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!

Predictions for Country & American Roots Categories at the 2016 Grammy Awards

Grammy

On Monday we celebrate the biggest music awards show of the years. I’m of course referring to the 58th Grammy Awards, set to air Monday night at 8 pm ET on CBS. With it being a holiday and football season being over, it should pull even more eyes than usual. It’s an even bigger deal for country and Americana acts this year, as many deserving names are up for the top awards in both. Not only this, but Chris Stapleton is set up to have another huge awards night. This could be another big step forward in mainstream country improving its quality of music and Americana continuing to rise in stature. Now let’s get to the predictions! Keep in mind I’m not the best at this prediction game, but I feel like I do a little better each year. The award shows can be unpredictable. And be sure to make your own predictions in the comments.

Album of the Year

  • Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller
  • Taylor Swift – 1989
  • The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness 

What I Would Pick To Win: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly or Chris Stapleton’s Traveller

What I Predict Will Win: Chris Stapleton’s Traveller – After the 2015 CMA Awards I learned something important: do not bet against Chris Stapleton. This man will prove you wrong. He continues to have monster sales in the fallout of that impressive night. There will be enough vote splitting amongst Lamar and Swift to open it right up for Stapleton to pull off the “upset.” Alabama Shakes have almost no chance and The Weeknd had a breakout 2015, but I don’t think they have enough momentum to win. Beck shocked the world winning this award last year and Stapleton will do it this year.

Song of the Year 

  • Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
  • Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth – “See You Again”
  • Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”

What I Would Pick To Win: Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

What I Predict Will Win: Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth’s “See You Again” – This song was one of the biggest emotional hit songs of 2015 and had a monster run on the charts. I give “Alright” and “Blank Space” decent shots at winning. Little Big Town had one of the biggest hits in country music in 2015 with “Girl Crush,” but they stand no chance against these huge names.

Best New Artist

  • Courtney Barnett
  • James Bay
  • Sam Hunt
  • Tori Kelly
  • Meghan Trainor

Who I Would Pick To Win: Courtney Barnett

Who I Predict Will Win: Meghan Trainor – Trainor should win this in an absolute walk. She’s the biggest name of the five by far. Sam Hunt is shockingly the only other artist I could see winning here, but he just doesn’t compare to Trainor’s stardom and impact. For once I’m glad to see Trainor’s name, as it will block Hunt from winning something at an actual awards show.

Best Country Solo Performance 

  • Cam – “Burning House”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Traveller”
  • Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns”
  • Keith Urban – “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”
  • Lee Ann Womack – “Chances Are”

What I Would Pick To Win: Chris Stapleton – “Traveller” (Anything but Urban’s song)

What I Predict Will Win: Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” – Remember: Do not bet against Stapleton. Nice to see Cam getting some attention and Carrie continuing to get noticed by the Grammys, unlike the CMA and ACM Award shows. It’s really cool to see LeeAnn Womack’s name here too.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

  • Brothers Osborne – “Stay A Little Longer”
  • Joey + Rory – “If I Needed You”
  • Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay – “The Driver”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe – “Lonely Tonight”

 

What I Would Pick To Win: Joey + Rory – “If I Needed You” (Really I would be fine with any of these)

What I Predict Will Win: Joey + Rory’s “If I Needed You” – I believe this will undoubtedly get the sympathy vote, just like Glen Campbell in the Best Country Song category last year. It would be a great sight to see such a loving and talented couple like Joey and Rory to get this honor.

Best Country Song

  • Lee Ann Womack – “Chances Are”
  • Tim McGraw – “Diamond Rings & Old Barstools”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Brandy Clark – “Hold My Hand”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Traveller”

What I Would Pick To Win: Brandy Clark – “Hold My Hand” (But again I would be fine with any of these)

What I Predict Will Win: Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller” – Once again I believe Stapleton will have another huge night. The Grammys did a really great job with this category and all five are certainly deserving. Tim McGraw continues to get nominations for the Grammys, but shut out from country awards shows like Carrie. Brandy Clark is set up to have a bigger year at the Grammys next year, but it’s nice to see a quality song like “Hold My Hand” get recognized.

