The Hodgepodge: Mainstream Country Music Has Produced Big Disappointments in 2015

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Coming into 2015, I had a pretty good feeling about the state of mainstream country music in 2015. Mickey Guyton was starting to get noticed. Jake Owen, Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay all had meaningful songs getting noticed by radio. Zac Brown Band’s new single “Homegrown” released in January was good, yet fresh. Several great artists were set to release new music that I looked forward to because of promising efforts in recent years. Things were looking so good back in January. Now I sit here a few months later around the first quarter mark of 2015 and I wonder what the hell is going on in mainstream country music. What’s causing me this wonder is how the chart seems to be regressing into the previous state of the genre has been in recent years with loads of party songs. The songs by Owen, Bentley and Paslay I mentioned are probably lucky to just sniff the top ten, as radio programmers don’t want to play them because they’re “mood killers.” Guyton has stalled on the airplay charts. Zac Brown Band continues to climb with “Homegrown,” but faces stiff competition from the bro country holdouts and Sam Hunt.

This is all discouraging enough, but what’s been most frustrating is the lackluster music released by artists I expected much more from. First, Ashley Monroe released her first single off of her upcoming sophomore album, “On To Something Good.” This song is bland and average. It’s by far worse than anything on her debut solo album Like A Rose in 2013. It’s radio-friendliness makes me quite weary of her new album. Many are giving her a pass because she’s a female artist and female artists are struggling to make it onto radio, but that just doesn’t cut it for me. I could go on and on about this, but I’ll save that discussion for another day. Speaking of female artists, Kacey Musgraves just released her lead single from her sophomore album too, which is called “Biscuits.” Again this is a pretty average showing from an artist who showed much more on her 2013 debut album Same Trailer, Different Park. Just because something isn’t bad, doesn’t mean it’s good. Average doesn’t cut it for me and shouldn’t cut it for you the music listener.

Reba McEntire released a pretty mediocre single in “Going Out Like That.” Not only is it below average, but it’s struggling on the charts. This does not bode well for her considering she’s the face of the Nash Icons label. That’s on top of making a comeback after being away from music for a few years. We have yet to hear any other music from Nash Icon artists too. The possible splitting of country music looks a lot bleaker now compared to a few months ago. Without this split, it’s more likely for artists to sell out to the popular sound. Speaking of that a group fans could rely on for decent music that just sold out is Eli Young Band. Just listen to “Turn It On” and you’ll be rolling your eyes 30 seconds in. The thing is they know the sold out and they don’t care. They don’t give a shit about quality.

The biggest disappointment though out of all these disappointments is Gary Allan and his new single “Hangover Tonight.” Allan was one of the “good guys” for all these years and even spoke out against bro country years ago when it got popular. Now he’s chasing the trends right alongside the likes of Swindell and Aldean, at least with this single. I mean I was holding out hope that this single was just an anomaly of his new upcoming album, but now I’m not so sure. This week in the Billboard Country Update there was a section about how Allan came about making this single. And it was pretty disheartening to read. I recommend reading it all, but I’ll tell you what stood out to me. It took six songwriters to make this song, which is red flag #1. The next thing that stood out was Allan is drawing music ideas from the same pool as Thomas Rhett, as Allan wanted to record “Crash and Burn,” which will be on Rhett’s new album. Allan doing anything similar to Rhett raises another red flag and quite frankly disgusts me.

Allan for over 20 years has made country music of at least good quality and stayed true to himself. This has all the similar makings to when Brad Paisley sold out last year. Ironically it was an interview with Billboard too that gave the first warning signs his album would be mediocre. “River Bank” and “Hangover Tonight” both have a pretty similar vibe and kowtow to radio. I really hope I’m wrong about Allan and that single is an anomaly. I very well could be. But I said the same thing about Paisley in 2014. Coincidentally, Allan has a show coming up in my area and I’m going to go see him live. Maybe I can find out more about his upcoming album that will help determine whether or not this single is a reflection of the album.

I haven’t even got around to mentioning Music Row’s newest project Michael Ray, who’s poised to terrorize country music with his On The Verge push. Sam Hunt is dominating so much now that it’s spawning Hunt-copycats, just like the bro country trend spawned bro country copycats. Luke Bryan is going to release another terrible Dallas Davidson-penned single that I will hate. Country music is in rough shape and shows no signs of improvement. Maybe we’ll get some quality releases from mainstream like originally intended to help balance out all of this crap. Ashley Monroe could very well release a good album still, as Vince Gill is producing it and I trust Gill. Musgraves album should still be good, as long as she doesn’t go overboard with songs like “Biscuits.” All my worrying could be for nothing. We can only hope. I know I have no answer and we can only wait. In the meantime I plan to review more independent country stuff that deserves to be heard instead of this garbage being put out by mainstream country.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Steven Tyler is releasing a country record. Yes, this is the same Tyler who was the frontman for Aerosmith. Perfect timing with this Hodgepodge, huh? I don’t even know what to say about this news. Can mainstream country get any more embarrassing?
  • Striking Matches will release their debut album, Nothing But The Silence, next Tuesday. I’m not sure what to expect from them, as their lead single was just decent. T Bone Burnett is producing the album, so expect some interesting production choices.
  • Houndmouth, the alt country/indie folk group from Indiana, has released their second album Little Neon Limelight. I hadn’t heard of the band until this year, but I regret this. They’re damn good and I’ll have a review on their new album next week.

