The Hodgepodge: The Americana Movement & Why It’s Happening

Americana Music

(Note: Derek is on vacation this week, so I’m taking over The Hodgepodge!)

What’s the next big movement in country music? We’ve had bro country, metro bro and now we appear on the verge of some sort of weird, heavily Christian-influenced movement. It’s pretty evident when Florida Georgia Line releases “H.O.L.Y.” and Hillary Scott announces a Christian-influenced album. All of the popular country artists are talking about how their new music is going to be more mature and dig deeper. To be honest, you know what I think of all of this? I could not care any less. I’ve reached the point of not caring what the next movement in mainstream country music is because they change sounds like a person changes socks. Besides there’s a much more interesting, albeit less flashy movement happening before your very eyes: The Americana Movement.

While popular country fans fuss over it and critics spend their time on self-important think-pieces on the next big thing on country radio, I’ve been quietly observing something pretty brilliant taking shape with this Americana movement. It’s becoming the “genre” (if you want to call it this) where country artists who don’t want to be called country artists go basically. It’s also home to many older country acts that the genre has cast aside for new shiny toys and other sincere, genuine artists who really can’t put their music into the box of a genre. That last point in particular is why I think many artists are drawn to the Americana label. This allure of not having to play by genre rules and standards is quite appealing. You don’t have to hear some stodgy, old critic or fan tell you that your songs aren’t country enough or shouldn’t include horns. You don’t have to hear some whiny popular country music fan tell you that you’re boring and not pop-y enough. In many ways Americana symbolizes freedom and control of your music to an artist.

Country music fans love to sit around and fantasize a new outlaw era rearing its head like in the 70s where Waylon, Willie and Merle all stood up to make their own music and how country radio was a golden paradise of songs. All of the artists band together and take down the labels and Florida Georgia Line gets put in the music version of Guantanamo Bay. And we all lived happily ever after. This is all fantasy of course. Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt and Luke Bryan aren’t going away ever. They’re making a lot of money for themselves, their label and have throngs of fans. This stuff doesn’t disappear. Country radio will never stop playing them (at least until they’re deemed too old to play). Mainstream country and country radio will at best be mediocre and downright garbage at worst.

Back to the Americana movement taking shape, at its core this is exactly like the outlaw movement. These are artists independently taking it upon themselves to make their own music and do things their own way. They’re experiencing sales and chart success in the forms of Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton. “But they’re country artists,” you say. Are they really country artists? For that matter is your favorite country artist really a country artist by today’s definition? Probably not. “I’m talking about the actual country standards,” you say. Define universal country standards that we can all agree on. Go on, I’ll wait. In the meantime I’m going to tell you why these three artists belong to Americana. I’ll start with the easiest argument. Jason Isbell is considered the Americana King, has championed it for years and identifies as such. Everyone pretty much agrees he’s Americana. Then we have Chris Stapleton. When you hear his music, is it straight country? No. You hear blues, soul and even some roots-rock. Now let’s look at the definition of Americana:

Americana is contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.

I would say Stapleton fits this more than country music, especially today’s definition of country music. Finally that brings me to Sturgill Simpson, who’s solo career sums up best why this Americana movement has been growing and has become such a thing. He made his debut with High Top Mountain, an album full of pure country and bluegrass. Independent country fans flocked to him in droves and touted his name as one to watch. Country radio and mainstream of course ignored him, something the fans who fantasize about a new outlaw movement were fine with being the case. Screw country radio they would say. Then he followed it up with Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, an album full of straight country, some roots rock and psychedelic rock-country fusion. It launched him into the stratosphere, gaining the attention of mainstream and hipsters everywhere. Country radio continued to ignore him and country fans continued to say screw radio. However he was nominated for a Grammy for Best Americana Album.

Now that brings us to his newly released third album A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. Country fans expected something straight country or close to it. Hipsters and mainstream bandwagoners expected more psychedelic music. Neither got what they wanted or expected. Despite universal critical acclaim, a large number of people have called out Sturgill for getting away from his roots and what’s best for him in their minds. They’ve criticized the horns on his record. Sturgill’s response is naturally to be a little bit angry. Here’s a group of people holding him to their standards and telling him how to make his music. So it came as no surprise to me that Simpson had this to say at a concert in Dallas this past weekend:

“You won’t see my ass at the ACMs or the CMAs. It’s all politics, and I’ve got a better chance at winning the presidency. I’d rather play for you guys, because who cares about that shit. It might take 10 years, but when they need my help, I’m gonna give ‘em two of these.”

