Album Review — Zac Brown Band’s ‘The Owl’

(Warning: Long review! I don’t like writing them, but this is what happens when this band releases divisive music because I did the same thing two albums ago for this group.)

It’s confounding to many what Zac Brown Band have become. But I actually don’t think the band has changed and I’ll explain throughout this review. I think one big problem this band is running into is they continue to label their albums as country and send singles to country radio, yet in interviews they (and by they, it’s really Zac Brown) say they don’t limit themselves to one genre. Do they not understand how this confuses people? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. People don’t like to be bullshitted and they just want it given to them straight (see Sturgill Simpson on his new album, yet for some reason Billboard still put him on the country albums chart). Instead this band didn’t give it to fans straight and now they’re pissed. As a result this album is being put through the ringer and it’s justified for the band’s confusing signals, but at the same time the most egregious moments on the album are overshadowing what I believe to be some promising signs.

Sorry for this little rant, but it had to be said before I could finally talk about the music on this band’s new album The Owl.

Opening track “The Woods” is pretty fun and upbeat, making it a good choice for an opening track. It’s basically about doing your own thing and acknowledging that we all have different things that make us tick. This is a great song and approach for a band that wants to bend genres and do something different. I think even if you don’t like this song, you can at least respect the sentiment. “Need This” is supposed to be an island getaway song, but I have to tell you I’m not feeling the tropical, beach vibes on this. And when I think of a song like this, I think of a more relaxing tone and not the frenetic sound of this song. It’s just really odd and off-putting considering the theme.

Then we get to “OMW,” which is super catchy. And in this case, it’s not good. It’s not good at all. Because then you get this annoying song about getting a text saying OMW from a significant other stuck in your head. It’s one of the worst ear worms I’ve ever had stuck in my head because the lyrics are so vapid, dumb and not fun. So naturally this will end up a single. “Someone I Used To Know” is one of the better songs on the album, as it’s about someone looking back on their former selves and letting go of it for the person they are now. It’s a great song about growing as a person and one of the few moments on the album where the lyrics go beyond a base level. The sound is even fun and has flashes of country.

The most fun track on the album though is “Me and the Boys in the Band.” That’s because this track plays into this band’s strength of jam band, roots influenced rock with fun, singalong lyrics. The fiddle play of Jimmy de Martini can actually be heard, which has felt missing in this band’s music. You can also hear the band in Zac Brown Band on this song, which is no surprise as it’s one of the few songs on this album that doesn’t have outside writers that Brown brought in (this one is written by Brown, Clay Cook and Luke Laird). If you look at the songwriters on each song of this album, it’s quite telling of how each song turned out.

“Finish What We Started” is about a couple trying to reconcile and keep their relationship intact. Brandi Carlile sounds great as usual as the guest artist on this song, but the song itself doesn’t really do much for me. It lacks the heart and passion needed to really get the lyrics across, which I put on a weak vocal performance from Brown. This was a decent song that could have been great.

“God Given” is…I’m not quite sure how to best describe it. Basically I imagine Zac Brown (this has his finger prints all over it and I refuse to believe this was the band’s idea) was listening to the Rap Caviar playlist on Spotify one day and he thought to himself, “I could do something like this.” But he never thought if he should do it. You’re not a rapper! And hearing Zac Brown sing about Gucci bags and Vera whips is one of the most awkward and clumsy things you’ll hear this year. The lyrics aren’t even bad, but they fit someone like Bruno Mars or Justin Timberlake, not Zac Brown Band. Give this song to Timberlake and it would sound great. This song is the equivalent of someone knowingly putting on leather pants that are five sizes too small and then walking around like everything is fine. It’s not fine, it’s weird and we all feel second-hand embarrassment.

“Warrior” is about the strength and resiliency of people who serve in the armed forces and the struggles they deal with. On an album with multiple bad lyrical moments, this is certainly not one of them and I applaud the songwriters for actually crafting a great song about an important issue around soldiers that isn’t full of the usual clichés you hear in patriotic songs. “Shoofly Pie” has a roots-y and funky sound that I enjoy, similar in the vein of “Me and the Boys in the Band,” as it fits this band really well. The lyrics are fine (they don’t employ a sexual euphemism in a tacky or sophomoric way), but the hook gets repetitive so quickly. This song could have easily been like a minute shorter. “Already On Fire” is another track where I really enjoy the sound. It’s more on the rock side, which this band has demonstrated many times they’re great at, but for some reason they refuse to make a full-blown rock album. The lyrical imagery fits the sound well too, as it gives the song a sinister mood I enjoy.

Closing song “Leaving Love Behind” is the classic sound and song many grew accustom to with this group. It’s about looking back at a relationship that’s ended and trying to let go of the love that was once shared. I imagine Brown drew from his separation from his wife for this song, as you can feel the emotion from the opening note. Most importantly this song feels like the group made it and not Zac Brown with a bunch of outside writers and producers. It proves my point too about the songwriters, as this was written by Brown, Cook, Coy Bowles, de Martini, and Tim and Phil Hanseroth. This song shows this band can still be brilliant when they choose to be.

While many have taken their shots at this album and have come away from it more concerned for the Zac Brown Band than ever before, I actually take away from The Owl that this band is still great. The problem is not the band in Zac Brown Band, but Zac Brown himself. If you remove the three worst songs on this album, the remaining songs are overall pretty good. But the three worst songs are so bad that for many it just completely dominates the rest of The Owl. And it’s clear that the worst moments on this album are of Brown’s doing (see that terrible solo pop album he released as further proof). When Zac Brown Band is allowed to be a tight and cohesive band for a full album, they’re great. But does Zac Brown really want to be in a band anymore? Or is he more interested in his own vanity projects and ideas?

Grade: 6/10

Review – Thomas Rhett’s “Star of the Show”

thomas-rhett-star-of-nashville-pop

How can you follow up the worst single of 2016? After Rhett released “Vacation,” I wonder how he can top the awfulness of that song. I mean after all let’s take a look back at some of his singles: the sanctimonious bullshit (“Beer with Jesus”), the sexist garbage (“Get Me Some of That”), the poor ripoff of the Bee Gees (“Make Me Wanna”), the poor ripoff of Sam Cooke and Bruno Mars (“Crash and Burn”), the poor ripoff of Ed Sheeran (“Die A Happy Man”), the song about an article of clothing (“T-Shirt”) and the song that made me want to rip my ears off. What a stunning collection of music! The corporate Nashville machine must be so proud. When they tell Rhett to jump and rip off a much more talented artist in another genre, he tells them how high and how much auto-tune. But I digress. In lieu of a fifth single from the original version of the terrible Tangled UpRhett and team have decided to release a deluxe edition of the album and a new song as a single. That single is titled “Star of the Show.” Oh boy what do we have in store now?

The first thing of course that I wanted to figure out in regards to “Star of the Show” is which pop artist did he exactly rip off because Rhett doesn’t release original music. He only copies more successful and talented artists. After a few listens, the instrumentation and production strike me exactly as something you would hear in a Justin Timberlake song. If you have a better comparison, let me know in the comments because I would love to hear it (Rhett would too because he needs ideas for the next album). Now when I say a Timberlake song, I mean if you let country producers make it because Timberlake songs have energy and emotion. It’s usually good pop music and that’s not the case hear. The percussion line and the guitar play is limp and boring. It sounds like when they recorded it they were trying not to wake someone in the next room. I also notice how they jammed some pedal steel guitar in the background at certain spots so that way Rhett fans can point to this as proof it qualifies as country. To them I say it’s treated irrelevantly in the context of the song, so I will treat it as such.

