The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [November 1991]

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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[0], 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 November 9th, 1991.

  1. Alan Jackson – “Someday” +4
  2. Travis Tritt – “Anymore” +3
  3. Keith Whitley & Earl Thomas Conley – “Brotherly Love” +4
  4. Garth Brooks – “Shameless” -2 [Worst Song]
  5. Trisha Yearwood – “Like We Never Had A Broken Heart” +3
  6. Patty Loveless – “Hurt Me Bad (In A Real Good Way)” +3
  7. Marty Stuart – “Tempted” +1 (Love Marty, and the production was cool and different for 90’s country, but the lyrics aren’t great)
  8. Alabama – “Then Again” +2 (I like the restrained production here)
  9. Lorrie Morgan – “A Picture Of Me (Without You)” +3 (Solid George Jones cover)
  10. Joe Diffie – “New Way (To Light Up An Old Flame)” +2
  11. Randy Travis – “Forever Together” +2 (Not his best but still good)
  12. Ricky Van Shelton – “Keep It Between The Lines” +4
  13. Billy Dean – “You Don’t Count The Cost” +3
  14. George Strait – “The Chill Of An Early Fall” +4 [Best Song] (One of my favorites of his)
  15. Pam Tillis – “Put Yourself In My Place” +3 (Interesting production. I like the dobro)
  16. Reba McEntire – “For My Broken Heart” +4
  17. Little Texas – “Some Guys Have All The Love” +1 (Hook is a little corny for my tastes)
  18. Dwight Yoakam – “Nothing’s Changed Here” +3 (Dwight always delivers)
  19. Davis Daniel – ‘For Crying Out Loud” +2 (Don’t care for his voice that much)
  20. Clint Black – “Where Are You Now” +3
  21. Suzy Bogguss – “Someday Soon” +4
  22. Diamond Rio – “Mirror Mirror” +3
  23. Vince Gill – “Look At Us” +3
  24. Conway Twitty – “She’s Got A  Man On Her Mind” +3
  25. Lionel Cartwright – “Leap Of Faith”+1
  26. Brooks & Dunn – “My Next Broken Heart” +2
  27. Restless Heart – “You Can Depend On Me” -1 (Too cheesy for me and that falsetto is just….oof)
  28. Sawyer Brown – “The Walk” +3
  29. Steve Wariner – “Leave Him Out Of This” +3
  30. Doug Stone – “I Thought It Was You” +3 (It’s cheesy, but I like the sound enough to bump it up)

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +76

We usually have good weeks, but honestly there was a lot of true quality on this chart. There were A LOT of ballads which makes sense given the time of year. All in all I’m very happy with this chart.

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!

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [April 1987]

No single cover for "Rose In Paradise" since Waylon is too badass for that.
No single cover for “Rose In Paradise” since Waylon is too badass for that.

This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) 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 thirty country 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 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state 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’m going to go all the way back to the eighties. Since I can only find the top 25 for anything pre-1990, the highest and lowest scores will be +125 and -125, respectively. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from April 25th, 1987.

  1. Waylon Jennings – “Rose In Paradise” +4 [Best Song] (Waylon’s final number one will be thirty years old next year. Hard to believe)
  2. T. Graham Brown – “Don’t Go To Strangers” +3
  3. Michael Johnson – “The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder” +3
  4. Michael Martin Murphey & Holly Dunn – “A Face In The Crowd” +3
  5. The Trio – Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris – “To Know Him Is To Love Him” +4 (three females on one song?!? Damn, we can barely get three women on the charts these days!)
  6. The O’ Kanes – “Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You” +2 (Props for the accordion in the chorus)
  7. Kathy Mattea – “You’re The Power” +2
  8. The Oak Ridge Boys – “It Takes A Little Rain”  +2 (Before they liked “doing it” to country songs)
  9. Don Williams – “Senorita” +2
  10. Reba McEntire – “Let The Music Lift You Up” +2
  11. Steve Earle – “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left” +3 (80’s Steve was SOOOO good)
  12. Conway Twitty – “Julia” +3
  13. Judy Rodman – “Girls Ride Horses Too” +2
  14. The Bellamy Brothers – “Kids Of The Baby Boom” +4
  15. John Conlee – “Domestic Life” +3
  16. Dan Seals – “I Will Be There” +1 [Least Good Song]
  17. Billy Joe Royal – “Old Bridges Burn Slow” +2
  18. Gary Morris – “Plain Brown Wrapper” +2
  19. The Forester Sisters – “Too Many Rivers” +2
  20. Lyle Lovett – “God Will” +3
  21. Moe Bandy – “‘Till I’m Too Old To Die Young” +3
  22. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – “Baby’s Got A Hold On Me” +2
  23. Highway 101 – “The Bed You Made For Me” +3
  24. Keith Whitley  “Hard Livin'” +3
  25. T.G. Sheppard – “You’re My First Lady” +3

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +66

Once again, it’s nice to see a positive score on this thing. Not as good as last week, mostly because there’s a lot of cheesy love songs with sleepy production. Still, nothing inherently bad here. When you have songs by Waylon, Keith Whitley, and Don Williams, how can you really complain?

