The Hodgepodge: The State of Country Music Journalism


Take a look around the mainstream media outlets. In almost every single sector you have some outlet or outlets willing to criticize the status quo. For instance, Bill Simmons called out the NFL this past season for their all-around mismanagement. A few years ago Dan LeBatard sold off his Baseball Hall of Fame vote to make a point about what a joke the voting process is and how it needs to be fixed. In the political field there’s always someone calling out the other side.

Like I said almost every sector of mainstream journalism there’s someone willing to criticize. The key word is almost. You know what sector of mainstream journalism there isn’t a critical voice? Country music. And man does it need it.

Of course that’s difficult when there are only a few mainstream country outlets. There’s Rolling Stone Country, Taste of Country and The Boot. Sure there’s coverage by regular media outlets that cover everything, along with CMT and GAC, but the three I listed above are pretty much the main country outlets. Rolling Stone Country occasionally post something critical of country music, like their recent interview with Love and Theft. But the other two? They suck at being critical.

You know why they suck in this aspect? They suck because they don’t have a critical voice at all. They never criticize anything happening in country music. It’s always positive and happy, with every single song being special in it’s own unique way. They kiss every single artist’s ass and write all kinds of nice little features about how great of a person they are. Just look at all of those Luke Bryan articles about how he took in a relative to live with him. You would think he pulled the pope out of quicksand by the amount of praise he received.

Why do they this? Well money. They have to keep all of the advertisers happy because god forbid something mean gets said about an artist or their music. God forbid you actually critique something. Instead I compare it to five-year olds in kindergarten. The five-year olds are Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and all of the other mainstream artists. The teachers are Taste of Country and The Boot. By simply existing, they’ll award the artist a little sticker and a pat on the head. Hell at least an actual kindergarten teacher punishes the student when they misbehave. Taste of Country and The Boot just look the other way and continue to praise them (which would make them the worst kindergarten teachers ever).

As a result of this validation, these artists will continue to believe the music they’re making is great when it may not be all that great. Any artist worth a lick knows there is always room to improve. In my opinion, a big reason country music has gone down hill is the lack of critical voices in the mainstream. In essence, I blame Taste of Country and The Boot partly for mainstream country music being so down in quality in recent years. Of course they would refute this because they don’t think for themselves, they let the advertisers and record labels do this for them because they’re spineless sell-outs.

Then there’s the issue of independent country artists getting covered once they sign with a major label or getting any fame. The Boot and Taste of Country just started posting Sturgill Simpson news in recent months. This is infuriating on several levels. First of all the record labels whose control these corporate country sites also control the radio. This is the same radio that won’t play Simpson’s music because basically it’s real music. It’s not cookie-cutter, advertiser-friendly, cockamamie bullshit. So he’s good enough to fill content on your site, but not good enough for your radio stations? What a joke.

The bottom line: The Boot and Taste of Country are nothing but glorified press release sites for major labels and artists. They’re the journalistic equivalent of paparazzi magazines. They offer no valid commentary on country music. They are an impediment to the progress of country music and country music journalism. Of course my scathing takedown does not matter. They will not change. My blog is unlikely to ever be as big as them. I would love for Country Perspective to have the influence to change it and maybe someday it will. It’s highly unlikely, but never say never. You know who can change it though? The country music fan reading this post. Maybe you’re a disgruntled country music fans who’s tired of corporate country blogs. My advice: don’t read their stuff. Tell your friends and family the same. Don’t validate their bullshit like everyone in mainstream country music does.

The feeling that mainstream country music is improving is because of the fans. Slowly, but surely over the past year more fans that unhappy with the recent direction of country music are speaking louder and voicing their displeasure. Bro country isn’t as popular as a result. The artists and labels notice this and have reacted. Sturgill Simpson said it himself that he can’t save country music, but the country music fan can. You have a voice. Don’t be afraid to use it. Support the artists you like. Hell if you’re as passionate as me, go start your own country music blog. Above all be honest. You will already be one step ahead of the corporate country blogs (and more credible).