Simpson went on to give a one-finger salute with each hand and earlier in the night defended the horns on his new album. It doesn’t sound like someone who considers himself part of country music. He even admitted before A Sailor’s Guide To Earth came out that it may not be a country record. Of course I’ve seen fans and critics say Sturgill is ruining his career by saying such things and that he should show up to these award shows with open arms These are the same awards shows that have ignored him for years. I’ve even seen fans who said Simpson screwed up by not having some “radio songs” on his new record. Keep in mind this is the same group that said screw country radio the last two albums. Now all of a sudden they care about these pointless award shows and radio? This is flat-out hypocritical. Meanwhile they’re saying Simpson has turned his back on the people who got him where he’s at with these remarks and this new album.

I tell you this entire anecdote on Simpson’s career because it proves the point of the Americana movement. Here’s a talented artist making great music and some people just can’t help but pedantically criticize just to criticize and squabble about genres. Who needs that? There are several more examples that prove why we need Americana to continue to grow, like the ridiculousness of the “Texas Country” scene. Genuine female country artists have been ignored by radio for years and are forced to become “alt-country.” We live in a world where Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe are essentially black balled from major airwaves because they refuse to play the game. Alan Jackson can’t get a freaking add at radio for his new single. There’s a group of talented artists on major labels making great music, but many are suppressed by radio. I could go on and on.

Increasingly any artist with self-respect for their music doesn’t want to be identified with country music. Why would they? They get ignored by the mainstream and radio. Their hard work is ignored and dismissed. The popular country music over the last few years has destroyed the genre’s reputation and made it a laughing stock in some circles. If you walked up to someone on the street and told them you’re a country fan, they’re going to think Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan. This whole fight to restore/save country music is pointless because great music is being made somewhere by someone. It may not be on the radio or charting alongside Beyoncé on iTunes, but it’s being made and you can access it with ease. Why does great music have to be popular? Why does it have to fit in a box? It doesn’t. Popularity should never dictate music. *Genre rules and lines shouldn’t dictate music. The only use of terms like country and Americana is to guide us, the listener. It just makes it easier for us to find what kind of music we’re looking for and wanting to hear. A true artist does not go into a studio and let genre guide the music. They just make music. That’s what Americana is all about for these artists.

*Of course don’t get this twisted to think it’s okay for Zac Brown Band to make EDM music and put it on country radio. He has every right to make EDM music and put it on his album. But when you’re sending “Beautiful Drug” to country radio, you’re calling it a country song. And that means you’re just lying straight to my face, which isn’t okay. That’s like pointing at a duck and calling it a chicken. That’s an insult to my intelligence. Don’t tell me that this song is one thing when it clearly isn’t.  

Upcoming/Recent Americana and Country Releases

  • The following artists are releasing new albums tomorrow:
    • Jennifer NettlesPlaying With Fire
    • Michaela AnneBright Lights and the Fame
    • Hard Working AmericansRest in Chaos
    • Darrell ScottCouchville Sessions
    • Wild Ponies – Radiant
  • The Honeycutters will be releasing a new album titled On The Ropes next week
  • Luke Bell will be releasing a new self-titled album on June 17
  • Jack Ingram announced he will be releasing his first new studio album in seven years on June 24 and it will be called Midnight Motel
  • Cody Jinks announced he’s releasing a new album I’m Not The Devil on August 12.
  • Avett Brothers announced they will also be releasing a new album on June 24 and it will be titled True Sadness
  • Finally some news that caught me off guard and that’s the surprise re-emergence of Josh Turner. In Country Aircheck this week, an ad ran promoting Turner’s new single called “Hometown Girl” and it’s going for adds on May 31.

