The Hodgepodge: The Confusing Saga of The Band Perry Continues…..

The Band Perry confuses me. I have no clue what their intention is within the music industry. Are they mindless drones stuck in a contract that rebrands the band every year? Or are the three Perry siblings just trying to do all the different musical genres they can? The spark notes of the band’s short history:

  • In 2010, they release their first album with the great single “If I Die Young.” It’s an album I actually enjoy with a good modern country production.
  • Two years later, the band releases their follow up album Pioneer. The album has a little bit of more edge to it with songs like “Better Dig Two”, “DONE!” and “Chainsaw” being released as singles.
  • In 2014, The Band Perry returns to total country roots with their rendition of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” released as a standalone single. A recording that won the band a Grammy last year.
  • Late last year, the band takes a 180 turn and decides they want to be a pop group, with “Live Forever” acting as the jumping single for this transition. “Live Forever” bombs on the charts and The Band Perry stumbles through an awkward period of having their third album release get delayed, getting dropped from their label and presumably taking the reigns themselves for their pop move.
  • And now The Band Perry signs a joint deal with UMG’s Interscope and Mercury Nashville and is readying a new single for country radio titled “Comeback Kid.”

The big take away from all this is that The Band Perry’s attempt to turn pop failed…miserably. The new yellow branding and inspirational, youthful pop anthems like “Live Forever” and “Put Me in the Game Coach” crashed hard and fast. And now with “Comeback Kid,” the band is desperately trying to erase any evidence of the past 11 months. They’ve deleted all their tweets prior to the comeback branding, their website is completely redesigned with the ugly pink/beige color and typewriter text, only promoting upcoming concerts and the Fan Club. Yet going to their online store, for the moment, one can find old shirts for “Live Forever” on a page still designed for the Heart + Beat brand.

Clearly the band is moving on from the failed pop experiment and trying to reestablish themselves in country music. They’ve given no hint or preview as to what “Comeback Kid” may sound like. So maybe it’ll be more country along the lines of “If I Die Young” or “Gentle On My Mind”, or maybe it’ll be a song more in line with the Adult Contemporary musical trend hitting Nashville at the moment. But the real question is, how seriously will people take this move and return?

A year ago, The Band Perry basically admitted that they were a musical sellout by blatantly shifting to pop without warning. Are fans and radio alike ready to welcome the group back with open arms? It’s not like The Band Perry’s absence over the last year has been noticeable or left a gaping hole in country music, unlike Taylor Swift’s departure to pop. I’m sure if UMG is willing to sign the band after this failed move to pop, then the label is ready to invest some time and money to make sure The Band Perry’s image and inclusion in country music isn’t affected.

As someone who has mostly enjoyed the band’s output so far, I can’t say I’m excited about this. I think moving on and forgetting isn’t a good strategy. Personally, I’d like to see some transparency from the band about the move to pop, how it didn’t work, and why they did what they did. I do respect them for returning to country and possibly (hopefully) returning to their folksy/pop country style of music because that’s who they are. I just want to see them approach this comeback with some accountability that their attempt to move pop wasn’t a good move. Even Kimberly Perry took to twitter to throw some shade toward Little Big Town about collaborating with Pharrell, because we can only assume that was what The Band Perry was doing/wanted to do with their pop album. (Can’t link the tweet because even the siblings’ personal accounts have had tweets deleted).

August 1st will be the day that some of these questions will be answered. For some, The Band Perry may be forever tainted by this ungraceful move to pop, and others undoubtedly will be excited for the new music as if nothing happened. Aside from the fact that country radio is congested with singers desperately trying to make a name for themselves, I don’t think The Band Perry’s return to country will be smooth or grand. Maybe they’ll get a top 20 single with “Comeback Kid”, but I think this move pop hurt the band’s standing within the country music industry. And now they’re crawling back as if the last year didn’t happen. Regardless of how good their music ends up being, I think their musical saga lately has hurt the band to the point that they’ll never again be as big a country group as they were in the first half of the decade.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • The Turnpike Troubadours have a new single called “Come As You Are.” The song will officially be available for purchase tomorrow.
  • Blackberry Smoke has released a new single to promote a new album. “Waiting For the Thunder” will be the first track off their upcoming album Like an Arrow, expected October 14.
  • Lori McKenna‘s The Bird & The Rifle will be released tomorrow.
  • Hillary Scott‘s Love Remains will also be released tomorrow.
  • Cody Jinks‘ I’m Not the Devil will be released on August 12.
  • American Aquarium frontman BJ Barham will release a solo album called Rockingham on August 19.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Sick and Tired” Cross Canadian Ragweed (feat. Lee Ann Womack) From the band’s great album Soul Gravity, this collaboration with Womack has some excellent lyrics and great vocal harmonies. The song managed to hit 46 on the charts in 2004.

