The Hodgepodge: Substantive Lyrics on the Rise

It’s no secret that the rise of bro-country was quickly followed by a rise of complaints. Complaints about the shallow party lyrics and themes repeated in song after song from many artists. Well after a few years of party hits dominating the radio waves, we appear to be on the brink of some more depth finding its way into our mainstream country music. It’s not close to being good, but attitudes seem to be shifting and steps are being taken toward a more substantive side of country music. Substantive lyrics are the pride of country music.

Some of the lesser offenders are shifting away from the party themes to something with more story and substance. Justin Moore’s “You Look Like I Need a Drink”, Frankie Ballard’s “It All Started With a Beer”, Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” and Kip Moore’s “Running For You” are all in the top 40 of the Country Airplay Chart. New singles from Toby Keith, Big & Rich, and Eric Church also show commitment to the task of deeper songs. And Love & Theft’s excellent “Whiskey on My Breath” has seen some revival thanks to Bobby Bones.

While some of the biggest offenders of bro country can’t quite get the depth in their songs, I think their attempts, however futile, shows that it’s a trend worth looking at. Sure Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man”, Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here” and Florida Georgia Line’s nonsensical ballad in “Confession” are all about as deep as a rain puddle, but I think the success of these songs will inspire more to follow in the depth. If his CRS performance is any indication, Luke Bryan’s next single could very well be the tender love song “To The Moon and Back.” Again, not a home run in terms of depth and substance, but I’d argue it’s the best of the four songs mentioned in this paragraph.

Beyond established mainstream acts shifting their music, we’re seeing several Americana and independent country acts get more attention in the mainstream spotlight. Chris Stapleton’s rise has been well documented by us. Sturgill Simpson signed to a major label and is poised to release an album later this year. Jason Isbell is starting to catch more attention and earning some performance time next to the likes of Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt at an upcoming benefit show for the Country Music Hall of Fame. And if you keep an eye on the articles Taste of Country and The Boot are churning out, you’ll notice that they’re starting to expand their coverage to Americana artists like Whitney Rose, Sam Outlaw and The Black Lillies.

None of this is to say that country music is on the mend or close to being great again, but more and more, we’re starting to see little steps away from shallow anthems. We’re starting to see some more depth added into the popular music. But even with one step forward, country still manages to take a few steps back. Despite promises of deeper albums, Chase Rice and Dierks Bentley’s new singles are terrible, clichéd radio fodder. And Thomas Rhett is poised to follow-up his ballad with “T-Shirt,” which is nothing more than a funky dance tune for him to further rip off Bruno Mars. Who knows what the future holds, but we could be looking at the pieces falling into place for a swing back in the right direction.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Vince Gill’s newest album, Down to My Last Bad Habit will hit the shelves tomorrow.
  • Wynonna & The Big Noise will debut their self titled album tomorrow.
  • Chris King will release his second album, Animal, at the end of the month.
  • Dan + Shay have released a new single called “From the Ground Up.”
  • Lorrie Morgan’s Letting Go…Slow will be released tomorrow.
  • A Thousand Horses announce “Southernality” as their next radio single.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Shot Full of Holes” by Jason Boland & The Stragglers. From their 2001 album, Truckstop Diaries, “Shot Full of Holes” is hard-hitting tale of an imprisoned man who struggles to adapt to life inside of jail then outside of jail. Stoney LaRue also has a recording of this same song on his Downtown album.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

The Temple EP by Parson James. Parson James is a pop/R&B singer songwriter from New York and born in South Carolina. James found some success last year with his single “Stole the Show” and now has released this five song EP. I’m trying to expand my musical variety, and I enjoy pop and R&B music in the appropriate genre!

Tweet of the Week

Windmills’ response to Grady Smith’s tweet is perfect. Thomas Rhett did rip off Ed Sheeran with “Die a Happy Man.”

Two Chase Rice Facepalm Reviews

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 2.51.00 PM Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 2.46.56 PM

Chase Rice fans have a lot of hate for traditional country music. It’s apparently full of whiny twang. But Claire is happy that Chase Rice isn’t conforming to traditional country. He’s doing his own thing by conforming to Nashville’s bro-country/metro-country trend.

6 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: Substantive Lyrics on the Rise

  1. Raymond February 11, 2016 / 11:35 am

    I do wonder what the future of mainstream country music holds. I still remain optimistic about Dierks Bentley new album, or Derek do you feel like Dierks isn’t going to deliver based on “Somewhere On A Beach” I still remain very confident that’ll be the outlier.

