Sometimes the effort to save country music feels like one step forward, two steps back. Last week at this time we were all gaga over the fact that Chris Stapleton’s stripped-down new single “Either Way” was the most added single at country radio and debuted at a surprisingly #26 on the charts, but “Either Way” took a proverbial dive during its second week.
As we continue to ponder what country radio might look like after the impending implosion of iHeartMedia and corporate radio as we know it, some very interesting developments emerged on the country radio charts this week.
Garth Brooks, take your free tickets to the Auditorium Shores stage and your Frito bags with your damn brand on them, and go back to Oklahoma and roll around naked in your massive, massive piles of money. You don’t belong at South By Southwest.
If you want to appreciate just how far independent Texas country artist Aaron Watson has come with his career, take a moment to reflect that in 2017, he was asked to play the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo—the same big stage that Willie Nelson, and even big pop country names like Rascal Flatts and Dierks Bentley played this year.
Aaron Watson is an optimist, and a pragmatist. And though a swath of independent and traditional country fans tend to find themselves generally turned off by these things—only identifying with country music that breaks the heart—Aaron Watson is adhering to the very first rule of independent and traditional country: be authentic to yourself.
Call it cautious or guarded optimism, but after the abomination that was the 2016 Houston Rodeo musical lineup led by folks such as Luke Bryan, Pitbull, and Florida Georgia Line, and where only one artist with Texas ties and only one female performer were booked (and both were Miranda Lambert), they couldn’t go any lower, that’s for sure.
Aaron Watson, Bri Bagwell, Cameran Nelson, Chris Stapleton, Conno, Curtis Grimes, Darrin Morris Band, Flatland Cavalry, Hoss Mayfield, Houston Rodeo, Jason James, John Baumann, Josh Ward, Max Stalling, MIke and the Moonpies, No Dry County, Randy Brown, Texas Renegade, The Strayhearts, Wade Andrew Smith, Willie Nelson, ZZ Top
Just what 2017 has in store for us in the country music department remains to be seen. But we do know about what to expect in the release department for at least the first quarter of the year, while rumors abound about the big projects that could come to light later in 2017. Here’s a run down of what we know, what we think we know, and what we would like to believe.
Aaron Watson, Ags Connolly, Alison Krauss, Casey James Prestwood, Charlie Worsham, Chris Knight, Chris Stapleton, Colter Wall, Curtis McMurtry, Dale Watson, Dan Auerbach, Dave Cobb, George Jones, Guy Clark, Holly Williams, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Jaime Wyatt, Jason Isbell, JB Beverley, Justin Townes Earle, Marty Stuart, MOderna Mal, Nikki Lane, Old Crow Medicine Show, Otis Gibbs, Phoebe Hunt, Ray Benson, Ray Scott, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Rhiannon Giddens, Robbie Fulks, Scott H. Biram, Shinyribs, Son Volt, Steve Earle, Sunny Sweeney, The Gibson Brothers, The Sadies, The Secret Sisters, Tift Merritt, Valerie June, Whitney Rose
“‘Vaquero,’ which means the ‘original cowboy,’ is an intensely reflective and personal set of songs filled with compelling narratives,” says the Aaron Watson team in an announcement. “Throughout, he depicts stories of a rugged people, humble but hardworking, like himself. He puts a playful spin on an insider’s view on the Texan way of life.
What’s going “outta style” is Bro-Country and songs that chase trends, while traditional country has once again proved to be the timeless influence in country music that always comes back to the forefront. This should bode well for an artist like Aaron Watson if he sticks to what he does best.
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.
This is not another article about Chris Stapleton. This is an article about mainstream American country music radio. Yes, Chris Stapleton won big, again. But Chris Stapleton’s impact still remains paltry on mainstream country radio. The question is, will country radio listen? Or will country radio be left with anybody listening to it?
But what’s the fun of getting to the top when you’ve compromised everything to get there? Despite some declaring the #1 for “Backroad Song” as a victory for Texas country, it is anything but. It was Granger’s abandonment of Texas country and the values of that scene, and walking away from the decent songwriting evidenced earlier in his career that finally got him the commercial success he has clearly craved.
Forget all the sappy relationship stuff, and how it happened and where it might lead. Miranda Lambert ditching Blake Shelton and ending up with Anderson East might be the perfect illustration of the drastic role reversal 2015 has ushered in throughout the greater country music realm, and how 2016 could be poised to completely turn everything upside down.
Aaron Watson, Adam Hood, Anderson East, Ashley Monroe, Blackberry Smoke, Brandy Clark, Chris Stapleton, Dave Cobb, David Rawlings, Fred Eaglesmith, Gillian Welch, Holly Williams, Jason Isbell, John Prine, Miranda Lambert, Patty Griffin, Steve Earle, Sturgill Simpson, Zac Brown
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
“Awards shows don’t matter.” This is the bill of goods fans of true country music, and fans of independent music have been forced to sell themselves for years as a consolation prize for continuously being overlooked, losing in bulk, and being generally embarrassed during the moments when America and the world crowds around the boob tube for the spectacle of a televised award show like the CMA’s or the Grammys.
Aaron Watson, Americiana, Ashley Monroe, Blackberry Smoke, Brandy Clark, Cam, Chris Stapleton, Grammy Awards, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Lee Ann Womack, Leon Bridges, O Brother Where Art Thou, Ralph Stanley, Willie Nelson
Over the last couple of weeks, Saving Country Music headquarters has received a fresh new onslaught of emails on the subject of pop country über DJ Bobby Bones—the morning show personality for iHeartMedia’s syndicated network and the single-most name at the forefront of homogenizing American mainstream country music radio. Let’s tackle some of these subjects . . .
“18,700”: This is the number of albums Toby Keith sold upon the debut of his new record 35 MPH Town, and it got me to thinking, which artists and bands have beat that number in a year of unprecedented ascent in independent country music? 2015 is the year it became common to see one of your favorite independent acts and aging legends compete at the top of the album charts.
Some independent country fans love to harp on whose name is in the biggest font in the headliner positions, but the names Stagecoach invites each year to fill out the roster gives you great hope for the future of country, and tells you who to look out for in the coming months and years, this year especially.
Aaron Watson, Amanda Shires, Billy Joe Shaver, Chris Stapleton, Cody Jinks, Dale Watson, Emi Sunshine, Emmylou Harris, Jamestown Revival, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Langhorne Slim and the Law, Luke Bell, Marty Stuart, Mo Pitney, Robert Earl Keen, Sam Outlaw, Stagecoach, Stagecoach 2015, The Deslodes, The Malpass Brothers, The Turnpike Troubadours, Whitey Morgan, William Elliot Whitmore
The idea that Jason Isbell saved country music when his latest release Something More Than Free inched out Alan Jackson for the #1 spot on Billboard’s Country Albums chart has been offered as a discussion topic by cosmic songwriter and east Nashville sage Todd Snider. Above all else, how awesome is it to have the old version of Todd Snider back in our midst?
In one corner you have the wily veteran who’s sold more than 80 million records worldwide and racked up untold awards and accolades during his quarter century career. In the other corner you have the scrappy young upstart who after years of paying dues on the club circuit can now sell out three consecutive nights at The Ryman Auditorium in 30 minutes and is on the tip of everyone’s tongue as the name of one of the best songwriters around.