Best Country Album

  • Sam Hunt – Montevallo
  • Little Big Town – Pain Killer 
  • Ashley Monroe – The Blade
  • Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller

What I Would Pick To Win: Pageant Material or Traveller

What I Predict Will Win: Chris Stapleton’s Traveller – Need I say it again? Also it’s an absolute joke to see Hunt’s name here.

Best American Roots Performance 

  • Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn – “And Am I Born To Die”
  • Buddy Guy – “Born To Play Guitar”
  • The Milk Carton Kids – “City of Our Lady”
  • Punch Brothers – “Julep”
  • Mavis Staples – “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”

What I Would Pick To Win: Punch Brothers – “Julep”

What I Predict Will Win: Punch Brothers – “Julep” – The Grammys seem to really love this group, so I’ll go with it.

Best American Roots Song

  • The Mavericks – “All Night Long”
  • Don Henley & Merle Haggard – “The Cost of Living”
  • Punch Brothers – “Julep”
  • Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – “The Traveling Kind”
  • Jason Isbell – “24 Frames”

What I Would Pick To Win: Only one? But they’re all fantastic!

What I Predict Will Win: Jason Isbell – “24 Frames” – After getting screwed over by the Grammys a few years ago, they finally make amends. With the #1 album in country, folk, rock and Americana, Isbell by far had the biggest 2015. But then again I could conceivably see Henley and Haggard get the nod, along with The Mavericks who seem to do well when nominated for something on the awards circuit. But really what a class of songs to choose from!

Best Americana Album

  • Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter
  • Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
  • The Mavericks – Mono
  • Punch Brothers – The Phosphorescent Blues

What I Would Pick To Win: Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Because why would I pick against our own 2015 Album of the Year winner?)

What I Predict Will Win: Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free – See the reasons I cited above. I have to say it’s great to see Brandi Carlile’s name here, as she is an underrated artist more people need to know about.

Country Perspective’s 40 Most Essential Country & Americana Albums of 2015

Country Perspective's 2015 Most Essential Albums

We’ve reached the end of 2015 and as you’ve seen over this last month there have numerous best of and worst of lists and everything in between. The “listpocalypse” as many dub it is finally ending and we can start focusing on new music really soon. But before we look forward to the new music of 2016, we want to look back one last time on the music of country and Americana in 2015. These are the albums we consider the absolute must listen albums of 2015 if you’re a fan of country and Americana. We should point out that this year’s essential albums list is different in that last year’s list was all albums that we ranked 8/10 or better. This year’s essential list only contains albums (and a few EPs) ranked 9/10 or better.

Originally we wanted to just have it narrowed down to 25 albums, but then it grew to 30 and then 35 before eventually 40. We wanted to make sure we go all of the great music on the list! Keep in mind if we didn’t put an album on this list it’s not because we’re haters or we’re attacking your favorite artist. Do not turn the comments section into “Well you didn’t put (insert name) on the list and you didn’t put this on the list, so I hate it.” Instead put together your own list in the comments if you want, as this is more constructive and creates more interesting conversation.

Now that I’ve gotten all of the ground rules out of the way, let’s get to the music. These are what we consider the 36 most essential country and Americana albums of 2015.

The Best of the Best

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

Whitey Morgan – Sonic Ranch

Chris Stapleton – Traveller 

The Awesome Ones

Don Henley – Cass County 

Tami Neilson – Don’t Be Afraid

Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight 

Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers – Hold My Beer, Vol. 1

Turnpike Troubadours – Turnpike Troubadours

Sam Outlaw – Angeleno 

Jonathan Tyler – Holy Smokes

Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses

Pretty Damn Great

Whitney Rose – Heartbreaker of the Year

Maddie & Tae – Start Here

Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions

Eric Church – Mr. Misunderstood

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material

Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds

Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter

The Malpass Brothers – The Malpass Brothers

Rick Elliot – West of the Rockies EP

The Lone Bellow – Then Came The Morning

“I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair”

Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart 

George Strait – Cold Beer Conversation

Alan Jackson – Angels & Alcohol

James McMurtry – Complicated Game

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django & Jimmie

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind

A Little Bit of Everything

John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat

The Mavericks – Mono

Banditos – Banditos

Corb Lund – Things That Can’t Be Undone

Lindi Ortega – Faded Gloryville 

Will Hoge – Small Town Dreams

Jon Pardi – The B-Sides, 2011-2014 EP

Jamie Lin Wilson – Holidays & Wedding Rings

Justin Townes Earle – Absent Fathers 

Tony Furtado – The Bell

Allison Moorer – Down To Believing 

Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet

The Black Lillies – Hard To Please 

The 58th Grammy Awards: Reactions to Country & Americana Nominations

Grammy

This morning (Dec. 12) the nominations for The 58th Grammy Awards taking place on February 15, 2016 were announced. A lot of country and Americana acts we’ve covered right here on Country Perspective were nominated. And I have to say my overall reaction is pretty positive. So enough pleasantries and let’s get to the nominations!

