The Current Pulse of Americana Music [June 11]

Bob Dylan Fallen Angels

Each week I will take a look at the Billboard Americana/Folk Albums chart and grade the top 15 albums. The grading format I use each week is every album will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top fifteen Americana albums, with the highest possible score being a +15 and the lowest possible score being a -15. How do I determine if an album is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Albums rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Albums rated a 5 or 6 receive a 0. Albums rated 4 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of Americana music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top fifteen…

  1. Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels (New to Top 15)
  2. Mudcrutch – 2 (New to Top 15)
  3. Chris Stapleton – Traveller +1
  4. The Lumineers – Cleopatra +1
  5. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth +1
  6. Brett Dennen – Por Favor (New to Top 15)
  7. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (New to Top 15)
  8. James Bay – Chaos And The Calm +1
  9. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Self-Titled +1
  10. Tom Petty & Bob Dylan – Live On Air: Radio Broadcast 1986 (New to Top 15)
  11. Ruth B – The Intro (EP) 0
  12. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color +1
  13. Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Things That We Are Made Of -1
  14. Bonnie Raitt – Dig In Deep +1
  15. Sawyer Fredericks – A Good Storm -1

The Current Pulse of Americana Music:¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The pulse is currently being reconsidered (see below). 

Albums That Dropped Out of the Top 15 This Week

  • Hard Working Americans – Rest in Chaos
  • Foy Vance – The Wild Swan
  • The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust
  • The Strumbellas – Hope
  • Loretta Lynn – Full Circle

Albums That Entered The Top 15 This Week

  • Bob Dylan – Fallen Angels
  • Mudcrutch – 2
  • Brett Dennen – Por Favor
  • Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
  • Tom Petty & Bob Dylan – Live On Air: Radio Broadcast 1986

Thoughts

So I’ve been sitting and re-thinking this whole Americana pulse feature. One of the stark differences between this and the Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music is this is currently based on album sales and the other is based on airplay. It’s kind of unfair and unusual to base each on two different methods of charting. Not to mention album sales are a lot more unstable and harder to keep up with for a full pulse. I don’t want to put out a pulse each week where a handful of the albums don’t have a pulse because I don’t have time to hear everything. But at the same time I still want to do an Americana pulse not only because a lot of you are interested in, but I’m also interested in it. So I propose to you a slight change in course for next week’s pulse: How about instead I base it off the Americana Airplay chart, which I covered in the past before. I can do the top 20 or something like that for the Pulse. This chart is a lot more stable and will allow me to keep up with most or all of the albums on it. Anyway let me know your thoughts in the comments below on what should be done moving forward.

The Current Pulse of Americana Music [June 4]

Chris Stapleton Traveller

It’s here! Each week I will take a look at the Billboard Americana/Folk Albums chart and grade the top 15 albums. The grading format I use each week is every album will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top fifteen Americana albums, with the highest possible score being a +15 and the lowest possible score being a -15. How do I determine if an album is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Albums rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Albums rated a 5 or 6 receive a 0. Albums rated 4 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of Americana music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top fifteen…

  1. Chris Stapleton – Traveller +1
  2. Sawyer Fredericks – A Good Storm -1
  3. The Lumineers – Cleopatra +1
  4. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth +1
  5. Hard Working Americans – Rest in Chaos
  6. James Bay – Chaos And The Calm +1
  7. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Self-Titled +1
  8. Bonnie Raitt – Dig In Deep +1
  9. Ruth B – The Intro (EP) 0
  10. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color +1
  11. Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Things That We Are Made Of -1
  12. Foy Vance – The Wild Swan 
  13. The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust
  14. The Strumbellas – Hope
  15. Loretta Lynn – Full Circle +1

The Current Pulse of Americana Music: +6

The pulse debuts this week!

