-so-secret” fan of the CrĂŒe, saying, “Our album will highlight just how great the MĂ¶tley CrĂŒe song catalog is.”
MĂ¶tley CrĂŒe will not be playing any of the music on the album, and the band is not planning to “go country”. Instead the music will be handled by a list of current country stars. Confirmed artists already on board for the tribute album include Big Machine artists Florida Georgia Line, Brantley Gilbert, and Justin Moore, as well as LeAnn Rimes Eli Young Band, and reality star Cassadee Pope.
Insert your favorite anecdote about how modern country is nothing more than rehashed 80′s hair metal here.
Forget about the intended use of Antares flagship software product known as “Auto-Tune” for a second, and how it can make the rising falsetto of prickly-haired Rascal Flatt’s frontman Gary LeVox sound as pure as the wind-driven snow. Almost since the inception of the pitch-correction software, Auto-Tune has been utilized as a vocal effect as well, and one that has become an indelible part of popular music.
The Cher song “Believe” from 1998 was one of the first popular songs that took the Auto-Tune effect and turned it up to the highest degree to where the tone of Cher’s voice sounded computerized, with the notes having clearly-recognizable steps in between them instead of the more rounded, natural tone of the human voice. And Auto-Tune as a popular vocal effect was off to the races. Next thing you know you have artists like rapper T-Pain using Auto-Tune as a primary focus of their sound.
But country music stayed mostly on the sidelines of the Auto-Tune phenomenon….besides of course behind-the-scenes as that unspoken magic little helper to make up for artists that were big on looks but light on talent. Country music has always been seen as the major American genre that is the most wary of the infusion of technology into the format. Electric instruments were once banned from the Grand Ole Opry stage, and even up to a few years ago, synthesized music or other technological sounds were still frowned upon in country, including Auto-Tune as a vocal effect.
But lo and behold, as yet another symptom that popular country music is fresh out of ideas and would rather become subservient to the influences of other genres instead of engaging in a true search for talent among its own ranks, Auto-Tune here in 2014 has reared its ugly head as an accepted element of popular country music songs.
Of course like all new things in country, the injection of Auto-Tune use was subtle and slow. Music Row seems to think that if they try to be sly about it, nobody will notice, and little parts of popular songs started to feature the vocal enhancement here and there in 2013, and some before that. But here in 2014, the Auto-Tune training wheels are off, and you’re not surprised to hear it in just about any new single from a popular country music artist.
One of the most gross offenses is in the recent single from Jerrod Niemann called “Drink To That All Night.” Though the song hasn’t been a huge commercial or chart-topping success so far, when it came out you could tell it would be a game changer in the way it went in an EDM/Auto-Tuned direction unlike any other song from an established country artist before, pushing the boundaries of what would be acceptable in country. And then last week we heard a new Tim McGraw single called “That Girl” which feels like the big coming out party for Auto-Tune in country music, featuring the vocal effect unfettered and full blast throughout the entire song.
But the alarming thing about the impending country music Auto-Tune phenomenon is not necessarily the use of the technology itself, but how it is yet another symptom of the underlying disease gripping country music of being so demonstrably behind the curve. Country music is constantly feeling like it has to apologize for itself, and to prove to the rest of the world that it can be cool and hip too. With this mentality, country never leads, it follows, waiving its little hand at the side of the popular music stage saying, “Hey, we’re here also! And we can use Auto-Tune too! We’re not just hayseeds!”
The problem is, the use of Auto-Tune in 2014 as a vocal effect actually proves just how lame and behind-the-times country music is. Auto-tune isn’t making country music hip, it’s proving it’s unhip and completely behind-the-curve.
Over the last few years, the trend of country rap emerged in the country genre, with artists and labels insisting that country music must evolve to stay relevant. But what these artists and labels failed to understand that there was nothing current and relevant about rap any more than any other genre. Rap is a 30-year-old art form whose origins go back even farther than that.