Non Country Suggestion of the Week

Cold War Kids. I as continue to explore some modern music outside of country and Americana, I heard this song on Alternative radio and I like it a lot. I’ve been listening to the band’s new album Hold My Home and it’s good music to check out.

Tweet of the Week

In the short lived twitter feud between Dylan Scott and Wheeler Walker Jr., Dylan Scott came to defend Chewbacca Mom after she joined him on the Opry stage. If you follow WWJ on twitter, then you probably know he hates that Chewbacca Mom has become so famous from her laugh video, and made fun of modern country’s embrace of the internet sensation. Dylan Scott (who has since deleted all the tweets) claimed that Walker’s music is trash and not representative of country music. That was an entertaining half hour to witness on twitter, and I hope someone somewhere grabbed screenshots of Scott’s tweets.

iTunes Reviews for Brantley Gilbert’s “The Weekend”

We’re sure has hell not going to bother with reviewing “The Weekend”, as I’m pretty sure our regular readers can anticipate what we’d say about it. But in case you’re curious, these reviews about sum up how I feel.

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The consensus here speaks volumes.

The Hodgepodge: Red Dirt Favorites

Reckless Kelly

Once again, I found myself in a busy work week, and a long weekend of traveling and shutting out the rest of the world didn’t help either when it came time to write this week’s feature. I have no ideas simmering this week, so today I’ve decided to list a few of my favorite Red Dirt/Texas songs and albums. I’ll link most songs discussed and embed to the page, but I encourage all of you to listen to these and seek them out. I’m a big Red Dirt country fan and continue to expand and discover new songs and artists on a fairly regular basis.

Just to reiterate, these are my personal favorites. This list is not a top songs or “best of” list. And as always, I’d love to hear other recommendations if I overlooked a favorite of yours on this list.

Some Favorite Red Dirt Albums

Reckless Kelly’s Wicked Twisted Road – The title track of the album is probably my favorite Reckless Kelly song of all time, but this whole album is great. With hit after hit like “Seven Nights in Eire”, “Motel Cowboy Show” and “Baby’s Got a Whole Lot More”, Reckless Kelly delivers a solid album from start to finish. If you’ve never really listened to this band before, Wicked Twisted Road is a great place to start.

Wade Bowen’s Lost Hotel – Just as a simple country album, regardless of region or radio popularity, Lost Hotel stands as one of the best. Bowen delivers some powerful vocal performances on a few well written ballads and balances them with excellent upbeat country songs. Without a doubt, Lost Hotel is Bowen’s best album.

Seth James’ That Kind of Man – Seth James is a background player in Texas country, but his lone solo album is a constant on my iPhone. James has one of the best singing voices I’ve heard, delivering songs with captivating and powerful vocals. For a short time, James was also a part of Cody Canada’s new band, The Departed, where he and Canada swapped vocal leads on the band’s album Adventus. But James’ solo album is one to listen to over and over again.

Turnpike Troubadours’ Diamonds & Gasoline – This is an album loaded with great song after great song from the Oklahoma country band. Opening with “Every Girl” immediately followed by “7&7” sets a great mood and proves that country music can be fun without mentions of fireball shots. The album also includes a title track that tugs at your heart and the intriguing story of “The Funeral.” Diamonds & Gasoline is an album that doesn’t get old.

Some Favorite Red Dirt Songs

“Hank” Jason Boland & The Stragglers – An excellent country protest song about the state of country music. As great as the song is, it’s poignant with the hook line “Hank Williams wouldn’t make it now in Nashville, Tennessee.” That’s just a sad thought.

“Oh Tonight” Josh Abbott Band feat. Kacey Musgraves – Back before Musgraves’ big break, she collaborated with Josh Abbott on this love song. Her inclusion here is welcome and adds a great layer to the song. Both Abbott and Musgraves offer up great vocal performances on a great production.

