Random Thoughts of the Week: What Happened to the Class in Country?

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard Luke Bryan’s chosen “defense” for his brand of “country,” as told in an interview Thursday. But in case you haven’t, here’s the now infamous quote, given in an interview with Hits Daily Double:

Well, yeah. I think that people who want Merle, Willie and Waylon just need to buy Merle, Willie and Waylon. I’ve never been a ‘Those were the good old days’ kind of guy. I’m not big on looking back on the past. I’m not an outlaw country singer. I don’t do cocaine and run around. So I’m not going to sing outlaw country. I like to hunt, fish, ride around on my farm, build a big bonfire and drink some beers—and that’s what I sing about. It’s what I know. I don’t know about laying in the gutter, strung out on drugs. I don’t really want to do that.

Then, after the backlash from a significant portion of the country community, Luke took to Twitter to respond (in other words, his manager told him, “Hey, everyone thinks you’re a douchebag, and your public image is in jeopardy.”) Here’s his response

I’ve been thinking about this all day, every now and then I feel I need to defend myself in this business. I did a great interview with many topics discussed. It’s so frustrating that something negative has spun out of the story. I would never speak against any artist. It’s not my style. I consider Willie, Waylon and Merle musical heroes. I was trying to state what I was about and where I come from with my music. It’s simple as that.

Now, before I pick apart this ridiculously fake “response,” let me first say that “outlaw country” refers to taking creative control of one’s music. I am not going to spend a lot of time covering this; a lot of other blogs have done a great job with this. I will simply say that Luke isn’t an outlaw country singer because he sings whatever the labels throw at him. He sings shit like “Kick the Dust UP” and “That’s my Kind of Night” to make money. He has no original thoughts of his own, and even if he did, his desire for money has overshadowed them. Outlaw country spawned the Texas/red dirt country movement, and that’s where you will find today’s outlaws; they are people like Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers who sing about having “standards” as opposed to making “hits” and are relegated to the Texas Music Chart and Texas and Oklahoma stations willing to play their music.

But let’s pretend “outlaw country” did mean “laying in the gutter, strung out on drugs.”
Saving Country Music has a great article documenting Willie, Merle, and Waylon’s own words about their experiences with cocaine, and I have copied the link here. To summarize, Willie fired anyone in the band caught with cocaine, Merle tried it once and would never do it again, and Waylon was a long-time addict who finally quit and overcame his addiction. So now we can add “uneducated idiot” to Luke’s first crime of “classless douchebag.”

But let’s pretend further that they did, in fact, “do cocaine” and “run around.” This boils down to Luke’s lack of disrespect for legends of the genre that allowed him to become successful. Country music is (or used to be) about class. Here’s what Toby Keith had to say about Willie Nelson after the success of their duet “Beer for my Horses:”

When you see somebody that still has the love and passion that he’s got, you don’t understand why they can’t have a [No. 1] shot like these young guys and girls…but I’ve told him time and time again that I’m glad to be the guy that got to take that ride with him

And here’s Kenny Chesney, atWaylon’s passing: “I learned a lot from him, for not even meeting him. He had his niche. He had his style. He blazed his own trail. He didn’t care what anybody thought about it. That was a true artist.” (Also, apparently Kenny knows what “outlaw” means.)
And finally, just last year, country artists voted Merle Haggard the first-ever
Artist of a Lifetime and numerous artists spoke about his career and influence. And now Luke, who says, “I would never speak against any artist” has chosen to do just that–instead of defending his douche “country,” he has chosen to misuse the term “outlaw” and drag the names of legends through the dirt for his own gain. So it wasn’t enough to destroy country radio with the shit you call music, Luke, but now you are seeking to destroy the last shreds of class and knowledge left to country music with your ignorance and disrespect…nice.

Waylon’s daughter-in-law, Kathy Pinkerman Jennings, has spoken out against Luke in a Facebook post and YouTube video. I will close this post with her thoughts, as I couldn’t have said it better myself

To Luke Bryan:

I hope your family members are proud of you for using your WORLDWIDE platform to take the time to disrespect my Father in Law. You have managed to PROVE to the world your true self.

Albeit that Waylon’s drug use is well documented and something he overcame, I assure you, he was never “laying in a gutter.” At the peak of his career and drug abuse, he was making history and setting records. He, single handedly paved the way for you and everyone else to make music the way the artist wanted to make it. I’m not willing to waste my time to debate your “music” and / or the fact you have zillions of fans – I will however, not sit back and be quiet when you have so blatantly disrespected Waylon.