Albums That Dropped Out of the Top 15 This Week

  • N/A

Albums That Entered The Top 15 This Week

  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller
  • Sawyer Fredericks – A Good Storm
  • Hard Working Americans – Rest in Chaos
  • Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  • Foy Vance – The Wild Swan

Album I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week

  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller

Biggest Gainer This Week

  • N/A

Biggest Loser This Week

  • Mary Chapin Carpenter – The Things That We Are Made Of – Down 8 from #3 to #11

Thoughts

Not a bad start at all for the Americana/Folk Albums chart this week. As I expected Stapleton takes the top spot with Traveller and will chart on both country and Americana chart. Same for Sturgill Simpson and his new album A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. There are a couple bigger names I didn’t expect to see, which are Sawyer Fredericks and James Bay. Both are more along the lines of singer-songwriter/acoustic-based artists, however it is entirely fair to put them on this chart because they do fit the Americana definition. Alabama Shakes and The Lumineers are two acts that really define the chart and why we needed it. The inclusion of Ruth B is the only one that caught me off guard. Then again I’ve only heard one song from her, so maybe she fits the chart well.

As you can see I have not heard all of the albums on this chart, but that won’t be a problem moving forward and only be the case on this first one as the chart begins to define itself. Some of you probably thought I would never give a -1 on an Americana pulse and I prove you wrong on the very first one. I couldn’t even get through the Carpenter album because as I remarked on Twitter last week, it was just too dry throughout and had no variety sonically. It’s a shame because I was expecting big things from it, especially with Dave Cobb as producer.

It’ll be interesting to see what names will pop up each week on this chart and how long it will take before we hit a perfect score or a negative score. As always be sure to weigh-in below with your thoughts and let me know what you think of the format. I’m still tinkering with it and wouldn’t say it’s set in stone. This feature might also be on Tuesdays moving forward and only came out today because I’ve been debating myself on how to approach this. Anyway let me know your thoughts.

Update 1

I’m starting to slowly listen to each album without grades and I’m going to update as I go along.

Ruth B – The Intro (EP): The four song set has some nice piano arrangements, but all of the songs sound too similar. “Lost Boy” is a good song though. It’s a shame the other three don’t do more to stand out.

Sawyer Fredericks – A Good Storm: I couldn’t even make it all the way through with this album. It’s the definition of generic and fits the “white guy with a guitar” stereotype to a T. Also another reminder of why I stopped watching The Voice years ago because it churns out cookie cutter artists.

Predictions for Country & American Roots Categories at the 2016 Grammy Awards

Grammy

On Monday we celebrate the biggest music awards show of the years. I’m of course referring to the 58th Grammy Awards, set to air Monday night at 8 pm ET on CBS. With it being a holiday and football season being over, it should pull even more eyes than usual. It’s an even bigger deal for country and Americana acts this year, as many deserving names are up for the top awards in both. Not only this, but Chris Stapleton is set up to have another huge awards night. This could be another big step forward in mainstream country improving its quality of music and Americana continuing to rise in stature. Now let’s get to the predictions! Keep in mind I’m not the best at this prediction game, but I feel like I do a little better each year. The award shows can be unpredictable. And be sure to make your own predictions in the comments.

Album of the Year

  • Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller
  • Taylor Swift – 1989
  • The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness 

What I Would Pick To Win: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly or Chris Stapleton’s Traveller

What I Predict Will Win: Chris Stapleton’s Traveller – After the 2015 CMA Awards I learned something important: do not bet against Chris Stapleton. This man will prove you wrong. He continues to have monster sales in the fallout of that impressive night. There will be enough vote splitting amongst Lamar and Swift to open it right up for Stapleton to pull off the “upset.” Alabama Shakes have almost no chance and The Weeknd had a breakout 2015, but I don’t think they have enough momentum to win. Beck shocked the world winning this award last year and Stapleton will do it this year.

Song of the Year 

  • Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
  • Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth – “See You Again”
  • Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”

What I Would Pick To Win: Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

What I Predict Will Win: Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” – This song was one of the biggest emotional hit songs of 2015 and had a monster run on the charts. I give “Alright” and “Blank Space” decent shots at winning. Little Big Town had one of the biggest hits in country music in 2015 with “Girl Crush,” but they stand no chance against these huge names.