“Alabama” Cross Canadian Ragweed – I’ve become a huge fan of Cody Canada’s over the past year, digging into the Ragweed discography along with The Departed. He’s written and recorded many songs I love, but this rocking love song stands as one of my favorites.

“Lost and Found” Randy Rogers Band – This breakup song from The Randy Rogers Band is one of their many great songs. I love the melody of the song and Rogers’ vocal delivery pulls at your heartstrings as he realizes how he messed things up in the relationship.

“Used To Be” The Great Divide – Written by Red Dirt founding father Tom Skinner, “Used To Be” reminisces of the way things used to be in a small town. Between the great upbeat lead guitar riff and the lyrics, “Used To Be” may be the quintessential Red Dirt song.

“Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah” Reckless Kelly – For those who think Tyler Farr is redneck crazy, let me introduce to Crazy Eddie. This song is absolutely absurd, but it’s so over-the-top that you can’t help but enjoy it. If you want to write a ridiculous break up song, this is how it’s done.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Tomorrow, The Turnpike Troubadours will release their new, self-titled album.
  • Eric Paslay has hinted at new music which will be revealed tomorrow.
  • Tim McGraw has announced the title of his next album, Damn Country Music. 
  • Next week, Don Henley will release his first solo album in 15 years. Cass County will hit the shelves on September 25.
  • Sunny Sweeney and Brennen Leigh sang a song together at a recent acoustic show in Austin, Texas.  “But If You Like Country Music” finds two men at the far ends of the political spectrum finding common ground in Merle Haggard. It’s a fun, witty song that you can’t help but enjoy.
  • Toby Keith’s newest single off 35 MPH Town is called “Rum is the Reason.”
  • Jana Kramer has a new album due out October 9 called Thirty One. The album features her current single “I Got The Boy” as well as her previous single “Love.”

Today in Country Music History

  • In 1923 country music’s first big star, and most influential singer/songwriter, Hank Williams, is born in Mount Olive, Alabama.
  • Reba McEntire makes her first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry in 1977.

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

Throwback Thursday Song

“Your Cheatin’ Heart” – Hank Williams. In honor of Hank’s birthday, it only seems appropriate for today’s throwback song to be one of his best. Hank recorded “Your Cheatin’ Heart” in one of his last recording sessions before his death at age 29. The song’s release immediately following Williams’ death propelled him to an instant success.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Foo Fighters – Songs From The Laundry Room. This four-song EP was originally compiled and released strictly for Record Day 2015, but Grohl and company re-released it for mass-consumption this month. Songs From The Laundry Room consists of demos of early Foo Fighters’ songs recorded in the early 90s, one cover of “Kids in America” and a previously unreleased song called “Empty Handed.” If you’re a fan of the Foo Fighters, this is a great EP to add to your collection.

Tweet of the Week

This fake “Drunken Martina McBride” twitter account is one of my favorite parody accounts. She pulls no punches when it comes to calling out bros on their stupidity.

An iTunes Review To Which I Shake My Head

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This was for Brett Eldredge’s Illinois. I listened to the album, and I don’t quite know where this reviewer heard “that true country sound” because I sure didn’t. Some crappy lyrics throughout the album, especially on “Drunk On Your Love” which is one of the dumbest, unoriginal songs ever. And don’t even get me started on that awful disco song he sang with Thomas Rhett.

The Hodgepodge: The Lost Art of Albums

Albums are an important art form lost in a digital realm demanding instant gratification. Most music listeners don’t want to think about music as anything more than a soundtrack for life. It’s background noise to improve mundane activities and dance to at parties. Now combinations of music and dance is a different art form in itself. But an album can be an equally great, sometimes overlooked expression of art. Albums can tell stories. They can draw out feelings from deep inside the listener, feelings that you may not even realize you could feel at that moment.

Albums were a big talking point in Country Perspective’s first podcast episode. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to give it a listen. Josh did a great job with the first installment of our new weekly feature, and the podcast will only improve. In the first episode of The Country Perspective Show, and in the subsequent comments, points were raised about how albums in country music today are nothing more than a collection of single-worthy, radio driven songs. No care is given to the idea of an album being meaningful. All that matters is that there are 10-13 songs of various themes and genres, ready for whatever road country radio turns down next.

