Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (September 19th)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Dustin Lynch–“Hell of a Night” (up 1)
2. Thomas Rhett–“Crash and Burn” (up 1)
3. Keith Urban–“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (up 2)
4. Chris Janson–“Buy Me a Boat”
5. Sam Hunt–“House Party” (down 4)
6. Kenny Chesney–“Save It for a Rainy Day” (up 2)
7. Brett Eldredge–“Lose My Mind”
8. Luke Bryan–“Strip It Down” (up 5) [biggest gainer]
9. Florida Georgia Line–“Anything Goes” (up 1)
10. Maddie & Tae–“Fly” (down 1)
11. Eric Church–“Like a Wrecking Ball”
12. Chase Rice–“Gonna Wanna Tonight”
13. Cole Swindell–“Let Me See Ya Girl” (up 2)
14. Old Dominion–“Break Up With Him” (up 2)
15. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You” (up 2)
16. Blake Shelton–“Gonna” (up 2)
17. Carrie Underwood–“Smoke Break” (up 5)
18. Jake Owen–“Real Life” (up 1)
19. Lady Antebellum–“Long Stretch of Love” (up 1)
20. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over” (up 4)
21. Kip Moore–“I’m To Blame”
22. Cam–“Burning House” (up 1)
23. Tim McGraw–“Top of the World” (up 4)
24. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You” (up 1)
25. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (up 1)
26. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine” (up 2)
27. Jason Aldean–“Gonna Know We Were Here” (up 2)
28. Kelsea Ballerini–“Dibs” (up 2)
29. LoCash–“I Love This Life” (entering top 30)
30. Jana Kramer–“I Got the Boy” (re-entering top 30)

  • new #1: “Hell of a Night”
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “Crash and Burn”
  • Jana Kramer adds quality to the top 30 with the re-entrance (finally) of “I Got the Boy”
  • this is balanced by LoCash’s “I Love This Life
  • Frankie Ballard’s “Young and Crazy” and Zac Brown Band’s “Loving You Easy” fell from #6 and #15, respectively, to out of the top 30
  • Luke Bryan has hit #8 with “Strip it Down” after only 5 weeks…draw your own conclusions about this

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Luke Bryan–Kill the Lights
2. Maddie & Tae–Start Here [debut]
3. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
4. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
5. Eric Church–The Outsiders
6. Elvis Presley–Elvis Presley Forever
7. Kip Moore–Wild Ones
8. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
9. Little Big Town–Painkiller
10. Alan Jackson–Angels and Alcohol
11. Brantley Gilbert–Just as I Am
12. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
13. Darius Rucker–Southern Style
14. Luke Bryan–Crash My Party
15. Various Artists–Mud Digger, Volume 6 [debut]
16. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
17. Kacey Musgraves–Pageant Material
18. Jason Isbell–Something More Than Free
19. Kenny Chesney–The Big Revival
20. Chris Stapleton–Traveller
21. Chase Rice–Ignite the Night
22. Zac Brown Band–Greatest Hits So Far…
23. Michael Ray–Michael Ray
24. Kelsea Ballerini–The First Time
25. Cole Swindell–Cole Swindell

  • Luke Bryan is still at the top of this chart….
  • Maddie & Tae’s excellent Start Here debuts at #2

Source: Billboard

The 49th Annual CMA Award Nominees, With Commentary

The nominees are in, after
the CMA flipped off the entire genre by allowing Steven Tyler and Kelsea Ballerini to announce them this morning on Good Morning America. Here are the nominees, predictions, and some personal commentary.

Musician of the Year

Sam Bush (mandolin) [yes, apparently mandolins are still in country music somewhere, who knew?]
Jerry Douglas (dobro)
Paul Franklin (steel guitar) [see above comment about mandolin]
Dan Huff (guitar)
Mac McAnally (guitar)
Prediction: Mac McAnally–He has won for the past seven years, and I doubt many artists voting have much of an idea what a “mandolin,” “steel guitar,” or “dobro,” is, so Dan Huff is the only one with a shot of defeating him.
Preference: none

Music Video of the Year

Interestingly, this category is female-dominated…I guess in videos, females are okay.