The song itself is about Rhett expressing his love for his wife Lauren and Rhett says he wrote it after their wedding. It shocked me to find Rhett actually helped write it. I figured it would be Blake Shelton personal where he got five other people to write it. The lyrics aren’t completely terrible and I do applaud Rhett for actually basing his song around something personal, even if the songwriting is still pretty sub par. Still “Star of the Show” is a pretty below average song to put it lightly. Call it country, call it pop, call it whatever you want: what I hear is a bad song with weak production and lyrics that are based around a personal feeling, but fail to actually deliver any meaning and heart behind them. It’s breezy, fluff music that will be forgotten years from now. Listening to “Star of the Show” is the equivalent of eating cotton candy: accessible and easy to consume, but not filling and disposable. In other words, a big hit for country radio.

Grade: 2/10

Written by Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins & Ben Hayslip

The Hodgepodge: Mainstream Country Artists Doing It Right in 2015

When looking at mainstream country music it’s easy to just dismiss it all as bad music and move on with your life. After all Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, Cole Swindell and Luke Bryan are all still very big parts of mainstream country music at this moment and show no signs of leaving soon. But if you sift through all of the garbage you’ll find yourself a good group of promising artists who could be the key to turning the quality around in mainstream country music. Throughout 2015 these artists have been releasing quality music and have made an impact in some way or could be very soon. I’ll start first with the artist inspiring the most optimism in me that things could be getting better for mainstream country music…

Chris Stapleton Traveller

Chris Stapleton

I think it’s safe to say now that he’s a mainstream country artist. After his monumental performance with Justin Timberlake and winning three awards at the 2015 CMA Awards, the world is now familiar with this bearded traditionalist. Currently his debut album Traveller sits atop the Billboard 200 chart and according to industry experts could be poised to stay there for a second straight week. His songs have populated the top 50 on the iTunes all-genre chart and Traveller is still the best-selling album on iTunes chart as of this writing. Notoriously slow to react country radio is even taking notice, as his newly released single “Nobody To Blame” sits at #46 on the Billboard Country Airplay and was the second-most added song at Mediabase radio stations this week (only trailing Eric Church’s new single “Mr. Misunderstood”). This is all on top of the critical acclaim he had been receiving for months. There’s nobody hotter in country music than Chris Stapleton and he has done it all making the music he wants to make. There’s no telling how big of an impact Stapleton could have on the genre in the coming months.

Maddie & Tae

Just like Stapleton, this up and coming duo makes country music their own way and have seen their own share of success. While their sophomore single “Fly” didn’t experience the huge success of their mega debut hit “Girl In A Country Song,” it still performed in a radio environment not ideal for this type of song. Their debut album Start Here was full of excellent songs and very good potential singles, all maintaining a traditionally rooted sound. With the backing of Scott Borchetta, the sky is the limit for Maddie & Tae. They will be instrumental in turning the genre around and in the meantime have brought integrity to a genre sorely lacking it.

Kacey Musgraves Pageant Material

Kacey Musgraves

Country radio still won’t play Kacey Musgraves, but she doesn’t give a shit. This is quite evident from her interviews and in listening to her newest album Pageant Material. It’s one of the most traditional mainstream country albums of the year and there certainly isn’t any evidence of Kacey trying to appeal to radio on any of the songs. She calls out country radio on “Good ‘Ol Boys Club.” She doesn’t need the support of radio though, as she has a passionate fan base who packs theaters across the country and her album still reached #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. She’s even been exploring airplay on Americana radio and George Strait tabbed her to open up for him at his Vegas shows in 2016. Musgraves is determined to do it her own way and while this might not earn her radio play, it earns her respect and that’s something much more important than kissing the asses of radio programmers.

