12 Reasons to be Positive About Country Music in 2013
Kacey Musgraves Nominated for 6 CMA Awards
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.
Artists Speaking Out About The State of Country Like Never Before
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.
The Rise of the “Old Farts & Jackasses”
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” ?!?
Old Crow Medicine Show Invited Into The Grand Ole Opry
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.
The Breakout Success of Sturgill Simpson
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.
ABC’s Nashville TV Show Becomes a Music Outlet & Educational Tool
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.
Hellbound Glory Touring with Kid Rock
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.
East Nashville Becomes An Epicenter of Creativity
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.
Outlaw Country Music Hall of Fame Coming
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.
Jason Isbell Solidifying Himself As A Premier Songwriter
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.
David Letterman Supporting Roots Artists
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.
September 16, 2013 @ 11:08 am
Damn, those are some pretty good points, Trigger. And hell, if nothing else, you keep posting pics of Kacey! (jk) It really does seem to be turning around, or maybe that other bullshit is getting pushed into it’s own, “genre”?
September 16, 2013 @ 11:16 am
Trig, i like listening to the step child genre. I want the music I listen to seperate from the silver spoons. I dont want to associate myself with the other trash.
September 16, 2013 @ 11:41 am
Well you might be getting your wish, without having to jeopardize the livelihood of your favorite artists. With independent music making up more and more of the market share, artists don’t need to court the mainstream to make a living. Sturgill, Jason Is bell, etc. are perfect examples of that.
TX Music Jim
September 16, 2013 @ 11:29 am
Solid points Trig. I hope it all means something long term. Time will tell. At least good things are hapening right now so lets pray it leads to a better country music genre for the future.
September 16, 2013 @ 12:10 pm
Had the pleasure of seeing Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit over the weekend. I figured he would be a good show, but wow he and his band sure were impressive. He played some old and a lot of new cuts off Southeastern.
He had great rapport with the crowd in between songs, he said a joke following “Elephant” that lightened the mood considerably.
If ever you have the opportunity to see Isbell, for God’s sake, do it.
September 16, 2013 @ 1:07 pm
Not sure if it was from the same show, but I saw him post a picture with Tom Hanks and his family on Twitter last night.
From what I saw on his Austin City Limits live taping a few weeks ago, he’s not just one of the premier songwriters right now, he’s one of the premier performers.
September 16, 2013 @ 1:24 pm
I’ve seen Jason perform so many times, (with DBT and solo) I can’t count them. I have never seen a bad performance out of him. He’s the real deal.
September 16, 2013 @ 12:17 pm
All good points.
On the other hand, while I tend to be a “glass half full” person who tries to look at the bright side of things, I think it’s possible that we could look back over the last few years and find a dozen reasons to be optimistic each year; and regardless of that, we have somehow wound up where we are.
September 16, 2013 @ 3:03 pm
Hey Trig, im glad to see you mentioning east nashville, I’m looking at moving out there in the next few months, I’ve got a few musician friends in east nash, and they all say the same thing.
September 16, 2013 @ 3:42 pm
Let me put it this way.
It’s among the best of times for the genre due to the digital age providing us the opportunity to share any kind of music and to take promotion increasingly into our own hands in a DIY mold. Granted many listeners are too somnolent to go off on a limb and research almost any artist outside of the familiar corporately-driven bubble, but the fact of the matter is that all of this good music is no further than the air at our fingertips, and MUCH more accessible than it used to be.
It’s also among the worst of times for this genre due to the unprecedentedly aggressive effort by the likes of Borchetta to re-write the record books and monopolize the radio, marketing and distribution divisions, what I like to think of as an oligopoly of sorts in the songwriting circles by Dallas Davidson, Rodney Clawson, Ashley Gorey and Luke Laird especially, and the relegating of women and all minorities to the sidelines in what is truly an older white male-dominated establishment.
I happen to think both realities are equally true. If you’re an insider like Alan Jackson or the minority of Grand Old Opry members who are not afraid to speak their minds about the worrisome trajectory their institution is undergoing and who sees defending country music as a constant uphill battle, it’s a depressing time to be a country fan. If you’re an outsider who has something to share and are making this happen by spilling blood, sweat and tears across East Nashville, Texas and any other circuit and surrounded by people you love and respect in the process, it is a glorious time to be a country fan. And I’m inclined to believe both equally so.
September 17, 2013 @ 7:13 am
I wouldn’t say Scott Borchetta’s effort is “unprecedented.” He’s basically copying what Pat Quigley did for Garth Brooks in the ’90s.
September 16, 2013 @ 4:31 pm
All great reasons, Ashley Monroe’s success might be another one to add to the list.
