The Hodgepodge: It’s Impossible to Choose One Defining Song for a Genre

I stumbled upon a New York Times article this week that made a big claim about rock music. The author basically says that when our grandchildren’s grandchildren look at rock music, the only name that’ll matter is Chuck Berry. Not Springsteen, Zeppelin, the Stones, or The Beatles, but Chuck Berry. I’m not saying he’s wrong about Berry being a figurehead and representative of rock music, but rock’s different styles don’t warrant such a narrow-minded claim. Yes, “Johnny B. Goode” is an excellent song and Chuck Berry fathered rock music like Hank fathered country. The author says Berry made simple, direct, rhythm based music, which best exemplifies rock music. He’s not wrong, but I think it’s wrong to pigeon-hole the genre into one song.

The big part of his claim comes from the fact that when NASA sent Voyager I into space, they included a mix record which included “Johnny B. Goode” on the track list – the only rock song on the list. So this got me thinking, is it possible to narrow down country music into one song that best represents the genre over the 70+ years of artists and songs who’ve done so much? I’ll argue that you need a Mount Rushmore of songs, not just one, because even country’s best songs and artists had different styles that are all country music.

Take “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” arguably the best country song of all time. Listening to the song with its grand crescendo and a faint steel guitar, it’s vastly different from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” a song electric guitars and simple percussion beat, also argued to be the best country song. Both songs sound way different, yet they’re both country music, and they’re both great representations of the genre. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings couldn’t be more different in their sounds, yet both artists not only exemplified the Outlaw movement, but country music as a whole. Waylon’s rock sound is more in line with Cash’s style, but even then, the two artists are distinctly different.

The Bakersfield Sound has its own unique flair different from the aforementioned artists, yet Merle Haggard and Buck Owens are just as influential to country music. Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette don’t exactly sound like Kitty Wells, but all of their music is a big part of country’s history. Many of these styles stem from Hank Williams, and all these styles are equally important to country’s roots. These are the styles that have influenced many of today’s Americana and Country stars. The early generation brought out singers like George Strait, Reba, and Alan Jackson, who have gone on to influence the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Cody Jinks, and pretty much everyone we’ve reviewed here.

The point is I think it’s impossible to simply try to find one song or artist to represent a music genre rich with history and talent. Country, Rock, Rap, and every other genre has their top-tier of artists who’ve gone onto to influence the genre. At the end of the day, one can always trace the history back to the root of the genre, which is never a bad option to choose as a genre head. But dismissing Waylon or Merle as a defining artist of country music because their sound was not Hank’s country sound is blasphemous, as is dismissing rock’s eclectic history because it’s not as simple and rhythmic as Chuck Berry.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • On July 8, Mark Chesnutt’s new album, Tradition Lives will be released.
  • David Nail’s Fighter will be released the following week on the 15th.
  • At the end of the month on July 29, Lori McKenna’s The Bird & The Rifle will be released.
  • Shovels and Rope recently released a new single called “I Know.” Their new album Little Seeds will be out October 7.
  • Southern rockers/Texas Country band Whiskey Myers are working with producer Dave Cobb on their new album, Mud. The first single from the album is “Lightning Bugs and Rain.”

Throwback Thursday Song

“False Accuser’s Lament” by Jason Boland and the Stragglers. I’ve been listening to a lot of Boland lately, and this song has jumped up my list of favorites from him. “False Accuser’s Lament” can be found on Rancho Alto, one of Boland’s best albums in my opinion.

Non-Country Suggestion

Velvet Portraits by Terrace Martin – an album mixed with Jazz, Hip Hop, and R&B, Velvet Portraits is a diverse album. It’s a fun listen though, with the relaxing Jazz instrumentals and hip hop lyrical deliveries on the others. It’s different, but worth the listen.

Tweet of the Week

Wheeler Walker, Jr. is a great follow on twitter if you don’t mind some profanity on your timeline. As streaming continues to rise, labels getting songs on “featured playlists” on Spotify or Apple Music will be the new way of getting on the charts.