Throwback Thursday Song

Linda Ronstadt’s “The Only Mama That’ll Walk The Line” – Fellow country writer Jason Scott encouraged me to dig into Linda Ronstadt’s catalog and I wasn’t disappointed. This is from her debut album and one of my favorites from her. If you aren’t familiar with Ronstadt like I was, I encourage you to check her out too.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Kyle Craft’s Dolls of Highland – If you follow me on Twitter I’ve been non-stop praising new artist Kyle Craft. He’s a rock artist who grew up Louisiana before moving to Portland, Oregon a few years back. You can definitely hear the southern influence in the album, along with several other influences from a variety of genres. I’ve seen him compared to David Bowie, but I hear more Queen actually. Anyway he’s fantastic and Dolls of Highland is one of my favorite albums released this year.

Tweet of the Week

https://twitter.com/KaceyMusgraves/status/728779798055669760

Somebody on Twitter wondered what has happened to Kacey Musgraves and she made the perfect response.

A Great iTunes Review

New Urban album

This is a pretty spot-on review of the new Keith Urban album Ripcord. Not much country to be found on it.

30 thoughts on “The Hodgepodge: The Americana Movement & Why It’s Happening

  1. Zackary Kephart May 12, 2016 / 12:21 pm

    You know, it’s kind of ironic. Country music has some of the best singles its had in a long time with songs like “Holdin’ Her”, “Record Year”, “Parachute”, “Unlove You”, “Outskirts Of Heaven”….etc. And yet I don’t think I’ve ever cared less about what happens in mainstream country music than I do right now.

    First of all there’s a group of people that expect critics like us to call a FGL song good just because they aren’t singing about hot girls, trucks and beers for once in their lives. I’m sorry but fuck that. How about grading the song for what it is? A generic, sleepy Pop song? On the other hand there’s so many people right now speculating when Stapleton’s reign is going to end or what song he should have released to appease radio and it’s all sickening. You’re right, popularity shouldn’t dictate music and it’s something I hadn’t given much thought to before. Of course I’m extremely happy that Stapleton’s wins at the CMA’s opened some peoples’ eyes to look beyond their radio dials. But the fact that people are stating the aforementioned things is just fucking stupid.

    And of course it’s not just about Stapleton. Acts like Isbell and Simpson are other great examples as you pointed out. “A Sailor’s Guide” may not be as excellent as his first 2 albums for me, but the criticism of “it’s not country, therefore it’s bad” is not something that ran through my head. I mean for God’s sake if you’re going to criticize it at least have a constructive comment. Don’t be a dick and say it’s stupid just because it has horns.

    You know, even though mainstream country music is in the state that it’s in right now, I would actually argue that we live in one of the best eras of music right now. It’s crazy and unpopular to think that I know, but with the advent of the Internet independent fans such as myself can explore so much of the musical world. I can find websites that promote great artists. I can find and listen to those artists and discover some others of my own and share it with the rest of the world.

    *

    Good Lord there’s a ton of music being released tomorrow. There’s worse problems to have I guess. I’m not too familiar with Linda or Kyle but I’ll check them out.

    *

    You see, that Keith Urban review is a perfect example of why critics like you and I take the time to criticize things for not being country despite our previous words. Obviously I could care less that Keith Urban made an electronic pop album. If that’s what he wanted, good for him, whatever. But to market this to country and already have 2 #1 country hits? No, I’m sorry. That’s not fucking acceptable. When people think “country music” these days they’re going to point to albums like this, another burden of popularity. If it was called a Pop album I still wouldn’t like it mainly due to the messy production and unimaginative lyrics and themes but I would at least have had respect for him for being honest about what it is.

    *

    As you can tell by now I really like this piece haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh Schott May 12, 2016 / 12:56 pm

      I agree we live in the best era of music right now. With technology and the Internet, more music is being made and shared than ever. That means the most bad music is being made, but also the most good music being made too. It’s allowed Sturgill Simpson to rise, but also Kane Brown. You have to take the good with the bad in this case. Many artists, especially country and Americana artists, still haven’t fully utilized the Internet to their advantage in gaining new fans.

      Great points about Stapleton. The thing with Stapleton is he really doesn’t care about radio and I think many forget this. He can take them or leave them because he’s such a humble guy who just wants to make music. Not to mention he doesn’t need radio because he’s sold a ton of albums and he only has one single to ever hit the top 20 at radio. His label and fans want this mainstream attention more than him. He didn’t do anything to indicate he was orchestrating an effort to go mainstream. It just happened and he’s going along for the ride, however long it will last. If that night at the CMAs doesn’t happen, he still goes out this year and tours all over the country. Nothing changes much for him really. It’s great so many people know him and his music now and I couldn’t be happier for him. But it’s important to remember that he, nor really Isbell and Simpson don’t want the fame and attention.

