Tag Archives: Waylon Jennings

Album Review: Steve Earle & the Dukes–So You Wannabe an Outlaw

Rating: 8.5/10

I’m not really sure I need to write any kind of introduction to this; I’m pretty sure Steve Earle has been introducing this quite well on his own, and that may or may not be taking away from the music. So I’m going to take the advice from Steve’s own comment, and let this be about the songs. What I will say is that he stated both that he wanted to make a record inspired by the outlaws, and more specifically, Waylon, and that this record would be about dealing with loss. And what we get is basically exactly that–the front half is filled with badass, renegade/outlaw material–or at least what we might think of when referring to that term–and then the back half adds to the validity of it all by taking us on journeys of heartbreak, loneliness, and loss, and in the end, you’re left wondering if this outlaw thing is really all that great after all, and perhaps second-guessing your dream. And in a way, that separates this record from all the others trying to be cool outlaw because it shows all the sides to the story, the glamor along with the pain.

That’s not to say there aren’t painful realities on the first half. IN fact, the opener and title track starts the album by explaining all the things you have to go through if you really want to be an outlaw, albeit in a pretty lighthearted manner. Willie Nelson appears here, which adds to the message and the overall coolness of the song. You also have “Lookin’ For a Woman” and “If Mama Coulda seen Me,” both of which Earle wrote for the show Nashville–the former is a restless heartbreak song where the narrator is trying to find a woman who “Won’t do me like you,” and the latter is about a prisoner who is thankful that his mom died before she had to see him in chains. All of this half, however, is pretty upbeat, and even though the material is dark, some of the glamorous side of being an outlaw still shines forth in the attitude and in the cool blending of country and rock instrumentation. This half comes to a brilliant, angry climax with “Fixin’ To die”–this song is told from Death Row, and I didn’t mean to compare it to Chris Stapleton’s song “Death Row,” but that’s what happened. I said before that Stapleton’s didn’t quite have emotion even though he belted it–I know a lot of people disagreed, but the point I’m making is that whether it came through or not, Stapleton meant that song to be sad. When this opens and Steve Earle bellows, “I’m fixin’ to die, reckon I’m goin’ to hell” and then adds, “I’d be tellin’ you a lie if I told you I was takin’ it well,” for me, that captures all the emotions, from anger to sadness to regret. It’s an intense story and definitely a great way to complete this more rocking front half of the record.

It’s the back half, however, that really makes this album shine and adds an authenticity to these opening songs. It’s one thing to sing about being an outlaw for the sake of it, but when you get to stuff like “This is How it Ends” and “You Broke my Heart” and see there’s a tender side to this story, it really adds something to the whole project. Steve Earle mentioned loss, and it is explored in every form here, from the heartbreak in these two songs, the former of which features Miranda Lambert, to the poverty and self-doubt in the excellent “Walkin’ in LA” to the closer, “Goodbye Michelangelo,” a tribute to Guy Clark. “Walkin’ in LA” features Johnny Bush, the writer of “Whiskey River,” and it’s one of the best songs on this whole thing, despite it not being the most flashy. It’s one of those rare gems where the melody, the lyrics, and the instrumentation all work together flawlessly to form an incredible piece of music. The melody and beautiful acoustic guitar play in “Goodbye Michelangelo” really add to that song as well. It’s a great way to close the album.

As much as I loved this record, I do have a couple criticisms. There are a few songs that felt like filler; “Girl on the Mountain” was sandwiched between “This is How it Ends” and “You Broke my Heart,” and so it stands out as the weakest heartbreak song of the three. At first, I really didn’t enjoy the pairing of Earle and Miranda Lambert, but that’s growing on me, mainly because it’s just such a damn good song. My initial problem was that Lambert is meant to be singing harmony, but sometimes she drowns out Steve. I’m starting to like it better because in doing so, she makes it easier to understand some of the lyrics. ON the front half, “The Firebreak Line” is quite a fun song, but it doesn’t necessarily add much. “News From Colorado,” the only subdued song on the front half, is also a little vague and underdeveloped lyrically. But all these are really minor, nitpicking criticisms, and overall, this record is pretty great.

So, in conclusion, this is a pretty fascinating album. First, you have the angry front half, and then you have the subdued, heartbroken back half, and together they tell a very good story. Steve Earle is a fine songwriter, and the natural grit in his voice just accidentally adds a lot to this album and the stories told. Every collaborator also brought something to the record. I mentioned there were some weaker songs, or perhaps even filler, but at the same time, it’s one of the few albums I’ve played in 2017 without a single bad track. Very nice, solid album. Give it a listen.

P.S. I’m not reviewing the deluxe version, but that also has four pretty awesome covers of songs previously written by Waylon, Willie, and Billy Joe shaver.

Listen to Album

Random Thoughts of the Week: Luke Bryan Apoligizes, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert Announce Divorce

This column has previously been on Sundays, but this weekend I was moving so it comes late. However, since music is now being released on Friday, changing the times for album reviews, this column will move to Tuesdays starting next week.

Last week, I used the Random Thoughts column to rip apart Luke Bryan for his disparaging comments about outlaw country, as well as his mischaracterization of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard. Since then, Luke has called the families of Waylon and Merle to personally apologize for his actions. Both Shooter Jennings and Ben Haggard have come forward publicly about this to say basically that this is water under the bridge, and that Luke did an honorable thing by apologizing privately. I happen to agree. Whether he meant to disparage them or not, he proved by apologizing personally that he truly cared about how it affected them. he had already tried to repair his public image on Twitter–and that is all most artists would have done. Regardless of my opinion of Luke or his music, this was a very classy thing. Last week, my post was entitled “What Happened to the Class in Country?” and this was Luke showing he still has some.