A Chase Rice iTunes Review

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 10.06.13 PM

Chase Rice’s new single, “Everybody We Knows Does,” is the same generic BS from every other generic bro before him. After his letter apologizing for “Whisper,” I expected at least something that shows a little effort in a follow-up single, but I was mistaken.

The Hodgepodge: Substantive Lyrics on the Rise

It’s no secret that the rise of bro-country was quickly followed by a rise of complaints. Complaints about the shallow party lyrics and themes repeated in song after song from many artists. Well after a few years of party hits dominating the radio waves, we appear to be on the brink of some more depth finding its way into our mainstream country music. It’s not close to being good, but attitudes seem to be shifting and steps are being taken toward a more substantive side of country music. Substantive lyrics are the pride of country music.

Some of the lesser offenders are shifting away from the party themes to something with more story and substance. Justin Moore’s “You Look Like I Need a Drink”, Frankie Ballard’s “It All Started With a Beer”, Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” and Kip Moore’s “Running For You” are all in the top 40 of the Country Airplay Chart. New singles from Toby Keith, Big & Rich, and Eric Church also show commitment to the task of deeper songs. And Love & Theft’s excellent “Whiskey on My Breath” has seen some revival thanks to Bobby Bones.

While some of the biggest offenders of bro country can’t quite get the depth in their songs, I think their attempts, however futile, shows that it’s a trend worth looking at. Sure Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man”, Cole Swindell’s “You Should Be Here” and Florida Georgia Line’s nonsensical ballad in “Confession” are all about as deep as a rain puddle, but I think the success of these songs will inspire more to follow in the depth. If his CRS performance is any indication, Luke Bryan’s next single could very well be the tender love song “To The Moon and Back.” Again, not a home run in terms of depth and substance, but I’d argue it’s the best of the four songs mentioned in this paragraph.

Beyond established mainstream acts shifting their music, we’re seeing several Americana and independent country acts get more attention in the mainstream spotlight. Chris Stapleton’s rise has been well documented by us. Sturgill Simpson signed to a major label and is poised to release an album later this year. Jason Isbell is starting to catch more attention and earning some performance time next to the likes of Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt at an upcoming benefit show for the Country Music Hall of Fame. And if you keep an eye on the articles Taste of Country and The Boot are churning out, you’ll notice that they’re starting to expand their coverage to Americana artists like Whitney Rose, Sam Outlaw and The Black Lillies.

None of this is to say that country music is on the mend or close to being great again, but more and more, we’re starting to see little steps away from shallow anthems. We’re starting to see some more depth added into the popular music. But even with one step forward, country still manages to take a few steps back. Despite promises of deeper albums, Chase Rice and Dierks Bentley’s new singles are terrible, clichéd radio fodder. And Thomas Rhett is poised to follow-up his ballad with “T-Shirt,” which is nothing more than a funky dance tune for him to further rip off Bruno Mars. Who knows what the future holds, but we could be looking at the pieces falling into place for a swing back in the right direction.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Vince Gill’s newest album, Down to My Last Bad Habit will hit the shelves tomorrow.
  • Wynonna & The Big Noise will debut their self titled album tomorrow.
  • Chris King will release his second album, Animal, at the end of the month.
  • Dan + Shay have released a new single called “From the Ground Up.”
  • Lorrie Morgan’s Letting Go…Slow will be released tomorrow.
  • A Thousand Horses announce “Southernality” as their next radio single.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Shot Full of Holes” by Jason Boland & The Stragglers. From their 2001 album, Truckstop Diaries, “Shot Full of Holes” is hard-hitting tale of an imprisoned man who struggles to adapt to life inside of jail then outside of jail. Stoney LaRue also has a recording of this same song on his Downtown album.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


The Temple EP by Parson James. Parson James is a pop/R&B singer songwriter from New York and born in South Carolina. James found some success last year with his single “Stole the Show” and now has released this five song EP. I’m trying to expand my musical variety, and I enjoy pop and R&B music in the appropriate genre!