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!

The Hodgepodge: Pop Duets Ignore Country’s Rich Talent Pool of Female Artists

Dierks Bentley feat. Elle King – “Different for Girls”

Brad Paisley feat. Demi Lovato – “Without a Fight”

Kenny Chesney feat. P!nk – “Setting the World on Fire”

One of the most recent musical trends out of Nashville, as you can tell by the above pairings, is partnering a male country singer with a female non-country singer to record a non-country song, probably in hopes for a crossover hit. Three big, veteran names in country music are using the big names from female pop acts to gain even more exposure and revenue.

This isn’t a terrible trend, and Paisley and Chesney’s songs aren’t terrible. “Different for Girls” has some backwards lyrics, but Dierks and Elle sing the song well, and I like the production to the tune. My only gripe with this trend is that it blatantly ignores a large, talented pool of female singers in country music. Females who already struggle to get songs on the radio by themselves. To be fair, Dierks Bentley also recorded “I’ll Be The Moon” on Black with newcomer Maren Morris, a song which received quite a bit of album promotional play and press before the album’s release. However, the label decided to move forward with the Elle King duet as the single, not the Morris duet.

I know the answer to this question is money and marketability, but why not record these same songs with country newcomers? Mickey Guyton has a vocal power similar to Demi Lovato, and could easily fit into “Without a Fight.” In Fact, on several occasions while on tour with Paisley, Mickey Guyton sang Allison Krauss’ role in “Whiskey Lullaby.” I think Mickey Guyton could have sung Lovato’s parts and “Without a Fight” could still be just as good.

Like I said, I know that there’s a certain marketability that comes with having Demi Lovato’s or P!nk’s name attached to a song as opposed to Mickey Guyton or Cam. Outside of the obvious pop demographic (which the songs are clearly catered toward), those two names are just simply more well-known. But even some singers like Kellie Pickler and Lauren Alaina are good singers themselves and have the American Idol notoriety surrounding their name.

Obviously the larger purpose of songs like the ones mentioned above is the fact that these females attract a non-country audience to song and probably double the listening potential. But coming off a year in which the problem of females on country radio, or lack thereof, was headlining everywhere, it’s odd to me that producers would gloss over that potential talent pool.

Chris Young recently had a number one song on the Airplay Charts that he recorded with Cassadee Pope. “Think of You” is just as Adult Contemporary sounding as the three aforementioned songs. So don’t try to argue that “country females won’t sell” because clearly a duet between male and female COUNTRY singers sold and succeeded.

I’m probably just beating a dead horse and screaming at a brick wall because complaint’s like this haven’t helped. Even with Tomato Gate on everyone’s mind last year, Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini are still the only females getting consistent radio airplay. Yet women like Lori McKenna, Brandy Clark, Aubrie Sellers, and Margo Price have all released great albums this year. Why don’t we hear them on the charts? Why aren’t labels pursuing duets with these talented singers? Yes, Aubrie Sellers has recently signed a deal with Warner, and Lori McKenna has seen excellent success as a songwriter from “Girl Crush” and “Humble and Kind.” However, it’s still a shame that several of country’s talented female singers are overlooked for a cash-grab pop duet.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • Mo Pitney has announced his debut LP through Curb Records. Behind This Guitar will be released October 7.
  • William Michael Morgan announced his debut album, Vinyl, will be released on September 30.
  • Reckless Kelly will release Sunset Motel on September 23.
  • Also on September 23 Dwight Yoakam is releasing a bluegrass album titled Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
  • Jack Ingram will release Midnight Motel on August 26. Hear the new single, “I’m Drinking Through It.”
  • The Cadillac Three will release Bury Me in Boots tomorrow.
  • Cody Johnson will release Gotta Be Me tomorrow.
  • Next Friday, both Cody Jinks (I’m Not The Devil) and Kelsey Waldon (I’ve Got a Way) will release albums. A day which is sure to be a good day for new country music.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” by Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn With all the talk of country duets today, what could be better than a duet from two of country’s best singers? Sit back and enjoy this 1973 hit from their duet album of the same name.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Foo Fighters “Everlong” The only non-country music I’ve listened to this week is the Foo Fighters Greatest Hits album, so I recommend what is probably my favorite Foo Fighters song.

Tweet of the Week

I told myself not to mention a certain country group that I wrote about in last week’s Hodgepodge, but this tweet pretty much sums up my opinions on “Comeback Kid.”

iTunes Review for Big Smo

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This guy hates the fact that country fans call Big Smo not country. Especially when later on in this review, he clearly states how Big Smo raps. Sure we don’t technically own the word “country” but we know which music is actually country music and which is actually rap or hick hop.