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Reba announced her new album will be released on April 14. It will be called Love Somebody and it will contain 12 tracks, with two bonus tracks included in the Target edition of the album. You can see the track list for the album, along with other details about it by clicking here. One track on the album is written by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally. Then there’s another co-written by Sam Hunt. This album should be interesting.
  • Will Hoge finally announced his new album will be released on April 7 and it will be named Small Town Dreams. In case you missed it, be sure to check out Derek’s post on it from last Friday.
  • Kristian Bush’s new album Southern Gravity will also be out on April 7. It’s his debut solo album and I’m actually intrigued to hear it. I enjoyed his single “Trailer Hitch” and hopefully his album is in the same vein.
  • Eli Young Band announced they’re releasing a new EP on March 10 titled Turn It On. The EP’s title track will be released as a single that same week.

Throwback Thursday Song

Hank Williams – “Move It On Over” This was the legendary singer’s first big hit, peaking at #4 on the country chart. It also had a great influence on rock-and-roll music, with many citing it as the inspiration behind “Rock Around The Clock,” the first major hit single in rock-and-roll. That’s why Hank is not only in the Country Music Hall of Fame, but also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

My Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

I finally sat down and listened to Blackberry Smoke’s new album Holding All The Roses. And I definitely recommend checking it out. It’s a pretty fun rock album from start to finish. I won’t be officially reviewing it on the site since Derek and myself both felt it was more of a rock album than country album and there are a lot of country releases that have come out that are of higher priority. But if I had to rate this album, I would give it a 9/10. It’s definitely one of my favorite rock albums released in 2015 so far. If I had to pick my favorite they would be “Rock and Roll Again,” “Woman In The Moon” and “Wish in One Hand.” I mean how could you not like a song with the line, “wish in one hand, shit in the other”? Holding All The Roses gets a high recommendation from me.

Tweet of the Week

Yep! Grady Smith speaking the truth again. 

Two Cole Swindell Reviews That Will Make You Face Palm

Dumb Swindell Review 2


Dumb Swindell Review 1

You know I could have went back to the Sam Hunt well again because it isn’t running dry anytime soon. But I’m a man of variety. Mocking the same fans over and over would just be bland. Speaking of bland, I remembered Cole Swindell. And his fans are certainly full of hot takes on country music. I posted two reviews this week because there are a lot of reviews along this line on Cole Swindell’s self-titled debut album review page and I want to feature as many of these ridiculous posts as possible.

To the second reviewer: When do I get my El Camino?

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments! 

36 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: The State of Country Music Journalism

  1. Derek Hudgin February 19, 2015 / 11:29 am

    The most infuriating thing about ToC and The Boot is, among the glorified press releases and puffer pieces about how Sam Hunt pet a fan’s dog while walking in Nashville and that’s why he’s a hit country star, is the stupid articles about fashion and non-musical related business. Personal stories are nice now and then, but those sites are like paparazzi magazines. Describing them as Spineless Sellouts is the most accurate way to talk about those sites.

    And don’t even get me started on their cringeworthy click-bait titles and social media posts. It’s as if they’re aware of how terrible their articles are and need that social media BS to get people to actually visit their site.

    Anyways, this Hodgepodge is awesome. Always a great day when Hank makes an appearance! And Blackberry Smoke’s Holding All the Roses is, for my money, their best album. My personal favorites are “No Way Back to Eden” and “Rock and Roll Again.”

    Finally, if ‘Neotraditionalist’ is correct in saying 3/4 of the negative comments have less talent than Cole Swindell, then I’m frightened to meet those people. Does Cole Swindell have any other talent than writing the most simplistic rhymes in songs? Like the type of rhymes 7 year olds can come up with.


  2. Derek Hudgin February 19, 2015 / 11:29 am

    The most infuriating thing about ToC and The Boot is, among the glorified press releases and puffer pieces about how Sam Hunt pet a fan’s dog while walking in Nashville and that’s why he’s a hit country star, is the stupid articles about fashion and non-musical related business. Personal stories are nice now and then, but those sites are like paparazzi magazines. Describing them as Spineless Sellouts is the most accurate way to talk about those sites.

    And don’t even get me started on their cringeworthy click-bait titles and social media posts. It’s as if they’re aware of how terrible their articles are and need that social media BS to get people to actually visit their site.

    Anyways, this Hodgepodge is awesome. Always a great day when Hank makes an appearance! And Blackberry Smoke’s Holding All the Roses is, for my money, their best album. My personal favorites are “No Way Back to Eden” and “Rock and Roll Again.”