Dierks Bentley

If there’s one artist who has consistently throughout their career deliver quality music that appeals to traditional country roots and mainstream attention, you won’t find anyone more fitting than Dierks Bentley. There hasn’t been one point throughout his career where I thought to myself that he’s a sellout. Even his dumber songs like “Drunk on a Plane” aren’t bad. Yet I feel like Bentley gets overlooked a lot and deserves more credit for his music. His label wanted no part in releasing the emotional “Riser” as a single, but Bentley passionately insisted because he likes the song so much and wants as many people possible to hear it. It’s currently rising up the chart and will probably perform better than his label expected. In addition to releasing quality singles, Bentley tabbed the talented Maddie & Tae to open for him on his tour. As the years pass I continue to respect Dierks Bentley more and 2015 has been no exception.

Jon Pardi The B Sides

Jon Pardi

I was praising Jon Pardi last year when hardly anyone was talking about him and this year everyone else has finally started to get on his bandwagon. Just like Bentley, Pardi released a passion project himself this year with his EP The B-Sides, 2011-2014. These were all songs that didn’t make his very good debut album Write You A Song and this was even better than it. Pardi’s sound is like a combination of Dwight Yoakam and 90s country and very much a fan of steel guitar in his songs. While many of the new artists around him have went with trends, Pardi has stuck to what he wants while also finding a balance that appeals to radio. This is clearly evident in his current single “Head Over Boots,” which if you haven’t noticed has steadily been moving up the chart and should reach the top 30 soon. Pardi was candidly nervous about this single performing well and it looks like sticking to his guns will pay off. This is a young artist that needs to be on everyone’s radars in the years to come.

Other Mainstream Artists Doing It Right:

  • Miranda Lambert – While her single choices haven’t been the best lately, she’s still an artist who can bring quality to the table. I also have a really good feeling about her next album. 
  • Maren Morris – I just reviewed her EP and I think this Texan has what it takes to shine.
  • William Michael Morgan – He’s only released one single so far, but it’s a good one. If Morgan keeps releasing songs like “I Met A Girl,” his future could be really bright.
  • Eric Church – Google Play finally has his new album and you’ll have to wait until Monday to hear my thoughts on Church now and this album…
  • Tim McGraw – His new album Damn Country Music is even better than expected.
  • Carrie Underwood – Her new album Storyteller takes a lot of risks and her single releases continue to be good.
  • Ashley Monroe – Despite The Blade being underwhelming to my ears, it was still solid.
  • Mickey Guyton – Her lead single “Better Than You Left Me” has caught people’s attention, but she has drifted out of the spotlight a little. She still has a ton of potential though.
  • Mo Pitney – I’m still worried Curb is going to mess him up, but his talent is great enough to overcome it.
  • Cam – One of the biggest surprise hits of 2015 has been “Burning House” and we’re about to get more from her when her new album Untamed comes out in December.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Justin Timberlake is officially sending “Drink You Away” as a single to country radio. This is pretty big news and I’m still formulating my thoughts on it. This will be given a full review soon.
  • Chris Young will release his new album I’m Comin’ Over tomorrow.
  • Wynonna Judd announced her band Wynonna & The Big Sound will be releasing a new album on February 12, 2016 through Curb Records.
  • Loretta Lynn announced she’s releasing a new album titled Full Circle on March 4, 2016.
  • Frankie Ballard is releasing a new single titled “It All Started With A Beer.” We’ll have a review on that soon.
  • The Band Perry announced they’re delaying the release of their new album Heart + Beat until 2016 now. It was originally slated to come out on November 20. The trio says a last minute pop collaboration came up (rumor mill says Nicki Minaj possibly) and that’s the reason for the delay. Despite this delay, I still think it’s going to bomb.

Great Music Currently at Country Radio

The very best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly.

Throwback Thursday Song

Willie Nelson – “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” – This is just one of those songs you need to know, not only as a country fan, but as a music fan. When I heard Old Crow Medicine Show perform this live I got chills. It’s one of those special songs that I just enjoy and brings a smile to my face when I hear it.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Eh I don’t have anything this week, as I’ve been listening to nothing but country and Americana this week. So here’s the Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake performance from last week that will never get old.

