Showing posts with label saving country music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label saving country music. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Non-Country Listener Checks Out The Current Top Ten


According to my lone source of country music news, country is navigating back to that nineties sound (the best decade in country music ever). So since I never know any of the artists Saving Country Music's articles reference, I thought I should find out for myself if that is actually true. I've done this exercise a couple of times in the past with disastrous results, but I have my fingers crossed!

The rules are simple: Clearly I've never heard any of these tracks before, so I will review them as I watch the music videos. This time I'm relying on American Country Countdown's chart for August 22, 2022, the most recent chart currently available. And I'm only reviewing the top ten, because I am not a glutton for punishment.

Bear in mind, I'm grading on a curve.

Wheeeeee! Here we go!

#10 ~ You Proof ~ Morgan Wallen

This is the first time I've ever heard this guy, who's for some reason controversial (because someone apparently recorded him having a private conversation with a friend). He's clearly not the best singer ~ nasally and he tends to slur his words ~ but he's certainly not the worst.

This song is perhaps following a modern trend, starting with a bare-bones verse and filling out the rest of the track with repetitions of the chorus. I can see the sing-along allure, but the subject matter, previously done to death, could use some fattening. I do give him props, though, for essentially keeping it country.

I haven't obviously heard the other top nine singles yet, but I will give this one a B-.


#9 ~ Damn Strait ~ Scotty McCreery

One might not want to do a song that instantly reminds the listener of King George, That said, the track is definitely country, kind of second-tier country, however. It's inordinately easy to write a song with hooks that are song titles. 

How about this:  

Mama Tried to Sing Me Back Home but I Was A Lonesome Fugitive, when all she ever wanted me to be was a Working Man. Merle used to be my favorite singer, but now I can't even listen to him because then I'll Start Loving You Again.

I vaguely remember this guy from when I used to watch American Idol (probably the last season I watched it) and he has a good country voice, but this song is cheap pandering. He can do better. B- 

#8 ~ Truth About You ~ Mitchell Tenpenny

Interesting storyline. This guy is a good singer, in the Travis Tritt vein. I don't know if he's had any previous singles, but this track is one that'll capture your attention when it bursts out of your car radio. I admire a song that tries to say something and isn't trite. I wouldn't buy it, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the effort. B


#7  ~ Like I Love Country Music ~ Kane Brown

Kind of a cross between Brooks and Dunn and Achy Breaky Heart, this is a damn fine bar song. I would dance to it. Again, I know nothing about the guy or any history attached to him, but with this track he is definitely doing nineties country in the truest sense of the word. Granted, it's a throwaway, but I suppose Boot Scootin' Boogie could be labeled a throwaway, too. That doesn't mean music can't be fun. In fact, it's supposed to be fun. B+


#6 ~ With A Woman You Love ~ Justin Moore

A bit reminiscent of Tracy Lawrence's later releases, Moore has a decent country voice and the track's production does harken back to the nineties days. And kudos for a song that is written in the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus standard. Unfortunately, it doesn't really resonate with me. The sentiment is great, but this track just sounds ordinary. B-


#5 ~ The Kind Of Love We Make ~ Luke Combs


I like this one. Frankly this guy has one of the best voices in country music today. The melody is one I could find myself humming when I'm trying to fall asleep. I also like the fact that he's not the cliched "leading man"'; he just has a great voice. Best so far. A-


#4 ~ She Had Me At Heads Carolina ~ Cole Swindell

Okay, nothing like stealing a melody from a more famous song. I hope Tim Nichols and Mark Sanders got songwriting credits on this. I guess this is one way to get on the radio. A cheap way. He's not an original singer and for stealing somebody else's song, this one gets a D-.


Oh, here's how the original goes:

#3 ~ Take My Name ~ Parmalee


I don't know who Parmalee (pick a better name) is, and I don't know what this is. This is something that movie producers would consider a country song. It's not. I vowed to watch every YouTube video 'til it's completion, but I knew where this one was going. F+


#2  ~ Last Night Lonely ~ Jon Pardi

I've read that this guy is the real deal. Apparently he has better tracks than this.This one has a lot of noise, but no real purpose. I will say that the production is over the top, and not in a good way. D 


#1 ~ At The End Of A Bar ~ Chris Young and Mitchell Tenpenny

Kids, don't be fooled by the racket. To be honest, I lost interest in this video and started doing other tasks. Mitchell, your number eight song was eons better. And just when I started to think that the nineties really were back.  F


So, just like the last time I tried this experiment, Luke Combs wins. But props to Tenpenny (#8, not #1) and Brown. There's a lot to like here, but not much originality. 