    Finally, if ‘Neotraditionalist’ is correct in saying 3/4 of the negative comments have less talent than Cole Swindell, then I’m frightened to meet those people. Does Cole Swindell have any other talent than writing the most simplistic rhymes in songs? Like the type of rhymes 7 year olds can come up with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin February 19, 2015 / 12:05 pm

      Why there’s a repeated comment above, I don’t know. Mouse freaked out. lol

      Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott February 19, 2015 / 12:28 pm

      Wait, Sam Hunt pet a fan’s dog?! Hahaha! What’s scary is some people would say what I said seriously. ToC and The Boot know they’re appealing to the lowest thinking people with that garbage. I also forgot to mention how nauseating their coverage of Taylor Swift is. She’s long gone from country and yet they act like nothing has changed. I bet Swift just laughs about this and really at the whole state of mainstream country music. I may not love her music, but she’s at least being honest about it now.

      The social media is comically bad and that’s really the big reason I follow them on Twitter, just to see what inane shit they post everyday.

      I went on a Hank listening binge this past week, partly because of the review I have coming out tomorrow. But yes Hank is great any time.

      Oh Swindell. He’s just so laughably bad. I hope he cashes in while he can because he’s going to be up shit creek without a paddle soon. Remember his other talents are impersonating Luke Bryan, wearing baseball caps backwards and creeping on underage girls.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Zack February 19, 2015 / 12:18 pm

    I certainly don’t have a hatred towards those sites but they do post irrelevant material. I definently don’t follow them anymore. I love the part about how the fan can change the direction of the music. It’s so true. Its because of sites like this that I discover music from people I’ve never even heard of. And yes Josh I am also passionate about the music, I know my reviews are rocky but I hope to improve haha!

    I’m excited about Kristian Bush. He is coming to my area for my area for an acoustic show so I’ll probably see him. Idk about the Eli Young Band. I’ve seen some lyrics for their new song- generic, cliched, you get the picture…. Anyway what bums me out is that, from what I’ve heard, Josh Turner and Easton Corbin will not be releasing their albums in March as planned.

    And good move on the Hank Williams song! I think I listen to “The Lost Highway” every day at least 3 times haha.

    And I love Blackberry Smoke’s album. Like the Mavericks, this was my introduction to them so it was an awesome surprise! My favorite was The Woman In The Moon.

    And what’s great about these Swindell/Hunt comments is that they make you laugh and feel sorry for people at the same time!

    Great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott February 19, 2015 / 12:35 pm

      I really don’t hate those sites either, although I became extremely annoyed at some of their posts and tactics this past week which inspired me to write about it in this week’s Hodgepodge. What’s sad is they could be a force of good, but would rather be puppets. No doubt they influence a lot of listeners. What also annoys me about their sites is they have no character. It feels like it’s run by robots.

      Really? I didn’t know about Turner and Corbin’s albums being pushed back. I’m going to look into that. Perhaps they didn’t want to compete with Bryan’s spring break EP? Because prepare yourself to hear about that piece of garbage.

      As I’ve said before, what’s amazing is the Swindell and Hunt fans probably would hate each other’s artists just as much as traditional country fans hate Swindell and Hunt. You would think bro country and metro-politan fans would like both, but apparently many don’t. But I don’t like either, so I guess that makes me an equal opportunity hater. Haha!


      • Zack February 19, 2015 / 12:53 pm

        Plus with those kinds of sites, if something ever does happen in the world of country music, they’re always the ladt ones to know.

        And yeah its just a rumor that I heard. I guess it makes sense since neither of their respective songs are that high yet. I forgot about Bryan’s, I’ll get some popcorn and enjoy the show for that review (if there is one haha).

        I forget that Swindell and Hunt fans don’t think alike. While Swindell is at least good for being the village idiot, I just can’t stand Sam. He is a very polarizing character. Even people I knew that can’t stand bro-country can’t help but like this guy. I agree though its easier to say no to both sides!

        Also for upcoming releases you can put Eric Church- Like A Wrecking Ball. I hate this song with a burning passion but I still felt it worth noting


        • Josh Schott February 19, 2015 / 12:57 pm

          Oh I’m definitely reviewing that Bryan EP. Somebody has to destroy it and I’ll take pleasure in doing it. Also nothing creepier than a nearly 40 year old married man singing about having sex with college students.