Take Eric Church’s The Outsiders. This jarring album had Eric Church ready for just about anything: rock (“The Outsiders,” “That’s Damn Rock & Roll”), pop-country (“Give Me Back My Hometown,” “Talladega”), and R&B influence (“Like a Wrecking Ball”). Listening to it as an album, The Outsiders is a jarring, sporadic listen with no cohesive theme or style to latch onto. However, the variety of musical stylings and genres has sustained Eric Church with a few successful radio singles and long-term album sales. Luke Bryan’s Crash My Party and Brantley Gilbert’s Just As I Am are two other albums that have sustained long-term success through building the albums with hit single after hit single.

With a big enough name, labels can build albums with songs ready to keep radio relevancy alive through long stadium and arena tours. The trade-off, though, is the concept of crafting an album that flows from start to finish: an album with cohesive themes and productions, a conceptual story, and even a creative cover to compliment the musical offerings.

Cover Art

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Good cover art on an album can subtly add to or allude to the music heard. Take Gretchen Peters’ Blackbirds for example. The cover isn’t complicated, but the simplicity is detailed and tells quite a bit. Gretchen is raising her arms up, draped in the cloth from her black dress. As a result, she looks like she’s raising black wings. The surrounding brush and shrubbery are brown and dying, with the grim, gray sky above. The image implies darkness, death, emptiness. The cover art (correctly) suggests that the album will be dark, grim, and uneasy.

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William Clark Green’s Ringling Road cover is an illustration of the title track. While it’s not a direct reflection of the entire album, in listening to “Ringling Road,” you can see the characters and situations described. On Wanted! The Outlaws you have Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser depicted on an old Wanted! flyer you’d find in an old western town. The album adds to the “outlaw” depiction of the four artists. Outlaw meaning going against the grain of Chet Akins’ Nashville Sound and creative control, in favor for self-control of the music.

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The point is, there was thought and effort put into these cover photos in order to add to the album as a whole. Nowadays, with albums simply being a random assortment of made-for-radio singles, you see Luke Bryan and Thomas Rhett simply posing as JC Penny Catalog models. Most of mainstream country’s album covers add nothing to the, well, nothingness you’ll find in the album. The album cover is essentially a means to an end nowadays.

Cohesive Themes

When it comes down to it, what makes an album a true album is cohesiveness and flow from start to finish. When previewing and gearing up for the release of Uncaged, Zac Brown Band multi-instrumentalist Clay Cook told Taste of Country, “This is the first record that we’ve made from start to finish in one thought…The previous albums have been a collection of songs … this is an album.” If you listen to the album in its entirety, you can hear and feel the flow from one song to the next. It’s smooth, it’s focused, and even the inclusions of rock, reggae and R&B feel grounded in the Zac Brown Band country sound. The Foundation and You Get What You Give, while great, are the type of song collection albums you see today more-so than albums that flow.

Will Hoge’s Small Town Dreams has several songs that deal directly with the dreams of small town people: big city dreams vs. settling down with a family (“Little Bitty Dreams”), trying to make ends meet and sustain a family life (“Desperate Times”), and everyday life in small town U.S.A. (“Middle of America”). Back to Peters’ Blackbirds, the dark themes of death and life’s struggles are found in every song. The tone and the lyrics set the mood as depicted in the cover. Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is as true an album name as you can get. The songs, rooted in traditional country outlaw sound, are mixed with modern effects and sounds to create something new for the country ear. The metamodern sounds and lyrics challenge the modern: modern country sounds, modern views. It’s a theme, it’s a description of an album, and it’s cohesive and consistent when listening to the album.

These themes and feelings are lost when you rope together various songs of various styles and genres with nothing holding them together. That’s why Jekyll + Hyde is such a mess, especially compared to Uncaged. The Zac Brown Band, again, dip their toes in various genres, but it’s too extreme and jarring to flow as an album should. Jekyll + Hyde showed no grounded cohesion for the tracks to be grouped together through an album lens. This cohesion is what makes good albums great, and it’s the type of feature you’ll find in pretty much every album we’ve graded an 8 or higher here on Country Perspective.

Concept Albums

Concept Albums take albums a step further, and tell one story over the course of the songs. This practice is rarer in country music compared to other genres like rock or indie. But one of country’s most famous albums is a concept album. Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger is an album where an outlaw finds himself running from the law after murdering his wife and the man she had an affair with. Using songs and brief reprises of various sections of those same songs, Nelson tells the story beautifully. A move unheard of in country music in 1975, but Nelson’s risk paid off and launched his country music career, making him the legend he is today.