With Auto-tune, it’s a similar paradox. Using Auto-Tune was cutting edge when Cher did it in 1998. In the mid-2000′s, Auto-Tune enjoyed the height of its popularity. But today? Today, though the use of Auto-Tune can still be heard in some pop and hip hop songs from artists like Future, it is generally old hat, outmoded, even lampooned and admonished, and T-Pain is the laughing stock in many sectors of the hip hop community. T-Pain is seen as a one-trick gimmick, and it’s expressly because of his Auto-Tune use.
In June of 2009—a good 4 1/2 years ago— hip hop artist Jay Z released a song called “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).” He was inspired to write the song because he felt the use of Auto-Tune had become a crutch for many artists, and a gimmick. The tipping point was when he saw it used in a Wendy’s commercial….again, nearly half a decade ago. Jay-Z said the point ofÂ “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)” was to “draw a line in the sand.”
The song went on to be called the best song in 2009 by MTV. Did the use of Auto-Tune die by Jay Z’s decree? No, of course it didn’t. But its use was arguably already in decline when the song was released and it has continued to be in decline….until country music found it in the forgotten dust heap of relevancy, brushed it off, and started implementing it en masse as an element of its misguided “evolution.”
Country music doesn’t need to adopt Auto-Tuned vocals to be relevant, it needs to find its own new wrinkle, its own game-changing element that makes other genres look at it and want to incorporate it into their formats. By using Auto-Tune, country music is not leading or evolving. It’s not even following. It’s proving once again how it’s falling behind.
Wednesday is the beginning of the someteenth season of American Idol, and it will feature a new slate of judges that will include former Idol judge Jennifer Lopez, an interesting new selection in Harry Connick Jr., and last year’s lone holdover, country star Keith Urban.
Struggling with years of declining ratings, American Idol is looking to rebrand itself in the new season by fielding a panel of judges who will have great chemistry—something that was not the case last year when judges Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey had a public and publicized spat early on in the season, resulting in Minaj walking off the production set, and moans of ratings baiting being leveled by critics.
But one of the overlooked elements of the Minaj / Mariah story is how it was centered around the age old country music debate. It started when Keith Urban took a contestant to task for saying that she “did the country thing,” implying that she had some fleeting interest in the genre, but it wasn’t where her heart was. Urban’s contention was that either you’re country, or you’re not. Mariah Carey somewhat agreed, and as the judges began asking the contestant questions about her musical background, Nicki Minaj joined in saying, “Why are we picking her apart [over] a country comment?” and eventually stormed off the set during the impending verbal melee.
Keith Urban, similar to artists like Darius Rucker and Rascal Flatts, have always been solidly pop or contemporary country, but have been insulated to some extent from the brunt of the country music culture war from rarely crossing the line into the drekish trends of things like country rap that artists like Blake Shelton or Jason Aldean have dabbled in. But recently when Keith Urban was interviewed by Michigan Live and was asked if definitions like “country,” “rock,” and “pop” are important or meaningless, Urban replied,
Totally meaningless to me. I make music and people decide what it is. Thatâs it. I donât think about it any more than that. I grew up as a country artist, but had very contemporary country influences. Contemporary country music â well, what that is, is what you hear on the radio. People have this relentless ongoing conversation about whatâs country and what isnât. Itâs never changed. If people really really were country fans, theyâd know itâs always been there, in every single decade.
Whatâs great about country is its simple, organic way of absorbing pop inspirations into its sound, and pulling the genre forward. Itâs been that way since the â50s. That period, the mid-to-late â50s, when rock ânâ roll exploded, it started to take over the country audience. Guys like Chet Atkins intentionally started to put string sections on country songs, which had never been done before. Everybody at the time thought that was sacrilegious â they said, âThat doesnât sound anything like Ernest Tubb. What are you doing?â But it was a way for them to keep the sound moving forward and expand the boundaries.
Whatâs happening today is, in the words of David Byrne, same as it ever was. (laughs)
What Urban points out about pop and how it has always been a part of the country genre is completely true, and this continues to be one of the biggest oversights of some traditional and purist country fans, eroding their arguments against the infiltration of pop in country. However what Urban’s comments do not take into account is the degree of cross-genre influences that country music is facing today, and how it might be eroding the integrity of the genre in the long term. Yes, artists like Eddie Arnold and Patsy Cline were seen as pop stars within the country format in their time, but their music was still a timeless treasure, verified by it’s continued popularity half a decade later.