          Swindell as the village idiot. Hahaha! That’s a good name for him.

          Yeah not the best single from Church. He’s always hit and miss with each single release. This one is a definite miss.


      • Raymond February 19, 2015 / 1:03 pm

        Give credit to Eric where it’s due I’ll say this. Eric at least manages to push boundaries without making an ass out of himself unlike Aldean or Sam Hunt. Oh yeah can you guys do a proper review on Kelsea Ballerinis song Love Me Like You Mean It and explain why it’s terrible cause part of me likes it I love the sass in her voice.


        • Josh Schott February 19, 2015 / 1:29 pm

          Yeah hopefully we will be able to do a review on it soon. A lot of stuff on the review list, but hopefully we can review it.


      • Raymond February 19, 2015 / 1:39 pm

        Hers what I find funny right now there’s so many new artists coming out this year but to be honest seeing the charts today made me pissed off like I’m fuming. What humanly sane universe is to where Something In The Water doesn’t get a number 1 for radio Airplay but everything Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line touches does. Anyways I decided to hear from some of the new artists that looked poised this year some are good Mickey Guyton Cam The Railers some are ok Mo Pitney A Thousand Horses Kelsea Ballerini Chase Bryant. But some are just godawful like new artist Michael Ray and Waterloo Revival. The women keep dishing out the good material like Ashley Monroe which I can’t wait to hear her new song and Kacey Musgraves. But I can come up with maybe 3 mainstream male acts I can properly Defend Dierks Bentley Gary Allan and Josh Turner. I’m curious to see where mainstream goes soon within the next few months.


  4. Raymond February 19, 2015 / 12:25 pm

    Nice Hodgepodge like usual. The Reba album should be interesting when it comes out I am gonna be excited. My local radio station plays taste of country at night and my gosh for one they’re not critical at all they don’t have a backbone at all it’s pathetic. Also they never play that much of new songs on the charts they’ll play songs in the Top 40 except 1 take a guess of which one that is. I hate it my gosh those Cole Swindell reviews are just bull crap. Like what the hell. Cole Swindell has no talent Sam Hunt has talent but he’s ruining the genre.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Josh Schott February 19, 2015 / 2:02 pm

    Just saw on Twitter that Rick Elliot is coming out with a new single titled “Let It Shine” on March 10.


  6. bob February 19, 2015 / 2:05 pm

    If you want an honest country music blog, Country Universe is the best and they’re been doing it for over 10 years. The writing is excellent. I’ve been following them since august of 2008. A newcomer that shows a lot of promise is For The Country Record.


    • Raymond February 19, 2015 / 2:13 pm

      I read them too but some of their reviews have been really questionable. Like I don’t know how Miranda Lamberts Little Red Wagon is better overall than like Tyler Farr A Guy Walks Into A Bar but I will say this that they might have the funniest reviews at times. The site is interesting and I’ve read it for a few years but I wish they would do more single reviews.


      • Scotty J February 19, 2015 / 3:57 pm

        Country Universe is OK but they seem to be so off and on with no new posts for a couple weeks and then they have a dozen in a couple of days. I realize everyone has jobs and lives but for me to be a regular visitor to a site there has to be a somewhat steady stream of content. Plus I’ve been a little turned off by some of the judgmental tone of some of the reviews there lately with songs being praised or criticized based on whether they are ‘progressive’ enough or too ‘regressive’. I hate when non political entertainment or music sites devolve into these kinds of tribalist sites. Not everything has to be political and that is one of the encouraging things about this site that I have observed and I hope it stays that way.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Josh Schott February 19, 2015 / 4:57 pm

          Don’t worry we’ll never take this attitude with reviews. We judge the music based on how it sounds, not the politics of it. NPR and Pitchfork do the same with their sites and I hate this. There’s no need to drag politics into music.


    • Josh Schott February 19, 2015 / 2:26 pm

      I’m not very familiar with Country Universe, but I just looked at a few of their posts and they seem nice. A little too high of a grade on the Reba single, but they seem honest and that’s appreciated by me. I’m very familiar with For The Country Record and the site owner Vickeye. She does a fine job and is very honest as well. This post though was directed more at mainstream outlets, as most independent outlets are very honest. They’re really the only ones who hold a fire to the mainstream. I like to think I’m part of it, but of course we’re still pretty new to the scene and building our reputation. I hope you become a fan of our site too!


