We’ve already run down the Greatest Country Albums of the Decade, and in there, albums in the mainstream were given fair competition to be included, and some made the cut. But in the spirit of inclusiveness and impartiality, let’s make sure the great records from the mainstream get their due as well.
Shooter Jennings and Lukas Nelson got together to recreate the magic of their famous fathers on a new rendition of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” originally written and performed by Ed Bruce with his wife Patsy. But of course you only get a teaser version of the song in the opening segment of ‘The Ranch.’
When you’re putting your list together of country traditionalists and purists popping through in the mainstream, make sure you don’t forget to include Mo Pitney. When he released his debut album Behind This Guitar in 2016 and even before, he had people singing his praises for his songwriting that reminded you of simpler times.
William Michael Morgan has sent us selling our stock, and then buying it all back again just in a matter of a couple of weeks. The first taste from his upcoming and unannounced sophomore record was a song called “Tonight Girl.” And then here comes “Brokenhearted.”
Alan Jackson isn’t one to pull punches, or to not say what’s on his mind when somebody asks him. His Hall of Fame career has been marked by taking hard stances for the cause of real country music. Alan Jackson was recently interviewed as part of a GQ feature, and had some interesting things to say about Chris Stapleton.
On Saturday, 12-17, Music City Roots, Yee-Haw Brewing Co., and Ole Smoky Moonshine are organizing a benefit for the fire victims called Mountain Tough that will include performances by Jim Lauderdale, Mo Pitney, The Secret Sisters, Sam Bush, Chuck Mead, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, and headliners the Zac Brown Band.
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.
One of the reasons we feel so surprised at Americana’s success and so many have been so slow to recognize it is because it has been a slow and steady process. Because of Americana’s model of sustainability, the revolution has been plodding, yet purposeful. And now it’s success is palpable, and measurable by industry-standard metrics.
The troika of Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton isn’t the only gaggle making waves in country music and giving folks hope for the future. All signed to major labels and making more traditionally-oriented country fans salivate for what the future may have in store are Jon Pardi, William Michael Morgan and 23-year-old Illinois native Mo Pitney.
With absolutely no hyperbole intended, William Michael Morgan earning a #1 on country radio for his debut single “I Met A Girl” is a historic moment in country music. It’s a point in time when an undeniably traditional country song from an undeniably traditional country artist has topped the chart after a long vacancy for a traditionalist at the top spot.
“I can’t believe it’s already about this time for me,” William Michael Morgan said. “Right now we’re sitting at about 11 songs that’s gonna be on the album. That could change, but it’s all country, true to the EP of course, and I just can’t wait to share this with you guys. We’ve been working so hard to try and find and write to get these songs out to the public.”
Finally we get some forward movement on one of the most anticipated mainstream traditional albums in a good while. Curb Records-signed singer and songwriter Mo Pitney will release his debut album ‘Behind This Guitar’ featuring 10 of 12 co-written songs by Pitney himself, and contributions from folks we though the rest of Nashville had forgotten.
There’s not much worse than having a hankering for some new music from one of your favorite artists, but feeling like you’ve been waiting forever for it to happen. There are many reasons an artist or band may have a delay in output. But dammit, sometimes you feel like you just can’t wait. Here’s a few folks that it feels like are past due for new projects.
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
When LeAnn Rimes and Hank Williams III fought very public battles with the label, people chalked it up to a couple of artists with declining careers who couldn’t handle being professional. But after high profile and nasty exits by Hank Williams Jr. and then superstar Tim McGraw, the word was out on the streets about Curb Records’ unfair business practices.
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.
How people listen to music is clearly changing, but much of the country music industry isn’t following suit. In a town that employs scores of people just to push songs to radio, Nashville doesn’t know how to behave any differently than they did 60 years ago. Entire companies are based around trying to sell songs to country radio. The difference now is radio is no longer the only game in town.
Are you waiting for your favorite music artists signed to MCA Nashville to release an album after a prolonged hiatus? Perhaps you heard the first single months or sometimes years ago, but still no record? Well you’re not alone. It looks like the unenviable position of being the most notorious label on Music Row is no longer a slam dunk for Curb Records.
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
Whether it will actually happen or not remains to be seen, but if country music in the mainstream decides to swing back more towards the traditional side, many of Music Row’s major labels will be ready to take advantage with a new generation of young, fresh, and traditionally-leaning talent already signed to contracts, already getting experience on the road and on big stages, and even finding some success with singles.
Being willing to go where a song takes you is the challenge in the heart of every music lover. Hopefully one of these songs released in 2015 will take you some place you want to be, or somewhere you’ve never been before. These songs were selected on their own merit, not from the strength of the artist or album from where they came.
Brennen Leigh, Cody Jinks, Dawes, Eric Church, Eric Paslay, Evan Felker, James McMurtry, JB Beverley, John Moreland, Justin Townes Earle, Kacey Musgraves, Love and Theft, Mo Pitney, Randy Rogers, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Sunny Sweeney, Turnpike Troubadours, Wade Bowen
Heading into the final couple of months of 2015, there may not be a hotter name in country music among critics and distinguished listeners than Chris Stapleton. The long wait for his often-rumored and much-delayed debut album was finally rewarded on May 5th with the release of the Dave Cobb-produced “Traveller,” and fans were not let down.
So what’s to learn from hitching a ride in Marty McFly’s time machine and traveling back to 1985? That the problems country music is facing today are virtually the same ones that were being faced 30 years ago. It’s all cyclical, as canonized in the old Gospel tune enshrined in the architecture of the Country Music Hall of Fame asking the question, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?”
Alan Jackson, Bill Carter, Bobby Bare, Chris Stapleton, Clint Black, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Jason Isbell, Keith Whitley, Kris Kristofferson, Mo Pitney, Randy Travis, Ray Charles, Ricky Skaggs, Sturgill Simpson, The Highwaymen, Travis Tritt, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson
Quietly, stealthily, some of country music’s major labels are starting to retool with very young, and very country performing talent. Whether they’re hedging their bets, or hoping for a hard country resurgence, Mo Pitney is not just an anomaly anymore, he is one of a number of traditional-leaning performers being groomed for what may be the next big movement in country after the current R&B disco craze invariably crashes.