      The Urban album is a disaster as a country record. Just a complete mess of sounds with no clear direction. I will admit there are a couple of songs on it I don’t mind as pop songs. But when Cole Swindell puts out a more country record, you know something is amiss. Haha

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      • Raymond May 12, 2016 / 1:28 pm

        Are you going to review either Cole Swindell’s album or Keith Urban’s. Would love it if I could hear your thoughts on those albums.

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        • Nadia Lockheart May 12, 2016 / 1:47 pm

          I’m honestly curious to see what he has to say about Urban’s album.

          Swindell’s album isn’t even worth reviewing, at least to my ears. It has far fewer cringe-worthy moments than his debut, but it’s also a perpetually boring album in that it sticks in one tempo hopelessly outside of “Flatliner” and “No Can Left Behind”. It’s just easy listening at its most toothless and inoffensive.

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        • Josh Schott May 12, 2016 / 3:00 pm

          Well I’m still debating Urban’s album. I do have some thoughts on it, but not sure if for a full review. The Swindell album will probably not be reviewed because there’s just nothing to say about it. It’s really boring, safe, vanilla music that blends into the background. As Swindell once said, it ain’t worth the whiskey. Haha! I will give him credit for “Remember Boys” for striving to be more mature even though a lot of other songs on the album contradict it. The songs with autotune (can’t remember the names) suck and the duet with Dierks is bad. And I have some choice words for his current new single, but that’ll wait until an upcoming Current Pulse.

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  2. Nadia Lockheart May 12, 2016 / 1:35 pm

    What I heard about that Sturgill Simpson concert kind of reminded me of the eye-browing reviews Billy Corgan received following the time he decided to resume “The Smashing Pumpkins” beginning with “Zeitgeist”, on through some of the “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope” era.

    During that time, Corgan got a lot of bad press for much the same reason: his shows were more inundated with piss and vinegar than crowd-pleasing. Plenty of those shows, too, were bogged down by pretentiously long and aimless instrumentals……………….and I also recall one time he closed a show with a song where he and his band members at the time played a cover song entirely with kazoos: which struck many fans as a “F*** You!” to them.

    I say that not to suggest Simpson isn’t showing effort as an entertainer or anything like that. His talent speak for itself, and I long to see him live soon enough. I say this because I do genuinely worry that he is falling prey to the similar trappings of insecurity as an artist much like Billy Corgan and others. Hopefully he weaves past this phase and feels more of a natural confidence seeing the bigger picture. Where he can make his points about the industry without forcing all that piss and vinegar.

    And the broader Americana movement should just focus on doing what it loves, because the talent speaks for itself too. By all means cut social commentary songs as they see fit lamenting the way the industry functions, gentrification killing the identity of blue-collar communities of which musicians make up much of them, etc………………but there’s really no need to tear down mainstream music and its listeners tirelessly when Farce The Music has already been doing that. The music, alone, should provide the contrast. And that’s more than enough.

    *

    “Ripcord” is actually an album I prefer slightly to “Fuse”, but I find it despicable that it’s going to impact the Hot Country Albums chart just as its singles have the Hot Country Songs chart.

    It fails miserably as a country album, that’s quite obvious to us. But as an adult pop album, it’s a mixed bag with its moments.

    As someone who listens to a lot of EDM too, I can clearly tell Urban has done the same because this is a pure pop album slathered with EDM sensibilities (primarily in percussion and sonics). Yet, there are moments that, despite not being country songs whatsoever, somehow still stand out.

    “Blue Ain’t Your Color” is definitely the most impressive of them. Somehow, it has the feel of a waltz even with the electronic effects, and Urban provides one of his better vocal performances in any recent release of his there.

    “Gone Tomorrow (Here Today)” also caught my attention from a production standpoint. Jeff Bhasker definitely has a knack for composing tight hooks and melodies with teeth, and it’s no exception on that track. It’s that kind of track I see really roaring to life as a tour opener.