Best New Artist

  • Courtney Barnett
  • James Bay
  • Sam Hunt
  • Tori Kelly
  • Meghan Trainor

Who I Would Pick To Win: Courtney Barnett

Who I Predict Will Win: Meghan Trainor – Trainor should win this in an absolute walk. She’s the biggest name of the five by far. Sam Hunt is shockingly the only other artist I could see winning here, but he just doesn’t compare to Trainor’s stardom and impact. For once I’m glad to see Trainor’s name, as it will block Hunt from winning something at an actual awards show.

Best Country Solo Performance 

  • Cam – “Burning House”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Traveller”
  • Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns”
  • Keith Urban – “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”
  • Lee Ann Womack – “Chances Are”

What I Would Pick To Win: Chris Stapleton – “Traveller” (Anything but Urban’s song)

What I Predict Will Win: Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” – Remember: Do not bet against Stapleton. Nice to see Cam getting some attention and Carrie continuing to get noticed by the Grammys, unlike the CMA and ACM Award shows. It’s really cool to see LeeAnn Womack’s name here too.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

  • Brothers Osborne – “Stay A Little Longer”
  • Joey + Rory – “If I Needed You”
  • Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay – “The Driver”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe – “Lonely Tonight”

 

What I Would Pick To Win: Joey + Rory – “If I Needed You” (Really I would be fine with any of these)

What I Predict Will Win: Joey + Rory’s “If I Needed You” – I believe this will undoubtedly get the sympathy vote, just like Glen Campbell in the Best Country Song category last year. It would be a great sight to see such a loving and talented couple like Joey and Rory to get this honor.

Best Country Song

  • Lee Ann Womack – “Chances Are”
  • Tim McGraw – “Diamond Rings & Old Barstools”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Brandy Clark – “Hold My Hand”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Traveller”

What I Would Pick To Win: Brandy Clark – “Hold My Hand” (But again I would be fine with any of these)

What I Predict Will Win: Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” – Once again I believe Stapleton will have another huge night. The Grammys did a really great job with this category and all five are certainly deserving. Tim McGraw continues to get nominations for the Grammys, but shut out from country awards shows like Carrie. Brandy Clark is set up to have a bigger year at the Grammys next year, but it’s nice to see a quality song like “Hold My Hand” get recognized.

Best Country Album

  • Sam Hunt – Montevallo
  • Little Big Town – Pain Killer 
  • Ashley Monroe – The Blade
  • Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller

What I Would Pick To Win: Pageant Material or Traveller

What I Predict Will Win: Chris Stapleton’s Traveller – Need I say it again? Also it’s an absolute joke to see Hunt’s name here.

Best American Roots Performance 

  • Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn – “And Am I Born To Die”
  • Buddy Guy – “Born To Play Guitar”
  • The Milk Carton Kids – “City of Our Lady”
  • Punch Brothers – “Julep”
  • Mavis Staples – “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”

What I Would Pick To Win: Punch Brothers – “Julep”

What I Predict Will Win: Punch Brothers – “Julep” – The Grammys seem to really love this group, so I’ll go with it.

Best American Roots Song

  • The Mavericks – “All Night Long”
  • Don Henley & Merle Haggard – “The Cost of Living”
  • Punch Brothers – “Julep”
  • Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – “The Traveling Kind”
  • Jason Isbell – “24 Frames”

What I Would Pick To Win: Only one? But they’re all fantastic!

What I Predict Will Win: Jason Isbell – “24 Frames” – After getting screwed over by the Grammys a few years ago, they finally make amends. With the #1 album in country, folk, rock and Americana, Isbell by far had the biggest 2015. But then again I could conceivably see Henley and Haggard get the nod, along with The Mavericks who seem to do well when nominated for something on the awards circuit. But really what a class of songs to choose from!

Best Americana Album

  • Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter
  • Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
  • The Mavericks – Mono
  • Punch Brothers – The Phosphorescent Blues

What I Would Pick To Win: Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Because why would I pick against our own 2015 Album of the Year winner?)

What I Predict Will Win: Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free – See the reasons I cited above. I have to say it’s great to see Brandi Carlile’s name here, as she is an underrated artist more people need to know about.