Tweet of the Week

There are a lot of great accounts on Twitter, but Jason Isbell might just be the best.

iTunes Review That Rocks

Stapleton Killed Bro Country

The Chris Stapleton Effect! This was left under Cole Swindell’s new EP and now that the public has been exposed to a real artist, they want the bros out. Out with the old and in with the new!

Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below! 

The Hodgepodge: 2015 CMA Awards Reactions & Thoughts

Chris Stapleton Traveller

Last night the 49th annual CMA Awards took place where all kinds of awards and performances took place. There were certainly a fair share of ups and downs throughout the night. So let’s get to what I thought of each part of the show. We have to start though with the biggest and best of the show…

Chris Stapleton Shines Bright & Wins Big

Without a doubt the biggest story of the 2015 CMA Awards was Chris Stapleton. Going into it many of us critics and his fans didn’t give him much of a chance to win a single award. We just thought it was neat he was even nominated. One of the first awards given out is New Artist of the Year. Lo and behold Chris Stapleton wins it, beating out the likes of Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, Maddie & Tae and Kelsea Ballerini. This was an amazing feat. Then they get to Album of the Year, the one award everyone thought Stapleton had an outside chance at winning. He wins this too (with a Dave Cobb appearance too). This is turning into a euphoric show for Stapleton, his fans and fans of traditional country everywhere. He was nominated for one more award, Male Vocalist of the Year, going against the likes of Blake Shelton and Eric Church. And he wins again! A year ago many never even heard of Chris Stapleton, unless you were country music insider or songwriter. Now he’s beating out the biggest and hottest names of the genre and winning three major award on national television.

This wasn’t all that happened with Chris Stapleton on this show. Stapleton and Justin Timberlake delivered the undisputed best performance of the night when they sang Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” together. The entire place erupted after the performance and social media was ablaze. Both Miranda Lambert and Luke Bryan mentioned Stapleton in their acceptance speeches for their wins. As of this writing Stapleton has the #1 selling album on all of iTunes and “Tennessee Whiskey” is #2 on the all-genre chart, only trailing the record-breaking Adele song “Hello.” This night and this show was all about Chris Stapleton. It was a historic night not only in the career of Stapleton, but perhaps all of country music. Think about it. Stapleton walked away with three awards, while Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett walked away with nothing. We could be looking back on this night as one of the biggest moments in country music history and could signify a drastic shift in mainstream country and country radio.

This couldn’t happen to a better person in Chris Stapleton, who was in tears when he accepted his third award of the night. I know I was teary eyed with several others watching too. He’s such a humble and hard-working guy who puts his heart and soul into all of his music. The 2015 CMA Awards was the Chris Stapleton show and he was deserving of every bit of adulation he has received.

Little Big Town Wins Awards for Song of the Year, Single of the Year & Group of the Year

If it wasn’t for Chris Stapleton, this night would have been about Little Big Town, who took home three awards themselves. This wasn’t a big surprise at all, considering “Girl Crush” was one of the biggest hits in all of music this year. I didn’t see it winning all of these awards, but I probably should have seen it coming. I don’t mind it winning at all, as it’s better than 90% of the other stuff on country radio. Little Big Town needs to savor this though because I don’t see them ever having this big of a hit ever again (similar to Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now”). Their performance of the song was also one of the better ones of the night.

Hank Williams Jr. & Eric Church Open With “Are You Ready For The Country”

The show kicked off with Hank Jr. and Eric Church singing the Neil Young-penned “Are You Ready For The Country” and it wasn’t a bad performance. It wasn’t either’s best performance ever, but they were in-synch and they delivered for the most part. It’s the first single for Williams under the NASH Icon label and with Church being a part of the song might give it a good chance of getting radio play. Out of everyone in the mainstream to re-do this song with, Church was probably the best pick for Williams. And hey it’s definitely country music, which is a step in the right direction. This wasn’t the only big moment for Church of the night…

Eric Church Surprises The World With Brand New Album

In addition Church caught all of us off-guard and released a brand new album titled Mr. Misunderstood. His fan club had all received copies of it in the mail on Tuesday afternoon, which was the first inkling of it even coming out. Maybe he was inspired by Strait? Regardless this is an album many will be listening to and discussing in the coming week, including yours truly. Church may have only walked away with one award for the night, but this surprise album will surely be one of the buzzing stories in country music.

