Just like so many of the characters in today’s popular music space, Jason Isbell has transformed from one of the most universally-revered independent artists of our time, to being reviled by large swaths of the listening population for his active and often ostentatious displays.
As some of the dust begins to settle from the fallout of Morgan Wallen’s inappropriate and offensive use of the N-word, there’s an addendum that needs to be addressed in regards to the accusations of a double standard pervasive in country music.
The recipient of the inaugural CMT Equal Play Award has been announced as Jennifer Nettles, known both as a solo performer, and most notably for her work in the country music duo Sugarland. But there is a problem with presenting Jennifer Nettles as a “equal play” advocate.
Just like Lady Antebellum, Sugarland should have been relegated to the graveyard of failed country music franchises, if for no other reason than the respective members were actually much better in their off season solo projects than the sum of their parts ever were together. But in an industry that is empty of new ideas and interested in squeezing money from whatever crevice possible, no franchise is off the table for resurrection.
We’re supposed to be avoiding discussion of Taylor Swift in country music. That wasn’t just the hope of traditional country fans who were glad to see her finally come out a few years ago and say that she wanted to be considered pop and pop only henceforth. That was the wish of Taylor Swift herself and the entire point of her “I’ve gone pop” declaration.
For six glorious years, God Almighty graced us poor little creatures moving about the face of the earth looking for shelter and sustenance by abstaining from raining any new Sugarland material down upon us as the band stayed on indefinite hiatus, with the real possibility of staying mothballed until eternity.
A vintage baby blue 1977 Eagle tour bus that was once used by a host of country legends, including bluegrass maestro Vassar Clements, Country Music Hall of Famer Faron Young, and eventually landed in the fleet of Loretta Lynn, is currently up for sale on eBay by the current owner. It was the property of Loretta Lynn’s guitarist Perley Curtis.
Jennifer Nettles is the Kathy Bates of country music, and I’m not talking the ‘Fried Green Tomatoes’ Kathy Bates. Where some female performers like to exhibit personas such as the sweet girl next door or the strong Southern Belle, the Sugarland co-singer apparently thinks a psychopathic yandere cross bred with a hyper-spastic oversinger is what will curry the favor of the mindless drones of mainstream country.
The color yellow was picked to be the primary backdrop for the relaunch. The image of a diamond shaped like a heart was selected as a logo (even though that’s not the way a true heart-shaped diamond is cut), and everyone had visions of a blockbuster #1 single and sold out arena tours dancing in their heads. . . . and since then, “Live Forever” has flopped.
Uncle Ezra Ray and “B.Y.H.B.” should be publicly laughed at, shunned, lampooned, rebuked, parodied, and told to take their big bag of nothing back to the teenie bopper clubs of Newport Beach. But instead “B.Y.H.B.” is probably a few choice spins on the Bobby Bones Show away from being awarded Single of the Year by the CMA.
In the fall of 2012 when Ronnie Dunn (of Brooks & Dunn) was looking to write and record material for his upcoming album, he reached out to Texas music songwriting guru Ray Wylie Hubbard after falling in love with the gritty sound Hubbard imbibes on all his records. Dunn flew into Austin as Ray Wylie wrangled up an A-list of Austin musicians to to participate in a recording session.
Bobby Keys, Brooks & Dunn, Bruce Robison, Buddy Holly, Bump Band, Chelle Rose, Faces, George Reiff, Gurf Morlix, Ian McLagan, James McMurtry, Jennifer Nettles, Joe Ely, John Hiatt, Kelly Willis, Lucinda Williams, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Mary Gauthier, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Dunn, Small Faces, Sugarland, The Rolling Stones, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson
Have you ever been scanning through photos of your favorite (or least favorite) artists and thought, “Hot damn! That dude look just like this other dude!” From eery similarities like Sturgill Simpson and Javier Bardem’s creepy character from the movie No Country For Old Men, to Johny Paul White and Johnny Depp who I am pretty much convinced are the same exact person…
Brian Kelley, Caitlin Rose, Colt Ford, David Allan Coe, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Isbell, Jeremy Fetzer, John Paul White, Kristian Bush, Seth Avett, Steelism, Sturgill Simpson, Sugarland, The Avett Brothers, The Civil Wars, Tyler Hubbard
When you look back at some of the early songs, early albums, and even the early image of some of country’s biggest current stars, it can stimulate downright culture shock. Of course styles change naturally over time, but many of these artists came from small towns and had simple dreams. But the problem with money and fame is that you can always have more of it….