And Saving Country Music, you told me that this Pardi guy was someone to watch. I think I'll pass.



Friday, May 14, 2021

Bad Band Names


I'm not Saving Country Music's target audience. I check out the site daily, but mostly to find news about artists I'm familiar with. I've honestly tried to get into some of the current acts and the site owner always posts YouTube videos with each article, but in the couple of years I've been browsing the site I've maybe found one unfamiliar artist that merited more than a single listen. Most score a cursory twenty seconds, even when I slide that little red dot a few paces hoping to find the "good part".

Apparently it's not an age thing. Many of the commenters are as old or older than me, but they're still enamored of new music and seem quite knowledgeable about current acts. I know nothing about Florida Georgia Line, but I know that most true country fans hate them, so they must be awful. The more obscure the artist, the more the site's devotees love him or her. Honestly, I think these aficionados are simply making the best of a mediocre music scene. They're grading on a curve.

Scanning the home page of SCM today I found the following bands: 

Flatland Cavalry
The Steel Woods
American Aquarium

These groups might be great. I don't know. But the names could use some spit and polish. 

I thus decided to use a random country band name generator to try to create some buzz for a few new groups I've discovered:


Game Loaf With The Acrid Bowel

One of the most rumbled-about country bands erupting out of Enid, Oklahoma, Game Loaf With The Acrid Bowel literally blew up indie country radio with their very first single, "IBS", a rocking and queasily rolling debut. Some critics have called the track bloated, but that hasn't cramped GLWTAB's momentum. The band continues to belch out hits that punch fans hard in the gut. Fans especially appreciate lead singer and primary scribe Far T. Trotsky's perceptive takes on life's challenges, with songs like Colitis Calling Me Home, Please Don't Divert My Ticulitis, and of course, I Don't Got Milk. It remains to be seen if Game Loaf's fans will continue to view them as a gas, but all signs for now point to a chronic and persistent ache for future releases.


 Jealousy Of Ouch

Jealousy Of Ouch vocalist Jenny Bandade scrapes one's heartstrings with slashing lyrics that leave the listener bloodied and buckled. From her quiver Jenny chooses razor-sharp words that plunge an emotional arrow straight into a cheating man's bloodied heart. Jenny offers no mercy as she jabs deeper and deeper, until the listener is left psychically crippled. Then she salves the wound with reassuring tracks like "Mama Will Make It Better" and "Stop Fucking Crying - It's Not That Bad".  Certainly Jealousy Of Ouch isn't a band for the faint-hearted. But if one likes their music raw and exposed, they should check out the title track, along with standouts such as, "I Didn't Hit You That Hard" and "I'm Gonna Tell Mom You're Just Faking It".

Hose Along Intoxicant


Mississippi has birthed artists as disparate as Elvis Presley and Jimmy Buffett, Charley Pride and Marty Stuart, even blues legend Robert Johnson, but never has it produced a group as debauched as Hose Along Intoxicant. HAI is poised to surpass even the whiskey-fueled roller coaster that is Faith Hill in bawdiness, and its fans are quick to slosh to their nearest record store, drunk on the knowledge that they're sure to find a juiced-up good time.

Along Intoxicant is definitely a party band, albeit one that has a puking pile of regrets the next day. One wonders how long HAI can keep staggering on without some kind of intervention. But for a country fan in the market for some lush party tunes, Hose Along Intoxicant is the answer to a skid row prayer. Tracks like "Just Mix It All Together" and "Listerine Ain't All That Bad" speak a tight truth many hard-core country fans are thirsty for. Lead singer G'Rain Everclear hits the high notes with his blood vessel-popping regurgitation of the band's best late-night compositions. Give HAI a spin on a midnight Saturday and it won't disappoint. You'll find yourself stomping one step outside the beat around your bedroom, but no one will care. Sadly, you'll hate yourself the next day. But that's the price we'll willingly pay for tight indie music.