      • bob February 19, 2015 / 3:24 pm

        I’m liking what I see so far. I don’t agree with everything CU writes and I’m sure that will be the case with your site. If it stays honest and interesting, I’m here.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Pete Marshall February 19, 2015 / 6:39 pm

    I don’t like taste of country and the boot. I really like your site better you tell it like it is.


    • Josh Schott February 19, 2015 / 6:42 pm

      Thank you!


  8. Pete Marshall February 19, 2015 / 7:09 pm

    Your welcome Josh
    I can’t wait you rant on Luke Bryan’s final spring break cd. I am glad that is his last one. I like how you say Luke Bryan and Florida-Georgia Line are like 5 year olds. I like how you gave Florida Georgia Line “Anything Goes” a well deserving 0.


    • NoahHibiscusEaton February 20, 2015 / 2:42 am

      I’m honestly convinced that the reception to Luke Bryan’s final “Spring Break” release will be remembered as a bellwether moment for whether the mighty 18-34 listening demographic that has been pivotal in lifting Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line to superstar status has truly already abandoned the mainstream country/country” format in droves and are moving onto the next big trend elsewhere in Urban Contemporary and elsewhere………………….or if they are sticking around.

      When I say this, I hope I don’t give the impression (I’m 31 myself) that I’m one of those disgruntled “Get off my lawn!” types and subscribe to ageist entitlement attitudes toward the purity of the genre. Country music is a home for all age demographics and other diverse backgrounds. What I’m saying, rather, is that the median age of a country listener has traditionally been around 44, and this recent obsession with appealing only to the very youngest listening demographics is quite a historic, unprecedented anomaly for the format………………….and Country Aircheck Weekly just published a new study that includes a table on Page 8 that reveals that since country radio netted its largest share of 18-34 listeners of all-time during the summer of 2014…………….it has since netted six consecutive months of losses among all demographic brackets.

      This hints at the possibility that many younger listeners who flocked to country radio really cared little about country music in the first place and identified with the wave of endless summer escapism in the form of Mainstream Top 40 with a token banjo. Perhaps there were many suburbanites who flocked to country radio because, with the way the country lifestyle was aggressively peddled as an open-air utopia in not just music but pop cultural stereotypes as well, they chased after it for a quick fix and escapism. Now we are seeing once again the tiresome cliche that trend-chasing isn’t sustainable for the long haul………………and country radio is beginning to pay the price for allowing its gatekeepers to do just that.

      Which gets us right back to Luke Bryan’s impending release. If the opening week figures eclipse those of “Spring Break: Here To Party”, then it will demonstrate we are indeed in the midst of a broader sea change with regards to the median listening demographic trending more youthful and, no matter what, we must respect what all demographics bring to the table anyway. But if sales underwhelm, then it will underscore the point that many of these listeners are more fairweather/bandwagon types that probably haven’t genuinely gotten into country music anyway and have already moved on.


      • Josh Schott February 20, 2015 / 11:48 am

        I really think it’s going to be underwhelming sales compared to previous releases. It’ll still have solid numbers, but it will be down. I definitely think a lot of the younger listeners who were into bro-country are now flocking back away from the genre. Take for example my brother. At this time last year he was really into bro-country. When it comes to music, we have the exact opposite tastes so it didn’t surprise me. Anyway he was into it for months and even had “Bottoms Up” as a ringtone. By the end of the summer of 2014, he was pretty much done listening to bro-country and is now back to his terrible top 40 rap (we disagree in this genre too). And I never did get him to tell me why he liked bro country. My theory is that it was popular, so he started to listen because of the bandwagon effect. Everyone else is listening, so why not me? Then as bro country faded last year and the saturation point was reached, everyone started hopping off it. Those people are back to listening to pop and rap. The only bro-country fans left are the ones that are big fans of the artists who made it popular. To me the biggest issue to deal with in 2015 will be Sam Hunt. He’s going to keep making his metro-politan music and people will continue to eat it up.


  9. NoahHibiscusEaton February 20, 2015 / 2:16 am

    I actually love to have spirited (but friendly) debates with Matt Bjorke: principal editor of Roughstock (another site that basically operates as another arm for corporate country/”country” celebrity news and very seldom inspires honest discussion and dialogue.)

