The Hodgepodge: Country Music Will Always Have Defenders

Lindi Ortega

Not too long ago, a beloved frontman of a mainstream country act started a firestorm after speaking his mind about the current state of country music. Now this man has pretty much become a hypocrite due to the musical selections of the band’s latest album/single. Zac Brown’s criticism of Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kinda Night” caused an uproar in the country world. Luke Bryan apologists chimed in, including Jason Aldean. And those who dislike the direction of mainstream country music applauded Brown for his willingness to speak out. Zac Brown had never been shy about the fact that his band not necessarily being country, but he always seemed to be respectful to the country roots.

During the Luke Bryan critique, Brown said “There’s songs out there on the radio right now that make me be ashamed to be even in the same format as some other artists.” After the release of Jekyll + Hyde included a couple EDM inspired songs, and now the announcement that one of the said EDM inspired songs, “Beautiful Drug” will be released as a single intended to be a crossover hit, Zac Brown seems to going back on his comments. With those original comments, Zac Brown became an unofficial defender of country music, whether intended or not. Now whether or not Zac Brown has grown greedy and aims for total musical domination, or simply is experimenting in the most misguided way, the release of “Beautiful Drug” puts his band in the same light as all the other country acts who chase trends to have commercial success. His comments in defense of true country music no longer carry weight. But as country radio and Nashville executives continue to work through this identity crisis, real country music will always have defenders willing to speak out to keep the soul of country music alive.

Lindi Ortega has been outspoken against the current country music culture. Her opinion piece on Saving Country Music against Keith Hill’s tomato comment was one of the most well-written rebuttals I’ve read on the matter. In a recent interview, Lindi spoke candidly about her opinions on the current country music culture:

I think it’s great if all these people are creating music that inspires them and feel like it can inspire other people and it’s coming from a place of honesty, passion and love for music. If it crosses over from them, that’s great. I think it’s a whole different thing if all you’re chasing is a hit and fame. I think it takes a bit of the soul out of it.

She went on to say, “I think the reason they’re being defensive is it’s because people are speaking up, because people do want to see it change… I think speaking up about it helps. I think if we don’t say anything, we could risk ruining this beautiful genre.” I couldn’t agree more with Lindi Ortega. Country Music was built on the honesty, passion, and love for music she mentions. If those who have the ability to speak out against the change don’t speak out, then the decision makers of the genre have no reason to change their direction.

While the change in direction doesn’t seem evident, we may be on the brink of changing tides. The recent broadcast of the CMA Festival resulted in a great ratings drop of 37% viewership. With the explosion of mainstream country’s popularity, the CMA Fest, iHeartCountry Fest, and the numerous arbitrary award shows on TV helped cash in on the demand. If the CMA Fest is any indication, the demand may be dropping. While this won’t deter ticket purchases from the actual events, large spectacles and events for a worthless television special could continue to lose viewership.

This is probably an over optimistic view, but it seems like the pieces might be in place. While the hot buzz over Nashville churning out mediocre pop music may be subsiding, I don’t think this means we’ll be seeing a full, true country album from a mainstream artist anytime soon. Nashville will continue to degrade the name “country music” by making music that’s everything but country until they implode. And as long as Nashville continues to degrade the name of country, there will always be artists speaking out in defense of the soul of country music. There will always be artists preserving the soul of country music.

I’m happy that Lindi Ortega is willing to speak out for what she believes in with country music. I’m happy that there are artists who devote their lives to making great music and sharing that music with the fans who want to hear it. Radio and pop culture may not latch onto these artists because the business and politics say they aren’t marketable or whatever other reasons they might conjure. Even as one comment may now exist in vain, new comments and defenders will always emerge for true country music. It’s taken time, but I think we may be seeing years of defenses and backlash against Nashville’s country music finally coming to fruition.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Alt-Country singer songwriter Jonathan Tyler released an album last Friday called Holy Smokes. You’ll be seeing a review of that album soon.
  • Texas Country artist Pat Green will release his new album, Home, tomorrow. His current single, “While I Was Away” currently sits in the top three of the Texas Music Charts.
  • Kip Moore’s sophomore album will see its release next week.
  • Maddie & Tae’s long-awaited debut album will hit the shelves at the end of the month.
  • Australian singer-songwriter, Kasey Chambers, recently released her 9th studio album called Bittersweet.
  • Chris Young announced his 5th studio albumI’m Comin Over, will be released later this year.

Today in Country Music History

  • Hank Williams has the number one song on Billboard with “Hey Good Lookin” in 1951.
  • In 1970, Governor Lester Maddox declares Johnny Cash Day in Georgia, as Cash performs for 700 prisoners being released early for good behavior.
  • In 1988, Willie Nelson becomes the first artist ever to have an album spend 10 years on the Billboard country chart as “Stardust” logs its 520th week.

Today in Country Music History items pulled from RolandNote and This Day in Country Music.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye” by George Strait – You can never go wrong with The King of Country Music. This heartbreak song from 1988 finds Strait’s vocals at their best. The 80s were a good decade for country music, and George Strait certainly had a lot to do with that.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton. N.W.A. made quite the splash in 1988 with the release of Straight Outta Compton. From the explicit lyrics, to the violent images painted in the songs, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, The D.O.C. Arabian Prince and DJ Yella shook the music world and created some worry with parents and media about the influence this music might have. I am looking forward to seeing Straight Outta Compton, the N.W.A. biopic being released tomorrow.

