If 90% of mainstream country music is garbage, then it stands to reason that 10% of it is at least decent, if not good or great. That calculus hasn’t really changed much recently, even as mainstream country has improved. What has changed is that 10% is actually finding traction on radio, at awards shows, and is making fierce inroads into the 90%’s monopoly.
In January of 2016, Saving Country Music published an article explaining how 2016 Could Be 1975 All Over Again in country music—how an upsurge in more traditional and substantive talent and music could really take hold in country, from the independent realm to the mainstream. And that is exactly what we’ve seen as 2016 has progressed.
With absolutely no hyperbole intended, William Michael Morgan earning a #1 on country radio for his debut single “I Met A Girl” is a historic moment in country music. It’s a point in time when an undeniably traditional country song from an undeniably traditional country artist has topped the chart after a long vacancy for a traditionalist at the top spot.
The next trend in country may not be defined by a style or a sound, but who is involved in it. But if collaborations will be the next big trend, how about putting out just a little bit of effort to make sure that the great talent that is going unrecognized in country music itself gets some love?
Ashley Monroe, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Brandy Clark, Chris Stapleton, Demi Lovato, Dierks Bentley, Dolly Parton, Elle King, Gwen Stefani, Johnny Bush, Kenny Chesney, Kenny Rogers, Little Big Town, Lori McKenna, Miranda Lambert, Pharrell, Pink, Pitbull, Steve Fromholz, The Pistol Annies, Tim McGraw, Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson
One of the big questions for country music in 2016 is if Florida Georgia Line and other Bro-Country acts will be able to extricate themselves from their destiny of being shuffled into the dustbin of history as the Nickelbacks of country, or if they will show up with some more depth to at least delay the inevitable.
Chris Stapleton is absolutely blowing the doors off the competition when it comes to country album sales in 2016, and it’s not even close. His debut Traveller is lapping the competition, while the only album that can keep up is Joey + Rory’s gospel record Hymns which is in 2nd place.
If “Humble and Kind” had no business on country radio (yet it ended up at #1), then “How I’ll Always Be” is a downright coup d’état. It’s not the lyrics of the song that make it a marvel of modern American country radio. It’s the music of “How I’ll Always Be” that makes it so unique and welcome for mainstream country radio.
Written solely by female songwriter Lori McKenna, “Humble and Kind” becomes the first #1 country song written by one person in more than four years. In this era when everything is written by a committee of three or more, and the expressions of female artists are generally stifled, this is quite the feat.
“Holdin’ Her” makes absolutely no compromises to radio or anyone else. It starts on the acoustic guitar in waltz time, then the steel guitar comes in, a little Telecaster and keys, and as the old saying goes, it’s three chords and the truth. No drum loops, no electronic doo dads, no superfluous buzzwords thrown in there to lure in the corporate country radio fan.
When mainstream country artists start talking about how their upcoming music is going to be more mature, you can be assured this is a harbinger that it will be anything but. Even if you do get a deep song, like we did with Florida Georgia Line’s debut single the last go ’round, “Dirt,” it ultimately didn’t make a hill of beans worth of difference by the time their full album Anything Goes arrived.
Today most well-informed country fans know what a death sentence a Curb Records contract can be for an artist, at least for most of them. But in 1990 when Merle Haggard signed with the label, Curb was seen as one of the most trustworthy labels in town. They didn’t have to answer to higher ups in New York and Los Angeles, and could pass that freedom on to their artists.
As Bro-Country was on the rise, think pieces all across media questioned the sustainability of such shallow music. And it turns out they were right. Florida Georgia Line and others brought throngs of new fans into the country fold, but they weren’t there to stay. Listeners moved on to the next craze, and even when country’s footprint was growing, it wasn’t growing at such a clip that it could sustain all the festivals . . .
Tim McGraw is one of the last remaining artists who can release what he wants to radio, including music that actually says something and is fit for consumption by fully maturated adults, and it somehow finds not just a semblance of traction and acceptance, but downright success.
Are you waiting for your favorite music artists signed to MCA Nashville to release an album after a prolonged hiatus? Perhaps you heard the first single months or sometimes years ago, but still no record? Well you’re not alone. It looks like the unenviable position of being the most notorious label on Music Row is no longer a slam dunk for Curb Records.
It was a busy year in country music, with lots of controversy, lots of legal issues, and even death surrounding country music artists. It was a tumultuous 2015 to say the least. Here are the top news stories of the year taking into consideration 1) Their importance to country music overall 2) The interest, or accumulated interest in the story if covered in multiple articles, based on traffic registered at Saving Country Music.
Aaron Watson, Blackberry Smoke, Chris Ferrell, Chris Stapleton, Garth Brooks, Gary Overton, Jason Aldean, Jason Isbell, Joey + Rory, Joey Feek, Keith Hill, Little Jimmy Dickens, Luke Bryan, Merle Haggard, Randy Howard, Stoney LaRue, Tim McGraw, Wayne Mills, Willie Nelson
One of the big story lines in country music over the past few years has been the rehabilitation of country music from a quarter century ago that emerged during the period known colloquially as the “Class of ’89.” Despite the commercial rise of country during the era, it’s also the period people love to point […]
Another week, and another #1 showing for Chris Stapleton’s debut album Traveller as the songwriter and performer continues to ride a wave of momentum after a massive showing at the CMA Awards on November 4th. A sweep of New Artist of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year categories, and a high-profile performance with Justin Timberlake put Stapleton on the map of mainstream fans in a big way.
The allure of ABC’s hour-long drama Nashville lost its luster for yours truly many seasons ago after the drama got so ridiculous you could see the plot twists coming from a mile away. And the music—though still a decent component—got somewhat sidelined in recent seasons in lieu of keeping the sappy and seductive scenes coming to keep eyes glued on the TV screen.
Though some may consider Tim McGraw soaring in such high thermals that it’s sacrilege for him to be singing about scraping the bottom and setting out to fulfill your dreams in country music, but that’s exactly what McGraw did on May 10th, 1989 when he boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Nashville—the day after his country music hero Keith Whitley died.
“I love country music. I respect country music so much that I would never think that I can sit down and just as easy do a country album. That’s not it. That’s just like some country artist saying, ‘Hell, I’m just gonna do a rap album.'”