Album Review – The Malpass Brothers’ Self-Titled Album is Pure, Classic Country

The Malpass Brothers

“This is who we are…My brother Taylor and I do the type of music we do because this music speaks to us, and speaks to the souls of its listeners. For us, traditional country music is the ‘real deal’ – every song portrays life’s joys, heartaches, problems and happiness. It comes from the heart, and has depth and truth. Nothing is sugar coated. Our goal, really, is to see this music be revived, to help ensure it doesn’t fade away. It is so encouraging to have young people come to our shows with a new interest in our ‘old music.’ Being able to introduce what we love to another generation feels like a great accomplishment for us. We want this music to be around for our children’s children…” – Chris Malpass

Ladies and gentlemen, meet The Malpass Brothers. They’re a duo made up of brothers Taylor and Chris Malpass. Together they make country music. Not just any country music, but classic country music. They’re inspired by the likes of Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. Speaking of The Hag, they toured with him for six years and released an album under Hag Records. To top it all off, look at the way they dress and their haircuts above. They’re rocking the Conway Twitty look! I think you get the picture: The Malpass Brothers couldn’t be anymore country if they tried. So does their new self-titled album sound as country as they look? Oh yes, yes it does.

The first song to kick off the album is “A Death in the Family.” The brothers prove right away they can tackle classic country on this Bill Anderson song. The fiddles and pedal steel guitar are perfect. Next the Malpass Brothers cover the Bobby Bare song, “Which One is to Blame.” Once again they knock it out of the park, as their vocal delivery is spot on. You think you’re listening to some artist from the 60s when it’s two brothers in their early 20s in the year 2015. One of my favorite covers the brothers do on the album is the Jerry Lee Lewis song, “It’ll Be Me.” It just feels like a perfect fit for the two and the piano play is dazzling. Once again I want more piano in country songs.

“Learn To Love Me Too” is a love song where the man is not only convincing his love to love him, but trying to convince himself to love himself too. He’s made some mistakes in the past and is hoping to make up for them now. I’m assuming this is a new song and not a cover, as I couldn’t find anything indicating it was a cover. Regardless whoever wrote it did a great job and brought a new perspective to a love song. Taylor Malpass takes the lead vocals on the Willie Nelson tune, “Hello Walls.” They’re phenomenal, as his bellowing vocals on the opening notes instantly pull the listeners in. Not too many artists can do so much justice to a Willie song and that’s exactly what the brothers do here. This album continues to get better as next is the Marty Robbins song, “Begging To You.” Chris Malpass nails the higher notes on this song and adds the right amount of emotion to this heartbreak classic. The sweeping piano play in the bridge is just icing on the cake to this sweet song.

“Here In Alberta I’ll Stay” is one of three new songs on the album and the Malpass Brothers of course nail it even. Written by Pete Goble, the song is about a cowboy from Texas finding the love of his life, a cowgirl from Alberta, Canada. This is my favorite song on the album because these two simply get country love ballads and I hope they tackle more original material on their next album. So far in the album the Malpass Brothers have covered Bill Anderson, Marty Robbins and Willie Nelson. Next? George Strait’s “I Met A Friend of Yours Today.” The song is about a man overhearing another man talk about his wife at a bar and realizing she’s cheating on him. Once again they brilliantly cover a song from an iconic country artist.

Oh, but the Malpass Brothers decide to go even higher up on the country music legend scale in their covers. They perform a song by the country music king himself, Hank Williams. Now this is ballsy! “Baby, We’re Really In Love” is a simple love song that is part of the foundation of what country music truly is. I think Hank would be pretty proud of the Malpass Brothers performing this song. The third original song on the album (at least I think it is, as I couldn’t find any information that says it is a cover) is “I Found Someone To Love,” a song about a man falling in love with a woman, but she doesn’t love him back. Despite her not feeling the same way, the man is still persistent in his love for her. Again the Malpass Brothers simply get love ballads.

Once again the brothers tackle a Hank song, this time it’s “I Just Don’t Like This Kind of Livin’.” It’s a heartbreak song about a man not enjoying the life he has with his woman and wanting to get out of it. I think I’m running out of superlatives to describe how great The Malpass Brothers are. The final song on the album is “Satan and The Saint,” which I knew was a Louvin Brothers song just by looking at the title. There’s plenty of acoustic guitar and mandolin on this song, the signature sound of The Louvin Brothers. Congratulations to you Malpass Brothers, as I’m now convinced you could cover any country song you want and it would be awesome.