Throwback Thursday Song

Jamey Johnson & Lee Ann Womack – “Give It Away” – Now everyone has heard the George Strait version of this song and it was a massive hit of course. But I guarantee a lot of people haven’t heard Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack’s version of it. Five years ago they performed this on the ACM Artist of the Decade All-Star Concert, as George Strait smiled in the audience at this great performance. Even Taylor Swift was enjoying it!

Non-Country Song of the Week

Kendrick Lamar – “i” – I’ve been wanting to get into Kendrick Lamar’s music for a while now and I finally dove into it this past week. I wish I did sooner because it’s fantastic. His latest single “i” won multiple Grammys and I’m not surprised. It’s funky influences make for a great beat. His upcoming album To Pimp a Butterfly was set to come out in a couple of weeks, but he just released it earlier than expected. And I’m just now enjoying his major label debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city. So I got some catching up to do on Lamar’s work.

Tweet of the Week

Isbell makes it here again, but not with his humor. No, this just makes me even more eager for his new album. Southeastern is amazing and for some people, the best country album released in 2013. So if this new album is indeed better, it will be a top contender to win Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

An iTunes Review That Will Make You Face Palm

Stupid EYB Comment 1

This was a comment left under Eli Young Band’s new EP Turn It On. While there were mostly sell-out comments, there were a good bit of comments like the one above defending the group and their new metro-politan direction. I honestly don’t know how you can defend this turd of an EP. I’d say 90% of the comments I’ve seen on it are negative.

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

21 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Mainstream Country Music Has Produced Big Disappointments in 2015

  1. Raymond March 19, 2015 / 11:27 am

    Not as big of a disappointment I mean yeah Gary Allan’s new songs garbage as is the Eli Young Band. I actually don’t quite mind Reba’s new song it has certainly grown on me. Kaceys new song is deh. Jake Owen and Eric Paslays songs are done no matter how much I hate to admit it. Dierks Bentleys song I think it will get number 1. I’ve said it before radio right now is a game. Mickey and Reba’s songs are gonna probably look like they’re gonna be in it for the long haul so I wouldn’t worry there. I do like Ashley’s new song cause I feel the country pop direction is the best for her. But yeah Eli Young Band sold out Gary Allan Ashley Monroe Reba Kacey let’s hope are just playing both sides of the fence. Even the not quite as goods like The Band Perry Gloriana Kip Moore Chris Young and Brett Eldredge will probably do the same.

    Awe I like mainstream reviews are you at least gonna review when it goes out Darius Ruckers new album.

    Ok I asked a few questions about Katie Armiger and if you had your grading system what would Dierks Bentleys Long Trip Alone.

    Greatest Hodgepodge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott March 19, 2015 / 4:18 pm

      Well there isn’t a lot of stuff coming out in mainstream right now either. Montgomery Gentry’s album got pushed back a month and I have no idea what’s going on with Easton Corbin’s new album. The Rucker album will be reviewed and based on the track listing it doesn’t sound good.

      I like Bentley’s “Long Trip Alone” and it would definitely get a +1 from me (right around 8/10). And thanks!

      Like

      • Raymond March 19, 2015 / 4:25 pm

        Oh ok I’m assuming the Eli Young Bands EP was garbage best to avoid it. I guess the mainstream albums that I’m looking forward to Maddie & Tae A Thousand Horses and Zac Brown Band.

        Hey josh I have 2 questions can you rank the mainstream bands ( 3 or more members) from greatest to least forgot to ask in Q/A. Also who is your favorite mainstream Duo I can’t come up with one.

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        • Josh Schott March 19, 2015 / 4:47 pm

          Well this summer I’m going to revisit the rankings of mainstream artists, so you’ll see then. As for favorite mainstream duo, it would be pretty much Maddie & Tae by default. If I like Striking Matches album, they could be my favorite. Other than that I don’t like any of the other duos.

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      • Raymond March 19, 2015 / 5:03 pm

        Ok well Striking Matches actually for me aren’t technically mainstream. My criteria is anytime within the last 2 years if they got Top 30 and are on a decent label. Oh get this on the radio I heard this radio DJ say this they said I think Sam Hunt and Jason Aldean’s new albums are pure country. Do you guys remember the duo who had a number 1 in 2006 The Wreckers what’s your guys opinion about their debut song Leave The Pieces. Yeah in the mainstream right now the album I’m curious about the most hands down is Kelsea Ballerinis.