We may soon be treated to another concept album in country music with Brandy Clark’s next released. She’s hinted that it’ll “have a bit of a concept.” Concept albums can be great because it’s truly a unique way to tell a story. Arguably the most famous concept album in music, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, is a detailed rock opera that was even adapted into a live action movie. Concept albums are more difficult to pull off because it takes thought and effort to craft a single flowing story from track one until the album ends.

All in all, with the demand for singles and instant satisfaction, mainstream country has lost its grip on the power an album can have. There are plenty of artists outside the mainstream realm that appreciate and understand the importance of the album as a whole. These are just a few example of my favorite and recent albums that I believe hit these points well. There are many more artists and albums that care about delivering the art of music in a way that’s deeper than a three-minute anthem with a 6 month shelf life. That’s how the Nashville producers see music today. Thankfully there are true musical artists who care enough to build their careers around albums for their fans who will buy those albums. Albums are where the magic of music truly lies.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Tomorrow Jason Isbell’s Something More Then Free and Alan Jackson’s Angels and Alcohol will be released.
  • Ashley Monroe’s The Blade will be released next week on the 24th.  The album is streaming on NPR First Listen until it’s release.
  • Will Hoge has debuted a new song called “Still a Southern Man.”  This is a song Hoge wrote in response the Confederate Flag debate that followed the church shooting in Charleston, SC. This isn’t the first time Will Hoge has been political with his music, releasing two EPs (2004’s The America EP and 2012’s Modern American Protest Music), as well as some album cuts of politically active songs.
  • The Band Perry has announced they’ll be releasing a new single on August 14th. No word on the title yet, but the band has been in the studio, so I can imagine an announcement for a new album will follow.
  • Thomas Rhett will have his new album, Tangled Up, drop on September 25. Apparently fans got to vote on which model pose Rhett used for his arbitrary album cover.
  • Fort Worth, Texas singer-songwriter, Matthew McNealreleased his debut album at the end of last month. Josh will have a review of that album soon.
  • Kip Moore will have is long-awaited sophomore album released on August 21st.
  • Maddie and Tae’s debut album will hit the shelves on August 28th.
  • The Eli Young Band have joined forces with Andy Grammer for a “country remix” of Grammer’s “Honey, I’m Good.” Spoiler alert: it’s not even close to a country song. Admittedly, I haven’t heard Andy Grammer sing before. However, with the use of vocal effects here, I’d have no idea Mike Eli was singing the second verse if no one had mentioned it.

Today in Country Music History

This is my addition to “The Hodgepodge” features. As I was thinking of an effective regular feature to pitch to Josh, before being handed the reigns of “The Hodgepodge,” I kept coming back to building it around a “this day in country music history.” So, now that I’m writing this column, I figured I’ll just tack this onto the rest of the sections here.

  • In 1990, Garth Brooks hits number 1 with “The Dance.” “The Dance” became Brooks’ signature song, and was the first of 5 straight number 1 singles for Garth in the early 1990s.
  • In 2012, Kitty Wells passes away from complications with a stroke. Wells was featured on last week’s Hodgepodge with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” Kitty Wells was the first female country music artist to have number 1 single.

Throwback Thursday Song

“17” – Cross Canadian Ragweed.  This Saturday, I’ll be going to see Cody Canada & The Departed at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, OK. In honor of the concert, my throwback song is one of the best songs Cody Canada has written, in my opinion. This is from the CCR era of Canada’s musical career. As hometown/small town country songs go, it doesn’t get much better than “17.”

*Also, if any of you readers are going to the show Saturday, feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to say hi.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear.  With today’s discussion of albums, it seems fitting to include one of my favorite non-country albums from this year. Father John Misty (an alter ego of Josh Tillman) wrote this concept album about himself, with many of the songs inspired from his wife and their relationship. This indie album has excellent songwriting!

Tweet of the Week

That’s a hell of a compliment to give any musician! But for it to come from Kris Kristofferson?! That adds much more meaning.

An iTunes Review That Will Make You Smile and Cheer!

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The review was left under Canaan Smith’s Bronco. As you’ll recall, that album faced heavy criticism from Josh. I personally love the Katy Perry comparison!