Very rarely am I left speechless and a loss for words when listening to a great album, but this is the case with The Malpass Brothers’ new self-titled album. This is just pure, classic country that words can’t do justice. I’ve listened to this album over and over. I can’t get over how great it is and how two young artists like Chris and Taylor Malpass get country music so damn well. These guys were born to make country music. If you’re a fan of pop country music, don’t listen to this album. It’s simply too country for you. For those who love traditional and classic country, buy this album, press play and prepare to be amazed. You can’t get anymore country than this album. This is one of my favorites of 2015 and I can’t wait to hear more music from The Malpass Brothers for years to come.

Grade: 10/10

 

Album Review – Ronnie Reno’s ‘Lessons Learned’

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For over 60 years, Ronnie Reno has pretty much seen it all in his long and illustrious career. His dad was banjo pioneer Don Reno, who made up one half of the Hall of Fame duo of Reno & Smiley. Ronnie started out his own career working alongside his dad, the Louvin Brother and the Osborne brothers. Reno then caught the attention of Merle Haggard and worked with the Hag on several of his major hits, including “If We Make It Through December” and “I’ve Got a Darlin’ For A Wife.” Reno went on to earn his own record deal with MCA Records, all while working alongside legends such as Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. He also wrote Conway Twitty’s #1 hit “Boogie Grass Band.”

Reno is still going strong now too, as he has his own television on RFD-TV called “Reno’s Old Time Music.” It’s seen in over 46 million homes. In addition he produced the upcoming duo project featuring Merle Haggard and Mac Wiseman, Timeless, due to be released later this year. All the while releasing his first album in over decade titled Lessons Learned. And as long as Reno’s career has been, he’s certainly learned a lot of lessons along the way. With this in mind, Reno certainly has a wealth of experience to fall back on as inspiration for this comeback album.

Lessons Learned begins with “Lower Than Lonesome,” a song about being heartbroken. You’ll know right away this album is going to be old school and traditional sounding in every way from the instrumentation to the song structure. This is a nice song to start the album, as it’s kind of an introduction of what’s to come. The next song, “Lessons Learned,” is a catchy little tune about how we learn something from everything we do every single day. We learn from joy and pain, growing because of these experiences. It’s a simple song with an honest message. Reno sings about love in “I Think of You.” The stripped down instrumentation gives it a romantic and easy-going feeling, which works great for a song like this one. The man in the song has seemed to have a falling out with a woman who was in his life and now he can’t stop thinking about her. It’s a yearning for a feeling that is now gone.

Reno picks the pace back up with “Sweet Rosa Lee.” It’s a short love song dedicated to a woman named Rosa Lee. The banjo instrumentation will make you tap your feet as you listen. “Deep Part of Your Heart” is a sentimental love ballad that really goes to the core of what love is all about. We all have a deep part of our heart and that deep love is only shared with a few people in our lives that we love the most. You really can’t get a better definition of a love song than this one. The instrumental “Reno’s Mando Magic” is next. The sweet bluegrass sounds you’ve heard throughout the album get a song to itself to really remind you of what country music should sound like.

“Trail of Sorrow” is about a man who knows he is on a path of sorrow he caused after a night of drinking. It’s gotten him in trouble with his woman and he’s lost his money in a card game. Everything is going wrong around him and he knows tomorrow he’ll have to face those consequences. The song does a great job of telling a story and the lessons learned from drinking too much (something you never see in mainstream country songs).

The nostalgic “All That’s Worth Remembering” is about a man’s memories throughout life, but the one that stands out most for him is a woman who was the love of his life. He chased his dream and left her behind, but he realized that was a mistake. To me this is the best song on the album because it’s the perfect blend of emotion and storytelling. The next song “Our Last Goodbye” feels like the epilogue to “All That’s Worth Remembering.” The man is begging the love of his life to take him back one last time and to not make their goodbye their last goodbye. He reminds them of their love, hoping that convinces her.

“Bad News” is about a man having bad news from home, something that he brought on himself through his own behavior. This includes losing all of their money in a game of five-card stud, which prompted his wife to kick him out of the house. The instrumentation I should mention in this song and throughout the album is pretty damn good. The final song on Lessons Learned is “Always Late,” where Reno is joined by David Frizzell. It’s about a man’s love always being too late with her kisses and how this causes him strife. I love how Reno’s showing the achenes in his voice to express the displeased attitude of the man in the song. This is an all-around great song that caps off the album perfectly.

Lessons Learned is an album that you can tell was crafted by a man who has seen it all and can seamlessly blend those experiences into his music. It’s genuine and from the heart. Reno simply understands how country music works and many artists today would be wise to take notes from an elder statesman like Reno. Being that this is Reno’s first album in over a decade, I thought it was wise to stick to simple themes throughout, as they’re easier to build around. Not to mention it allows more listeners to connect with the music. Older listeners and younger listeners who appreciate the craft, will enjoy the bluegrass stylings of Lessons Learned.

Grade: 8.5/10

To preview and purchase Reno’s Lessons Learned, click here