    And I realize I may catch some flak for this………………….but I thought “Sun Don’t Let Me Down” is so tightly-composed from a technical and melodic standpoint. Sure, the lyrics are the same old “I’m horny, I’ve got to win her over!” theme to them but, in terms of composition and overall feel, Nile Rodgers does an impeccable job as always cooking up a mean guitar riff that gives the track some infectious groove. And as someone who can’t help but like Pitbull’s energy, charisma and populism as an entertainer even while shamelessly recycling the same claptrap every song, he gives the album a much-needed jolt of energy there.

    But there are tracks that aren’t bad but don’t really grab me either; either because they seem so undistinctive (“That Could Still Be Us”, “Break On Me”) that make the album run on too long already. Then there are tracks that just get on my nerves by how cliched they are and settling for the lowest common denominator. Like “The Fighter” in taking a lyrical conceit that has no greater depth than a Rachel Platten song, and the terrible lyric “Tryin’ to make the money but the money ain’t gonna make me,” in “Worry ‘Bout Nothin'”. And then there’s………………………..(sigh)……………………..”Your Body”……………………which is nothing more than a perpetually horny Urban saying “Gosh, this damn concrete jungle gets on my nerves! I need to get back to where I belong: your damn hot body!” -__-

    So, yeah…………………………as a pop album, it’s a mixed bag like I said. I’d give it a Strong 4 to Light 5 out of 10 grade on its own merit. But it makes my blood boil that it’s being allowed to top the Hot Country Albums chart next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hartlost May 12, 2016 / 1:41 pm

    Linda Ronstadt! A vocal and visual treasure – certainly her early landmark performances – live and on record brought rural sounds with a rock and roll sensibility to a wide audience with killer pipes. Men like Gram Parsons get far too much credit (dying young helps) for the sounds that Ronstadt and her stellar players pioneered.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik North June 3, 2016 / 11:00 pm

      What is significant about that very early album of Linda’s (HAND SOWN, HOME GROWN) is that it is arguably the first alternative country/Americana album ever made by a female artist, by virtue of Linda having recorded it with the cream of the crop of L.A.’s C&W/rock session players of the time (1968-69). Like so much of the “hippie country” of the time, it went practically unnoticed at the time. But time in Linda’s case became the great equalizer, and she went on to influence generations of like-minded country and roots-rock women.

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  4. Nadia Lockheart May 12, 2016 / 2:52 pm

    Also, in terms of new releases, Joe Nichols has announced his next single “Undone” will be released June 6th.

    I just heard a short clip of the studio version. It definitely sounds like he is capitulating to radio trends again, unfortunately. The arrangement was more or less in his wheelhouse, but the Auto-Tune in his vocals was painful hearing! Plus, lyrically, it was another dime-a-dozen song about how horny a woman makes him feel! =(

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    • Josh Schott May 12, 2016 / 3:06 pm

      Yeah I just heard about the Nichols single last night and based on his past few singles, I wasn’t expecting much from it. So I’m not surprised to hear that it’s appealing to radio after his bullshit comments last year about how you can’t make traditional records because no one buys them. Then Chris Stapleton goes on to sell over a million copies of Traveller and Sturgill Simpson would have reached #1 on the Billboard 200 with A Sailor’s Guide To Earth if it wasn’t for Prince’s untimely death that lead to huge sales.

      Brad Paisley is also releasing a new single tomorrow with Demi Lovato of all people because Paisley is still going through his mid-career crisis and can’t accept aging gracefully. Honestly don’t know what to expect with that one.

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      • Nadia Lockheart May 12, 2016 / 5:58 pm

        Honestly, I see potential in the Paisley/Dovato pairing.

        I like Demi Lovato. She has a great personality and though each of her albums consist of their share of filler, I consider them above-average in terms of song selection and effort.

        I’m hoping two things happen in their end result:1) the production shies away from the glossy and instead provides breathing space for the vocals, and 2) Lovato aims for a more understated vocal performance. I say the latter because I regard Lovato as an above-average vocalist that nonetheless tends to oversell her performances to the degree of bombast and, when that happens, she can get rather off-key. However, when she covers songs like “Nightingale”, “Stone Cold” and “Two Pieces” where her vocals are more subtle, she REALLY shines.