Big & Rich, Billy Currington, Blake Shelton, Brantley Gilbert, Chris LeDoux, Florida Georgia Line, Garth Brooks, Jamey Johnson, Jason Aldean, Jennifer Nettles, Jerrod Niemann, Kristian Bush, Luke Bryan, Neal McCoy, Sugarland, Travis Tritt
The question that often comes up about the duo is what exactly does the short, blond-haired Brian Kelley do in the band? The longer-haired Tyler Hubbard seems to be the only voice you hear prominently in the vocal mix, and though Brian Kelley is commonly seen holding a guitar, he doesn’t appear to be handling any of the guitar solos, or really fulfilling any significant function of the Florida Georgia Line sound.
We all know them and we all hate them, those ubiquitous and ridiculous pop country songs that make us hang our heads in shame, embarrassed to call ourselves country fans, constantly making us having to explain that no, we don’t listen to that type of country. They pursue us doggedly, on the radio, over the speakers at the grocery store, blaring from a car full of high school kids at a red light.
1994, Achy Breaky Heart, Bad Country Songs, Big & Rich, Billy Ray Cyrus, Blake Shelton, Boys 'Round Here, Brad Paisley, Brown Chicken Brown Cow, Corn Star, Country Girl (Shake It For Me), Craig Morgan, Cruise, Dirt Road Anthem, Florida Georgia Line, Honky Tonk Badonkadonk, I Wanna Talk About Me, Jason Aldea, Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Red Solo Cup, Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy), She Think's My Tractor's Sexy, Stuck Like Glue, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith, Trace Adkins, Truck Yeah, Worst Country Songs of All Time
If you’ve found you’re eyeballs affixed to these very words, you’ve likely found yourself at some point trying to explain that you like country, but not that type of country. Once many artists get to the very top of country pop, they seem to lose all self-awareness and begin to make fools of themselves, and by proxy, the genre that holds the same name as the music we love. He are some of the worst offenses.
This album is not the worst album ever put out in country music. With the advent of country rap, “New Outlaw” country, and the laundry list approach to country music in general, pop country now finds itself in a bit of a haven from the harshest of criticisms. What Lionel Ritchie’s Tuskegee album does hold the distinction of being is country music’s most embarrassing album put out to date.
When people talk about the “manufactured” pop star, what they mean is taking a pretty face, and pushing all the right buttons to make an artist that has mass appeal at the expense of soul and creativity. It is very easy to pigeon hole Taylor into this lot. But in truth Taylor Swift’s success has nothing to do with her following all the rules. She broke all of them.
My overall grade of the 2011 CMA Awards would be “not terrible.” Jason Aldean could have swept the awards, and ushered in a new era in country music where a country rap song was the reigning Song of the Year. But Taylor’s Entertainer of the Year victory at least means that at least a little authenticity is still alive in the “country” genre. Or at least for another year.
2011, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley, Brantley Gilbert, CMA Awards, Colt Ford, Eric Church, Hank Williams, Jason Aldean, Jr., Justin Bieber, Lady Antebellum, Lionel Ritchie, Little Jimmy Dickens, Luke Bryan, Martina McBride, Miranda Lambert, Scotty McCreery, Sugarland, Taylor Swift, The Band Perry
Just like how Taylor Swift’s big 2009 sweep of the awards caused a dramatic pop-oriented shift in the genre, an Aldean sweep could cause a shift to Aldean’s calling cards of checklist songs and country rap. And a win for the song “Dirt Road Anthem” would all but make the formation of the mono-genre complete.
It usually takes 6-9 months for the bloated machine of Music Row to realize and catch up on trends, but no doubt that within the next few months, we will begin to see more and more hip-hop infiltration into mainstream country. The next question will be, will the one artist that sits at the very top of the totem pole decide to lead ahead of that trend, or follow it?
There’s not a lot of twang here, and if you come from the independent/underground country world, you’re bar may be set too high for “Chief” to hurdle. But from a mainstream perspective, understanding this album came from the putrid, vapid depths of Music Row, the very place where dreams go to die, “Chief” is curious, bold, fresh, and refreshing.
Ah ha. So everyone wants to tell you that pop megastar Lada Gaga has “gone country”. And everyone wants to know what I think about it. Well to be honest with you, I think it is a brilliant stroke of mad genius. The song is horrendous of course, but that goes without saying. It’s not even meant to be good, so smattering it with criticism is irrelevant. What does matter is that you are talking about it…
In June of 2010, Hank III set out on his first Canadian tour in years, and ended the run playing a string of shows from Washington State back home to Nashville. Opening for Hank III on that stink was the self-proclaimed “steampunk crooner” (before Sugarland stole the “steampunk” bit) Izzy Cox, but unfortunately Izzy didn’t make it very far.