Album of the Year

  • Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller
  • Taylor Swift – 1989
  • The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness 

Reaction: You’re reading that correctly: Chris Stapleton has indeed been nominated for Album of the Year, which after his sweep at the CMA Awards isn’t really surprising. I think he has a decent chance to win too. Remember at the 57th Grammy Awards Beck’s Morning Phase won Album of the Year against stiff competition, benefitting from votes being split amongst heavy hitters. But these heavy hitters this year are even more tough than last year. Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is considered by many the best album of the year and even I can say that it’s better than Traveller. Then you have the most popular artist in all of music in Taylor Swift and The Weeknd who has been one of the most successful acts commercially and critically this year. Alabama Shakes is a true underdog here and would be the biggest upset.

Song of the Year 

  • Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
  • Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth – “See You Again”
  • Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”

Reaction: The success of “Girl Crush” continues to take Little Big Town to new heights. Radio was forced to embrace it after being accused of homophobia and the fact that this song has been huge commercially. But like Stapleton above this song faces really stiff competition and I would say at this moment it’s not going to win.

Best Country Solo Performance 

  • Cam – “Burning House”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Traveller”
  • Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns”
  • Keith Urban – “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”
  • Lee Ann Womack – “Chances Are”

Reaction: A very good group of nominations here, with the exception being Urban’s terrible song, which I give little chance of winning. I’m glad Womack continues to get recognition on the awards circuit, as she continues to make great music. Carrie may get snubbed on the country awards shows, but the Grammys love her and could win this. “Burning House” has been one of the hottest songs alongside “Girl Crush” and has a great chance to win this too.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

  • Brothers Osborne – “Stay A Little Longer”
  • Joey + Rory – “If I Needed You”
  • Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay – “The Driver”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe – “Lonely Tonight”

Reaction: The sentimental favorite is hands down Joey + Rory’s “If I Needed You,” as Joey Feek revealed in October her cervical cancer is terminal and that she’s now living as long as she can. It’s a heartbreaking story and I have to admit I’m definitely pulling for them to win here. Although more importantly I hope Joey lives long enough to reach her goals of reaching Christmas 2015 and her daughter’s second birthday in February.

As for the other nominees, I’m surprised to see “The Driver” be nominated, as the song came out not too long ago. I guess they were that desperate for nominees here?

Best Country Song

  • Lee Ann Womack – “Chances Are”
  • Tim McGraw – “Diamond Rings & Old Barstools”
  • Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
  • Brandy Clark – “Hold My Hand”
  • Chris Stapleton – “Traveller”

Reaction: I’d be happy with any of these songs winning, as they’re all quality in my eyes. It’d be cool to see the Hayes Carll-penned “Chances Are” to win and Brandy Clark’s “Hold My Hand” is a really underrated song that I’m glad is getting deserved recognition. “Diamond Rings & Old Barstools” was one of the best mainstream country songs of the past year. Like Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw does better at the Grammys than the country awards shows.

Best Country Album

  • Sam Hunt – Montevallo
  • Little Big Town – Pain Killer 
  • Ashley Monroe – The Blade
  • Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller

Reaction: For those worried about Sam Hunt and Little Big Town winning here, I’m going ease your fears: this is Stapleton’s award to lose. Really he could feasibly win most or all of the awards he’s nominated for (four in total). Glad to see The Blade get some love, but I don’t give it much of a chance of winning. The Grammys love Kacey Musgraves, so if Traveller doesn’t win I think Pageant Material does.