And obviously, Keith Urban’s comments seem to counter what he said on American Idol at this time last year. People have a right to change their minds, but Urban’s new perspective on the lack of importance of the term “country” may be a sign of just how much that term and the importance behind it have suffered in the last year.
Membership to the Grand Ole Opry is seen a one of the most prestigious accolades a country music artist can be bestowed, and the recognition is sought after by performers both big and small, mainstream and traditional because it is one of the hardest gets in music.
The Opry currently has 66 members, and as older members pass on, newer ones are recruited. In 2013, the only new addition to The Opry was old time string band Old Crow Medicine Show—one of the few traditional-leaning bands to be asked into the institution in recent memory. Before Old Crow, it was a cavalcade of mainstream pop country music stars that as Grand Ole Opry historian Byron Fay points out in his 2013 Year In Review are not fulfilling the Opry obligations they signed up for when the accepted their invitations.
The exact requirements to keep your Grand Ole Opry membership active have been updated and altered over the years. Original Opry members made dozens of appearances a year as a matter of course. Today, artists that have “retired” like Garth Brooks and Barbara Mandrell are not always expected to make appearances, but retain their membership, mostly because of the dues they paid prior to retiring. But some artists that have just signed on are not meeting the most minimum of Opry requirements either.
In April of 1963, The Opry implemented a rule stating that members must make at least 26 appearances on the show per year to keep their membership active. Over the years, the amount of required appearances per year has dropped, though the appearance rule is hypothetically still in effect. In 1964, Opry management dropped the amount of required performances to 20. Then in 2000, they dropped the requirement to 12. Today, Opry General Manager Pete Fisher has set a goal of 10 appearances a year by each Opry member. Members, especially popular country stars, can also receive extra appearance credits by appearing on a weekend. Friday or Saturday appearances country as 3 performances according to some accounts of the current Opry rules.
The issue with big, new artists reneging on their Opry responsibilities first came up after Blake Shelton made controversial comments about country music’s classic country fans, calling them “Old Farts & Jackasses.” Opry historian Byron Faye called for the removal of Blake from the Opry ranks, not just because of the comments, but because Blake Shelton hadn’t made a single appearance in an entire year prior to his comments in clear violation of the membership rules. Shelton only became an Opry member in September of 2010, and was already shirking his responsibilities. Subsequently, Blake Shelton did make two weekend appearances on the show, but that would still put him well below the required ten appearances, even with the extra weekend credits.
Darius Rucker was the big name to be invited to the Opry in 2012, but only made four appearances on the show in 2013. Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban were The Opry’s big additions for 2011. Though Rascal Flatts appeared a moderate seven times, including some weekend shows, Keith Urban made a total of two appearances throughout 2013. Two appearances were all recent Opry members Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins could muster as well.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are older Grand Ole Opry members who would love to make more appearances if only asked, but they are getting squeezed out by younger, and non-member performers. As Byron Fay accounts for on his blog, there were a total of 227 guest appearances on the show in 2013, and a total of 42 appearances by cast members of ABC’s TV Show Nashville that receives funding and other material support from the parent company of the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Hospitality. Guest appearances on the Opry can be a big honor for up-and-coming artists and are an important part of the Grand Ole Opry culture. But they are not meant to supplant established Opry members.
Another interesting note is that long-time Opry member Dolly Parton has been absent from the Opry stage for an extended period. Though there has been no specific word of a beef between Dolly and the Opry, a theme park deal between the two parties dissolved in 2012 when the Opry was part of a sale to Marriott in the restructuring of Gaylord Enterprises to the new Ryman Hospitality Properties.
We do know that The Grand Ole Opry is willing to drop living members, or at least they did in the past. They famously threw out Hank Williams in August of 1952 for alcoholism and missing rehearsals, and Neko Case was once banned from the institution for removing her shirt. If The Grand Ole Opry membership is going to maintain the prestige that all the members approach it with when they are asked to join the institution, the rules governing membership must be maintained both by members, and the institution.