The 58th Grammy Awards: Reactions to Country & Americana Nominations

Grammy

This morning (Dec. 12) the nominations for The 58th Grammy Awards taking place on February 15, 2016 were announced. A lot of country and Americana acts we’ve covered right here on Country Perspective were nominated. And I have to say my overall reaction is pretty positive. So enough pleasantries and let’s get to the nominations!

Album of the Year

  • Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller
  • Taylor Swift – 1989
  • The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness 

Reaction: You’re reading that correctly: Chris Stapleton has indeed been nominated for Album of the Year, which after his sweep at the CMA Awards isn’t really surprising. I think he has a decent chance to win too. Remember at the 57th Grammy Awards Beck’s Morning Phase won Album of the Year against stiff competition, benefitting from votes being split amongst heavy hitters. But these heavy hitters this year are even more tough than last year. Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is considered by many the best album of the year and even I can say that it’s better than Traveller. Then you have the most popular artist in all of music in Taylor Swift and The Weeknd who has been one of the most successful acts commercially and critically this year. Alabama Shakes is a true underdog here and would be the biggest upset.

Song of the Year 

  • Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
  • Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth – “See You Again”
  • Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”

Reaction: The success of “Girl Crush” continues to take Little Big Town to new heights. Radio was forced to embrace it after being accused of homophobia and the fact that this song has been huge commercially. But like Stapleton above this song faces really stiff competition and I would say at this moment it’s not going to win.

Best Country Solo Performance 

  • Cam – “Burning House”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Traveller”
  • Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns”
  • Keith Urban – “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”
  • Lee Ann Womack – “Chances Are”

Reaction: A very good group of nominations here, with the exception being Urban’s terrible song, which I give little chance of winning. I’m glad Womack continues to get recognition on the awards circuit, as she continues to make great music. Carrie may get snubbed on the country awards shows, but the Grammys love her and could win this. “Burning House” has been one of the hottest songs alongside “Girl Crush” and has a great chance to win this too.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

  • Brothers Osborne – “Stay A Little Longer”
  • Joey + Rory – “If I Needed You”
  • Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay – “The Driver”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe – “Lonely Tonight”

Reaction: The sentimental favorite is hands down Joey + Rory’s “If I Needed You,” as Joey Feek revealed in October her cervical cancer is terminal and that she’s now living as long as she can. It’s a heartbreaking story and I have to admit I’m definitely pulling for them to win here. Although more importantly I hope Joey lives long enough to reach her goals of reaching Christmas 2015 and her daughter’s second birthday in February.

As for the other nominees, I’m surprised to see “The Driver” be nominated, as the song came out not too long ago. I guess they were that desperate for nominees here?

Best Country Song

  • Lee Ann Womack – “Chances Are”
  • Tim McGraw – “Diamond Rings & Old Barstools”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Brandy Clark – “Hold My Hand”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Traveller”

Reaction: I’d be happy with any of these songs winning, as they’re all quality in my eyes. It’d be cool to see the Hayes Carll-penned “Chances Are” to win and Brandy Clark’s “Hold My Hand” is a really underrated song that I’m glad is getting deserved recognition. “Diamond Rings & Old Barstools” was one of the best mainstream country songs of the past year. Like Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw does better at the Grammys than the country awards shows.

Best Country Album

  • Sam Hunt – Montevallo
  • Little Big Town – Pain Killer 
  • Ashley Monroe – The Blade
  • Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller

Reaction: For those worried about Sam Hunt and Little Big Town winning here, I’m going ease your fears: this is Stapleton’s award to lose. Really he could feasibly win most or all of the awards he’s nominated for (four in total). Glad to see The Blade get some love, but I don’t give it much of a chance of winning. The Grammys love Kacey Musgraves, so if Traveller doesn’t win I think Pageant Material does.

Best American Roots Performance 

  • Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn – “And Am I Born To Die”
  • Buddy Guy – “Born To Play Guitar”
  • The Milk Carton Kids – “City of Our Lady”
  • Punch Brothers – “Julep”
  • Mavis Staples – “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”

Best American Roots Song

  • The Mavericks – “All Night Long”
  • Don Henley & Merle Haggard – “The Cost of Living”
  • Punch Brothers – “Julep”
  • Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – “The Traveling Kind”
  • Jason Isbell – “24 Frames”

Reaction: Wow! What a group of songs. You have a little bit of everything here, from the Caribbean-flavored “All Night Long” to the poignant “24 Frames.” One of the best songs from Don Henley’s Cass County gets nominated in “The Cost of Living” and gives Merle a chance of a win. It’ll be interesting to see who wins this one, as I could see any of them winning.

