Predictions for Country & American Roots Categories at the 2017 Grammy Awards

Grammy

This Sunday we celebrate the biggest music awards show of the years. I’m of course referring to the 59th Grammy Awards, set to air Sunday night at 8 pm ET on CBS. Many of the awards however are presented in the pre-show that’s live streamed online and information for this can found be found here. After hosting for five years, LL Cool J steps aside as host and The Late Late Show host James Corden takes over. Multiple country artists will be performing on the show, including Sturgill Simpson, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban (most likely new single “The Fighter”), Little Big Town (part of tribute to Bee Gees), Maren Morris (duet with Alicia Keys) and Kelsea Ballerini (duet with Lukas Graham). 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.

Note: I will not be doing a live blog this year. I will however be live tweeting it all on Twitter, where you can all of my live thoughts as the show unfolds. Just go to twitter.com/realcountryview to follow if you don’t have Twitter. I’ll also most likely be doing a recaps/reaction post.

Album of the Year

  • Adele – 25
  • Beyoncé – Lemonade 
  • Justin Bieber – Purpose 
  • Drake – Views
  • Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

What I Would Pick To Win: Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth of course. Just imagine the outcries afterwards of all the big names that got taken down by some guy from Kentucky who made an album for his son.

What I Predict Will Win: Beyoncé’s Lemonade is the clear favorite I think, with Adele being the closest competition. But with other big names in Drake and Bieber also here, the votes could easily split and lead to Sturgill pulling off an upset similar to Beck a few years ago. I’d be fine with Beyoncé and Adele winning if Sturgill doesn’t, as I enjoyed both of their albums.

Best New Artist

  • Maren Morris
  • The Chainsmokers
  • Chance The Rapper
  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Anderson .Paak

Who I Would Pick To Win: Anderson .Paak or Chance The Rapper, as both of their latest albums were awesome. But if I had to pick between these two, I would go with .Paak.

Who I Predict Will Win: Honestly I have no clue here. I could see any of these nominees winning, even Kelsea Ballerini because despite being a complete unknown outside of the country music bubble, Black River Entertainment continues to prove they have a lot of friends in high places. Morris is getting to duet with Alicia Keys and is quickly becoming a darling on the awards circuit. I’ll be content as long as Ballerini or The Chainsmokers don’t win.

Best Country Solo Performance 

  • Brandy Clark – “Love Can Go To Hell”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”
  • Maren Morris – “My Church”
  • Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells”
  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color”

What I Would Pick To Win: Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” (Anything but Urban’s song, which is ironically exactly what I wrote here last year)

What I Predict Will Win: Maren Morris’ “My Church” due to as I said above Morris quickly become an awards circuit favorite and this single being extremely popular. The other favorite I would think is Underwood, as she’s been a favorite of the Grammys.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

  • Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls”
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”
  • Kenny Chesney & P!nk – “Setting The World on Fire”
  • Dolly Parton & Pentatonix – “Jolene”
  • Chris Young & Cassadee Pope – “Think of You”

What I Would Pick To Win: Woof this category is rough. I guess I would go with “21 Summer.”

What I Predict Will Win: Dierks Bentley & Elle King’s “Different For Girls” because apparently people are okay with stereotypical bullshit and really think this is some deep song.

Best Country Song

  • Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” (Clint Lagerberg, Hillary Lindsey & Steven Lee Olsen)
  • Thomas Rhett – “Die A Happy Man” (Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett & Joe Spargur)
  • Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind” (Lori McKenna)
  • Maren Morris – “My Church” (Maren Morris & busbee)
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice” (Miranda Lambert, Shane McAnally & Josh Osborne)

What I Would Pick To Win: Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” (Not Urban or Rhett)

What I Predict Will Win: Any of these have a great shot at winning I think. But I think they’ll go with “Humble and Kind” or “Vice.”

Best Country Album

  • Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town
  • Loretta Lynn – Full Circle
  • Maren Morris – Hero
  • Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth 
  • Keith Urban – Ripcord

What I Would Pick To Win: Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

What I Predict Will Win: A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is pretty much a lock here, with Simpson getting an overall Album of the Year nomination and a performance slot.