Best American Roots Performance 

  • Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn – “And Am I Born To Die”
  • Buddy Guy – “Born To Play Guitar”
  • The Milk Carton Kids – “City of Our Lady”
  • Punch Brothers – “Julep”
  • Mavis Staples – “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”

Best American Roots Song

  • The Mavericks – “All Night Long”
  • Don Henley & Merle Haggard – “The Cost of Living”
  • Punch Brothers – “Julep”
  • Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – “The Traveling Kind”
  • Jason Isbell – “24 Frames”

Reaction: Wow! What a group of songs. You have a little bit of everything here, from the Caribbean-flavored “All Night Long” to the poignant “24 Frames.” One of the best songs from Don Henley’s Cass County gets nominated in “The Cost of Living” and gives Merle a chance of a win. It’ll be interesting to see who wins this one, as I could see any of them winning.

Best Americana Album

  • Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter
  • Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
  • The Mavericks – Mono
  • Punch Brothers – The Phosphorescent Blues

Reaction: Jason Isbell didn’t get screwed this time! For those unaware, his 2013 album Southeastern was snubbed by The Grammys and was one of the biggest gaffes in my opinion by The Grammys in recent memory. This time they didn’t forget him and he should be the favorite to win here.

What do you think of the nominations? Be sure to weigh in below. 

The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown [September 28]

Jason Isbell Something More Than Free

This is The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown. Every week I’ll post the top 40 from the Americana Airplay chart, which is obtained from AmericanaRadio.org. From the site: “The Americana Airplay chart represents the reported play of terrestrial radio stations, nationally syndicated radio shows, satellite radio and internet stations who have agreed to submit weekly spin counts. For more information please visit www.americanamusic.org.”

The goal of this feature is to track and monitor the current most popular music in the Americana realm, as I believe it’s starting to take on a bigger importance in the world of music, especially concerning the current state of country music. In addition it will bring some new names to the site that haven’t been covered here before and could lead to more Americana coverage. It’s also a place to discuss anything going on in the Americana genre at this moment. Be sure to weigh in on the chart in the comments below.

  1. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Grade: 10/10)
  2. Patty Griffin – Servant of Love [Up 1]
  3. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin – Lost Time [Up 1]
  4. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Grade: 9/10) [Down 2]
  5. Watkins Family Hour – Watkins Family Hour
  6. Ashley Monroe – The Blade (Grade: 7/10)
  7. Amy Helm – Didn’t It Rain 
  8. Turnpike Troubadours – Turnpike Troubadours (Grade: 10/10) [Up 3]
  9. Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet (Grade: 9/10) [Down 1]
  10. Los Lobos – Gates Of Gold [Up 5]
  11. Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats – Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats [Up 3]
  12. The Statesboro Revue – Jukehouse Revival (Grade: 8/10) 
  13. Joe Ely – Panhandle Rambler [New]
  14. Warren Haynes (feat. Railroad Earth) – Ashes & Dust [Down 5]
  15. Langhorne Slim – The Spirit Moves [Down 2]
  16. The Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club [New]
  17. Dale Watson – Call Me Insane (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 7]
  18. Uncle Lucius – The Light [Down 2]
  19. Wood Brothers – Paradise [New]
  20. Jonathan Tyler – Holy Smokes (Grade: 10/10) [Down 2]
  21. Don Henley – Cass County [Up 9]
  22. Shemekia Copeland – Outskirts of Love [Up 10]
  23. Richard Thompson – Still [Down 6]
  24. Rayland Baxter – Imaginary Man [Up 1]
  25. Chris Stapleton – Traveller (Grade: 10/10) [Down 6]
  26. Daniel Romano – If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ [Down 6]
  27. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color [Down 4]
  28. Whitney Rose – Heartbreaker of the Year (Grade: 10/10) [Down 4]
  29. Steep Canyon Rangers – Radio
  30. Waifs – Beautiful You [Up 1]
  31. Kevin Gordon – Long Gone Time [Up 3]
  32. Jackie Greene – Back To Birth [Down 6]
  33. Shawn Colvin – Uncovered [New]
  34. The Deslondes – The Deslondes (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 6]
  35. Jason James – Jason James [Up 5]
  36. Leon Bridges – Coming Home [Down 3]
  37. Sam Outlaw – Angeleno (Grade: 10/10) [Down 1]
  38. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind (Grade: 9/10) [Down 11]
  39. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie (Grade: 9/10) [Down 4]
  40. Sonny Landreth – Bound By The Blues [Down 18]