So here it is January 3rd, the day that we were promised that everything would be revealed of why a month ago today, Eric Church’s marketing arm decided to post a psychotic and irresponsible “teaser” video for his upcoming The Outsiders album that depicted a shadowy figure in gloves obsessively watching a video of Taylor Swift explaining on the CMA Awards how it was Eric Church’s arrogant and idiotic torpedoing of a opening spot on a Rascal Flatts tour that eventually led to Taylor getting her big break in country music.
The Eric Church video was so creepy and so ripe to be misunderstood, Saving Country Music posted an expletive-laden tirade and demanded the video be taken down. Eventually it was before a public outrage could be launched, and despite many Church fans proclaiming the video as payback to Taylor Swift for calling out Eric Church on the CMA Awards, (and that it was completely justified, because you know, Eric Church isn’t part of the “in” crowd and is an “outsider”)Â a subsequent video explained that Eric Church “adores Taylor,” making Church’s fans have to each their own asses, while Eric Church himself back paddled harder than the Oxford University rowing team in a 4.2 mile heat race on the River Thames.
The video that Eric Church inc. posted in place of their Taylor Swift stalker video urged us all to “stay on course” and that on January 3rd “all will be revealed to you.” And as always with these dumbass teaser videos, nothing was revealed, nothing makes sense, none of the disturbing imagery from the December 3rd video is now somehow justified just because Eric Church released a new song that has nothing to do with any of it. It’s all just a bunch of marketing that distracts from the music and leaves the gawking country music fan wanting and confused, while the fact that the whole run up to Eric’s The Outsiders album is such an obvious ripoff of Shooter Jennings and how he marketed his last album The Other Life goes horrifically under reported.
But there is a new single here that needs to be dealt with called “Give Me Back My Hometown.” The song is very, very trope-like, residing deeply within the well-worn grooves of the often called-upon American music theme of the forgotten hometown and heartland decay. Is it a laundry list song, or as some like to couch it, “bro-country?” No, no it’s not. Is it a country rap? Not even close. Is it an alternative to the trash that permeates the mainstream country music airwaves? Sure it is. But before we proclaim it is something more than just another song, let’s not allow ourselves to reduce our measure of what is good simply because Music Row has deftly extended the boundary of what is positively awful into previously uncharted territory.
At the same time it is not unfair to couch “Give Me Back My Hometown” as a respite from the rest of mainstream male country. And the reason this small town theme works so often is because it resonates in a fairly universal manner, especially amongst country music fans. But the boldness of “Give Me Back My Hometown” is in the musical approach to the song. Once again Eric Church reveals himself on the progressive edge of country sonically compared to his Bon Jovi-esque and country rapping counterparts, delivering a rhythmic, banjo-driven bed that is catchy without feeling cliche, and a melody that reveals Church’s adeptness at carrying feeling in his voice into an impressively-high register.
To the mainstream country ear, “Give Me Back My Hometown” must sound nothing short of foreign and refreshing. But to an ear with a more wide sense of perspective, especially when the heavy bass drum beat and hand claps kick in about 1/3′rd of the way through the song, a strong, pungent Lumineers influence reveals itself quite obviously. A similar observation can be made of Lady Antebellum’s recent single, the banjo and clap-driven “Compass.” Once again we see a symptom of Music Row being 18 months behind the relevancy arch, and just now catching up with what was cool last year, despite feeling cutting-edge within the format.
All those observations aside though, simply based off of the ear test, “Give Me Back My Hometown” is not bad. The song works. And though with his first two singles off The Outsiders Eric seems to be focusing more on music and less on capturing the muse behind the story he wants to convey, give him credit for being willing to trod outside of popular music’s current modes, or at least mainstream country’s.
1 1/4 of 2 guns up.