        Yeah, this may not work like I’m hoping, but it’s definitely not a bad pairing in theory. Demi Lovato has more talent than most other pop artists currently impacting the chart. A Brad Paisley-Fifth Harmony or Brad Paisley-Meghan Trainor duet wouldall but certainly be dead on arrival (Though I’m intrigued by a Brad Paisley-Ellie Goulding pairing).

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        • Raymond May 12, 2016 / 6:25 pm

          I’m going to assume you are not a fan of Fifth Harmony or Meghan Trainor (not that there’s much reason to blame you since both do nothing for me)

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        • NoahHibiscusEaton May 12, 2016 / 7:00 pm

          That would be correct! 😉

          Nothing Fifth Harmony have done have impressed me yet. And though Meghan Trainor has one song I like (“Like I’m Gonna Lose You”), almost everything else to her name has been absolutely INSUFFERABLE. I’m talking among the worst of the worst.

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        • Raymond May 12, 2016 / 7:08 pm

          Hey I’m not either at all and Mark at Spectrum Pulse opinion on both Meghan Trainor and Fifth Harmony basically resembles mine.

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          • Josh Schott May 12, 2016 / 7:17 pm

            His rants on them and their music are highly entertaining, especially that song Trainor did with Charlie Puth last year.

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        • Raymond May 12, 2016 / 9:44 pm

          Oh Josh you mean the song “Marvin Gaye” aka combining the worst two pop singers for one of the most terrible songs about sex. Love his reaction to that and I follow his reviews a lot even if I disagree with some I still understand where he’s coming from when he explains why he likes a song or in the case of Meghan Trainor hates it.

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        • Nadia Lockheart May 13, 2016 / 7:21 pm

          What I respect most about Mark Grondin is how honest he is not just about appreciating music that is often mocked in the mainstream including the recent bro-country trend and luxury rap…………………but also about critically-acclaimed music that nonetheless often has an air of pretentiousness surrounding it.

          He sees both ends of the continuum both ways, and it’s sadly a rarity I’ve been finding to see the Pitchfork and Sputnikmusic types give credit to mainstream country where it is due, while also expressing willingness to call out pretentious music that is overrated. And the vice-versa is also true. Many lazier mainstream country fans will herald the most established names as the best artists out there but never even give other artists who are less established a chance (usually out of sheer laziness).

          I wish more critics both in and out of the mainstream were as honest and meticulous as he is. I mean, I may not have agreed with much of his Cole Swindell review (he gave it WAY too much credit, in my opinion) but you can easily buy those were his thoughts and his thoughts alone and that’s why I keep regularly tuning to his channel.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Josh Schott May 12, 2016 / 3:11 pm

    This is probably a great place to point out to those who haven’t heard about it yet: The Band Perry is officially going pop! http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/7368134/the-band-perry-signs-interscope-records

    They’ve signed with Interscope Records and specifically mentions they’re transitioning to pop. But according to Billboard they want to keep one foot in country and will release select singles to country radio via sister label UMG Nashville. The first thing that came to mind for me was hallelujah! Finally they’re calling a spade, a spade. Not to mention that I don’t need to listen to Heart+Beat! That album is going to be a train wreck. If they think country was tough to compete next to the Sam Hunts and Luke Bryans, now they have to go against Beyonce, Adele and Taylor Swift. Good luck Band Perry! You’re going to need it.

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    • Nadia Lockheart May 12, 2016 / 6:06 pm

      I have to admit it’s impressive how resilient they’ve been in the face of all the adversity and mocking they’ve received. It’s got to count for something that we’re somehow still talking about them.

      That said, when Pop radio is particularly obsessed over youthful demographics, I don’t see them getting any real mileage out of this move. They’re all in their early thirties and the average life-span of a career on Pop radio is basically the equivalent of that of a gnat. Even with how rapidly country radio has changed demographically, one can still easily tell the difference when it comes to average mainstream career longevity when most A and even B-listers are still achieving hit singles constantly. In contrast, even recent success stories like Sam Smith, Maroon 5, Sia and Pitbull have seen recent singles flounder. And when you flounder off of one single on Pop radio, it’s harder to recover than it is for a Country artist.