“Biscuits”–Kacey Musgraves, directed by Marc Klasfeld
“Girl Crush”–Little Big Town, directed by Karla Welch and Matthew Welch
“Girl in a Country Song”–Maddie & Tae, directed by TK McKamy
“Little Red Wagon”–Miranda Lambert, directed by Trey Vanjoy
“Something in the Water”–Carrie Underwood, directed by Raj Kapoor
Prediction: “Girl in a Country Song”
Preference: “Girl in a Country Song”

Event of the Year

Django and Jimmie–Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Legacy Recordings [excellent]
“Lonely Tonight”–Blake Shelton featuring Ashley Monroe, Warner Bros./Warner Music Nashville [again, good job]
“Raise ’em Up”–Keith Urban featuring Eric Church, Hit Red Records/Capitol Records Nashville [decent]
“Smokin’ and Drinkin'”–Miranda Lambert featuring Little Big Town, RCA Nashville [no]
“Wild Child”–Kenny Chesney with Grace Potter, Blue Chair Records/Columbia Nashville [good]
Prediction: “Lonely Tonight”
Preference: Willie and Merle’s album would be a cool winner, but I’d be fine with “Lonely Tonight” as well.

Vocal Duo of the Year

Brothers Osborne [meh]
Dan + Shay [no]
Florida Georgia Line [God no]
Maddie & Tae [yes]
Thompson Square [no]
Prediction: Florida Georgia Line
Preference: Maddie and Tae
Note: This is FGL’s only nomination…bro country really has taken a hit. Too bad that the Sam Hunt style has come behind it.

Vocal Group of the Year

Lady Antebellum [no]
Little Big Town [meh]
Rascal Flatts [no]
The Band Perry [God no]
Zac Brown Band [not bad]
Prediction: Little Big Town
Preference: Blackberry Smoke? Out of these, I suppose Little Big Town will have to do.

New Artist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini [no]
Sam Hunt [if he wins, I will never watch the CMA Awards again, I swear to you all]
Maddie & Tae [good]
Thomas Rhett [God no]
Chris Stapleton [shocking and good]
Prediction: Sam Hunt
Preference: Maddie & Tae or Chris Stapleton
Notes: Glad to see Stapleton with a nomination here, but if Sam Hunt wins this, as he undoubtedly will, my days of watching the CMA’s are done indefinitely.

Single of the Year

“American Kids”–Kenny Chesney, produced by Buddy Cannon and Kenny Chesney, Blue Chair Records/Columbia Nashville
“Girl Crush”–Little Big Town, produced by Jay Joyce, Capitol Records Nashville
“I Don’t Dance”–Lee Bryce, produced by Lee Bryce, Curb Records
“Take Your Time”–Sam Hunt, produced by Zach Crowell and Shane McAnally, MCA Nashville
“Talladega”–Eric Church, produced by Arturo Buenahora, EMI Nashville
Prediction: “Girl Crush” or “Take Your Time”
Preference: “Girl Crush”
Note: If “Take Your Time” wins here, while it would be insulting to country in general, at least it would be for commercial success. This is the one award that Sam Hunt could win that wouldn’t make me immediately throw up.

Song of the Year

“American Kids”–Rodney Klawson, Luke Laird, and Shane McAnally [no]
“Girl Crush”–Liz Rose, Lori McKenna, and Hillary Lindsey [ok]
“Like a Cowboy”–Randy Houser and Brice Long [no]
“Like a Wrecking Ball”–Eric Church and Kasey Beathard [hell no]
“Take Your Time”–Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne [for the love of all that is holy]
Prediction: “Girl Crush”
Preference: Out of these, “Girl Crush” hands down. While I like all of them except “Take Your Time”–if that wins, above Sam Hunt rules apply–I could have thrown a rock and hit better Song of the Year nominees. Jason Isbell, Alan Jackson, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, shall I go on?