***UPDATE*** (12-4-13 1:35 AM CST): After posting this rant at roughly 9 PM on 12/3, the Eric Church video was made “private” on YouTube at roughly 11:45 PM on 12/3. If the video was pulled and stays pulled, Saving Country Music commends Eric Church and/or his management/marketing team for making the right decision about this video. ***UPDATE***
***UPDATE*** (12-4-13 4:50 PM CST): The Eric Church camp has posted another video saying in part “Eric adores Taylor, for who she is and what sheâs done.”
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In the latest installment in a series of cryptic teaser videos Eric Church has released ahead of his new album The Outsiders, Church culls footage from the recent CMA Awards, and specifically Taylor Swift’s speech accepting the Pinnacle Award in a creepy, if not downright disturbing video full of obtuse connotations and veiled threats. During her speech, Taylor Swift referenced her big break in country music that came in 2006 when Eric Church was booted off a tour with Rascal Flatts because he was playing too loud, and too long, after being repeatedly warned by concert promoters to follow the rules he signed on to when he was selected for the tour. Church was replaced by Taylor Swift.
Apparently this is either still a sore spot for Church, or simply a marketing angle for his on again/off again country music “Outlaw” image. But either way, it is the theme for the 70-second video called “One Will Rise, One Will Fall” released today.
I’ll tell you folks, and I know people are going to say that I am way over-reacting or being way too sensitive, but I think this video is despicable, sickening, and downright dangerous. I think it should be pulled from YouTube by the Eric Church camp, an apology should be issued, and if I had the arrogance to believe that I had any such power or authority to do so, I would outright demand that this video be pulled from public consumption.
I don’t give a shit what Eric Church, or anybody else thinks about Taylor Swift’s music. This isn’t about music at all. Take music out of the picture, and Taylor Swift is a 23-year-old girl who has hundreds, if not thousands of people in this celebrity-obsessed and morally-corrupt world who would wish to do all manner of harm and evil things to her; people who happen to live the same shadowy, disturbed lives that come eerily similar to the scene Eric Church portrays in this stupid ass teaser.
If you think I’m taking this too seriously, try telling that to the fans and family of Selena, Dimebag Darrell, and John Lennon. As s a society we have an imperative to protect individuals from these types of threats and images: Bulletin boards and cluttered desks with psychopathic, stalker-style tools and artifacts, and post-it notes with dark, belligerent plans peppered with threatening verbiage. Look at the title of the video, “One Will Rise, One Will Fall.” What exactly are you’re getting at here Eric Church? Because I don’t have to stretch my imagination very far to reach all manner of disturbing conclusions. Of course Eric’s threats won’t go any farther than releasing a stupid ass video, I’m no fool, but who’s to say one of his sycophantic toadies won’t? Besides, it’s the thought that counts. And what is this all for, to promote Eric Church’s shitty rock record?
Eric Church isn’t an “Outsider,” he’s a fucking conformist. He’s a marketeer with a marketing degree who has svengalied a bunch of disenfranchised country fans into believing he’s offering any type of alternative to pop country when in truth he is more of a tool of the mainstream pop country industrial complex than anyone. At least Taylor is who she is—a glittery pop star who doesn’t try to veil her marketing to the masses as anything else. “Outsiders” don’t win Album of the Year from both the CMA and ACM Awards. “Outsiders” don’t get invited to play primetime, industry events. “Outsiders” don’t score #1 songs on mainstream pop country radio. And “Outsiders” don’t piss off Rascal Flatts for playing too long, they don’t play in front of Rascal Flatts, period.
Oh poor, downtrodden Eric Church, his last album only sold 1 1/2 million copies. Now it’s time to hatch a plan to take down the superstar of the genre for revenge. What the fuck is wrong with this guy? The country music industry should kick him to the curb and spit on his album. Let Metallica drag his overplaying ass around US. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of Eric Church’s bullshit drama and acting like the world owes him. Talent or not, country music doesn’t need this asshole any longer.
Pull the video Eric.
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Leave you comment about how I’m overreacting below. And find the stupid video yourself.
