The art of the well-made music video—one that can match the inspiration of a song—seems to be a dying art these days. In 2015, Saving Country Music didn’t even post a “Best Videos” montage because there weren’t enough to highlight. However 2016 came in with some hard and heavy hitters, and even though the second half of the year has trailed off significantly, the videos at the top of the heap are so good, they’re certainly worth revisiting again.
Just like Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year candidates, this is not just about entertainment, this is about putting together words, music, and in this case, a visual representation, that can shake the viewer out of their daily routines and make them realize something that previously was either lost or never discovered about themselves or their world.
Please feel free to share the videos that touched you in 2016 below.
#6 – Tim Easton – “Right Before Your Own Eyes”
Singer-songwriters can sing about things such as love and loneliness as well, but their true trade is in being like a reflection pool of the present day, questioning our modes of life and the perspectives we keep. They are the poet’s of modern times, saying things we all know deep in our hearts, but in a way that awakens our inner selves and reminds us to take stock, re-evaluate our current course in life, or the ideals we hold to.
Like his singer-songwriter forefathers—sometimes posing as many questions as answers, but in a way that leads to understanding—Tim Easton has something to say on the American ideal, and how we’ve let forces outside ourselves drown out the inner voice. It’s the singer-songwriter’s perspective that’s able to drift above the grid of mundanity and ask the serious questions about our direction as people, and in a way that’s articulate and entertaining enough that it forces us to listen. It’s the word play and rhyme that pulls you in, but it’s the message that lingers. (from the review of American Fork)
#5: Matt Woods – “The American Way”
* Also a Candidate for Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year
Trump may not be the answer, but who would question that the American dream is laying on the dirty floor of an abandoned building in shambles for so many in America’s great forgotten middle? Songwriters like Matt Woods, BJ Barham, and a select few others seem especially equipped to put those downtrodden sentiments to song and somehow make you crave to listen to them even though it makes you hurt and angry. This former Saving Country Music Song of the Year winner turns in another track worthy of top distinction off his latest record How to Survive, and the timing couldn’t be better.
#4: Lew Card – “Condo Town Rag”
Gentrification within America’s artistic communities and entertainment corridors is one of the greatly overlooked and fundamentally underlying reasons that music and other artistic expressions are under siege in the modern age. Affordable housing and friendly, inspiring environs are as significant of factors into the fostering of of the creative process as anything. The two major epicenters for American country and roots music—Nashville, TN and Austin, TX—are both going through eerily similar and equally sweeping changes to their urban landscapes, and it’s affecting the music directly.
Lew Card took his song “Condo Town Rag” and teamed up with Seymour.tv to create a brilliant depiction of how when a city’s identity changes, so do our memories and sense of home and place. Using historical photos matched up with modern-day perspectives, it shows the troubling way the Austin skyline has been retooled in recent years by people who move there to take advantage of the artistic community, but ultimately become the catalyst for its demise. (read full review)
#3: The Accidentals – “Sixth Street”
Perhaps similarly to Lew Card’s “Condo Town Rag,” The Accidentals’ “Sixth Street” may resonate for those within the Austin mindset to a greater degree, and specifically for people who have an experience with the annual event known South by Southwest where this video was shot, and the song was inspired. Long ago getting out of hand, SXSW in some respects now is a shining example of the decay of humanity. Though the video begins as a relatively normal travelogue-style video, the scripted scene at the end, along with the brilliant songwriting of “Sixth Street,” collaborate to convey a chilling lesson of how we let everyday mundanity shake us out of our humanity, and forget the bonds with our common man.
“Sixth Street” is not obvious. But the lesson is really important to heed.
#2: Chris Stapleton – “Fire Away”
Chris Stapleton’s “Fire Away” is wetting tissues and disturbing workdays all across the country with its candid and gripping portrayal of suicide and mental illness in the see-saw world of a bipolar reality. We already had a good sense that Stapleton’s “Fire Away” was about heartbreak, but the heartbreak portrayed in the video directed by Tim Mattia takes it to an entirely new level. The manic, then depressive moods are evidenced with biting, ghostly accuracy in a well-crafted short where Stapleton plays a bartender early on, and then lets the professionals do the rest. It’s hard not to get pulled in as the drama unfolds from the very real recollections we most all have of when mental illness resulted in tragedy in our own lives.
Fearlessly the “Fire Away” video meets a very real issue head on—an issue that seems to have no governor on who it affects: rich and poor, men and women, and individuals from stable homes with ample love, concern, and attention surrounding them. It also delves into how even the purest love can be a flimsy firewall for the destabilizing, and sometimes catastrophic effects of mental illness, and re-imagines the trope of the first responder having to come to grips as personal and professional lives collide. (read full review)
#1: Evan Webb and the Rural Route Ramblers – “Dry Up or Drown”
Evan Webb and the Rural Route Ramblers released a song and video that delicately, yet accurately portrays the devastation river communities face, and how even when the flood waters subside, things are never the same. From the small community of McClure, Illinois—right on the banks of the Mississippi—Even Webb looked to capture the despondency of living in a dying town. When the Mississippi overran its banks once again earlier this year, life imitated art.
The video for “Dry Up or Drown” was shot in McLure (pop. 400) and the greater Alexander County area, and takes real life footage of the recent flooding to match with Evan Webb’s poignant portrayal of life in a flood plain.
The images are powerful enough. Shot by Reginald, it shows the true life destruction floods can cause, with homes surrounded by water, and the double yellow lines of roads descending into swamped out landscapes where little hope seems to remain. Yet it’s the true life lines of the song like “Hope left here on a prison bus. Guess this town ain’t good enough for the worst of us” about the recent closing of the nearby Tamms Correctional Facility that really set the loss of community the song and video look to portray into stark perspective. (read full review)