Sunday, July 12, 2020

Part 2 ~ Generic Country

My recent dive into Today's Country Hits was at once enlightening and depressing. Discounting the revelation that the songs are bad (bad!), the singers are utterly forgetful.

Music (and artists) are machine-molded. Some cigar-chomping industrial mogul is getting richer by the day churning out these plastic widgets. "Son, it's not about perpetuity; it's all disposable, boy; and the rubes'll keep coming back for more! Hardy-har-har! (cough)"

Granted, I haven't listened to today's country enough to be able to distinguish one bland artist from another, but even if I did, could I? Two days ago I sampled the current top ten tracks and today I would disgracefully bomb the pop quiz. 

I'm a crafter, which means I follow a pattern; but even I switch things up now and then. I like to put my own stamp on my creations. Today's acts, however, seem content following the dots ~ fake southern twang in just the right places, pickup trucks in verse one; one, count 'em, one fiddle riff heavily enveloped by EDM beats.

These guys are not artists; they're products.

I like listening to Willie's Roadhouse on SiriusXM. I'm not completely on board with all the tracks. Some are even before my ancient times; but I certainly know the artists when I hear them; like 'em or loathe 'em. Few of the singers featured on the channel can be confused with someone else. The instant I hear Tanya, Hank, Faron, Webb, Paycheck, Price, Buck, MERLE, even Jack Greene and Bill Anderson, I know who's singing. And each of them had their individual niche. One can't compare a Haggard song to a Ray Price track.  I can even distinguish a Nashville Sound (Atkins) recording from a Bakersfield production (Nelson).

Singers were who they were and each was his own man (or woman).

The lure of country was discovering a new artist who was different or an intriguing sound. Even in the eighties, individualism reigned: Strait, Travis, Yoakam, The Judds, Black. Today's goal seems to be "sound like everybody else". This is not a prescription for legend status. But maybe that's not the goal. "Who wants to be a legend? I want my money now!"

You want a song you can dance to, even in a roadside honky tonk that you ducked inside to get out of the rain?

Good luck, millennial hipsters. Nobody's ever gonna punch your songs up on the juke box.

Friday, February 21, 2020

There Are No Good Conservative Songwriters


Some dolt named Jason Isbell, who is apparently the "King of Americana Music" (I honestly have no idea who the idiot is) recently got into a Twitter tussle with someone who tweeted that they didn't like his progressive politics, and responded, “If it ever gets to be too much for you, there are a lot of great songwriters out there who agree with you politically. Oh wait, no there aren’t.”

I abhor making fun of the mentally challenged, but I will make an exception in this case. Let's begin with the absurd moniker of "King of Americana". Who crowned him? In my limited exposure to whatever the hell Americana is, I would exalt Dwight Yoakam (who is apparently no longer considered "country") to that title. And Dwight's politics are, yes, progressive, but he's no imbecile. There is no chance in hell Dwight would make a statement like that, because he knows better. Dwight knows that political bent has no bearing on songwriting prowess. In fact, political leanings have no bearing on creativity, period. I don't know (and don't care to know) what kind of songs this Isbell guy writes, but if you're in the country milieu, aren't you writing about heartbreak and about life's ups and downs? I didn't know that was solely the purview of liberals. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not, based on my reading of online political site comments; unless the songs are all about how much I hate Trump and the world is going to hell...because of Trump.



It's sad that some people's existences are so tiny that all they have to latch onto is hate. No, not sad -- pathetic.

I'm not going to enumerate all the superb conservative country songwriters, because Trigger compiled a comprehensive list here. My point in writing this post is that people need to get over themselves. I sometimes lurk on a (fiction) writer's forum and it's just as hateful as Jason Isbell. The prevailing opinion there (among writers who've had just as much success as me; meaning "none") is that conservatives are hayseeds who can barely read, much less write. The place oozes with condescension.