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, Iâll see you in ten years and five thousand shows down the road.” Hank3 said. Weâll see where the fuck youâre at. You know, I called him out and just flat out said, âfuck you if youâre gonna rip us off like that on your first release.â
Shooter for his part seemed unwilling to reciprocate the feud, saying “You know what, I donât even comment on these things, really. I donât even know him. I met him once, I think, for a second. And somehow all this stuff started about how he hates me. I donât know. Itâs, 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 Iâm like, ‘All right, you crossed the line motherfucker.’ And I donât know how many times I have to say it: No, heâs 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 cultureâand 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, “âNone of that lefty shit out there tonight, Kris.â According to Hawke, a rolling argument ensued that ended with Kris Kristofferson saying, “âTheyâre doinâ to country music what pantyhose did to finger-fuckinââ (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.” ââDierksâ has officially ripped off my song âIn A Razor Town.ââ Isbell fired off. âDierks is a douchebag. The song of Dierks is called âHome.ââÂ 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, âThis 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 thingsâI donât really believe in lawsuits or threatsâI 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? Thatâs crazy. I donât know what would make an artÂist do that. You’re not an artist. Once your career becomes about someÂthing 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 toÂ Rolling StoneÂ 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 Godâs 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 âOLD FARTâ & JACKASSâ) â 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 âNobody wants to listen to their grandpas musicâ..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 EXACTLYâŠ The way Mr. Price did along hid journey as a main stream country artist.. Pushing the boundaries with his records. âFor The Goodtimesâ 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.
Country music in 2013 feels like the best of times, and the worst of times. While a few top male performers perpetrate untold atrocities on the integrity of the genre, the rise of independent music and infrastructure in the marketplace is now almost to the point where it equals its corporate counterpart. Quality songs and worthy artists are beginning to see more and more support, while current events and new outlets create avenues for substantive music to find its way to hungry ears. It is so easy to focus on the negative because it still seems to pervade the popular consciousness. But here are twelve reasons it is looking up for country music in 2013.
Yes, Kacey Musgraves. Even if you see her as some Music Row machination meant to offer an alter ego to the Taylor Swift’s of the world (Taylor equals Kacey’s noms with 6 herself), at least mainstream country is now offering a choice to consumers. What Musgraves’ symbolizes is that you don’t have to prove overwhelming commercial success to get noticed. Her biggest hit “Merry Go ‘Round” didn’t even make the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 Country Songs. Musgraves is a songwriter in a traditional sense, even if some of her best, and most-heady material didn’t make her big debut album. The reason she was able to rake up so many nominations is because of her songwriting credits, accounting for half of her CMA considerations. Kacey Musgraves’ 6 CMA nominations proves that regardless of how stupid country music’s leading males are trying to make the genre, in 2013, songs matter.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, it is getting dirty out there, and the more artists that speak out, the more other artists gain the courage to join the chorus. And not to shy away from the fight, Kacey Musgraves could be characterized as leading the charge, coming out multiple times to complain about where country music is headed. Alan Jackson also had some choice words recently, as did Gary Allan, Tom Petty, and most recently Zac Brown. Country music may be crossing more unfortunate lines than ever, but at least it’s genuine artists are being vocal about their dissent.
Yes, it was bad that Blake Shelton had to disrespect large segments of country music listeners when he ostensibly called them “old farts and jackasses,” but the backlash that ensued became a unifying element for disenfranchised country fans. Ray Price wrote a blistering letter to Blake Shelton, resulting in Blake having to make a public apology. Dale Watson wrote a song about the whole incident which has since become one of the most popular numbers of his show. An “Old Farts & Jackasses” group on Facebook boasts over 93,000 “likes,” and the list goes on from there. Blake Shelton awakened a beast, and gave it a rallying cry. Who would have thought in 2012 that people would be proudly calling themselves “Old Farts & Jackasses” ?!?
The days of inducting traditionally-leaning artists and bands seemed to be over with the Grand Ole Opry’s recent membership invitations to Darius Rucker, Keith Urban, and Rascal Flatts. But lo and behold, the Grand Ole Opry can still get it right, inducting an act that has paid their dues many times over, and deserve to be recognized as one of the forefathers to the re-popularization of string bands that has seen the rise of bands like Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, and The Lumineers. The news is not only good for Old Crow Medicine Show, but other artists who may not be top tier names in country music, but deserve the distinction.