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  2. Pete Marshall March 19, 2015 / 12:12 pm

    Reba’s new song grew on me too I was hoping she would hit big with that song. As far Nash Icon goes it will flop maybe late this year. I don’t think country music going to split, and I know today’s country music is crap right now. Both Gary Allan’s and Eli young Band’s new song sounds like crap. Gary will not sellout because that crap of a song.

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  3. Pete Marshall March 19, 2015 / 12:48 pm

    Eli Young Band “Turn it on” I rather Turn it off. I’d rather listen to Harry Luge and the Haywire I have 2 of their cd’s and both are good.

    Like

  4. Scotty J March 19, 2015 / 2:31 pm

    It’s starting to feel like a sense of resignation is setting in with long time fans of country music. For the last couple of years many people have said ‘just wait til this bro-country thing runs it’s course’ but now as we are starting to come out the other side to our horror it is actually worse in many ways.

    The goalposts have been moved so far the last few years that it is almost sad what is thought of as good stuff anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott March 19, 2015 / 4:12 pm

      I definitely sense this also. Everyone hoped bro country would have a death to disco moment and everything could go back to the way it should be. Instead it’s morphed into an even bigger pain in the ass. The split of country radio is looking bleak now even. It’s just a mess and country radio seems to have no problem continuing to shoot itself in the foot.

      Yeah I see a lot of people calling decent/average stuff good just because it isn’t bad or it isn’t bro country. Just because it isn’t bad, doesn’t mean it’s good. That’s called settling and settling hurts the genre. The listener should never feel bad about demanding better music and artists should never do less than their best.

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    • Alan Pierce March 21, 2015 / 4:12 am

      I am definitely discouraged. As a fan primarily of female country singers it has been a dark, dark time. I have survived on Kacey and Ashley’s albums for the past 2 years (Miranda disappointed me) but their latest offerings have got me worried. While I find “Biscuits” to be a bit gimmicky, at least it is country-sounding. “On To Something Good” on the other hand is flat out terrible 70’s inspired schlock-pop. I get the distinct impression from interviews that her whole album is going to much of the same. Please don’t let that happen Vince Gill!

      I have more confidence in Kacey. YouTube is full of some pretty good songs she has been performing live for a few years now (like she has with Biscuits) , and I assume some of them will make the record. I will be at her Toronto show in 3 weeks so I am hoping for good things! I love country and the past few years have been killing me!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Zack March 19, 2015 / 3:02 pm

    Damn these Hodgepodges just get better and better. I remember in comments I made on this site in Janurary and how I thought there was a light at the end of this tunnel, Now? Idk, Monroe’s and Musgrave’s new songs are terrible, I’m sorry. Eli Young Band really disappoints me. You know a song like “When It Rains” really connected with me and helped me through a tough time. Same with “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” (yes I know, “but that’s Will Hoge’s song”, true, but you at least have to appreciate that EYB were able to get the song and Hoge’s name out to people (myself included) ).

    I won’t say anything about Allan, it’s probably best that I don’t….
    But if you are going to see him, I guarentee you’ll have a great time. I saw him last year around this time, March 29th actually, and even then he played two new songs, “Long Year”, and “That’s What Makes You Strong”, both excellent. Will they be on the new album? At this point probably not. Again, I’m a loyal fan, and loyal fans shouldn’t turn their backs just because of one song, but Gary better stray from this path he’s on.

    I actually quite liked the “Striking Matches” song, so I’m excited for the album. Was the song just too bland for you?

    Awesome Throwback song, that version is excellent, hey at least Jamey Johnson came back with some excellent music this year right? (Btw Jamey, where’s the new album? haha)

    You know the format’s biggest problem is lack of balance. Everyone’s just a copycat. Now look if I was a label suit, I wouldn’t think that was such a good idea. After all, you need acts that will stick, not copycats who will fail you in 2 years. God, 10 years ago the formats biggest problem (and I say this objectively as I don’t have a problem with her) was Taylor Swift. Notice though that no one tried to imitate her. Legends like Strait and Alan Jackson were still on the radio and the songs at least sounded somewhat country. I’d give anything to go back even 10 years, to the songs I grew up listening to. When I was a kid my favorite thing to hear in a song was a fiddle. With this new R&B and EDM age in country, were lucky if we even get an actual instrument anymore. Its not like artists haven’t tried to fight back, its just that they get oppressed by the powers that be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott March 19, 2015 / 4:07 pm

      Thanks Zack! I’ve heard a lot of great things about Allen’s concerts, so testimonies like yours makes me more excited. I don’t believe he’s sold out either. But after Paisley sold out a little last year it’s made me uneasy with my favorite mainstream artists. I hope to hear some great new music from him and report back to all of you readers what I thought.