Blake Shelton Becomes The Most Hated Artist in Country Music

One of the biggest secondary stories of the night was Blake Shelton’s publicist announcing to the world 20 minutes before the show that he was dating fellow judge on The Voice and pop artist Gwen Stefani. It seems like a douche move to do this right before attending a show where your ex-wife is also attending. This screams Shelton wanting to “win” the breakup and basically rubbing it in Miranda Lambert’s face. It was a disgusting scene to watch and no doubt he pissed off several fans watching. Also if I were him I would avoid the Miranda fans because they were ready to throw daggers on social media.

Miranda Lambert Performs “Bathroom Sink” & Wins Female Vocalist of the Year

Lambert didn’t look too good up there performing “Bathroom Sink.” She definitely isn’t having the best year and you almost wanted to hug her. You can see why the anger for Blake was so high. Lambert was pretty short in her acceptance speech and just looked like she wanted to get off the stage quickly. But she accepted the award wearing a Chris Stapleton shirt and praised him for his big night. Look out for her next record because it could be her best yet.

Zac Brown Band Performs “Beautiful Drug”

This was such a godawful performance and I let everyone on Twitter know it. This song is bad enough at it is and what made it even worse was how flat Brown sounded throughout it. In fact he missed some big notes. The Zac Brown Band fanboys ate it right up, but the rest of us were waiting for it to just end. The good news though is that this song is at a snail’s crawl at country radio right now and we can only hope it flops to slap some sense back into Zac Brown. In my mind it was tied for the worst performance of the night. Speaking of…

Sam Hunt Performs “Take Your Time”

It speaks volumes that Hunt performed his mega-hit from months ago instead of his current single “Break Up In A Small Town.” Just like “Beautiful Drug,” this song is not gaining at all right now at radio. This of course a good sign that maybe country radio is considering dumping this un-country stuff and getting back to actual country music. We can only hope. This was tied for worst performance of the night.

Kacey Musgraves Performs “Dime Store Cowgirl”

This was without a doubt one of the top five performances of the night. Kacey sounded and looked absolutely stunning on the stage and I’m glad they gave her a full performance. Apparently her label has re-sent this song to radio in hopes that it gets a second chance from radio programmers. It’s one of her best songs off of Pageant Material and arguably the best single she has ever released. It deserves a chance, but I’m not confident.

Florida Georgia Line Performs “Confession” 

These two followed Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake’s mind-blowing performance with their blandest song yet. It was the most hilarious moment of the night. This is probably going to be their next single, which is a curious choice. They previously said they were taking a break after “Anything Goes” was done at radio, but that song didn’t perform nearly as well as they thought. It’s perhaps a sign that we’ve reached the Nickelback level with them? “Confession” will say a lot about this group’s standing moving forward. They might not be winning anymore Vocal Duo of the Year awards anymore. Also tied for worst performance of the night.

Fall Out Boy & Thomas Rhett Perform Together

Well this happened and I wish it hadn’t. I even enjoy “Uma Thurman,” but it has no business being performed on country awards show. This also tied for worst performance of the night. This is starting to turn into The Pulse.