It’s so easy to read the headlines and see the top of the Billboard country charts and say that all is lost in the genre. But as long as Sturgill Simpson is out there touring, you can’t say country music is dead. Out on tour with Dwight Yoakam, playing the Grand Ole Opry, inspiring critics from coast to coast and overseas to sing his praises, Sturgill Simpson is giving hope for the future to country fans that has a value beyond his music specifically.
Yeah, I’m not too much for the silly cliffhanger drama-laden plot lines either, but Nashville has become an invaluable teacher of how the music business works, specifically on the songwriting side of things. An educated consumer makes better choices, and if they see and understand how backroom politics stultify the creativity and freedom of artists, and how a song goes from inspiration to the big stage, they just may make better choices, and think about where the music they enjoy comes from. Furthermore, Nashville has become a music outlet to a nationwide audience that may otherwise not be exposed to the music of independent artists like Caitlin Rose, Lindi Ortega, Ashley Monroe, Shovels & Rope, and so many more.
There are many good, independent country bands that are enjoying a rise in interest in 2013, but there may not be a bigger rags to riches story (so to speak) than Hellbound Glory landing an opening spot on a Kid Rock arena tour. Going from playing half-empty bar rooms to sold-out arenas, Hellbound Glory is seeing the recognition their quality country music has been deserving for years. And the opportunity has been paralleled by bigger crowds and better support even after the arena tour ended.
Caitlin Rose, Valerie June, Lindi Ortega, Austin Lucas, Amanda Isbell, Cory Branan, Jonny “Corndawg” Fritz, and so many more that call east Nashville home (or at least to some extent) have seen career watermarks and burgeoning interest in 2013. Forget Music Row or the circus downtown, Nashville, not Austin, is the new vibrant epicenter for independent music, and the artists there pushing and supporting each other is fostering a creative environment that regardless for how long it lasts, will be looked back upon fondly in the future as a time and place that got it right, and set the bar for artistry and substance. Add on top of that already-established and influential artists like Jack White and Dan Auerbach, and Nashville is the place to be in 2013.
“Cowboy” Jack Clement and Bobby Bare Inducted Into the Country Music Hall of Fame
Yes, two very important players in the rise of country music’s “Outlaw” movement finally got their due this year, and it was especially timely for “Cowboy” Jack Clement who would pass away only a few months after the announcement. Though there is still a long list of worthy inductees that many fans worry will never get in, these two men prove that the Outlaws will not be forgotten, and move other important country music icons one step further to being inducted themselves.
If you feel like the Outlaws of country music have not been dealt a fair deal and they need need a new institution to give them the support and recognition they deserve, your wishes were granted in 2013 when it was announced there will be a new Outlaw Country Music Hall of Fame in Lynchburg, Tennessee coming soon. Nashville may have swept their legacy off the streets like common refuse, but at least somewhere the Outlaws will ride eternally.
If you desire more validation that 2013 is the “Year of the Song,” then behold the overwhelming breakout success of Jason Isbell in 2013. Bolstered by his manager Traci Thomas, a bulldog of the Thirty Tigers group, Jason Isbell is becoming the defining songwriter of our generation. If you ever wished you could go back and re-live the heyday of Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt in their prime, watching Jason Isbell and his 2013 tear is the next best thing.
With radio becoming less and less accessible through every measure of consolidation by Clear Channel and Cumulus, new outlets must open up to support independent music. And they are in 2013, and sometimes in the most uncanny places. David Letterman not only has been giving his stage over to artists like Dale Watson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Pokey LaFarge, Shovels & Rope, and so many more, he’s been seeking out this talent to play his show as a fan of the music. Where big network TV debuts for independent artists seemed to be a thing of the past, now they seem to be a weekly occurrence.