Best American Roots Performance 

  • The Avett Brothers – “Ain’t No Man”
  • Blind Boys of Alabama – “Mother’s Children Have a Hard Time”
  • Rhiannon Giddens – “Factory Girl”
  • Sarah Jarosz – “House of Mercy”
  • Lori McKenna – “Wreck You”

What I Would Pick To Win: Rhiannon Giddens – “Factory Girl”

What I Predict Will Win: The Avett Brothers – “Ain’t No Man”

Best American Roots Song

  • Robbie Fulks – “Alabama at Night” (Robbie Fulks)
  • Jack White – “City Lights” (Jack White)
  • Roddie Romero And The Hub City All-Stars – “Gulfstream” (Eric Adcock & Roddie Romero)
  • The Time Jumpers – “Kid Sister” (Vince Gill)
  • Lori McKenna – “Wreck You” (Lori McKenna & Felix McTeigue)

What I Would Pick To Win: Lori McKenna – “Wreck You”

What I Predict Will Win: Jack White – “City Lights”

Best Americana Album

  • The Avett Brothers – True Sadness 
  • William Bell – This Is Where I Live
  • Kris Kristofferson – The Cedar Creek Sessions
  • Lori McKenna – The Bird & The Rifle
  • The Time Jumpers – Kid Sister

What I Would Pick To Win: Lori McKenna – The Bird & The Rifle

What I Predict Will Win: William Bell – This Is Where I Live

The Hodgepodge: Five Thoughts on Country & Americana Music Right Now

Thumbs Down

Derek is busy dealing with some stuff this week (don’t worry there’s nothing wrong, he’s just a little too busy to write), so I’m stepping in this week to write the Hodgepodge. It was good timing too, as I have multiple things on my mind I would like to discuss at the moment regarding the current states of country and Americana music. There was no way I could pick just one topic, so I’ve decided to do a little state of the genre type address on some topics I feel are pressing and need addressed. So enough pleasantries and let’s get to the talking points, starting with the most prevalent on my mind…

1. Country & Americana Music are Down in Quality in 2016

This seems to be the consensus amongst not only you the readers, but the industry as a whole. I agree with this sentiment, to an extent. There hasn’t been as much quality music being churned out this year compared to recent years. This is true not only for mainstream/popular country, but in the independent and Americana scenes too. But I see people talking like there’s a complete lack of quality and this just isn’t true. I think the issue people are getting mixed up here is genre qualifications and quality standards. No two albums exemplify this more than Sturgill Simpsons’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth and Robert Ellis’ self-titled album. Here you have two artists that have been consistently identified as country artists by the fans and are pretty popular too. They then both release albums that are sonically different from all of their previous releases. It’s a departure from their usual sound and as you know music fans don’t always react well to change. People are calling these albums bad because they’re not fitting their standards of genre qualifications. It’s not evaluating the actual quality of the music for what it is, but rather arbitrarily dismissing them for not meeting their sonic standards. This is flat-out lazy on the part of listeners and reviewers employing this train of thought. I will never dismiss quality music just because it doesn’t fit what I wanted. If its quality, it’s quality. I don’t give a shit if it doesn’t fit the genre I wanted it to fit. Of course I’ve already laid out this thought process on my review of Keith Urban’s Ripcord.

With this point aside, I think the better way to describe country and Americana music in 2016 is that there hasn’t been enough quality music that reflects the roots and sounds of the genre. There’s a lot of different sounds and influences being experimented with right now. I think mainly it’s a lot of artists trying to find a way to stand out while also trying to satisfy their own creative itches. I also stand by my point that a lot of artists are tired of being put in genre boxes. As Robert Ellis sings on “Elephant,” how can you call it art when you’re sticking to a dotted line? I have faith that things are about to improve, especially in the month of August where there are several potential album releases that could be album of the year contenders.

I think there’s a bigger problem though facing artists that is rearing its head in 2016. Both in mainstream and independent scenes the competition for eye balls has never been greater, which makes these problems so concerning…

2. Too Many Independent Country & Americana Acts are Failing to Stand Out/Get Their Name Out There

Many up and coming acts love to look at the likes of Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton as inspirations for their own path to success in music. They love to think they too can replicate the paths they took and be household names just like them. I get a lot of pitches every single week of starry-eyed, hungry and ambitious artists looking to have their music featured here right on the blog in the hopes that they can get enough promotion to stand out and be “discovered.” But here’s the problem I see: they don’t do enough to stand out. It’ll be good music, but it does absolutely nothing to stand out and be different from the crowd. Keep in mind I get pitches from all over the world, not just in the United States. As an independent artist you have to remember you’re going against thousands of other acts in the same position as you. If you want to be recognized and featured on blogs like mine, you have to do everything you can to be unique while also producing genuinely great music. It’s easier said than done. I may be coming off sounding like a pompous ass, but that’s not my point. If I featured and reviewed everything pitched to me, I would never get any sleep. Readers would be driven away by the lack of quality standout music. It’s my job to feature the very best not only to keep my sanity and keep readers’ attentions, but because somebody has to be a gatekeeper for quality. This means I have to turn down upwards of 90% of what is pitched to me.

