They just don’t get it. Undoubtedly, you can get a little sugar rush from listening to a lighthearted catchy song on country radio if that’s your cup of tea. But it will never impact you like the deep punch from a true country tearjerker that doesn’t depreciate from age, but grows stronger from its legacy of all the hearts it’s tugged and tears it’s wept as time has gone on. Don’t pass judgement on today’s pop country fans, feel sorry for them, because they will never feel the same soul an old classic country song affords to an appreciative audience. And be grateful to your parents, or your crazy uncle, or whomever it was that turned you on to the true beauty of country music from how much it’s enhanced your life.
All the rage in certain traditional country or “Outlaw” circles today is to write country protest songs, all barbed and spitting fire, complaining about what crap today’s country is. Though this was cool when Alan Jackson and George Strait came together to cut “Murder on Music Row,” that was nearly 20 years ago now. Hank3 and others had a hell of a good time doing similar songs only with a greater edge into the mid 2000’s. But here in 2017, your country protest song is about as cliché as the songs you’re complaining about. One of the reasons songwriters write songs is to get heartache off their chest, and since that heartache might not just be what’s happening in your personal life, but what’s happened to today’s country, it’s understandable why so many of these protest songs get written and recorded. But it really takes something special for a country protest song to have impact.
What’s great about Dillon Carmichael‘s “Old Songs Like That” is it doesn’t focus on the negative, it accentuates what is positive about all those old country songs. It preaches their virtues, attempts to explain their importance, and pays homage to them not just in name, but in style. By focusing on song titles instead of name dropping a bunch of country legends—which invariable is more about the person dropping the names than it is the legends themselves—Dillon Carmichael makes the message much more about the music than posturing for country cred.
Similarly to the sameness of all of today’s country protest songs, the overdone Southern accent by artists trying to prove their country-ness has also resulted in more earaches than audience-worthy musical efforts. Some singers can’t help their accent, and it can enhance their music. But it’s always best to sing in your own tone, and let the words and style prove your credibility. Dillon Carmichael’s voice fits “Old Songs Like That” like a glove, while the pounding 3/4 beat and steel guitar do the rest.
At only 23-years old, you may be surprised that the love of traditional country music is so strong in this young songwriter, but the pedigree and promise in his young career is definitely present. From the tiny town of Burgin, Kentucky, Dillon Carmichael is the grandson of Harold Montgomery, who was a respected Kentucky country singer, and Harold Carmichael, who was a member of The Carmichael Brothers. He first signed a songwriting deal before he finished high school, and in September he signed with Riser House. He is currently working on his debut album with producer extraordinaire Dave Cobb.
Much is still to be determined about this young man, but if “Old Songs Like That” is any indication, his heart is in the right place, his voice is superb, and so is his ability to communicate the importance and virtues of true country music to a new generation.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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“Old Songs Like That” was written by Dillon Carmichael, with Tom Botkin and Michael Rogers.