Tag Archives: Keith Hill

Random Thoughts of the Week: Jason Isbell and Alan Jackson Prove Quality is Worth More Than Airplay

Congratulations to Jason Isbell and Alan Jackson, who have claimed the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Both released excellent albums–I reviewed them both here on Country Exclusive–on July 17th, the first Friday release date for albums in North America. Jackson’s Angels and Alcohol was a traditional album by a country veteran, released on a major label. Isbell’s Something More Than Free was an Americana/Southern rock/folk/country blend marked by excellent songwriting, released independently. Musically, these albums were polar opposites–well, as opposite as two albums can be within the same genre. While they both had great songwriting, the content on their albums was quite different, and their ways of storytelling and crafting lyrics aren’t similar either.

So what did these two albums have in common? Musically, although different, each had a distinct country sound. As I have mentioned, each contained quality music marked with great songwriting. I gave each album a 9 when I reviewed them. Each contained many songs written solely by the artist. This is especially surprising in Jackson’s case, considering that most mainstream songs are written by at least three people these days. (It takes at least three to write crap about a dirt road, but one can write good music?) Jackson wrote seven of the ten tracks on his album. Isbell’s songwriting is something he has been praised for and something I discussed at length in his review; for him to write the material on his album, however, is not as unusual because he is an independent artist.

But, wait…there’s something else glaringly obvious these two albums have in common. Neither has had five minutes of radio support. Jackson has had a little and may have more with a future single, but he has not had airplay comparative to what he should have with the No. 2 album in the country. Isbell isn’t getting airplay at all and yet has managed to beat Jackson by less than 500 units after a fight that came down to the wire. Both albums sold over 46,000 copies.

And here I thought if you weren’t on country radio, you didn’t exist. If you were living under a rock in February, that is what Gary Overton, CEO of Sony Music Nashville, who was later fired, infamously told The Tennessean–“If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” Overton’s comments were the cause of an uproar from Texas artists such as Aaron Watson who, after claiming the No. 1 album that very week, noted, “My name is Aaron Watson. I’m not played on country radio. And I have the #1 record in country music this week. I do exist.” Aaron Watson went to settle the matter with Bobby Bones and, in a strange turn of events, was told that he was being “disrespectful to women” for calling a producer “sweetheart.” This led to an epic online rant from Texas artist Charlie Robison–too long to post here–which in turn led to Florida Georgia Line’s tweet that they had “lost a lot of respect” for Robison. His reply was, “How do you lose respect for someone who doesn’t exist?”

Overton’s comments were overshadowed by the idiocy of Keith Hill in May, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. Alan Jackson and Jason Isbell certainly exist–and there is a silent majority out there buying their albums saying they’d rather search the Internet and streaming services to find good music than listen to what is offered on radio. Kacey Musgraves has been all but blacklisted on country radio, and she has held her position on the chart, debuting at No. 1 quietly. We may also see this next week with Ashley Monroe–fingers crossed–whom I have never heard on the radio. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard don’t get played anymore, and their album Django and Jimmie has had no problem staying in the top ten, while radio-supported Billy Currington, Canaan Smith, Kelsea Ballerini, and Easton Corbin struggle to keep their places on the charts. What would happen if they lost radio support? How long will country radio ignore the numbers? Maybe they can ignore a bunch of traditionalists griping on blogs, but It’s not just people griping on blogs anymore, it’s on the charts now.

Tomato of the Week: Angaleena Presley

As I featured her fellow Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe last week, I thought it fitting that she should be this week. Check out her article on Female Friday!

Random Country Suggestion: Zac Brown Band–“Bittersweet”

Great song off their new album, Jekyll + Hyde. It should be a future single.

Non-Country Suggestion: Chris Tomlin–Love Ran Red

I often post pop music here, but as I’ve mentioned before, I like a little of everything, and I like some Christian music too. If you don’t like Christian music, don’t listen. If you do, you are probably familiar with Chris Tomlin, and his work speaks for itself. He is the Strait or Jackson in the Christian world that just keeps releasing good music, and his latest album is no different.

Listen to Love Ran Red

That’s all for this week’s Random Thoughts!

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!

Random Thoughts of the Week: Introducing the “Tomatoes”

I gave this the name “random thoughts” because basically that’s what you will find here. Think of the music version of a daily or weekly sports column with some news and/or opinions along with several random bits of information. Country Perspective has a similar Thursday column called “The Hodgepodge” and it is one of my favorite things to read from them, so I wanted to start something similar on my own blog.

One of the most irritating things for me in the wake of #SaladGate is the comment/defense that Keith Hill was merely stating facts of the music business right now. To be clear, country radio has far more problems than the lack of airplay for women. There is quality music being made by both men and women that is not getting the airplay it deserves, but I am truly tired of hearing, “Well, there really aren’t that many women right now,” or “he was just stating facts,” or the most infuriating, “of course that’s the statistic, how can you play women when there aren’t any?”

The thing is, my music collection is filled with women. There are plenty of great women artists, both mainstream and independent, but most casual listeners don’t know any names besides Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, or maybe Kacey Musgraves and Kelsea Ballerini now, but that’s being optimistic. A large part of this is that radio doesn’t play these women, and so people assume they don’t exist.

People should know the “tomatoes” of the country world. Whether you like their music or not, they should at least have a chance to be heard, and so I will be featuring a woman on this site every Friday to help with this problem. Personal preference will not be taken into account–I hate Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line, but I got the chance to decide that because I heard them. So although I will comment on my personal preference, my main focus here is to fix this problem of people thinking there aren’t any women out there to fill the country airwaves.

Tomato of the Week: Katie Armiger

In light of her recent feud with her long-time label, Cold River Records, Katie is the first, and one of my favorite, underappreciated tomatoes. Check out her full article on Female Friday!

Random Country Suggestion: Shannon Brown

This song came on my iPhone on Shuffle, and I went to see what else she did (turns out nothing) and ended up buying this whole album.

Random Non-Country Suggestion: Selena Gomez–“The Heart Wants What it Wants”

I love country, but I like a little of everything else too, and I truly love this song. I have this version and a cover by our featured female–both are great.

That’s all for this week’s Random Thoughts!

What Kelsea Ballerini’s No. 1 Single has to Say About Women in Country Music

Kelsea Ballerini’s debut single, “Love me Like You Mean It,” made history this week when it became the first debut single by a female to hit No. 1 on the billboard country charts since Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel” in 2006. Kelsea hit No. 1 on both the Billboard Country Airplay and mediabase country charts. I wonder what Keith Hill is saying about women in country now. (For those of you who don’t know, radio executive Keith Hill made himself a household name and a chauvinistic douchebag all in one day about a month ago when he compared women in country to tomatoes and said they should be taken out of radio completely.)

So what does this say about country? Well, it proves that country radio is not sexist, even if Keith Hill is. However, Kelsea sounds like a pop artist or at best a Taylor Swift, and what this does say is that women have to sound like pop singers to get on the radio. Also, there are plenty of women out there making great country albums who are being snubbed by country radio–Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, and Sunny Sweeney, just to name a few. Just proves that women are making more quality country music and therefore getting less airplay. So while it is a great day for the “tomatoes,” it is a sad day for country in general. Give Kacey or Ashley a NO. 1 instead. All the same, congratulations to Kelsea Ballerini for breaking this ridiculous nine-year drought.