I recall the time I was at the Grand Ole Opry to visit with Andy Griggs, you were making your debut appearance. My friend that was with us had just seen your video. As we stood at the side of the stage, Jeannie Seeley [Seely] was talking to us and you walked over to introduce your self to her and told her how much you admired her, she in turn introduced you to myself and my husband. I almost got a cavity because of the sweetness of the words coming out of your mouth – you told us Waylon was one of your musical heroes. You went on and on and on.

This is not about music, Outlaw Country, whatever – it’s about DISRESPECT.

You are a platinum, disrespecting, no singing, whining, grasping for media attention, asshole. Use your platform for something good, instead of bashing the LEGENDS that came before you.

Tomato of the Week: Sunny Sweeney

As she just had two singles hit No. 1 on the previously mentioned Texas Music Chart, I thought it appropriate to feature her this week. Check out her full article on Female Friday!

Random Country Suggestions

This week I am including two country suggestions, because they both seem appropriate. There will be no non-country suggestion.

Female Fridays: Featuring Katie Armiger

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am tired of people defending Keith Hill by saying there aren’t any women out there for country radio to play. Enter Female Fridays, which will seek to correct this problem by giving the “tomatoes” a place to be discovered, heard, and appreciated. I am very excited to feature Katie Armiger, one of my favorite women in country music, on the first Female Friday.

How You Might Know Katie

While she has not had much airplay, Katie Armiger has had fairly consistent success with her videos on GAC’s Top 20 Countdown. Many will remember the video for “Safe,” a tribute to first responders that got over 2 million hits on YouTube.

Bio

Kaitie Armiger (born June 23, 1991, from Sugarland, Texas) got her start at the age of fourteen after winning a talent competition sponsored by a Houston radio station. She won some demo sessions in Nashville, which eventually turned into a full album and a recording contract with Cold River Records. She has recorded four studio albums to date, including her self-titled debut, (2007), Believe (2008), Confessions of a Nice Girl(2010) and Fall into Me(2013.) She is known for her excellent songwriting–she co-wrote all of the fourteen tracks on Fall Into Me and, similar to Taylor Swift, claims much of her writing is autobiographical. My first introduction to Katie was on the excellent Fall Into Me, but since then, I have listened to her earlier material, and there are many great tracks sprinkled throughout her earlier albums as well. Her growth as a singer and a songwriter is evident.

Katie Armiger’s fifth studio album was due out this summer. She had already released the lead single, “One Night Between Friends” and even held an album-listening party for fans on June 14th at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Then, on June 16th, Cold River Records president Pete OHeeron released this statement

Katie Armiger has decided to take a breather and decide her next career aspirations. … It has been the thrill of a lifetime to work with her and watch her blossom into one of the best singer-songwriters of her generation. Katie is a special talent and an even better person. As a label, we love her and support her decision and we will always be her biggest fans.

He went on to say that the label had no plans for a reduction in staff, that Katie’s album had been shelved, and that those who had entered her new contest, “Girls With Dreams” (a songwriting competition for a $10,000 scholarship) would be reimbursed. This is Katie’s own reaction, which she posted later on Instagram

Let’s try this again since that was taken down…’A Breather? Quit country music? Leaving my career behind?’ Not my words, and certainly not my intention. I’ll be able to make an official statement soon… Love you all! OH… I no longer have access to my Twitter or FB accounts.

Incidentally, this was also taken down, and this has been the last we’ve heard from Katie. Regardless of what happens–and I hope she’ll be able to go somewhere else and keep making great music–it is awful to see an artist so misrepresented by her label and her new album shelved so close to its release.

Why Katie Belongs on Country Radio

This won’t be a strong case for every female I feature–not every artist has “radio ready” material; Garth Brooks’s latest single choices are good examples of this. However, Katie should be on country radio. Her songs are pop country that is done well, like early Taylor Swift and Mickey Guyton (I will eventually feature Guyton too.) Her writing is relatable and vulnerable, again like that of Taylor Swift, and she reminds me of what Taylor would have become if she had stayed country. Katie Armiger has the honesty that has been lost in country music, the same honesty that made Taylor Swift successful. Fall Into Me is an album full of songs about love–in fact, Katie said the album is about
“love in all its many forms” and yet every song seems different, and each is relatable, especially to women. I think if Katie got more airplay, she would have the radio success that Taylor Swift proved relatable songwriting is worth–and not only that, it would be pop country instead of straight pop on country radio.

Tracks I Recommend

As I said, Fall Into Me is a great pop country album, and there are several good earlier tracks worth a listen too, but if you are getting to know Katie, here’s where I recommend you start.

1. I’m Free–Fall Into Me
2. Better in a Black Dress–Fall Into Me
3. The Heart Wants What it Wants (single)
4. Black and White–Fall Into Me
5. Stealing Hearts–Fall Into Me
6. Okay Alone–Fall Into Me
7. Man I Thought You Were–Fall Into Me
8. Playin’ With Fire–Fall Into Me (although this leans toward pop, so if you don’t like that, you might not like it)
9. Cardboard Boxes–Fall Into Me
10. Something Better–Believe
11. Scream–Confessions of a Nice Girl
12. Just Can’t Say Goodbye–Katie Armiger

Listen to Fall Into Me

This is an excellent cover of the Selena Gomez song that Katie released earlier this year.

That’s all for the first Female Friday!

Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (July 18th)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Blake Shelton–“Sangria” (2nd week at No. 1)
2. Jason Aldean–“Tonight Looks Good on You” (up 2)
3. Easton Corbin–“Baby, be my Love Song” (up 2)
4. Canaan Smith–“Love You Like That” (up 3)
5. Little Big Town–“Girl Crush” (up 3)
6. Brantley Gilbert–“One Hell of an Amen” (up 3)
7. Michael Ray–“Kiss You in the Morning” (up 3)
8. Tim McGraw and Catherine Dunn–“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” (down 5)
9. Luke Bryan–“Kick the Dust Up” (up 2) [OH God this shit has hit the top ten]
10. Zac Brown Band–“Loving You Easy” (up 3)
11. Brad Paisley–“Crushin’ It” (up 1)
12. Frankie Ballard–“Young and Crazy” (up 2)
13. Dustin Lynch–“Hell of a Night” (up 2)
14. Sam Hunt–“house Party” (up 2)
15. Thomas Rhett–“Crash and Burn” (up 3)
16. Eric Church–“Like a Wrecking Ball” (up 1)
17. Chris Janson–“Buy me a Boat” (up 2)
18. Brett Eldredge–“Lose my Mind” (up 2)
19. Keith Urban–“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (up 3)
20. Maddie & Tae–“Fly” (up 1)
21. Jake Owen–“Real Life” (up 4) [biggest gainer…sadly]
22. Chase Rice–“Gonna Wanna Tonight” (up 1)
23. Kip Moore–“I’m to Blame” (up 1)
24. Cole Swindell–“Let me See ya Girl” (up 2)
25. Lady Antebellum–“Long Stretch of Love” (up 2)
26. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You” (up 3)
27. Old Dominion–“Break up With Him” (up 1)
28. Reba–“Going out Like That” (up 2)
29. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You” (entering top 30)
30. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (entering top 30)

  • new No. 1: “Sangria” stays at No. 1 for a 2nd week
  • next week’s No. 1 prediction: “Tonight Looks Good on You”
  • Carrie Underwood’s “little Toy Guns” fell from No. 2 to out of the top 30
  • Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love me Like You Mean It” fell from No. 6 to out of the top 30
  • Maddie & Tae and Reba are the only women left in this entire countdown outside of a group or collaboration

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Easton Corbin–About to Get Real [debut]
2. Kacey Musgraves–Pageant Material
3. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
4. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
5. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
6. Little Big Town–Painkiller
7. Eric Church–The Outsiders
8. Brantley Gilbert–Just as I Am
9. Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard–Django and Jimmie
10. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
11. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
12. Blake Shelton–Bringing Back the Sunshine
13. Canaan Smith–Bronco
14. Luke Bryan–Spring Break, Checkin’ Out
15. Luke Bryan–Crash my Party
16. Carrie Underwood–Greatest Hits: Decade #1
17. A Thousand Horses–Southernality
18. Chris Stapleton–Traveler
19. Cole Swindell–Cole Swindell
20. The Lax–Outlaw in me
21. Kelsea Ballerini–The First Time
22. Darius Rucker–Southern Style
23. Tim McGraw–35 Biggest Hits
24. Chase Rice–Ignite the Night
25. Billy Currington–Summer Forever

  • Easton Corbin’s forgettable About to Get Real debuts at No. 1
  • Blake Shelton’s Bringing Back the Sunshine moved up 9 spots to No. 12
  • Cole Swindell’s self-titled debut moved up 6 spots to No. 19

Source: Billboard

Album Review: Courtney Patton–So This is Life

Rating: 8.5/10

I’ll start here by being honest–when this album came out on June 9th, I had not even heard the name Courtney Patton. So this review comes late for two reasons; firstly, Country Exclusive did not exist then, and secondly, when I did hear of her, I wanted to take my time really listening before reviewing her. For anyone out there like me, Courtney Patton is a Texas country artist, the wife of better known Texas singer/songwriter Jason Eady, and So This is Life is her third album.

