The Hodgepodge: One Year Writing for Country Perspective

It was late July 2014 when, while browsing the internet and looking at various country music reviews, I stumbled upon a website called Country Perspective. For the life of me, I can’t remember how I found the site, but I’m glad I did. Because a couple of weeks later, Josh posted an announcement that he was looking for another writer to join the site. After giving it some thought on if I wanted to devote the time and make a long-term commitment (assuming I’d be accepted), I reached out and expressed my interest in joining. The rest, they say, is history.

I’ve always had an affinity for writing. In college I began writing screenplays and ended up writing three feature length screenplays along with some short films. Also included with that were two blogs which had short lives and a personal website that acted more like an online resume more than a blog, but I’d do an occasional movie review or something along those lines on the site. I’m not a full-time writer, but having it as a hobby/part-time side gig is awesome.

My first article published on Country Perspective was a call-out to mainstream country about bringing women back to the forefront. Taylor Swift had recently announced her move to pop, and it left a gaping hole in country music, and I offered up 5 options (aside from Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Kacey Musgraves) on who could fill that gap. One year and 2 days and 91 posts later, I’m still here and not ready to leave anytime soon.

As a writer and reviewer, I like to think I’ve grown and improved over the past year. I quickly learned that to write a thorough album review, I’d have to shut the rest of the world off for 45 minutes and simply listen and take notes. And the more I listened and reviewed and read others’ reviews, the more I was able to pick up on. The production and instrumentation were probably my weakest area on figuring out what nuances and qualities of the production compliment the lyrics well. Drawing out the stories and subtext from lyrics took a little work, but it’s honestly one of my favorite parts of listening to music and reviewing it, figuring out the story and sharing it. One of my most favorite reviews I’ve written was for Diamondwolf’s Your Time Has Come. The depth and complexity of the lyrics in some of the songs made the review fun to write.  Also, as a writer, I felt challenged to improve my writing, especially in that review, in order to articulate my thoughts on the album accurately.

I’ll keep this short because I don’t like the prattle on about myself, but I enjoy being a part of Country Perspective. I’ve seen the site grow in readers and in the respect we have among other writers and blog runners. While I can’t take any credit for the creation of our hit features like The Pulse, The Hodgepodge and the podcast, I’m proud to be a partner and contributor to a site that’s become a staple to many of you who come looking for country music coverage beyond the mainstream. I’ve had a lot of fun interacting with artists, fellow bloggers, and readers.

Here’s to another year, and a better year (because there’s always room for improvement) at Country Perspective!

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Tomorrow, the long-awaited debut album from Maddie and Tae will be released. Start Here is streaming on NPR if you want to listen to it early.
  • As announced last week, Carrie Underwood will release her next studio album, Storyteller, on October 23rd.
  • The Josh Abbott Band will release their fourth studio album in November. Front Row Seat is described by Abbott as a concept album and an honest look at the singer’s divorce. The album’s lead single is called “Amnesia”.
  • Michael Ray has announced his next single will be “Real Men Love Jesus.”
  • Danielle Bradbery’s next single will be called “Friend Zone.”
  • The Voice winner and country music singer, Jake Worthington, will release his debut EP this October.

Today in Country Music History

  • In 1974, Charley Pride records the Johnny Duncan-penned “I Ain’t All Bad.”
  • The Dixie Chicks’ album, Home, is released in 2002.
  • In 2005, CMT released a list of the “20 Greatest City Songs” with Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” coming in at number 1.

Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter. This is one of country’s most famous duets, and for a good reason. From John’s deep baritone to June’s higher register, their voices complement one another perfectly. Sit back and enjoy this Opry performance of “Jackson” from 1968.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Andy Grammer’s Self Titled Debut. Last week, I had the chance to see a free concert from Andy Grammer. The only song I knew from Grammer before the show was “Honey, I’m Good”, which I still think is an obnoxious song. I was pleasantly surprised by the rest of his music and quite frankly, Grammer’s a good entertainer on stage. He can beat box well, can play a variety of instruments, and sings nicely live. It was a good show. So his debut album, the one without “Honey, I’m Good,” is my non-country suggestion for this week.

Tweet of the Week

And all the people said, “Amen!”

Two iTunes Reviews That Made Me Laugh

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These were both left under The Band Perry’s “Live Forever.” Based on sales and early response, The Band Perry pop experiment doesn’t appear to be working as well as some may have hoped. These two people weren’t fooled at all.

The Hodgepodge: What I Think of Apple Music

In this streaming era of music, I don’t think it came as a surprise to anyone that Apple added music streaming services in conjunction with iTunes. In fact, last year on my iPhone, I ventured into an iTunes radio option that basically worked like Pandora. This was at least a year before Apple Music was announced. Now I enjoyed the iTunes Radio better than Pandora; I felt the musical selections within the station were more consistent with Apple. So when Apple announced their own music streaming service, I was curious and anxious to give it a go.

I’m about a month into my 3-month free trial, and I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on the basic ins and outs of the service. If you haven’t jumped into the service yet, allow me to provide a brief overview on how things get started. Firstly, Apple will ask you to essentially ‘ignore’ ‘like’ or ‘love’ (these are done through tapping bubbles once or twice) genres of music. Most of these genres are based on the criteria iTunes separates music within its store, though there were some variations. For me, I chose “Country”, “Rock”, “Oldies”, and “Indie” thinking it might give the best shot to find my favorites. There is no option for “Americana” or anything of that realm off the bat. Next, Apple will prompt you to, again, ‘ignore’ ‘like’ or ‘love’ artists within those genres. While the country artist offerings were many of the mainstream acts, George Strait, Johnny Cash, and Alan Jackson were offered up.

Now once you’ve gone through to select your fields, the main portion of the service are pre-made playlists based on that field. Some of the offerings I’ve had range from titles of “Intro to Conway Twitty” to “Country Hits: 1972” to “Country BBQ”. These playlists are pre-selected lists of about 15 songs. Apple also suggests specific albums from the artists/genres you selected. Luckily, one may expand this field by searching artists and “following” them on Apple Music. That’s the only way I was able to get Jason Isbell to pop up, which opened up some doors for Americana themed playlists. It was frustrating that artists like Isbell, and many of the Texas country stars had to be sought out initially rather than creating an offer for it. As for the playlists themselves, they’re hit or miss for me. The artist themed ones are good (Chuck Berry proved to be an excellent sound track to cooking dinner one night). And maybe it’s because I can be picky, but playlists like “Country BBQ” had only 5 songs I found worth listening to in that theme.

The Apple Radio function is a favorite of mine. “Red Dirt Radio” played many songs from Johnny Cooper, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Turnpike Troubadours and others while I only had to skip one song from a metal band that had the words “red” “dirt” in an album. I’ll still argue that Apple Radio is a better internet radio option over Pandora.

One other big offer from Apple within this music service is the option to basically add any song/album to your personal music library on your phone. As someone who has a 2 hour total commute to/from work, this is an enticing offer that I’ve been taking advantage of, as I listen to my personal music more than the radio while driving. Thinking about it financially, $9.99/month for the subscription means all you need to do is download two albums from Apple Music each month into your music and the service is worth the money. The downside, though, is they’re just digital files in the cloud that you can’t add to your physical music library. The other, more noble, downside is that getting albums this way also means that it’s not $10 directly spent on a specific album for artists I care about supporting.

Essentially, from what I can tell, Apple Music works well for those who live in the digital world of music. The monthly subscription gives you access to just about any music you could ask for short of Garth Brooks. However, for those like myself who have built an extensive physical music library over the years, it’s a bit of give and take with the service. In order to use the download option from Apple Music, I ended up losing many of my personal playlists I made with my music on iTunes that were currently synced onto my iPhone. The best thing about Apple Music, to me, is the Apple Radio function. The worst thing is the digital battle you have with Apple about giving up the music you want on your phone if you choose to add music via the subscription. Adding music from my iTunes by the “add artist” way works and those selections are untouched. All in all, there’s a good chance I won’t renew my Apple Music subscription after the trial period ends. Though, it’s been fun to experiment with the new service.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Lindi Ortega’s new album, Faded Gloryville, will be released tomorrow. You can be certain we’ll have a review of the album soon.
  • Luke Bryan and Michael Ray will also release albums tomorrow.
  • Jason Boland & The Stragglers have announced the title of their next album.  Squelch will be released on October 7.
  • As we mentioned last week, Alabama, will be releasing a new album on September 18 called Southern Drawl. The lead off single for the album is “Wasn’t Through Lovin’ You Yet.”
  • The Band Perry announced via Twitter that their new single will be called “Live Forever.”
  • Thomas Rhett unveiled the track listing from his upcoming album. Included is a duet with American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, a song that samples War’s “Low Rider” (which results in 14 credited songwriters), and a song featuring Lunch Money Lewis.
  • Zac Brown Band will release “Beautiful Drug” as their next single.
  • Reba has announced her next single will be “Until They Don’t Love You.”

Today in Country Music History

  • George Jones earned his first number one album with the 1966 release I’m a People.
  • Willie Nelson’s Always On My Mind was the number one album in 1982. His album ended up being Billboard’s #1 country album of that year, topping the chart for a total of 22 weeks!
  • In 1990, Garth Brooks releases the, arguably, biggest song of his career in “Friends In Low Places.”
  • In 1993, Alan Jackson tops the charts with “Chattahoochee.”

All information for this section is gathered from This Day In Country Music.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Rose Garden” by Lynn Anderson. Country music lost another legend on July 30 after Lynn Anderson lost her life to a heart attack. “Rose Garden” was one of her big hits in country music. This week’s Throwback Song is in her honor today.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Tyrone Wells Roll With It.  I was introduced to Tyrone Wells’ music about a year ago, and I think he has an enjoyable Adult Contemporary/Pop sound. Wells is a singer/songwriter from Spokane, Washington. Roll With It, released back in March, has a bit more pop influence on the production than several of his previous albums, but that doesn’t hinder this album at all. Some of the songwriting on this album, though, isn’t as strong as previous albums from Wells. This is good pop music in a genre where pop music should rightfully exist.

Tweet of the Week

Instead of commenting on one tweet, I’ll give you a few of my favorite CMA Fest tweets from the TV broadcast Tuesday night.

iTunes Reviews to Make You Smile

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The first review was left under the Eli Young Band “remix” of Andy Grammer’s “Honey, I’m Good.” Personally, I think the original song is unnecessary manufactured noise, but Muduck147 makes a great point.

The second review, if you couldn’t tell from the title, was left under Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free. All I have to say is that’s a hell of a compliment from this reviewer.