Hodgepodge of Country Stuff: Can NASH Icon Be a Success?

Reba McEntire HOF

So what exactly is this? That’s what you thought when you read the title above. Well I’m going to explain this to you. This is a new weekly feature that will be on the site and as you can see it’s called Hodgepodge of Country Stuff. If you’re a sports fan that visits major sites like ESPN, Sports Illustrated and FOX Sports, you’ll see some of their writers do weekly columns where they’ll discuss something and then have a variety of interesting tidbits that will follow it (think Bill Simmons and Peter King). This is just like those, except about country music of course. Got it? Good. 

One of the big developments in country music in 2014 was Scott Borchetta and Cumulus Media announcing the NASH Icon project. For those unaware of NASH Icon, there are two main facets to focus on with this project: it’s creating a label for older artists who have been popular at some point in country music in the last 25-30 years and several radio stations across the country are being launched playing more traditional country music that was heard in the 80s and 90s. It’s an endeavor that has captured disenfranchised traditional country fans everywhere who are quite frankly sick and tired of the garbage on the radio being advertised as “country music.”

So far the label has signed Reba, Martina McBride and Ronnie Dunn (he was finally officially announced this past week). It’s a solid group of artists to launch the label. Reba was one of the biggest female artists in country music in the last two decades and McBride was quite popular in the late 90s and early 2000s. Dunn has been one of the most vocal older country artists in recent years to speak out on how country radio has pushed out older artists like himself off the radio dial. The biggest NASH Icon radio affiliate in Nashville beat Bobby Bones’ show in the ratings late last year.

Despite some good choices and good news, I’m skeptical if this project will be a success. First of all they’re really putting a lot of eggs in the Reba comeback basket. The first single from that comeback album, “Going Out Like That,” is a mediocre mess. It doesn’t sound country hardly at all and is probably more suited for pop radio. I thought this project was trying to bring back the traditional country sound? Sure the most hardcore Reba fans love this song, but most traditional fans are pretty displeased to hear such a pop country song. It’s also a risk to be placing such a big bet on Reba because female country artists haven’t exactly thrived on radio or in the charts the last several years (unless of course your name is Miranda, Carrie or Taylor). I understand why they chose her as the “face” of NASH Icon because they aren’t going to sign a bigger name than her (no chance at Garth, Strait, Jackson or a Brooks & Dunn reunion).

Second, I quite frankly expected more from NASH Icon by now. There are rumors out there Hank Williams Jr. is going to sign with them after he wore an Icon hat on the American Country Countdown Awards back in December. Many fans are clamoring for Clint Black and Vince Gill to be picked up by the label, but there hasn’t even been rumors on this front. I expected more radio stations adopting this format at this point too. Maybe I’ve been expecting too much from this project, but Borchetta and Cumulus really hyped this up when they announced it. And with Borchetta leading the way you should always expect something big to happen.

The other problem I see with NASH Icon is they need to expand further back into the past, while also looking towards the future. Why limit yourself to such a small window of the late 80s to the late 90s? Why not get Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton involved with this venture? There’s plenty of fans out there who still want to listen to their music and they don’t plan on stopping making music anytime soon. At the same time I think they should sign artists like Jamey Johnson, who many fans are thrilled to have back, and big independent artists like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. Other than the elitist, hipster independent country fans and the crotchety, old traditionalists who hate new artists, everyone would be thrilled to have a radio station in their area that played this mix of artists.

There’s clearly money to be made on the table, while at the same time satisfying the large group of country fans who want traditional sounding music back on the radio. What I’m afraid of is they will only accomplish the former, while failing with the latter. I have no doubt NASH Icon will find some way to make this profitable or exhaust all options to make this happen. I’m highly skeptical the fans will be happy with NASH Icon. I’m hoping everyone wins this deal in the end, but Nashville gives me little reason to think it will happen. All we can do is wait and see.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Kip Moore just released a new single from I’m assuming a new album coming soon titled “I’m To Blame.” He also of course was just announced as an opening act for Dierks Bentley’s Sounds of Summer tour. You’ll see Derek’s review of this new single really soon.
  • RaeLynn came out with her Me EP this week. I didn’t know it was coming out and Derek was the one who alerted me of it. I was quite distraught to learn she was releasing new noise music to torture my ears. Her 2014 single “God Made Girls” was a finalist for Country Perspective’s Worst Song of 2014. Here’s the scary thing though: it isn’t the worst song on the EP. I’m sorry if I just ruined your day. Derek also reviewed this one because I don’t think I could calm myself enough to do another RaeLynn review.
  • Greg Bates, who has fallen off the radar in recent years, came out with a new single called “Sand.” For those who don’t remember Bates, he sang “Did It For The Girl” and “Fill in the Blank,” which had some radio success. I have it on my to review list, so you’ll see my thoughts on it soon.
  • Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers announced they’re releasing a collaborative album called Hold My Beer on April 26. For details on it, check out Trigger’s great article on it at Saving Country Music. Based on the first track released from the album, “Good Luck With That,” this could be one of the best country albums of the year.
  • Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown,” which I gave high praise to in my review earlier this week is doing great on the iTunes charts. It’s the top song on the country chart and in the top ten on the all genres chart. It makes me happy to see a good country song do well on the charts.

Throwback Thursday Song

 

The Mavericks’ “Come Unto Me.” I’m going to be honest with you. I’m getting pretty excited to hear the new album Mono from The Mavericks coming out in February. I’ve been listening to their 2013 album In Time a lot lately and the best song from it of course is “Come Unto Me.” Not only do they sing it great in English, but their Spanish version is just as good. Really I not only recommend this song, but the entire album if you don’t have it. It’s a timeless listen that never gets old. Never stop singing Raul Malo!

My Non-Country Song/Thought of the Week

A non-country album I had been anticipating to listen to for a while is Mark Ronson’s Uptown Special. The lead single from it, “Uptown Funk,” with Bruno Mars has been one of my favorite non-country songs to listen to lately. I thought it would be a preview of a great funk album, something that hasn’t come out for a while. Instead it’s a giant pile of soft pop crap. It’s so soft and dull that I nearly fell asleep while trying to listen to it. Stevie Wonder’s talent is completely wasted on this album and his songs may in fact be the worst on the album. Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” is the only upbeat, funk song on this album worth listening to and the rest is forgettable pop music. What a shame!

Tweets of the Week

Yes that’s right multiple tweets from one of the best country music follows on Twitter, Jason Isbell. Believe me this won’t be the first time he makes Tweet of the Week. This is his reaction to Zac Brown Band covering his song “Dress Blues” at the pre-game festivities for the College Football National Championship Game on Monday. Knowledgable country fans everywhere lit up when they heard Brown singing one of Isbell’s best songs. Isbell thought it was a good performance, but some people were angry that Brown covered the song. Isbell has the perfect response and throws in some humor after that as always. I can’t believe people are getting angry because this is beneficial to everyone, especially if Brown covers this on his new album. It brings better music to the mainstream, while getting Isbell more exposure, fans and a nice check for being the songwriter of it. It’s a win-win people so just enjoy it!

An iTunes Review That Will Make You Face Palm

RaeLynn Comment

This is an actual review on RaeLynn’s new EP. I’ll let you readers react to this one.

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments!