This is the Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top 30 songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9[+4], 8[+3], 7[+2], 6[+1], 5, 4[-1], 3[-2], 2[-3], 1[-4], 0[-5].
The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past pulse of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Country Airplay Chart from March 15th, 2008.
Carrie Underwood – “All American Girl” +1 (Cliché, but the sound and vocals are good)
Rodney Atkins – “Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)” 0
Alan Jackson – “Small Town Southern Man” +4 (One of his best in my opinion)
Kenny Chesney & George Strait – “Shiftwork” 0
Chuck Wicks – “Stealing Cinderella” +1 (cheesy as all hell, but it’s played with enough sincerity to work for me)
Trace Adkins – “You’re Gonna Miss This” +4
Gary Allan – “Watching Airplanes” +2
George Strait – “I Saw God Today” +4
Chris Cagle – “What Kinda Gone” +2
Jason Aldean – “Laughed Until We Cried” +3 (Yeah, a positive Aldean score. I’m as shocked as you all are)
Brooks & Dunn – “God Must be Busy” +2
James Otto – “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” 0 (Eh…)
Taylor Swift – “Picture To Burn” +1
Phil Vassar – “Love Is A Beautiful Thing” +1 (Cheesy as all hell, but at least it sort of incorporates a story)
Bucky Covington – “It’s Good To Be Us” -1
Lady Antebellum – “Love Don’t Live Here” +3
Kellie Pickler – “Things That Never Cross A Man’s Mind” +1
Joe Nichols – “It Ain’t No Crime” +1
Jewel – “Stronger Woman” -1[Worst Song] (Man, never heard a song by here before. Don’t care for her voice at all. Plus the song is too preachy for me. Sorry)
Garth Brooks & Huey Lewis – “Workin’ For A Livin'” +2 (Yes, I’ve heard this Garth song)
Ashton Shepherd – “Takin’ Off This Pain” +2
Jack Ingram – “Maybe She’ll Get Lonely” 0
Rascal Flatts – “Every Day” -1
Brad Paisley – “I’m Still A Guy” +2
Montgomery Gentry – “Back When I Knew It All” +3
Josh Gracin – “We Weren’t Crazy” +2 (Yes, people on country radio used to sing from the perspective of ONCE being young instead of pretending they’re still young…)
The Eagles – “Busy Being Fabulous” 0
The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +45
So yeah this kind of a weird week. On one hand, there’s a plethora of great songs. Even compared to some charts in the 90’s I’d say there’s more good songs here. In other words, quantity versus quality. In fact, picking the best song was absolutely brutal.
The problem is that there’s also a lot of mediocrity here. Nothing inherently terrible or anything, but there are too many songs that play it safe here and don’t really stand out that much. Still this is a damn good week. I’m happy with the results.
As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!
Last Saturday I was able to get down to the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City to see Kacey Musgraves live in concert. The tickets were a Christmas gift for my wife and I, so we’ve been eagerly awaiting the show for about a month. We arrived at the venue right as doors were supposed to open, but ended up spending about 15 minutes waiting in line out in the cold due to an unknown delay. Kudos to the people at the front of the line who clearly braved the cold for hours, but all worth it for being near the stage in a general admission, standing room only venue!
Opening act Andrew Combs took the stage at 7:30 for his half hour set. Combs is a Nashville based singer-songwriter who grew up in Dallas, Texas. I hadn’t heard Combs’ music before tonight, but right from the first song, I was impressed with his sound and musical stylings. Country combined with rock and some bluesy influence in the melodies, and he’s a soulful singer with a great voice. I definitely recommend looking him up if you haven’t heard him before. As an opening act, however, Combs wasn’t able to captivate most of the audience. I’d bet that most of the attendees also hadn’t heard of him before, so they simply talked and ignored the music while waiting for Kacey’s time to come. Combs’ five song set was also full of slower, ballad songs which seemed to suck the crowd energy out of the room. But with only two albums under his belt, Andrew Combs is still early in his musical career. I imagine he and his band will be great to catch in a smaller, more intimate venue.
Bring out the stagehands to decorate the stage with Kacey’s LED speckled stars and get the gear in place, including Kacey’s silver bedazzled mic stand. The background was pink streamers which I can only assume is the same background from the Pageant Material album cover. At about 8:40, Kacey’s five-piece backing band took the stage dressed to the nines in matching pink suits with LEDs lining the lapels and the outer seams of the pants. The band jammed for about a minute getting the crowd excited with anticipation. Then, in sticking with the theme of an old-school country and western show, the bass player welcomed the crowd to The Country & Western Rhinestone Revue, and then welcomed the star of the revue, Kacey Musgraves.
You wouldn’t expect Kacey Musgraves to have push back on the radio like she has, because last Saturday at the sold out Diamond Ballroom, Kacey Musgraves was an absolute superstar. She walked onto the stage to deafening cheers and to a crowd that sang along with her during every song of the show. She kicked off her set with “Pageant Material” which transitioned seamlessly into “Biscuits” where she stepped away from the mic and allowed the crowd to sing the song’s bridge back to her. Kacey effortlessly captivated the crowd with her music and crowd banter. I could still hear some disrespectful people talking toward the back during her slower songs, but Kacey had full command of the front half of the crowd for the whole night.
Kacey’s set included most of her radio singles, many album cuts from Pageant Material and Same Trailer, Different Park, and several covers including Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” (a song which Musgraves co-wrote), and a surprising yet impressive country rendition of Gnarls’ Barkley’s “Crazy.” The setlist was stacked nicely with ballads spread out among her more upbeat tunes. Kacey also provided a few background stories to how some of her songs were born. For instance, the phrase “Dime Store Cowgirl” has been with her since she was 11. While getting ready to sing at local country show, young Kacey Musgraves donning a cowboy hat, was told by another singer’s mom, “oh, honey, you’re going to look like a dime store cowgirl wearing that hat.” Clearly, Kacey embraced the notion, proud of her small town roots.
During the middle of show, Kacey introduced her backing band during the “talent portion of the pageant” and let the boys show off some of their non-musical talents. The crowd was treated to the juggling guitarist, the balloon animal creating steel guitarist, and a drummer who does an eerily accurate impersonation of a small, high-pitched dog bark. I enjoyed this part of the show simply because it was different and showed a different side of a tight-knit group of musicians, and it didn’t take away from the concert at all.
My favorite part of the whole show was when the backing band took a break leaving Kacey alone on stage. The result was a beautiful, intimate rendition of her debut single, “Merry Go Round.” Again, Kacey stepped away from the microphone while the crowd sang the last chorus while she strummed along on her acoustic guitar. This is one of those great moments with a singer and audience connecting in a way you only can at a concert. Right before singing the song, she also gave a most sincere thank you to the crowd and the fans who have continued to support her from the beginning.
As the show came to an end, the crowd was treated to the sweet, loving “Late to the Party” which was a crowd pleaser for sure. The group rocked the crowd with an extended musical outro in “Die Fun” with heavy bass lines off-setting the steel guitar solos and guitar licks before closing the first set with her biggest single, “Follow Your Arrow.” A short break with constant “Kacey! Kacey!” chants from the crowd before she took the stage again for an encore. It was a quick, but entertaining encore with a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.'” Kacey worked the stage with a microphone in one hand and a tambourine in the other during the show stopping number.
Overall, The Country & Western Rhinestone Revue was excellent! Kacey Musgraves puts on an awesome show, and the chemistry she has with her band is great. Kacey was also deliberate to remind the crowd several times that she was keeping it country. Not that we needed reminders, with the ever-present ring of the steel guitar in every song, but I can only imagine they were subtle digs at the not so country music made by her mainstream counterparts. There was a curious omission of “Blowin’ Smoke” from the setlist, but that’s only a minor complaint as the setlist was fantastic just as it was. As I said earlier, Kacey Musgraves is a superstar in the eyes of her fans. She may not get the success she deserves on radio, but she certainly has an audience and fan base eager to see her on the road. The Diamond Ballroom is not a small venue, and Kacey performed to a sold out crowd! Go see her in concert if you’re able to. You will not be disappointed. If anything, the concert proved to me that Kacey Musgraves is poised for the long haul, and could very well be the next generation’s own Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn.
Setlist: (I recalled this from memory, so I may have the order mixed up a bit)
Mama’s Broken Heart (Miranda Lambert cover)
Dime Store Cowgirl
Family Is Family
Crazy (Gnarls Barkley cover)
Spoonful of Sugar (from Mary Poppins)
It Is What It Is
Good Ol’ Boy’s Club
Merry Go Round
Late to the Party
Follow Your Arrow
These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ (Nancy Sinatra cover)
Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases
Aubrie Sellers will release her debut album New City Blues tomorrow.
Bluegrass and Americana artist Sierra Hull will release her new album, Weighted Mindtomorrow also.
Cam has officially announced “Mayday” will be her next radio single.
Brandy Clark has released her newest single “Girl Next Door.” We will have a review for the song soon.
Mark Wills says his upcoming album will be a traditional sounding country album. No word on name details or release information, but Wills has been in the studio and will release the album independently.
Green River Ordinance has released their newest album, Fifteen.
Will Hoge wrote and recorded two songs based on Ed Tarkington’s new novel, Only Love Can Break Your Heart. Both songs, “Through Missing You” and “Some Things You Just Can’t Throw Away,” will be released tomorrow.
Throwback Thursday Song
“Jolene” by Dolly Parton. This song came on the radio one day while driving home from work this past week, and Dolly recently celebrated her birthday, so we celebrate her here with this 1974 hit!
Non-Country Suggestion of the Week
Hinds Leave Me Alone – Hinds is a female indie garage rock/pop quartet hailing from Spain. Leave Me Alone is a unique album with layered vocals, abrupt tempo changes, and some great instrumentation. I’ve recently started exploring more punk and garage rock music, so I’ve found this album to be enjoyable.
Tweet of the Week
A few music snob critics defend bro-country (which doesn’t exist, right?) but loathe Nickelback. Explain the difference.