Best Americana Album

  • Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter
  • Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
  • The Mavericks – Mono
  • Punch Brothers – The Phosphorescent Blues

Reaction: Jason Isbell didn’t get screwed this time! For those unaware, his 2013 album Southeastern was snubbed by The Grammys and was one of the biggest gaffes in my opinion by The Grammys in recent memory. This time they didn’t forget him and he should be the favorite to win here.

What do you think of the nominations? Be sure to weigh in below. 

The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown [October 12]

Jason Isbell Something More Than Free

This is The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown. Every week I’ll post the top 40 from the Americana Airplay chart, which is obtained from AmericanaRadio.org. From the site: “The Americana Airplay chart represents the reported play of terrestrial radio stations, nationally syndicated radio shows, satellite radio and internet stations who have agreed to submit weekly spin counts. For more information please visit www.americanamusic.org.”

The goal of this feature is to track and monitor the current most popular music in the Americana realm, as I believe it’s starting to take on a bigger importance in the world of music, especially concerning the current state of country music. In addition it will bring some new names to the site that haven’t been covered here before and could lead to more Americana coverage. It’s also a place to discuss anything going on in the Americana genre at this moment. Be sure to weigh in on the chart in the comments below.

  1. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Grade: 10/10)
  2. Patty Griffin – Servant of Love
  3. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin – Lost Time
  4. Joe Ely – Panhandle Rambler [Up 1]
  5. The Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club (Grade: 8.5/10) [Up 5]
  6. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Grade: 9/10) [Down 2]
  7. Josh Ritter – Sermon On The Rocks [Up 17]
  8. Los Lobos – Gates Of Gold [Down 1]
  9. Turnpike Troubadours – Turnpike Troubadours (Grade: 10/10) [Down 3]
  10. The Wood Brothers – Paradise [Up 3]
  11. Ashley Monroe – The Blade (Grade: 7/10) [Down 3]
  12. Don Henley – Cass County (Grade: 10/10) [Up 2]
  13. Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats – Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats [Up 5] 
  14. The Black Lillies – Hard To Please [Up 6]
  15. The Statesboro Revue – Jukehouse Revival (Grade: 8/10) [Down 3]
  16. Watkins Family Hour – Watkins Family Hour [Down 7]
  17. Shawn Colvin – Uncovered
  18. Amy Helm – Didn’t It Rain [Down 7]
  19. Langhorne Slim – The Spirit Moves 
  20. Webb Wilder – Mississippi Moderne [Up 20]
  21. Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet (Grade: 9/10) [Down 6]
  22. Lindi Ortega – Faded Gloryville (Grade: 9/10) [New]
  23. Warren Haynes (feat. Railroad Earth) – Ashes & Dust [Down 7]
  24. Shemekia Copeland – Outskirts of Love [Up 1]
  25. The Dave Rawlings Machine – Nashville Obsolete [Up 13]
  26. Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble [Up 10]
  27. Lucero – All A Man Should Do [Up 8]
  28. Rayland Baxter – Imaginary Man [Down 5]
  29. Jonathan Tyler – Holy Smokes (Grade: 10/10) [Down 8]
  30. Dale Watson – Call Me Insane (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 8]
  31. Whitney Rose – Heartbreaker of the Year (Grade: 10/10) [Down 4]
  32. Kevin Gordon – Long Gone Time [Down 6]
  33. Steep Canyon Rangers – Radio [Down 4]
  34. The Damn Quails – Out of The Birdcage (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 3]
  35. Jason James – Jason James [Down 1]
  36. Daniel Romano – If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ [Down 6]
  37. Chris Stapleton – Traveller (Grade: 10/10) [Down 9]
  38. Folk Family Festival – Water Walker [New]
  39. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color [Down 6]
  40. Jackie Greene – Back To Birth [Down 3]