    We had a debate that got particularly intense surrounding Sam Hunt late last year: me of course explaining why Sam Hunt isn’t country whatsoever and Matt attempting to make the case that he is and that much-ballyhooed “music always evolves” excuse, etc.

    I truly think he’s a great guy and all, and I gather he’s just doing his job and genuinely loves what he does, so I’m happy for him. And I also think our differences are differences that are apparent at a much larger scale: where we draw the fine line between art and commerce. I speak from a much more artistic frame of mind and, thus. have a set of standards I take most seriously…………..while Matt speaks from a more commerce-driven standpoint and tends to speak more from speculative and insider knowledge about how he gathers the general listening public will respond to any given product. In a way, he talks more like a sportscaster than a critic. Nothing wrong with that, per se……………until you take into account, like you said, Saving Country Music is the only well-known outlet that inspire us to keep our critical faculties engaged. Besides that, your eyes would strain to find any others if you were a disaffected listener unfamiliar with the likes of this blog.

    Again, I’m not disparaging the day jobs of the likes of Bjorke and others. The point is that what they’re pitching is blatantly commerce and I’m utterly convinced there’s a lack of self-awareness among these outlets that they are basically TMZ Hee-Haw Edition, or the country/”country” music equivalent of Star, OK! Magazine or any other tabloid stashed at the grocery check-out register.All I ask for is more honesty and transparency as to their intentions, some self-awareness on their end………………and of course balance in the realm of country music journalism.


    • Josh Schott February 20, 2015 / 11:38 am

      Great post Noah. You’re absolutely right about Roughstock and should have included them with ToC and The Boot. They’re just as bad, if not maybe worse. I’m not sure how ToC and The Boot treat their writers, but I’ve talked to a former writer for Roughstock and they said Roughstock is very controlling on who their writers cover. This person pushed to cover Wade Bowen and they refused until “Songs About Trucks” became a big deal. Then they started covering Bowen, but they wouldn’t let the person who requested him to be covered to do it. They’re nothing but hit chasers and don’t give a crap about an artist unless they bring hits.

      Good analogy about looking at country music artistically and commercially. Like you said there’s nothing wrong with taking the latter viewpoint, however just because a product is commercially viable doesn’t mean it’s quality from an artistic standpoint. The ideal song of course is artistically and commercially viable. Zac Brown Band is one of the best in mainstream country to find this happy medium with their music. Speaking of art vs commerce I review a song later today that will be debated from these very same viewpoints. It’s really what this metro-politan fad is going to be all about. Bro country was criticized for it’s lyrics and most of the time those songs at least sounded country. Metro-politan on the other hand doesn’t sound country at all or is mostly devoid of country.

      TMZ Hee-Haw sounds about right. Hahaha! If they were more upfront like you said, I don’t think I would have as big of an issue with them either. Instead they come off as the CNN of country music and they’re far far from it.


    • Applejack February 21, 2015 / 1:32 pm

      I’m not sure how well known this information is, but it is worth pointing out that both The Boot and Taste of Country are owned by the same corporate entity: Townsquare Media, a multi-media and broadcasting company based in Greenwhich, Connecticut.

      Just what is this Townsquare Media, you ask?

      Why, they are the third largest owner of radio stations in the United States (behind Clear Channel and Cumulus Media only), owning 311 radio stations nationwide. (You can see a complete list of stations and other media properties on their website.) They also own and operate an armada of music and entertainment websites (PopCrush, TasteofCountry, etc.) hundreds of local radio-affiliated websites, as well as a large number of live events and festivals such as the Taste of Country Festival, Country Jam, and many more.

      I decided to check out a few of their other blogs to see how they correspond in terms of content and format with sites like ToC and The Boot. Here are a few examples:

      … Look familiar to anyone? Ha ha.

      To be fair, Townsquare has acquired other sites which don’t correspond exactly to this strict cookie cutter format, but the style of content seems to be pretty similar on most of their properties.

      Now, I think we can probably all agree that it wouldn’t be fair to label Townsquare Media as some kind of evil organisation simply because they’re a big, publicly traded corporation with their fingers in a lot of pies, but given the fact that they own hundreds of country radio stations, as well as festivals and live events at which the same popular country artists they cover on their blogs also perform, it seems like they kinda have a vested interest in keeping the country radio gravy train rolling. doesn’t it?