Album of the Year

Old Boots, New Dirt–Jason Aldean, produced by Michael Knox, Broken Bow [no]
Pageant Material–Kacey Musgraves, produced by Kacey Musgraves, Luke Laird, and Shane McAnally, Mercury Nashville [excellent]
Painkiller–Little Big Town, produced by Jay Joyce, Capitol Records Nashville [no]
The Big Revival–Kenny Chesney, produced by Buddy Cannon and Kenny Chesney, Blue Chair Records/Columbia Nashville [no]
Traveller–Chris Stapleton, produced by Dave Cobb and Chris Stapleton, Mercury Nashville [excellent]
Prediction: Painkiller or Pageant Material
Preference: Pageant Material or Traveller
Note: Again, good to see Stapleton with a nomination, as well as Dave Cobb, who produced Jason Isbell and Lindi Ortega’s remarkable albums as well. The CMA might actually get it right here and vote in Pageant Material which would be a great selection, although there are other albums that deserve to be nominated along with it besides these.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini [no]
Miranda Lambert [duh]
Kacey Musgraves [good]
Carrie Underwood [good]
LeeAnn Womack [lol]
Prediction: Miranda Lambert–I’m not an idiot.
Preference: Carrie Underwood
Note: Ashley Monroe should have at least a nomination here, especially if LeeAnn Womack is going to be name-dropped in here to fill a quota.

Male Vocalist of the Year

Dierks Bentley [great job CMA]
Eric Church [ok]
Luke Bryan [at this point, at least Sam Hunt wasn’t here]
Blake Shelton [ok]
Chris Stapleton [interesting]
Prediction: Luke Bryan or Dierks Bentley
Preference: Dierks Bentley–if he won this, I might actually be able to watch the CMA’s again even if Sam Hunt won something.

Entertainer of the Year

Garth Brooks [good]
Luke Bryan [to be expected]
Kenny Chesney [ok]
Eric Church [good]
Miranda Lambert [but she’s 20% of the category, so won’t the viewing audience drop drastically?]
Prediction: Luke Bryan or Garth Brooks
Preference: Garth Brooks

Single Review: Mo Pitney’s “Boy and a Girl Thing”

Rating: 6.5/10

Mo pitney–that’s a country name if ever there was one. And his debut single, the aptly titled “Country,” proved that this is what he hopes to be: a traditional country artist. So far, we only have a few singles from Pitney–he is signed with Curb Records, so God only knows when his debut album will finally be announced–but everything we have so far is rife with traditional instrumentation and storytelling. Add to that Mo Pitney’s deep, authentic country voice, and he could have a lot of potential as a true country artist.

Enter Mo Pitney’s latest single, “Boy and a Girl Thing.” This is a pretty straightforward song that talks about how a “boy and girl” interact throughout their lives. When they’re young, “he’s gross, she’s got cooties.” Later, the girl wears makeup, and the boy notices her. They are both nervous around each other. Eventually, they are married and have children. Pitney explains that this is all “a boy and a girl thing.” The lyrics are pretty unoriginal really–not bad, just not original–and this is why it doesn’t get a higher rating. However, the instrumentation is definitely a plus. This song is just simply pleasant to listen to. Fiddles and steel guitars are both present here–I heard this on the radio yesterday and was shocked by how strange it was to hear so much steel guitar on country radio. It’s exciting that Mo Pitney is a young new artist who can possibly bring the same type of relatability as Maddie & Tae. We should all see hope in young artists like this who can potentially help bring country back to a more traditional, or at least balanced, sound. I certainly hope
Mike Curb doesn’t add Mo Pitney to the list of artists he’s screwed over and we get a debut album sooner rather than later. In the meantime, this song is not bad.

Here’s an acoustic version, which is all I could find on YouTube. I highly recommend the studio version for the aforementioned country production. This version is available on Apple Music and Spotify.

Random Thoughts of the Week: Songwriting and the Artist Identity Crisis

I have been wanting to address the lack of good songwriting in mainstream country music since I started this blog, and now is the perfect opportunity. Many of you have heard Danielle Bradbery’s terrible new single, “Friend Zone,” a pathetic attempt at relevancy that relies on fake drums, rap, a token banjo, and confusing sports metaphors to save Danielle’s already underwhelming career. (I had actually planned to rip apart this song, but SCM and Country Perspective have already done it for me, and this song is not going to save Danielle’s struggling career by any stretch of the imagination, so I’ll save my ranting for other worthy songs.) If by chance you haven’t heard it, here it is, consider yourself warned.