Tweet of the Week

Windmills’ response to Grady Smith’s tweet is perfect. Thomas Rhett did rip off Ed Sheeran with “Die a Happy Man.”

Two Chase Rice Facepalm Reviews

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Chase Rice fans have a lot of hate for traditional country music. It’s apparently full of whiny twang. But Claire is happy that Chase Rice isn’t conforming to traditional country. He’s doing his own thing by conforming to Nashville’s bro-country/metro-country trend.

The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown [December 7]

Josh Ritter Sermon Over The Rocks

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. Josh Ritter – Sermon On The Rocks [Up 3]
  2. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin – Lost Time [Down 1]
  3. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Grade: 10/10) [Down 1]
  4. Joe Ely – Panhandle Rambler [Down 1]
  5. The Black Lillies – Hard To Please (Grade: 9/10)
  6. The Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club (Grade: 8.5/10)
  7. Los Lobos – Gates Of Gold 
  8. Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats – Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats 
  9. Corb Lund – Things That Can’t Be Undone (Grade: 9/10)
  10. Jim Lauderdale – Soul Searching [Up 3]
  11. Patty Griffin – Servant of Love [Down 1]
  12. Chris Isaak – First Comes The Night [Up 2]
  13. Don Henley – Cass County (Grade: 10/10) [Down 1]
  14. The Wood Brothers – Paradise [Down 3]
  15. Ryan Adams – 1989
  16. Tim O’Brien – Pompadour
  17. Steve Martin & Edie Brickell – So Familiar
  18. The Dave Rawlings Machine – Nashville Obsolete
  19. Lindi Ortega – Faded Gloryville (Grade: 9/10) [Up 1]
  20. Various Artists – Cold & Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins [Up 3]
  21. Billy Gibbons – Perfectamundo [Down 2]
  22. Chris Stapleton – Traveller (Grade: 10/10) [Down 1]
  23. Lucero – All A Man Should Do [Down 1]
  24. Jeffrey Foucault – Salt As Wolves
  25. Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble 
  26. Turnpike Troubadours – Turnpike Troubadours (Grade: 10/10) [Up 1]
  27. Cox Family – Gone Like The Cotton [Up 3]
  28. Webb Wilder – Mississippi Moderne [Down 2]
  29. Bart Crow – The Parade [Up 3]
  30. Jason Boland & The Stragglers – Squelch (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 1]
  31. Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions (Grade: 9/10)
  32. Shinyribs – Okra Candy [Down 4]
  33. Shawn Colvin – Uncovered 
  34. Shawn Mullins – My Stupid Heart [Up 1]
  35. The Damn Quails – Out of The Birdcage (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 1]
  36. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Grade: 9/10) [Up 2]
  37. Samantha Fish – Wild Heart [Up 2]
  38. Shovels & Rope – Busted Jukebox Volume 1 [New]
  39. Amy Helm – Didn’t It Rain [Down 3]
  40. Shemekia Copeland – Outskirts of Love [Down 3]

The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown [November 30]

Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Lost Time

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. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin – Lost Time 
  2. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Grade: 10/10)
  3. Joe Ely – Panhandle Rambler 
  4. Josh Ritter – Sermon On The Rocks
  5. The Black Lillies – Hard To Please (Grade: 9/10)
  6. The Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club (Grade: 8.5/10)
  7. Los Lobos – Gates Of Gold [Up 1]
  8. Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats – Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats [Up 3]
  9. Corb Lund – Things That Can’t Be Undone (Grade: 9/10) 
  10. Patty Griffin – Servant of Love [Down 3]
  11. The Wood Brothers – Paradise [Up 2]
  12. Don Henley – Cass County (Grade: 10/10) [Down 2]
  13. Jim Lauderdale – Soul Searching [Down 1]
  14. Chris Isaak – First Comes The Night [Up 2]
  15. Ryan Adams – 1989 [Up 4]
  16. Tim O’Brien – Pompadour [Down 2]
  17. Steve Martin & Edie Brickell – So Familiar [Down 2]
  18. The Dave Rawlings Machine – Nashville Obsolete
  19. Billy Gibbons – Perfectamundo [Up 6]
  20. Lindi Ortega – Faded Gloryville (Grade: 9/10) 
  21. Chris Stapleton – Traveller (Grade: 10/10)
  22. Lucero – All A Man Should Do [Down 5]
  23. Various Artists – Cold & Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins [Down 1]
  24. Jeffrey Foucault – Salt As Wolves [Up 2]
  25. Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble [Down 2]
  26. Webb Wilder – Mississippi Moderne [Down 2]
  27. Turnpike Troubadours – Turnpike Troubadours (Grade: 10/10)
  28. Shinyribs – Okra Candy
  29. Jason Boland & The Stragglers – Squelch (Grade: 8.5/10) [Up 1]
  30. Cox Family – Gone Like The Cotton [Down 1]
  31. Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions (Grade: 9/10) [Up 5]
  32. Bart Crow – The Parade [Up 2]
  33. Shawn Colvin – Uncovered [Down 2]
  34. The Damn Quails – Out of The Birdcage (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 1]
  35. Shawn Mullins – My Stupid Heart
  36. Amy Helm – Didn’t It Rain [Up 2]
  37. Shemekia Copeland – Outskirts of Love
  38. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Grade: 9/10) [Down 6]
  39. Samantha Fish – Wild Heart [New]
  40. Steve Forbert – Compromised

The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown [November 23]

Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin Lost Time

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. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin – Lost Time 
  2. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Grade: 10/10)
  3. Joe Ely – Panhandle Rambler 
  4. Josh Ritter – Sermon On The Rocks [Up 2]
  5. The Black Lillies – Hard To Please (Grade: 9/10) [Down 1]
  6. The Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club (Grade: 8.5/10) [Up 1]
  7. Patty Griffin – Servant of Love [Down 2]
  8. Los Lobos – Gates Of Gold [Up 1]
  9. Corb Lund – Things That Can’t Be Undone (Grade: 9/10) [Up 1]
  10. Don Henley – Cass County (Grade: 10/10) [Down 2]
  11. Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats – Nathaniel Rateliff and The Nightsweats [Up 1]
  12. Jim Lauderdale – Soul Searching [Up 1]
  13. The Wood Brothers – Paradise [Down 2]
  14. Tim O’Brien – Pompadour [Up 7]
  15. Steve Martin & Edie Brickell – So Familiar [Up 4]
  16. Chris Isaak – First Comes The Night [Up 14]
  17. Lucero – All A Man Should Do [Down 3]
  18. The Dave Rawlings Machine – Nashville Obsolete [Down 3]
  19. Ryan Adams – 1989 [Down 2]
  20. Lindi Ortega – Faded Gloryville (Grade: 9/10) [Down 2]
  21. Chris Stapleton – Traveller (Grade: 10/10) [Down 5]
  22. Various Artists – Cold & Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins 
  23. Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble [Down 3]
  24. Webb Wilder – Mississippi Moderne [Up 2]
  25. Billy Gibbons – Perfectamundo [New]
  26. Jeffrey Foucault – Salt As Wolves [Down 2]
  27. Turnpike Troubadours – Turnpike Troubadours (Grade: 10/10) [Down 4]
  28. Shinyribs – Okra Candy [Up 4]
  29. Cox Family – Gone Like The Cotton [Down 2]
  30. Jason Boland & The Stragglers – Squelch (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 2]
  31. Shawn Colvin – Uncovered [Down 6]
  32. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Grade: 9/10) [Down 3]
  33. The Damn Quails – Out of The Birdcage (Grade: 8.5/10) [Down 2]
  34. Bart Crow – The Parade
  35. Shawn Mullins – My Stupid Heart [Up 4]
  36. Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions (Grade: 9/10) [New]
  37. Shemekia Copeland – Outskirts of Love [Down 4]
  38. Amy Helm – Didn’t It Rain 
  39. Kevin Gordon – Long Gone Time [Down 3]
  40. Steve Forbert – Compromised [New]