September 16, 2013 @ 4:49 pm
I would include her in the Nashville crowd. She has also had her songs played on the “Nashville” TV show.
September 17, 2013 @ 7:53 am
And don’t forget to add Amber Digby to this list.
September 16, 2013 @ 5:02 pm
This is a great article.
Anytime we collectively step away from “your music is shitty” and replace it with “my music is awesome”, we’re going in the right direction.
September 17, 2013 @ 11:11 am
Oh, wow. I love this article. Like really love it.
Still really looking forward to Alan Jackson’s new record and even Kellie Pickler’s. The female singers making new music 2012/2013 is what I love most about country music right now. Even though you’re not gonna hear much of them on our mainstream radio stations around here in the Carolina’s. I LOVED LOVED Kellie Pickler’s record from last year. Looking forward to her new one. Of course, Ashley and Kacey. I always enjoy Miranda’s stuff. Call her mainstream or whatever.. I still think she is her sound and style. And you just never know what she’s capable of. I honestly wish she would record a complete rock record. Lol.
HOPING Loretta is doing another record with Jack White like she says she wants to. Kinda curious to hear Julie Roberts new record too. Love her soulful voice. God I wish Patty Loveless would go back in the studio. Pistol Annies said they were trying to convince her. I’ve seen a lot of great youtube videos of her performing with Miranda. And Pistol Annies… can’t forget their record from this year. Play it all the time. Wish everyone knew what happened there with them. Seen them live. They NEED to keep making music. Sturgill has one of the best country records in the last 10 years. Hands down.
I know I’m forgetting others but ya get my drift. But really… you nailed it with this article.
Obsessed with Sturgill and Jason’s voice and songs.
September 17, 2013 @ 11:28 am
Speaking of Sturgill, I bet I watch this at least once a day. Lol. I wish I had kids. They would be listening to Sturgill too. I miss songs with stories and conversations. I miss the grit.
I love the beginning of “Some Days” in this video. That groove. So good. Music industry and mainstream radio or radio programmers don’t give a music fan like me much credit. I’m 33 and a female and I think there is enough room for all artists to be on the forefront of the country platform. Radio around here is too damn scared to be diverse. That is a slap in the face to country music. I miss the 80’s (did I just say that?) where you had country rock, traditional country, pop-country or whatever it’s called… and so on. AND all of that was played on the radio and all of the different styles were hits and you had hit albums. It was so broad it seems. I look back or play that music and it wasn’t just one style in the forefront. Then again, I miss most of those singers too.
I’m rambling. Sorry. I will hush now. haha.
September 17, 2013 @ 12:23 pm
Alison you are so right on your 80’s comment. There really was a great mix of country styles throughout the mid 80’s. I’m afraid country music will turn out like rock has. There used to be different styles of rock then rap was introduced with bands like Limp Biscuit and others and eventually it all muddled down to one style. Look where that genre is now almost completely gone off mainstream radio. It’s still around you just have to look for it like most of the underground bands this site reviews.
September 17, 2013 @ 4:56 pm
what about TV coverage coming from Music City Roots?
September 17, 2013 @ 6:26 pm
That is definitely another good development. In some ways, this is included in the rise of Nashville’s independent scene. What Music City Roots is doing now is what Austin City Limits used to do back in the day before they became beholden to corporate sponsors.
September 18, 2013 @ 8:33 am
Jamey Johnson also did some touring with Kid Rock. . . . and has that fabulous tribute to Hank Cochran out recently.
September 20, 2013 @ 2:53 pm
Miss Leslie, I’m listening to songs from your newest cd as I type, I am hooked! Great stuff.
September 23, 2013 @ 2:00 pm
Dirty River Boys, Turnpike Troubadours, and Whiskey Myers all made it on CMT on “Concrete Country,” and Will Hoge’s success (Chevy commercial, video on CMT, playing on the Opry) and recognition are two more I’d credit.
September 24, 2013 @ 11:12 pm
Trigger, did you see Jason Isbell on Conan play Flying Over Water recently? Absolutely fantastic. You can waste time and effort pissing and moaning about the state of mainstream country music all you want but there is so much good stuff out there available to anyone who looks for it that I don’t know why you waste the time to complain about Toby, Blake, etc. There always has been and always will be crappy country music out there. I’m always happy when you point us toward the good stuff rather than hear you belly ache about the bad stuff. Anyway, I guess I’ll high grade your articles to avoid the ongoing complaints about Honky Tonk Badonka Donk, etc and check out what you have to say about the bands that matter. Keep up the good work.
September 24, 2013 @ 11:16 pm
Yes I did, and had it linked in the news stream above for a while. As much as you can’t say enough about his songwriting, he’s such an amazing performer, and in an incredible zone at the moment.