This song, as well as The Band Perry’s worse single “Live Forever” (I can’t bring myself to even post this piece of crap), have caused many to wonder if these artists have any sense of identity. Are they sellouts, or are they being forced to sing this bad pop music because they have no idea who they want to be? In both Danielle Bradbery and The Band Perry’s cases, Scott Borchetta was blamed for “turning his artists” into bad pop crossovers. Borchetta probably had a lot to do with it, but as much harm as he has caused the genre, it’s important to be fair here–and in the spirit of fairness, Borchetta also gave us Maddie & Tae, who produced the best mainstream country album of 2015 so far. So why do Maddie & Tae get to have their own “vision” for their music, while other artists are forced to sing whatever the label assumes will sell? I think it boils down to an artist’s identity, or lack thereof. If you watch The Voice for more than ten minutes, you will hear the phrase, “You know [or don’t know] who you are as an artist.” This is a crucial part of an artist’s career; a lot of people can sing, but not many have this part figured out. Maddie & Tae seem to have it figured out, but Danielle and The Band Perry obviously don’t, so they will sell out and sing whatever their label tells them will sell.

So what is causing this identity crisis in country artists? I think a large part of it has to do with the way many of today’s mainstream artists view songwriting–as an art, or as a business. Songwriting should, especially in country music, reveal things about the writer. Good songwriting should tell a story and often reflects the writer’s thoughts and emotions. This makes the art of songwriting relatable and is one thing that makes country music stand out among other genres. Say what you want about Taylor Swift, but there is a reason her music is so popular–she is an excellent, relatable songwriter. Songwriting also helps artists discover who they are and gives them individuality, which is another lost concept in country right now. This is songwriting as an art, and artists who recognize it as such will write good music and/or choose well-written music to release. But somehow, in the past five years, songwriting on Music Row has turned from this personal experience of connecting with the listeners and discovering artists’ identities into a formulaic hit-making process requiring at least three contributors. Thomas Rhett’s latest train wreck, “Vacation,” took fourteen songwriters, and it is one of the worst songs I have ever heard. How can Thomas Rhett or any of these artists ever hope to have an identity if they only contribute a line or two to a song, or rely on the Dallas Davidsons of the world to churn out #1 hits which relate to no one except frat boys and preteen girls? This is songwriting as a business, and if you recognize it as such, of course you would have no artist identity–you have never had to write anything from your heart.

I haven’t reviewed a great deal of albums and singles on this site yet, but one thing that has set good music apart consistently so far has been the songwriting. Jason Isbell, Alan Jackson, Courtney Patton, Kacey Musgraves, Maddie & Tae, and Kasey Chambers all immediately come to mind as names whose songwriting stood out–there were obviously others, and I mentioned them in the reviews, but I named these to illustrate the diversity in style among these albums. Not all of these albums were strictly country; represented here are both men and women, Americana, traditional country, Texas country, pop country, etc. They all stood out because they contained honest, relatable songwriting with the storytelling that sets country music apart. Each of these albums told me, both as a reviewer and as a fan, something about the respective artists. Rather than listening to polished-up, radio-ready singles, I was hearing something real from each of these artists. In short, the albums they made reflected their identities.

By contrast, the albums and singles I have ripped so far have had formulaic, unrelatable songwriting–Luke Bryan and Easton Corbin’s albums, Thomas Rhett’s aforementioned train wreck, and Kelsea Ballerini’s “Dibs” come to mind here. Not all mentioned here were strictly non-country; in fact, Easton Corbin’s album was pretty country musically. However, all of these lacked honest songwriting containing substance and relatability. Rather than telling honest stories, these songs were marketable singles written for the sole purpose of appealing to specific groups of people–in other words, these artists and writers have taken the art of songwriting and made it into a business. Every song I have given a negative review to has lacked the storytelling for which country has always been known best. And without a story to tell, how can an artist be expected to have an identity? And without an identity, why not sing whatever you think/hope will sell? Enter singles like “Friend Zone”–a song that desperately screams for us to relate to Danielle Bradbery when she can’t even relate to herself.

Tomato of the Week: Kacey Musgraves

I debated whether or not to do a Female Friday over Kacey Musgraves because she is well-known, but I think it is needed. Too many people know her and typecast her only for “Follow Your Arrow,” and she is much more than that. See Kacey’s full article on Female Friday!