The Rest

  • Keith Urban performed “Ain’t That America” with John Mellencamp and it was good thanks to Mellencamp mostly. Urban’s performance of “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” was pretty forgettable, especially after following Church and Williams.
  • The Little Jimmy Dickens tribute was touching and appropriate. Kudos to everyone involved for making that happen.
  • Kenny Chesney performed “Save It For A Rainy Day,” which has dominated country radio recently. It was an okay performance and it did nothing to chance my thoughts about it.
  • I enjoy Carrie Underwood’s “Smoke Break.” But her performance was pretty stilted thanks to the audio. This on the production crew because Carrie’s voice sounded fine as always. It didn’t help she had to follow the absolute euphoria that erupted over Stapleton winning New Artist of the Year.
  • Kelsea Ballerini followed Stapleton winning Album of the Year and it was the most unintentionally comical thing I’ve seen at an awards show.
  • Brad Paisley performed “Country Nation” and it just made me long for his early days when he was singing “Too Country” with George Jones and Whisperin’ Bill Anderson. Bring back the old Brad!
  • Maddie & Tae did not get a full performance, which was a big bummer. But their short, stripped-down performance of “Girl In A Country Song” was really great. Plus they won Music Video of the Year, so they weren’t completely ignored. I’m sure they will be featured more in the future on these shows. Keep the faith in these two.
  • Pentatonix, one of my favorite pop groups, did a short a cappella performance of the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira.” A lot of country folks were making snarky comments about them, but hey it’s their loss if they aren’t familiar with this group.
  • Jason Aldean sounded terrible performing “Gonna Know We Were Here.” I’ve dubbed him the Kim Kardashian of country music.
  • Reba performed with Brooks & Dunn and they still sound pretty good. Bring them back to radio I say.
  • Dierks Bentley performed “Riser” with Lindsey Stirling on violin. Dierks didn’t sound 100% tonight and it wasn’t his best performance. I always enjoy hearing this song though and Stirling getting to perform on the national stage was nice to see too.
  • Luke Bryan won Entertainer of the Year and the world pretty much yawned. But I applaud him for his classy acceptance speech and giving a shout out to Stapleton. This gives you a good idea though how big of a night Stapleton had when nobody cared about Bryan winning this award.

Overall

This was one of the best country awards shows I’ve seen in several years. Stapleton having a big night was a huge reason why. But there were also several good, country performances throughout the show and most of the award winners were of quality. Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, Cole Swindell, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton walked away empty-handed. Sure there were some terrible performances too, including all-time awful ones in Zac Brown Band and Thomas Rhett with Fall Out Boy. But this was a night with overwhelming positives. I’ve haven’t been this positive about the future of mainstream country music in a long time. We can only hope this marks a major turning point in the genre returning to its roots and bringing quality artists in Chris Stapleton back to country radio.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Eric Church surprised released his new album during the CMA Awards last night and it’s titled Mr. Misunderstood. We’ll have a review on it soon.
  • Tim McGraw will release his new album Damn Country Music tomorrow. We’ll have review on this early next week.
  • Josh Abbott Band will release their new album Front Row Seat tomorrow.
  • Jeff Crosby & The Refugees will release their new album Waking Days tomorrow.
  • Cam announced last week she will release her debut album Untamed on December 11.
  • Hank Williams Jr. announced he will release his first album under the NASH Icon label on January 15, 2016 and it will be called It’s About Time.

Great Music Currently at Country Radio

The very best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly.

Throwback Thursday Song

Brandy Clark – “Stripes” – This past week I decided to go back and give a good listen to Brandy Clark’s 2013 album 12 Stories and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The standout from the album and one of the most popular songs on it is “Stripes,” a song about how a woman won’t shoot her husband for cheating on her because she doesn’t like to wear orange or stripes. This wry humor combined with your standard cheating song was a nice touch and definitely recommend giving this album a listen if you haven’t yet.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Rise Against The Machine – “Bulls on Parade” – I’m not a big fan of rap metal, but this song just flat-out rocks.

