In the entire 52-year history of the Academy of Country Music Awards, there has never been female winner of the organization’s Songwriter of the Year award, until now. Lori McKenna, who has been on one incredible run with her solo-written song “Humble and Kind,” has broken what appears to be a half century-long barrier.
The new deal brings Carrie Underwood full circle. In 1996, when Carrie Underwood was just 14, she had auditioned for Capitol Records. When the company was forging a contract with the fledgling star, the management at the company changed and the deal fell through.
Well, this Tim McGraw/Faith Hill collaboration looked good on paper. And it still might result in some favorable and lasting contributions to country music. But “Speak To a Girl” feels a bit like a misfire, at least on the creative side. “Speak To a Girl” is not a bad song, but it does a lot of the little things wrong.
Chivalry may be dead, but it’s alive and well in the McGraw/Hill household. In a press release, the couple announced they will release a new single together called “Speak to a Girl” that will be shipping to country radio on March 23rd. It will be the first single off of a joint album with McGraw and Hill.
What’s so strange about the news is Tim McGraw seemed to be doing so well on Big Machine after fleeing Curb Records. There was a lot of symbolism in McGraw moving to Big Machine after a lengthy court battle with Curb, which tried to keep him on the label indefinitely and was ruining his career.
Curb Records is once again cobbling together previously-released material from Hank Williams III in an attempt to make money off of songs many fans already have, only this time it is in a much more conventional manner. Saving Country Music can confirm that Curb Records is planning the release of a Hank Williams III Greatest Hits album.
They’ve decided to divide opening duties among a total of 26 separate openers across the 65 total tour dates, as opposed to taking the usual stance with openers, which is to drag the same two or three lightweight mainstream up-and-comers around with them for six months. Even more surprising are the names selected to open.
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.