      That realization just doesn’t bode well for an act like The Band Perry. They were only relevant on Pop radio previously with “If I Die Young”. And even if they have a relevant major label backing them again, I just don’t see them achieving anything more than a Top Thirty chart placing with a lead single at best.

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  6. OlaR May 12, 2016 / 3:54 pm

    Americana is selling well but country radio is not playing Sturgill Simpson or Jason Isbell? Maybe country radio does not know what “americana” means? I really don’t know what “americana” means. Older/former country artists, acts without a record contract (in Nashville), folk artists, blues acts?
    Sturgill Simpson & Keith Urban: both new albums are not good & both new albums are not country. Both artists are on the country charts. I want country artists on the country charts. Younger & older acts, country-pop & classic country music.
    That’s why i listen to country music from “down under”. Roo Arcus & Kaylens Rain. Allan Caswell & Natalie Howard. Half of the top 40 acts are female artists & Keith Urban is just one of the guys.

    “I’ve reached the point of not caring what the next movement in mainstream country music is because they change sounds like a person changes socks.”
    True! But what will be the next movement in “americana”? Or is there no movement? Movement is bad for country music & good for “americana? Like country music, americana is a pool of artists & sounds. Americana artists have to sell records too.

    Keith Urban – “Ripcord”
    A so-so pop album. A no-no country album. Boring computer beats. The ballads put me to sleep. The whole album is a desperate attempt to reach the young audience & one more album era to stay relevant.
    What happened to Carrie Underwood? She must be desperate too. “The Fighter” is a poor vocal performance. Songs i like: “Boy Gets A Truck” & “Worry ‘Bout Nothin'”. 5/10 (pop) & 1/10 (country).

    Cole Swindell – “You Should Be Here”
    Starting an album with a shitty track like “Flatliner” (feat. Dierks Bentley) is not the best decision. Dierks Bentley is sinking lower & lower with each released track. This album is a small improvement over the debut. Still boring (songs & voice). Songs i like: “Middle Of A Memory” & “Remember Boys”. 4/10.

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    • Josh Schott May 12, 2016 / 4:36 pm

      I gave you the definition of Americana above, as the Americana Association defines it. I’ll give you why Isbell hasn’t gotten played by country radio because he’s pretty much always been Americana. But Simpson’s last two records were country and didn’t get played. His current record has country elements throughout.

      There are never movements and trends in Americana for the most part. It isn’t like popular and mainstream country music where everybody copies everyone else if they find something that sells. They all make what they want and as a result you get a lot of variety in Americana and things never really get stale. Movement is bad for country music because nobody knows what country music is anymore. The sound has shifted so much in the mainstream that you can’t distinguish it from pop and that’s bad.

      Of course Americana artists have to sell records too. That was one of the reasons the Americana label was created in the first place. Older and different acts needed a place to call home because country and other genres didn’t want them anymore or in some cases never. I won’t deny Americana can be used as a marketing term just as much as country. But all I have to do is take one look at the country charts and one look at the Americana chart and I can instantly tell you what I think has more quality music. There’s bad Americana music too and trust me I get pitched some bad Americana. But you don’t hear about it because independent blogs such as mine that cover Americana just ignore it (same with bad independent country music, which there’s A LOT of also). 99% of bad music doesn’t get cover. The 1% that’s popular gets covered solely because it’s popular. If Florida Georgia Line never signs with Big Machine Records and releases “Cruise,” it might have been buried in the anal of music history, never to be spoken of and thought about.

      The point of the article (and this to anybody who reads it) wasn’t to disparage popular country, genuine country or country in general and sing the praises of Americana. The point was to show what kind of environment the current music system has created for artists and how they’ve had to react. I feel it’s been underreported just how many artists now identify as Americana because of what the country scene has turned into on a national level. Also I wanted to poke at and point out the double standards and vicious cycle of arguing that takes place over music labels and genres. This is pointed at myself too because I’ve spent a lot of time on it in the past.

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      • OlaR May 12, 2016 / 6:08 pm

        What about the good old way to promote music? A radio tour. Putting all the blame on country radio or country labels is wrong. Sturgill Simpson wants his songs played on country radio? He must go out & promote his music.
        I know my opinion is not popular. A few country elements on an album (like the new Simpson album) is not enough. A banjo on a Keith Urban album is not enough. Both albums are not country. I’m a fan of country music.
        Was on “americanaradio.org”: there is a chart for americana. The “AMA Chart”. What about a “Current Pulse of Americana Music” from time to time?