      Yeah their lead single was just a little too boring for me. I was so close to liking it. I’m hit and miss when it comes to T Bone Burnett’s production choices and this was a time I thought it was a miss. I think Striking Matches have great potential and I’m eager to hear their debut.

      I wish I knew when Jamey’s album was coming out. All we know is it will be sometime this year, hopefully soon. Country music needs Jamey.

      Oh we haven’t had balance in a while on country radio and it’s absolutely a huge problem. Like you said, when Swift had her reign of terror on radio we at least had traditional country options too. Everyone had something to listen to. I don’t understand why country radio just can’t compromise and go back to having something for every fan. We don’t need the radio to go back to the way it was in the 80s and 90s to be happy because that’s a pipe dream. We just want it to be fair and right now it’s the farthest from fair. They’re just shoving what they want down our throats and that isn’t going to fly with me.

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    • Cobra March 21, 2015 / 11:18 am

      I really hope “Long Year” ends up on his album, but I’m highly doubtful. It’s a song he’s been playing for several years now, but it’s never made it onto an album (same with another great song of his “I’d Rather Be Lonely Without You”).

      I’m really surprised at the direction of “Hangover Tonight” given how true and honest Allan’s music has always been. I’m really hoping this is just a minor lapse in judgement and that the rest of his new album will be better.

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  6. Kevin Davis March 19, 2015 / 3:17 pm

    I just bought tickets to see Striking Matches, Mo Pitney, Will Hoge, Mickey Guyton, and David Nail here in Charlotte next month. That is quite an eclectic line-up for one evening! I’m excited. The encouraging thing is that this is the annual benefit concert sponsored by Kat 96.9, who selected the line-up. As a result, they’ve been playing Pitney’s “Country” and Hoge’s “Middle of America” on regular rotation, as a way to promote the show. Very refreshing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott March 19, 2015 / 4:00 pm

      That’s an awesome show! And for a good cause too is even better. Have fun!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Cobra March 20, 2015 / 4:09 pm

      Sounds like a really good show. About two weeks ago, I saw Dave and Phil Alvin (more roots rock than country, but there’s some definite country influences in a lot of songs) and they put on a hell of a show together.

      Like

  7. bob March 19, 2015 / 4:21 pm

    Love the Striking Matches song “Hangin’ On a Lie”. The song was originally on a 4 song EP which I bought when they were guests at a Don Schlitz Bluebird Cafe show in October of 2012. The Bluebird audience loved them. The standing O at the end of the show was definitely not for Schlitz alone. Don tweeted after the show that night, “I played the Bluebird tonight with Striking Matches and SchlitzLaw (wife Stacey) and I won’t ever forget it. I can’t wait ’til next time”. The show was billed as “An Evening with Don Schlitz”. Guest performers are not unusual at the Bluebird, but they generally sing a song or two and then resume their seat in the audience. SM remained on stage for the rest of the evening, playing along and singing background on a few of Don’s songs. I’ll just add that they’ve appeared at the Grand Ole Opry over 35 times.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Cobra March 19, 2015 / 6:00 pm

    I still have to hear and review EYB’s new EP, but I’m disappointed to read the reviews I’ve seen so far from a band I’ve always though was pretty solid.

    For your upcoming releases, you also might want to add Dean Brody’s new album “Gypsy Road” due out April 21st. I’d be interested to hear/read your thoughts on the first single off of that album “Upside Down,” (I thought it was good, though not great, and not up there with his best material).

    Like

  9. Pete Marshall March 19, 2015 / 7:49 pm

    Should I buy Darius Rucker’s new cd?

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    • Zack March 19, 2015 / 9:52 pm

      You know as I sit and ponder the state of current country, I have to think, there aren’t a lot left who haven’t gone to the dark side.

      Josh Turner is the best example of a guy who sticks to his guns no matter what and that should definently be appreciated, especially since “Lay Low” I felt, really straddled the line between commerical and artistic.

      Dierks Bentley seems to be a good guy. “Riser” was released in a sea of bro-country. Did it sound very country? Well no, but lyrically you’d be hard pressed to find an album in the mainstream that dug deeper thematically and lyrically.

      Jake Owen has had a few duds but even he has stated his displeasure with the way country is going and that he would even like to cut more songs like “What We Ain’t Got” for his next album.

      Gary Allan….well….we’ll put him on hold right now… 😦

      Eric Paslay seems like a solid act but its hard to judge off one album, same thing as Jon Pardi

      There’s ZBB but they’re going rock right now, (can’t blame them)

      That’s really all I can think of off the top of my head

      Liked by 1 person

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