    Also while not exactly deep Kelsea Ballerini will release “Peter Pan” that’s from what I recall a really solid song. Dan + Shay new song while not deep lyrically is still pretty good. Also while not exactly good Sam Hunt will release “Make You Miss Me”. I do hope Carrie Underwood once “Heartbeat” is done, I hope she releases “Choctaw County Affair”. That one has song of the year written all over it. Also we should have new singles soon enough from Little Big Town, Blake Shelton, and Miranda Lambert that I have a feeling they might be deep at least Miranda Lambert but I have this feeling Little Big Town will deliver more of a midtempo ballad type after the underperformance of “Pain Killer”.


  2. southtexaspistolero February 11, 2016 / 1:03 pm

    Stoney LaRue also has a recording of this same song on his Downtown album.

    Fascinating. I didn’t even know that album existed; I thought The Red Dirt Album was Stoney’s debut album.

    Also, have you noticed how a lot of folks on the Texas and Red Dirt scenes record a lot of each other’s songs? (Just as an example, Brandon Jenkins recorded “Down in Flames” and put it on his debut album a year before it appeared on The Red Dirt Album.) I always thought that was kinda neat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek Hudgin February 11, 2016 / 1:45 pm

      I have noticed that. Ragweed and RRB have a couple recordings of the same song “This Time Around” and “Again.” RRB and Wade Bowen both recorded “Lay It All on You.” Boland and Ragweed both did “Alright” I believe. And another one that comes to mind is “The Funeral” from both Turnpike and Mike McClure Band. I believe Mike and Evan Felker wrote that together, but each of their respective versions of the song have some differences in the lyrics in the chorus. Those are just a few I know of.


  3. Scotty J February 11, 2016 / 6:51 pm

    Now if we could just see a return of a more country sound at least on some of the mainstream fare. When mainstream country has been at it’s best there has been a balance between fun/shallow songs and more penetrating and introspective songs while also mixing in traditional sounding music along with more pop/country leaning material.

    I could live with early Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts or even some of Taylor Swift’s early stuff IF there was a mix of more traditional sounding Jackson or Strait like songs.

    The movement away from this mix may go down as one of the biggest mistakes in mainstream country music history. They alienated there most loyal fans in an attempt to lure a bunch of fickle disenfranchised rock/pop fans.

    Very short sighted.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Adam McGurk February 13, 2016 / 12:30 pm

    Here’s the issue. The introduction of the “bro country” movement blew country music out of the stratosphere popularity wise. Country has never been more popular. It was just called the most popular genre in America by Rolling Stone, ESPN is using country songs for their playouts now, Tim McGraw did the NFL Hall of Fame etc…this “bro country” movement is ultimately what kept country alive. Why is every other genre of music allowed to evolve, but country must stick to one sound?


    • southtexaspistolero March 11, 2016 / 3:53 pm

      Why is every other genre of music allowed to evolve, but country must stick to one sound?

      I am just now coming across this comment, so my apologies for the late response, but I cannot let this go unanswered.

      I will just put here what I said at my own blog.

      I could probably write a book on it, but Deryl Dodd said it best not long after Pearl Snaps came out:

      “It doesn’t have to be the actual old hits of the ‘70s or ‘60s, but a music that puts a new twist on the traditional sound, like Dwight Yoakam and Alan Jackson.”

      Or, in other words, music that at least maintains some link to its roots as it moves forward. I mean, really. All those Texas, Red Dirt, and Americana people that everyone sings the praises of don’t sound like Waylon or George Jones, but you can clearly tell they were at least influenced by those folks and all the folks that came after, like Keith Whitley, George Strait, Ricky Skaggs, etc. I would argue the opposite of ‘country must stick to one sound’, though — that is, country is the only genre, it seems, where wanting the genre to have some semblance of a signature sound with certain instruments and beats is seen as holding the genre back instead of keeping it grounded in its identity. Just as another example, metal has changed a pretty good bit between, say, 1970 and now — I mean, there’s a world of difference between Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Judas Priest’s Painkiller, and Symphony X’s Iconoclast, but I never heard anyone claim that the latter wasn’t a metal album, and they’d rightly have been laughed off the planet if they’d tried. And I’m pretty sure I never heard anyone claim that even Symphony X wasn’t metal, or that Accept was stuck in 1982 with their last three albums.

      But let anyone say word one about all the pop influences that have overrun the mainstream component of country and have made it completely unrecognizable and more or less get called closed-minded and whatnot. Why is that?

      Liked by 1 person

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