Earlier today, (July 20th), Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert released a statement announcing their divorce. They said this was not the future they had “envisioned” and added that “it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately.” The statement continued, “We are real people, with real lives, with real families, friends, and colleagues. Therefore, we kindly ask for privacy and compassion concerning this very personal matter.” In respect to them, we should not, and I will not, seek to decipher what led to the divorce. However, I do wonder how it will affect their careers. Will Blake Shelton lose some relevancy? He gained much more radio relevancy when he married Miranda, although this was also around the time he started on “The Voice,” which certainly played a role. If this had happened a few years ago, he might have been in trouble, but now, with the male-dominated radio waves and his job on “The Voice,” I think he will not be affected, but who knows? Miranda could continue to lose airplay as well–she is a female and that is an automatic strike against her, and now she won’t be married to Blake, so radio will probably give her less of a chance. Their dominance at the ACM and CMA Awards will certainly end, and Carrie Underwood will have a well-deserved shot at Top Female Vocalist. Personally, I hope neither of their careers is seriously hurt, but I prefer Miranda over Blake, and I would hate to see one less female on the radio because she lost her “ticket.” As I mentioned, I will not speculate on what led to the divorce, but we all know if cheating was indeed involved–as many gossip sites would have us believe–Miranda will put it in her next album. However, their privacy should be respected. Just because we hear their music and see Blake on TV does not mean their lives should be put under a microscope.

Tomato of the Week: Ashley Monroe

Her new album comes out Friday–I have been waiting for this since her last album–so what better day to feature her? Here’s the lead single from the new album, The Blade

Random Country Suggestion: Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, “Better in the Long Run”

A song from happier times–incidentally, co-written by our featured female Ashley Monroe.

Non-Country Suggestion: Taylor Swift, 1989

I’m late to the party on this, as I could not stand Taylor’s previous album Red attempting to be both pop and country and thus failing at both. However, I recently bought 1989 and now that she is not pretending and is embracing a pop sound, Taylor is better than she ever was in country. If you like pop, give it a listen.

Listen to 1989

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

Single Review: Uncle Ezra Ray’s “B.Y.H.B” is The Worst Song I Have Ever Heard

Rating: 0/10

I thought the worst country song I had ever heard was Luke Bryan’s “Kick the Dust Up.” Florida Georgia Line has produced some candidates for worst country song as well, including “Sun Daze,” “Anything Goes,” and “This is How We Roll.” Sam Hunt’s latest effort, “House Party” is an attrocity. But today, I have heard a song that is worse than these by far. It is the worst “country” song I have ever heard, and in fact it is the worst song I have ever heard from any genre. In fact, this song sucks so much that Florida Georgia Line passed up the opportunity to record it…apparently even they have standards. If FGL passes on a song, you should know you have hit rock bottom.

Country music has experienced an alarming wave of rockers flooding the genre in recent years. Sometimes this is a smooth transition and produces good music, (Sheryl Crow), while other times we get train wrecks (Darius Rucker.) Regardless, bandwagon jumping has been increasingly popular–even Steven Tyler “went country” earlier this year. Usually, though, the bandwagon jumpers were somewhat big names. Not this time–the newest band to infect “country” is Uncle Ezra Ray, a washed-up “super group” made up of Uncle Cracker, Mark McGrath from 90’s band Sugar Ray, and Kevin Griffin, from 90’s band Better Than Ezra. Their debut single, “B.Y.H.B” (bring your hot body( is an embarrassment to country and music in general. And now, without further ado, I will rip apart the song that Florida Georgia Line actually had a chance to record and passed on.

There is nothing in this song to compliment. It is full of bad rapping and terrible instrumentation. The repeated lyric of “we gots to party” is sprinkled throughout the song (you’re all in your forties, you don’t “gots” to do anything.) Kevin Griffin is the main voice, and he sounds obnoxious and whiny. I can’t believe they are all established singers because they sound talentless. The lyrics are pathetic, from “yesterday we sent a tweet out, everybody come out” (just wow) to “home girls jumping out of a Cadillac drinkin’ ice cold 40 from a brown sack” (home girls should not be in country, and do you even know what a “home girl” is? You’re in your forties.) Also, a brown sack? Really? Have you ever been to a party like that. Also, they mention drinking beer, rum, a Mai Tai, and wine–so they gots to go throw up or pass out in about 2.6 seconds. They gots to go get some pills for tomorrow’s hangover. And don’t even get me started on the chorus, where we get this pathetic excuse for songwriting

Can I get a hey hey, can I get a what what
Can I get a hell yeah, raisin’ up a cup-cup?
Said, hotty-totty, good God Almighty
We gots, we gots, yeah we gots to party
Beep beep, nah that ain’t a truck truck
It’s me thinkin’ uh huh when she backin’ up up

and then something unintelligible (oh, did I mention you can’t hear their terrible vocals because the equally terrible production drowns it out?) about a splash of Bacardi, followed by “B.Y.H.b, bring your hot body.” Firstly, who the hell thinks this is country, and secondly who the hell thinks this is a good song? Somewhere, Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings are rolling over in their graves.

P.S. The lyrics I quoted are all in the first verse. That should tell you how attrocious the rest of the song is, if you don’t want to listen–and I wouldn’t blame you.

P.P.S. What does this say about the state of country music–three washed-up has-beens with no talent can genre-hop to country and have a chance at a hit while others are not played because they are too “country?” Not to mention there are thousands of talented people playing in bars and clubs for tips and standing in line at reality show auditions who can’t get a record deal because they won’t sing shit like this. Please, please avoid this song. Do not let radio make money off it. Do not allow it to be called country, lest other psongs follow in its footsteps and country music see the end of its days.

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.