So This is Life is characterized throughout by acoustic arrangements and excellent songwriting. I say this now to avoid having to say “the instrumentation and songwriting are excellent” over and over–just assume so unless I say otherwise. “Little Black Dress” tells the story of a one-night stand, and the woman being left alone and brokenhearted. I immediately fell in love with Courtney’s voice here–she tells a story perfectly. “War of Art” is another great story, this one somewhat autobiographical, of a wife and mother struggling with her passion for songwriting and performing. She sings

And I’ve heard it all before
Singin’ to a whiskey-soaked dance floor
Ain’t no job for a mother and a wife
So I try to do things right
But at what cost is it worth the fight
I just couldn’t let that war take my life.

“Her Next Move” is a lyrical low point for me (still good, just not great) about a woman seeking attention from her husband by threatening to do things like “take their daughter across state lines.” “Need for Wanting” is my favorite track on the album; here Courtney again discusses a one-night stand, asking the man in the bar not to “misinterpret my need for wanting tonight.” She says she won’t leave with him but at the end we hear, “But if you like, come in, since you understand my need for wanting tonight.”

“Twelve Days” was written about Courtney missing her husband Jason Eady while he is on the road–“I can make it twelve days, I’ve waited longer.” “Killing Time” is more upbeat, and tells about a woman’s husband “killing time” in prison for stealing money. “Maybe it’s You” is another low point for me lyrically; it is a love song about being forgiven after making some mistakes in the relationship. “Sure Am Glad” goes back to the one-night stand material, this time between two friends–“You caught me off guard when I heard that knock on my door, but I sure am glad that I’m not alone anymore.”

The title track was written about Courtney’s parents. “So This is Life” tells the story of a marriage that wasn’t what they pictured–the wife watches TV and wishes for someone to talk to, while the husband works days and nights trying to get by. They end up divorced after he takes a lover in a midllife crisis. This song is painfully accurate and is my second favorite track. “Battle These Blues” is another lyrical low point for me (again, still good) where a wife deals with a husband who drinks too much and stays out late. By contrast, “Where I’ve Been” is excellent, and here the wife says she’s not getting the love she needs, so she’s being unfaithful. She says, “If you ever decide that you ever want to try again, I’ll be here in the mornin’ just don’t ask me where I’ve been.” “But I Did” closes the album with an autobiographical track about Courtney’s life–“I was born the oldest one with patience like my mother, the fire and heart of my father, and a spirit of my own.”

This album is musically excellent. All twelve songs are good, and most are great. The only thing I wished for is that there were one or two more upbeat songs because listening to the album as a whole sometimes makes it feel slow. All the same, Courtney Patton is a force to be reckoned with, and I highly recommend So This is Life.

Listen to album

Single Review: Clare Dunn’s “Move on”

Rating: 3/10

So, it’s no secret that I want to see more women getting country radio attention. And for anyone who knows me, it’s no secret that I like a little rock in my country, and love both sides of Miranda Lambert–the traditional country side of “Roots and Wings” and the pop rock side displayed on “Little Red Wagon.” So when Miranda Lambert selected Clare Dunn for her Roadside Bars and Pink Guitars tour, claming that
“you don’t see that many women who get up there and really slay a guitar and play some real rock ‘n’ roll country”
I was excited to hear Clare’s music. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when Clare’s new single “Move on” became the most added song to country radio after Lambert and Little Big Town’s “Smokin’ and Drinkin,” and I knew I had to review it.

But here’s the problem–where Miranda calls it “rock ‘n’ roll country,” I don’t hear anything country about “Move On.” It’s a pretty good song–certainly wouldn’t make me change the radio station–and that’s why it’s not getting a lower rating, but if this song were being sold as a pop or rock song, I would give it an 8 or 9. Sell it as country, and that’s why it gets a 3.

“Move on” is about a woman asking the man to hurry up and “move on” from pretending to be just friends when it’s obvious they both want more. She uses lines like “Sometimes I wish you just, Well, if I told you what I’m really thinkin’ it might make you blush.” She wants him to “move on, move on, move on, and make your move on me.” It reminds me a little of “Are you Gonna Kiss me or Not” by Thompson Square, and lyrically, it’s not a bad song.

Musically, it’s pretty good too–for a pop rock song. I love the electric guitars and drum loops–but nothing in it is country. This is Clare Dunn being the rock version of Kelsea Ballerini. Kelsea Ballerini is talented, but as a pop artist. Clare Dunn is talented, but as a pop or rock artist. Neither belong on country radio, and it is unfortunate that these women are getting airplay over more traditional artists like Sunny Sweeney or Kacey Musgraves. Apparently, in 2015, you can just write anything short of straight rap–and that’s probably coming–and decide it’s country. Clare Dunn, call yourself pop or rock, and this rating will change drastically.

Honest Reviews and Exclusive Commentary on the Latest Country Music