No wonder I pine for the days when music was just "music". Now we are forced to take sides. That's not what music is about. Music should be joyous. Music should be a respite; a little jewel we tuck inside our pockets. I don't want it to be ruined. I knew that Stephen Stills was a Hollywood Hills lefty, but I didn't care because I liked his music. I know what John Lennon was. Lennon is a god to me. 

Let's all calm down and stop hoisting our battle shields. 


Friday, June 21, 2019

My Musical Requirements

Sometimes I think artists are under the misconception that fans are here to serve them. No ~ you entertain me.

I have the option to not listen to you. It's easy ~ click on a YouTube video; click off. I've done it so often, my mouse finger is arthritic.

There are universal elements to a good song. I understand the temptation to serve one's ego ~ I'm a songwriter, too. And all that is a-okay, if one is recording in their basement. I have no illusions that anyone will like my own personal treasures; but then again, I'm not sending them out into the world. The only people who profess to like obscure meditations are either geeks or posers.

I'm not sure if professional songwriters fall in love with each of their songs or if they're manning an assembly line, but there is a glut of sub-par songs floating through the ether. Give me a lined tablet numbered one through one hundred, and I could sum up the entire essence of popular music. I'm really not a curmudgeon; I've simply lived long enough to have heard it all.

I've tried (really tried) to get on board with the new and semi-new artists written about on the go-to country music site Saving Country Music, but what's missing with these artists is that certain zing to the heart. Intellectually, I can appreciate some of the new efforts, but who listens to music intellectually? I might as well crack out a math book. And no matter how many people tell me I should like John Q. Country, sorry ~ I make up my own mind.

I miss the days when I caught half a new song on the radio and couldn't wait 'til the DJ played it again. Maybe music has lost its magic. Or it just isn't that good anymore.

Back to my musical requirements:

Heart ~ Don't pretend that you believe what you're singing. Really believe it. Ask Randy Travis. Ask George Strait.

Play it like you mean it ~ Damn, people! Are you afraid of musical instruments? They're really not scary; they're an integral part of this thing called "music". Don't give me a strummy acoustic guitar ~ kick it in the ass. See:  Dwight Yoakam.

Be universal ~ I don't want to hear about you; I want to hear about me. Give me something that relates to my life.  See:  Merle Haggard.

Do something different ~I can write verse-chorus, verse-chorus in my sleep. It'll take more than that to grab my attention. Surprise me. Surprise might be the most important element in distinguishing a banal song from a stupendous one. See: The Honeycombs, the soaring falsetto of Roy Orbison; the intro to "California Girls".

Combine these four elements and I'll fall in love.


Play it like you mean it:

Be universal:

Something different:


Do that and I'll join your street team. Don't do that and just leave me the hell alone. I've heard it all, remember.

And now I commence numerating my one hundred essential songs....

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Out Of Touch

The only site I know of that talks about country music is called Saving Country Music. I enjoy it, but I often find myself befuddled, because I am obviously, sadly, out of the current country music loop.

Don't get me wrong ~ the site hardly promotes the latest faux-country acts. But it talks about artists that are ostensibly country that I have never in my life heard of. I've been gone too long.

I've lately made an effort to educate myself about new music. I'm listening to sampling Saving Country Music's Spotify playlist each week. Out of twenty-five songs, I'm lucky to find one I really like, two that don't completely suck and I skim about the first two lines of the rest.

I think I've identified what's wrong with most of the new music a roots site like Saving Country Music promotes ~ it's too introspective. Strummy acoustic guitars lead off too many of the songs. I feel like I'm about to suffer through a Joan Baez ballad. I liked country music (at least the late eighties/early nineties country) because it was ballsy. George Strait singles don't flutter in like a weepy butterfly. They hit you with twangy Telecaster, crying steel and a crunch of fiddle. They make you feel good. Even after all these years:

Could you imagine something like this being played on the radio today?

I think well-intentioned sites that do want to save country music are searching in vain for the sound, but the sound just isn't being made anymore; so they go with the best of the rest. It's an unfair comparison, really. 

Too, I am out of touch. Roots fans rave about certain acts, and when I queue them up on YouTube, I think, this is good? I've seen better bar bands.

I will keep trying, though. Who knows? There might be someone good out there I've yet to hear. 

And then suddenly I'll get on board.