        The AMA Chart/”Playlist for week of Monday, May 09, 2016″:
        1 – Hayes Carll – “Lovers & Leavers”
        2 – Parker Millsap – “The Very Last Day”
        3 – Jayhawks – “Paging Mr.Proust”
        4 – Lumineers – “Cleopetra”
        5 – Bonnie Raitt – “Dig In Deep”
        6 – Margo Price – “Midwest Farmer’s Daughter”
        7 – Loretta Lynn – “Full Circle”
        8 – Sturgill Simpson – “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth”

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  7. Cobra May 12, 2016 / 9:21 pm

    Great hodgepodge, Josh. Great to see Simpson speaking his mind and making it known that if they don’t want him, he won’t just come when he’s called. Absolutely love that attitude.

    There’s so much great music that falls under the Americana banner: one of my favorites who I constantly praise is Josh Ritter. His 2015 album “Sermon on the Rocks” was absolutely fantastic. Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin’s collaboration from 2015 was charted as Americana as well (another fantastic album).

    Whereas mainstream “country” has almost become a dumping ground for talentless artists who would never make it in another genre, Americana seems to be the genre where the most talented artists are free to do their own thing: have a style, but allow multiple influences to penetrate throughout their music without it ever seeming like it’s just a hot mess with no direction. I love it.

    Can’t wait for the new Jack Ingram album.

    A couple other new releases coming up:
    Sean McConnell has a new self-titled album coming out July 8th (pre-orders available tomorrow)
    Wade and Randy are releasing a live album of their touring together called “Watch This” on June 3rd

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Tom May 12, 2016 / 10:49 pm

    I like those 3 artists a ton, but every almost every single “hodgepodge” on this site talks about them. Not that it’s wrong or anything, but every week its saying the same thing over and over.

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    • Tom May 12, 2016 / 10:51 pm

      I do appreciate a lot of the album reviews for the guys that aren’t big names btw, not trying to discredit the site or anything.

      Like

    • Josh Schott May 13, 2016 / 11:56 am

      Not really. Of the last seven Hodgepodges (two months), only one of them was the focus in the main part of the Hodgepodge and that was Sturgill last week, which mainly focused on Beyonce and concept albums. Stapleton and Isbell really haven’t been mentioned in the Hodgepodge for months. Sturgill had an album out last month and hence was part of the upcoming releases section. So you’re ultimately grasping for straws with this comment.

      I would have loved nothing more than to talk about some other artists who embody this Americana movement more, but most people aren’t familiar with them, so I have to stick to the “big three” so people understand where I’m coming from. Nobody really seems to want to go outside these three for genuine/indie country, at least based off the reception and hits we get when we review great, lesser known artists on the site. Really a shame how much people limit themselves.

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      • Jonathan May 13, 2016 / 1:30 pm

        I don’t comment here much but I read your site almost every day. I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your reviews of lesser known musicians. You’ve introduced me to many great artists, so thank you. Just in the last week you introduced me to The Elephant Revival and Ryan Beavers, both of which I’m very impressed by. Also, your review of Carolina Ghost was my first introduction to Caleb Caudle’s music. That has become my favorite album of the year so far. Maybe I should try and comment more on the indie reviews. Thanks again and keep up the good work!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Josh Schott May 13, 2016 / 1:40 pm

          Thank you! I really appreciate the kind words and I’m glad we’ve helped introduce you to great music. Helping people find great music is why I do this blog.

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Derek Hudgin May 15, 2016 / 9:28 pm

    A great Hodgepodge here! And that Kyle Craft album is fantastic! I mentioned a couple Hodgepodge’s ago that Fort Frances’ Alio was one of my favorite non-country albums of the year so far, and Craft’s Dolls of Highland has trumped that. I also noticed the similarities to Freddie Mercury.

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  10. David Overstreet June 15, 2016 / 8:46 am

    I have to argue that Cody Jinks is more of the “Texas Red Dirt” sound than Americana…. But I am still THRILLED that he is getting some attention. He is one hell of a singer, song writer and performer

    Liked by 1 person

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