Tweets of the Week

There were a lot of awesome tweets during the CMA Awards. But this has to be featured. For those unfamiliar, Jimmy Kimmel Live has a popular feature called Mean Tweets in which celebrities, artists and even President Obama read mean tweets about themselves. They’re hilarious and I warn you that they can be addicting to watch. Anyway tonight they came out with a country music edition and it’s very funny. In particular I was pumped to see Reginald Spears get featured twice, who has been featured in this space many times. If you’re on Twitter, he’s a must-follow. Anyway just watch this video.

iTunes Review That Rocks

Sam Hunt Isn't Even Bro Country

This was left under Sam Hunt’s new acoustic mix tape album Between The Pines. Like this reviewer above says it’s not country (you’d think acoustic would mean it would be a little country), not even bro country. We’re to the point where bro country is an upgrade. I’m just going to go back to listening to music on the Americana chart.

Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below! 

Review – Eric Paslay’s “High Class” is Low Class Garbage

Eric Paslay High Class

Not another one! This has been the year of the sellout in country music, as artists who once captivated us with their quality music have turned to the dark side if you will and released music pandering to the current trends of the genre. Among them are Gary Allan, Zac Brown Band, Jake Owen, Brett Eldredge and Reba McEntire. The list continues to grow and one name I didn’t expect to end up on it was Eric Paslay. He impressed me with his 2014 self-titled debut album and even more when I saw him in-person. His last single, “She Don’t Love You,” was a candidate for Country Perspective’s 2014 Song of the Year award. I’ve constantly praised him on the site as one of the up and coming artists to watch in mainstream country music and someone who could bring substance back to a genre sorely lacking it. Now out of nowhere Paslay has turned his back on what made me like him with the release of his new single “High Class.”

This song starts out well enough with the sounds of acoustic instruments. Then the drum machine kicks in and Paslay utters a line about having “a night to go out in style.” That’s when you realize this is about to get real bad. It gets terrible in fact. Here are the chorus lyrics:

Rent us a car, show up late. Valet this ride.

Credit on my cards, money in the bank at least for tonight. 

Keepin’ my shades on inside, all dressed in black.

“Escalade, these Luccheses yeah baby cadi up this lac

We ain’t on the list, but we on the list when you look like this and you walk like that

Skip the line baby and don’t look back. Tonight we high class. 

Holy shit these are terrible lyrics (written by Paslay, Corey Crowder and Jesse Frasure, who is also responsible for “Sun Daze” and “Hangover Tonight”). As you can see this song is about going to the club and partying because that’s the newest theme in country music that has to be beaten to death. Paslay goes on to sing about how great the DJ is and how all the girls are like, “I heard he taught Timberlake.” So we get a Justin Timberlake reference as the cherry on top of this steaming pile of crap of a song. Keep in mind this song follows up “She Don’t Love You.” These lyrics are all set to a dance club beat and some loud horn sounds are pumped in throughout the song. But don’t worry the token banjo is buried in their too. Paslay also borderline raps in the bridge of this song.

I don’t know what to say, folks. I’m speechless. This is just flat-out embarrassing and quite frankly sad. Paslay is a talented artist and he’s reduced himself to making noise pollution like this. We’ve reached a new low and I just don’t know if I can keep covering these type of songs. It hurts my music loving soul. The name country music has been so tarnished I don’t know if it will ever return to its rightful meaning. How can you come back from so many terrible songs like this and be considered a meaningful genre again? I don’t think you can and it’s why I think so many actual country artists are now identifying themselves as Americana. I’ve seen people say it before and I will say it again: actual country music is now Americana. What I saw at the 2015 Americana Music Awards was amazing and made me feel alive. Country music just depresses me. It’s a lost cause. Pack up your bags and head over to Americana if you want to hear the real stuff. Eric Paslay’s “High Class” is just another example of the shit show country music has become and will continue to be for the forseeable future.

Grade: 0/10

I don’t feel like linking the song. I don’t like to pollute the earth. And go listen to the new album from the Turnpike Troubadours.