      • Josh Schott February 21, 2015 / 2:52 pm

        Oh I’m very familiar with their setup and how they’re all under one entity. I’ve studied their little setup well, although many are not well aware. This information takes a little digging to find, but not too much digging. They definitely don’t want to shout out to the world how much their fingers are in country music. They didn’t always sit under one roof though until Townsquare Media bought out AOL Time Warner and in the process acquired The Boot. Now ToC and The Boot look exactly the same as you said, along with those other music sites. It’s a very conveyor belt type process with each site. I’m not fully convinced humans run them, but rather automated robots. Hahaha!

        Without a doubt they’re a major influence on country music and they’re basically the mouthpiece for not just labels, but the radio stations. Artists love them because they not only kiss their ass and never bad mouth them, but they’re a great advertising arm. They’re one of the best at advertising country music. The only problem of course is they operate under the pretense that they’re a legitimate journalist outlet with fair and balanced coverage when they’re really just catering to whoever brings them the most money and hits.


  10. Cobra February 20, 2015 / 7:47 am

    “As a result of this validation, these artists will continue to believe the music they’re making is great when it may not be all that great.”
    Hell, most of it ain’t even that GOOD, let alone, great.

    IMO, this is your best hodgepodge yet. It hits the nail right on the head. Every hot new single that comes out is a “ToC Pick” and there’s nothing negative to be said about it.

    And speaking of how they all of a sudden are posting about Sturgill Simpson, they did the same thing when Wade Bowen appeared on Conan. All of a sudden, they were posting about it, dropping his name as if he was someone they’d been posting about for years, when in essence, they’d almost never posted about him before. It’s infuriating.

    “if you’re as passionate as me, go start your own country music blog.”

    Yep, that’s exactly what I did. I may not get a whole lot of views, but I started it as a way to vent my frustration at the state of the genre.

    Thanks for continuing to post honest news and opinions on country music, Derek and Josh!

    On another note, didn’t realize EYB already had a new EP coming out. They just released an album only a year ago. I’ll look forward to it. I usually like their music.


    • Josh Schott February 20, 2015 / 11:51 am

      Thanks Cobra! And yes they’re posting about Wade now as you said as if he’s always been covered there. What’s funny is they’ll post the same thing SCM posts the exact day after Trigger posts it. Pretty much every Sturgill article is like this.

      Have you listened to the single from it? It’s for the lack of a better word disappointing. Really made for radio play. I hope the other three songs on the EP are better.


  11. Zack February 20, 2015 / 10:46 am

    Cobra- I just looked through your website for the first time, very nice work! I will have to check it more often!


    • Cobra February 20, 2015 / 12:24 pm

      Thanks Zack! I appreciate it!


  12. Applejack February 21, 2015 / 2:01 pm

    One site that wasn’t mentioned here is Country Weekly.

    They’ve been around since the mid-90’s, and still have a weekly print publication. They’re a tabloid, but it seems like they have a little more cred than sites like The Boot, Roughstock, and so forth. That’s my perception, anyway. However, they do seem to be in bed with Cumulus Media, as their magazine features a special “NASH Magazine” section within the publication (part of Cumulus’s NASH branding initiative.)

    There are a couple other sites out there, such as Country Standard Time, which features reviews on a wide variety of country, Americana, and bluegrass artists. It’s pretty cool.

    Then you have other Americana / Roots sites such as No Depression.


    • Josh Schott February 21, 2015 / 2:55 pm

      Country Weekly is a little more credible it seems. They are owned by Cumulus Media, so yes they’re very much in bed with each other. Country Weekly is basically the ying to the Toc and The Boot’s yang.

      I like Country Standard Time. They’re one of the most straight laced news outlets and definitely more neutral, fair compared to the other known outlets mentioned.


  13. Zack February 22, 2015 / 1:29 am

    I realize I’m a bit late to more posts here but I actually enjoy Country Weekly and they’re sort of credible. They slammed Aldean’s latest album (and single) pretty hard and also are pretty balanced with the other grades. Do I wish the magazine had more than just stupid cooking recipes and fashion stuff? Yes. Of course, however I believe they are definently better than Taste Of Country and The Boot. Shoot Taste of Country doesn’t even assign grades. Just a paragraph on how unique a certain thing is, blah blah blah.


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