Random Country Suggestion: Miranda Lambert–Revolution

If you want to find some good country songwriting, early Miranda Lambert is a great example of it. Both this and her first album, Kerosene, display her songwriting in full force.

Listen to Revolution

Non-Country Suggestion: Fleetwood Mac–Rumours

One of the most personal, relatable albums in history, written while all five members were going through separations. Two separations were within the band. They wrote honestly, and this produced the biggest album of their career.

Listen to Rumours

Texas Music From Oklahoma: A Look at the Texas Music Chart (September 7th)

After taking a week off to move offices, the Texas Music Chart has returned…and Wade Bowen has finally been defeated.

Texas Music Chart

1. Pat Green–“While I Was Away” (up 1)
2. Cody Canada and the Departed–“Easy” (up 2)
3. Matt Kimbrow–“Livin’ the Good Life” (up 3)
4. Cory Morrow–“Old With You” (up 3)
5. Turnpike Troubadours–“Down Here” (up 4)
6. Reckless Kelly–“Real Cool Hand” (up 6)
7. Granger Smith–“Back Road Song” (down 2)
8. Wade Bowen–“Sun Shines on a Dreamer” (down 7)
9. Whiskey Myers–“Shelter From the Rain” (up 1)
10. Curtis Grimes–“Smile That Smile” (up 5)
11. Kyle Park–“What Goes Around Comes Around”
12. Bart Crow–“Life Comes at You Fast” (up 1)
13. Kevin Fowler & Deryl Dodd–“Damn This Ol’ Honky Tonk Dream” (up 3)
14. Prophets and Outlaws–“Texas Home”
15. Rich O’Toole–“Talk About the Weather” (down 7)
16. Miles Williams–“Teasin’ Me” (up 8)
17. JB and the Moonshine Band–“Shotgun, Rifle, and a .45” (up 1)
18. The Statesboro Revue–“Undone” (up 3)
19. Mike Ryan–“Girls I Date” (up 6)
20. Josh Grider–“You Dream I’ll Drive” (up 9)
21. Stoney LaRue–“Easy She Comes” (down 1)
22. Uncle Lucius–“Don’t Own the Right”
23. Casey Donahew Band–“Loser” (up 15) [biggest gainer]
24. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen–“Lady Bug” (up 9)
25. Josh Ward–“Highway” (down 22) [biggest loser]
26. TJ Broscof–“Phone Calls” (up 5)
27. Aaron Einhouse–“I Could Fall” (down 1)
28. Callahan Divide–“Happy” (up 9)
29. Saints Eleven–“I Don’t” (up 6)
30. Tori Martin–“Woman Up”
31. Mario Flores–“Beer Time” (up 10)
32. Jason James–“I’ve Been Drinkin’ More” (up 11)
33. William Clark Green–“Sticks and Stones” (down 10)
34. Caleb McIntire–“Ozark Mountain Stomp” (up 2)
35. Chance Anderson Band–“245 Miles” (down 1)
36. Zane Williams–“She Is” (up 11)
37. Dalton Domino–“Jesus & Handbags” (up 5)
38. Jon Wolfe–“Don’t it Feel Good” (entering top 50)
39. Luke Robinson–“Roses on the Radio” (up 6)
40. Judson Cole Band–“Time to Run”
41. Scott Taylor Band–“By Now” (down 13)
42. American Aquarium–“Losing Side of Twenty-Five” (up 8)
43. Bri Bagwell–“My Boots” (entering top 50)
44. Casey Berry–“Blood of the Lamb” (entering top 50)
45. Thom Shepherd–“Little Miss Everything” (down 1)
46. Cody Jinks–“Loud and Heavy” (up 3)
47. Cody Joe Hodges–“One More Drink” (re-entering top 50)
48. Ray Johnston Band–“Small Town Square” (entering top 50)
49. Breelan Angel–“She Made Your Bed” (entering top 50)
50. Cody Johnson–“Proud” (entering top 50)

  • new #1: “While I Was Away”
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “While I Was Away”
  • seven new songs enter the chart this week

Source: Texas Music Chart

The Most Destructive Criticism is Indifference