Tweet of the Week

More divorce news in country music land as Jake Owen and his wife, Lacey Buchanan, have officially split. I’m inclined to agree with Trigger on the divorce announcement I’m eagerly waiting for as well.

iTunes Reviews That Will Drive You Crazy

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Both of these reviews were left under Michael Ray’s self titled debut album. I would not define “Kiss You In Morning”, “Another Girl”, “Look Like This”, “Real Men Love Jesus”, “Think a Little Less” or “Drivin’ All Night” as genuine country music with lyrical depth. And that’s half the songs on the album. I will say this, the album was better than I expected, but still far from good in my opinion. That’s about the best compliment I can give it.

6 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Country Music Will Always Have Defenders

  1. Zack August 13, 2015 / 12:15 pm

    You know, with bro country, there was a TON of criticism. Guys like Zac and Gary Allan were important gatekeepers who knew better, and tried their best to sustain the genre’s legacy. But when this Metropolitan craze took over, all fell silent. It seems like EVERYONE tries it out (well except for Josh Turner….yet). The Eli Young Band, Gary Allan, and now the Zac Brown Band….. it’s sad. We really need someone to call out this shit as not country, and we need it from someone who has power.

    I’ve seen you guys say a lot about Johnathan Tyler. I’ll have to check him out.

    I haven’t heard Michael Rays album but I doubt those reviews can be even remotely true

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin August 13, 2015 / 12:28 pm

      I did about a 90 second sample of every song on Ray’s album. Several Tom Petty references and several ACC/SEC college name drops. Also I couldn’t help but notice a distinct similarity in his voice to that of an early Jason Aldean or Dustin Lynch……


  2. Cobra August 13, 2015 / 12:20 pm

    Another great Hodgepodge, Derek. I have downloaded Lindi’s album, but still haven’t had the opportunity to listen to it (on my agenda for the weekend) but both you CP and SCM gave it high praise, so I am greatly looking forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lisandro Berry-Gaviria August 13, 2015 / 7:47 pm

    You’re right.
    You know, Trigger posted an article on SCM a couple days ago about how all the “gatekeepers” of country music are going away. But those gatekeepers/defenders were mainstream artists (and I mean artists who get radio play, not artists who are just signed to a major label), and it’s true that there will always be traditional artists who will speak out against the current direction of country music. Most likely, since radio hates them, that won’t make a big impact. But nevertheless, they are going to keep real country music alive.

    I haven’t listened to any of Michael Ray’s debut album (except the lead single, obviously), but judging from what you say about it it seems pretty bad. But even just having listened to “Kiss You In the Morning,” I can refute the second reviewer’s claim that “there’s not a tailgate or a tanline to be found on this.”

    “That little tattoo on your tan line, oh my”

    Ha! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. theknightswhosayni4 August 14, 2015 / 2:06 pm

    In regards to the Zac Brown Band comment, Zac and the boys have long said they don’t belong pigeonholed in one genre. Jekyll + Hyde is their way of experimenting. One of the reasons that their new CD sounded so different as well is that Zac reached out to the other bandmembers to write songs with. If you look at the band, they all come from different backgrounds. Bassist/guitarist/banjo playing John Driskell Hopkins has a very hard-rock background, Clay Cook comes from a bluesy past and is a great songwriter, Jimmy DiMartini has a history in classic violin and guitar, Danny De Los Reyes comes from reggae and Latin American-esque music, Coy Bowles loves to experiment with everything, and Matt Mangano loves bass. This band isn’t meant to be listened to on a CD, they are a live, jam-band and thats where they thrive and they know it. They don’t hide the fact that the CD is simply a necessity. As far as calling Zac a hipocrite, that’s too far in my opinion. His comment towards Luke was more towards the “Bro-Country” movement, not pop country in general, and no one can say that “Beautiful Drug” is bro country. While I agree Beautiful Drug shouldn’t hit country radio, it is still a song that suits the band due to the storytelling qualities and their desire to experiment with music outside of the borders of “country”. Country radio gave ZBB a home, but that doesn’t mean they want to keep churning out The Foundation or You Get What You Give over and over again.

    Also, I too was pleasantly surprised by Michael Ray’s CD and I think it’s better than you’re giving him credit for. I also appreciate that he writes most of his own music. He reminds me a little bit of a more pop-country version of Kip Moore…

    Speaking of which, I’m really hoping to see a review of Wild Ones. I’ve heard over half of the songs either live or by way of pre-released audio tracks and so far there hasn’t been a single track that I haven’t liked. Kip is one of the best acts in country music and people have been comparing the sound on his new CD to a mixture of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Bon Jovi and traditional country music. I’ve been counting the days to his new CD and I hope that you guys give Kip the due he deserves.

    One last thing, I think you guys rushed to judge Chris Janson a little prematurely. I know you aren’t a fan of Buy Me A Boat, but you should check out his new song “Outlaw Ways”, as well as older songs like “Better I Don’t”, “Cut Me Some Slack”, “Back To Me” and “Take it to the Bank”. He’s a good songwriter and a great harmonica player.

    Sorry that this comment ran a little longer than I originally anticipated!


    • Josh Schott August 14, 2015 / 3:34 pm

      You make good points about Zac Brown Band. I would respond with my rebuttals, but I have a post coming out next week that addresses ZBB and their current situation, so I don’t want to give it away. Just be sure to keep an eye out next Tuesday.

      I’m intrigued to hear Kip’s album. I really want to like it, so if he delivers Derek and myself will be more than glad to give him props. He seems like a likable guy.

      I think Janson could release good music, but “Buy Me A Boat” didn’t put him in my good graces. It wasn’t a great way for him to introduce himself to me and the world. Plus I hated how everyone acted like he was this underdog out of nowhere when it wasn’t the case, which I pointed out in my review. As much hype as he was getting you’d think he was Sturgill Simpson. But hey I’m happy the guy got his big break and I hope the next music he releases is good. The potential is there I think.


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