There’s nothing I value more than a mainstream country music record that bucks all trends and is truly worth your ear. It goes without saying that the ranks of unknown and under-appreciated artists in the independent and underground realm is where our generation’s true creativity resides, but finding improvement in what the masses are being exposed to is the truest barometer of cultural improvement. Enter Charlie Worsham and his debut album Rubberband that is being lauded by many critics and fans alike as a breath of fresh air for the mainstream radio dial.
The album features traditionalist country favorites Vince Gill and Marty Stuart on a track called “Tools of the Trade,” and the first single “Could It Be” has already seen some moderate chart success. But Charlie Worsham may be benefiting from the same phenomenon that has aided the legacy of Garth Brooks in recent years. As mainstream country music males continue to descend into a malestrom of checklist countryisms and crossover hip-hop forays, everything that isn’t a dirt road rap song all of a sudden begins to sound a whole lot better to our audio palettes.
Rubberband is a very fun album that sucks you right in, with sensible instrumentation, slick production with juicy hooks and choruses, and songs that are easy to relate to. But boiled down it is still a derivative, and just a step above the Rascal Flatts and Keith Urbans of the world on both the country and creativity meters. There’s nothing to be offended by here per se, and hardcore country fans will hate to admit how much they like some of these songs, but Charlie Worsham is no Kellie Pickler. Rubberband is pop country, despite some moments of depth.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean it is more bad than good. I certainly don’t blame folks for being excited about this album, and it has a really warm, innocent feel to it like a country pop record from the 80′s. The fact that an artist on Warner Bros Nashville could sneak an album in the door that doesn’t include a litany of Chevy truck and ice cold beer references, or the appearance of some washed-up rapper, is a victory in itself these days. Wosham co-wrote all the songs on this record, and I’d be lying if I said songs like “Tools of the Trade,” “Rubberband,” or the especially-catchy and potential breakout single “Want Me To” didn’t have me tapping my toes along.
Charlie Worsham resides in the rarely trodden space between mainstream and independent country, and this allows him to be different things to different people. He’s toured with Taylor Swift….and Wade Bowen. He can be catchy without feeling contrived. And this could open up a wide audience for him. And who knows, it also may deliver a slight bit more substance to mainstream radio, or at least, a choice for mainstream fans of a male performer who is not willing to slavishly follow trends.
1 1/4 of 2 guns up.
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For the first time in the last half decade, the Grand Ole Opry is poised to induct a traditionally-leaning country music act into its distinct and coveted roster of permanent members. Opry member Marty Stuart surprised Old Crow Medicine Show at their show at the Ohio Theater in Cleveland tonight (8-16) with an invitation to join the storied institution during Old Crow’s scheduled performance. Their induction will take place September 17th.
Formed in 1998, Old Crow Medicine Show’s history is strongly tied to the Grand Ole Opry and some of its most important members. The band was discovered by Doc Watson’s daughter when busking on the same street Doc Watson used to play in Boone, NC. That led to them participating in the annual MerleFest music festival in the spring of 2000. At MerleFest, a woman from the Opry named Sally Wilson saw the band perform and invited them to participate in outdoor events in the Opry plaza throughout the summer. The band then found favor with Marty Stuart, who took them under his wing as a mentor. Old Crow Medicine Show made their Grand Ole Opry debut in January of 2001 at a Ryman Auditorium show.
In 2004 the band released their breakout album O.C.M.S produced by David Rawlings, and became one of the premiere string band acts in independent country music. With big songs like “Tell It To Me,” and the now gold-certified “Wagon Wheel,” Old Crow Medicine Show was one of the first string band acts to find fans outside of traditional country circles. “Wagon Wheel” has gone on to become a #1 hit for Darius Rucker, and Old Crow Medicine Show is often named as a precursor and major influence to bands like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers that have brought massive commercial success to the string band concept.
The Opry’s Old Crow invitation ends a string of invitations and inductions of present-day country pop stars that have angered some traditionalist fans. Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, and Darius Rucker were the Opry’s last three inductees. The last traditional country star to be inducted was Charlie Daniels in 2008. With this move, the Opry appears to be recognizing Old Crow’s influence, their recent success, and their ability to bridge differences in taste with their enthusiastic and creatively deft show.
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