We were so swept up in praising ourselves for all the gains made in the independent realm of country music in 2017, it wasn’t until here in the dwindling moments of the year that we realized just what a dreadful era 2017 posed in the mainstream.
While in the independent realm of country music, 2017 went down as a record year for quality projects, the mainstream was downright abysmal pretty much across the board for both songs and albums. There actually were quite a few pretty good songs, but most struggled to gain traction in the charts.
Man did Music Row in Nashville turn in a whole slew of stinkers this year, setting new lows for the substance, and non-country-ness of “country” songs in 2017. This year was a great example of how you should never think it can’t get any worse, because it can, and did, and by a long stretch.
The issue with Chris Janson has never been that he can’t write a song, or even sing one. The problem is Chris can’t resist the temptation to write and record the trashy super hit as well, and this is what has gone on to define his career. “Drunk Girl” is one of the good ones.
Since 1974, the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jam concert has been a mainstay on the country music calendar, and a worthy fundraiser for veterans. Now in 2018, the event will hold special importance as it also acts as a tribute to Charlie Daniels himself, as he partners with tribute concert promoter Blackbird Presents for this year’s presentation.
Alison Krauss, Billy Gibbons, Blackberry Smoke, Blackbird Presents, Bobby Bare, Chris Janson, Chuck Leavell, Eddie Montgomery, Jamey Johnson, Justin Moore, Ricky Skaggs, The Oak Ridge Boys, Volunteer Jam
Oh man are these some stinkers. Not only does an elite and highly-trained group of mainstream country artists seem to be like devoted experts at defining new lows for the genre, in 2017 the amount of non-country-ness of some of these “country” songs is so off the charts, it’s like they’re purposely challenging each other.
Body Like a Backroad, Canaan Smith, Carrie Underwood, Chris Janson, Craving You, David Allan Coe, Dustin Lynch, Fix A Drink, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Like You That Way, Sam Hunt, The Chainsmokers, The Fighter, The Moonshine Bandits, Thomas Rhett
Now Nashville’s decided to try and make the Geico Caveman a superstar it appears, and it’s only appropriate, because to find anything fetching in this anthem to American devolution, your forehead has to stick out over your eyebrows so far that you don’t need to wear a hat in the rain.
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 the mid 80’s, it was Randy Travis and his neotraditional sound that led country music out of the great abyss of the earlier decade and returned country to its rightful place as a powerful voice for rural people in popular culture. With over 20 million records sold and his recent induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame…
It’s always worth a chuckle when you hear someone say that country music must “evolve” to stay relevant, or hear an artist bellyache about how constricting country music is to their creativity. And then you put on a record like this and hear just how much a true artist can do with a simple message and melody, and three chords and the truth.
“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.
A big issue with the Grand Ole Opry in recent years has been trying to get standing members to meet their performance obligations. Though the Opry loves to add high-profile names from country’s current radio stars, these performers tend to sign on to receive the distinction of being Opry members, but don’t actually want to play the appointed number of slots for membership.
"Cousin" Kenny Vaughan, Brandy Clark, Carrie Underwood, Chris Janson, Chris Scruggs, Chris Stapleton, Daryle Singletary, Elizabeth Cook, EmiSunshine, Gene Watson, Grand Ole Opry, Holly Williams, Jamey Johnson, Jim Lauderdale, Kacey Musgraves, Kellie Pickler, Mark Chesnutt, Miranda Lambert, Mo Pitney, Radney Foster, Rhonda Vincent, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, Sam Bush, William Michael Morgan
Three of the most promising male artists in the mainstream are William Michael Morgan, Jon Pardi, and Mo Pitney. If there’s a traditional country insurgency looming in the wings, it might be carried on their backs. But with so many albums getting delayed, the big question was if any of them would see a proper album release, or be stuck in limbo like so many other artists. Luckily, there’s been some movement.
Now Bobby Bones, over a year after its initial release, has gone crazy over “Whiskey On My Breath,” and spent Tuesday (1-26) chronicling its rise to #2 on the iTunes charts as he commanded his many listeners to purchase it. Remember, it was a similar effort that propelled Chris Janson’s song “Buy Me a Boat” to the top of the iTunes charts, and eventually landed him a major label deal with Columbia Nashville.
The feature film American Saturday Night: Live From The Grand Ole Opry has just announced that after a limited run of shows at select theaters in December, it is expanding to various Carmike Cinemas and North American theaters across the United States on February 12th. However the film’s top three stars are Opry members who regularly don’t pay their proper dues.
American Saturday Night: Live From The Grand Ole Opry, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Brett Eldredge, Carrie Underwood, Chris Janson, Darius Rucker, EmiSunshine, Holly Williams, Jean Sheppard, Jim Ed Brown, Little Big Town, Love & Theft, Mo Pitney, The Band Perry, The Grand Ole Opry
2015 has been back loaded with big events and even bigger releases that have caused renewed interest in the charts used to measure the popularity and impact of music. The problem is, in this here-and-now world, the model for how music is measured is still based around walking to a newsstand on Monday, and picking up the latest Billboard, or waiting for Tuesday when the album charts are updated online.
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 . . .
Granger’s incredibly generic and pandering new single “Backroad Song” has just been sent to mainstream country radio proper. And with a big Nashville label behind it now, the single has become the 2nd most added song to country radio stations in the last two consecutive weeks, and is about to get yet another power boost of infinite proportions.
It’s nauseating enough when horrifically average people are given extraordinary opportunities. It’s even worse when extraordinarily below average people do things that are horrifically opportunistic. This is what you have with much of today’s popular country music, and specifically with Chris Janson and his stupid new single “Power of Positive Drinkin'”.
Chris Janson becomes the perfect pitchman for exuberant and unhealthy American consumerism in the wholly-unoriginal, culturally-deprecated, and easily-forgettable Bro-Country track “Buy Me A Boat.” Burying any of the wisdom found embedded in countless American music standards about how things such as love and hard work are the way to true fulfillment and happiness.