Then of course there are artists out there who do make great enough music to standout and get featured on my blog, but they simply don’t do enough to grow their fan base and stand out even more. This could be due to lack of a web presence, social media presence and/or touring presence. It’s maddening to watch talented artists who have a chance to really break out squander opportunities before their very eyes and be stuck in the same position for years. Just being featured and getting critical acclaim on blogs like mine isn’t the end all be all to get your name out there. It’s 1% of the things you need to do to grow.

Of course on the flip-side…

3. Major Labels Have Become Too Reliant on Radio to Break Out New Artists

This comes after I had a lengthy and constructive conversation with Christopher Baggs the other day on Twitter. For those unaware, Baggs is a country music chart tracker and industry insider who is very knowledgeable when it comes to these subjects. I highly recommend following him if you don’t already. Anyway our conversation begins after he pointed out how this week on the aircheck chart that 30 of the top 70 songs did not move up or lower in position from the week before with their bullet along with no recurrent. On top of that there’s a very crowded release schedule. This is obviously a big problem. To see the full conversation between us, start at this tweet (click on the date to see the full conversation):

We both agree that right now the labels are on a very dangerous path that could potentially hurt all parties involved. Anyone who follows the Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music knows that there are a lot of songs being pushed way too long on the chart and overstaying their welcome. Chase Rice’s “Gonna Wanna Tonight” spent over a year on the chart! Major labels are taking a boom or bust approach to breaking new and lower level acts via radio and this in turn is delaying new albums from these artists. The Cadillac Three have spent several years on Big Machine and are just now releasing their first album under the label in August. This is all because labels are hell-bent on making singles work and this is just short-sighted. With all of the technology and resources at their disposal there’s no reason why they can’t find other ways to break these artists out and get their names out. I don’t understand why these labels just can’t accept that sometimes a song is not a hit and move on. If a song spends 20 weeks in the 30s to 40s on the chart without hitting the top 30, that should be a sign that this song is just not going to work. But every label has seemed to adopt this boom or bust attitude, so now we’re about to find out what happens when you try to put 100 gallons of water into a 20 gallon bucket (it’s not going to be pretty),

4. Female Artists Still Aren’t Given a Fair Shake 

I’ll keep this one short and simple. It’s over one year after Tomato Gate and not a damn thing has changed in regards to female artists at radio. The only female acts that can get consistently played at radio are Carrie Underwood (an established star) and Kelsea Ballerini (a pop artist that has a label behind her willing to throw obscene amounts of money into marketing because her boyfriend’s dad runs it). Jennifer Nettles will be gone from the chart soon. Miranda Lambert will get a nice initial run with “Vice,” but I highly doubt this song reaches the top of the chart. Maddie & Tae have appeared to be Musgrave’d by programmers. All the while labels continue to pigeonhole their new female acts into two categories: straight pop or throwback country. Of course things aren’t exactly great for female artists in independent scene either. Just like in popular country, male artists get far and away more attention than female artists at festivals. It doesn’t help also when critics like myself stick our feet in our mouth and call them great female artist when we should just say great artist like we do for male artists (I saw an artist point this out and it made me realize I’m guilty of this on occasion). Just overall we could do better on giving female artists a fairer shake and opportunities.

5. Despite all of these issues, I think fans are becoming more informed than ever.

I think slowly but surely more and more country fans are realizing they can’t rely on mainstream media and radio to get their country music fix. They’re taking to the Internet and discovering great artists on their own and through blogs like this one. It may not be that noticeable, but I can truly sense that people are no longer accepting the status quo that has been presented to them. If enough fans become informed and call the bullshit out, that’s when real change and progress gets made. Support your favorite artists and tell your friends too.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • As far as I’m aware there are no major releases on our radar this week. But next week the following albums will be released
    • Lori McKennaThe Bird & The Rifle
    • Hillary Scott – Love Remains
  • In two weeks Alan Jackson will release the box-set Genuine: The Alan Jackson Story digitally. It was released last year exclusively in a physical format at Walmart. As someone who owns it, I highly recommend it if you’re an Alan Jackson fan.
  • Also on August 5 Cody Johnson will release his new album Gotta Be Me.
  • Dolly Parton will be releasing a new album on August 19 titled Pure & Simple.
  • Amanda Shires announced she will be releasing a new album titled My Piece of Land on September 16.
  • On September 30 the legendary John Prine will be releasing a new duets album called For Better, or Worse. The female talent featured on the album will be staggering and expansive, including the likes of Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Help Me Make It Through The Night” by The Highwaymen – Country’s greatest supergroup performs the classic Kris Kristofferson tune together. Just hit play and enjoy.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

“Let The Storm Descend Upon You” by Avantasia – I’m not usually a big metal listener, but I instantly loved symphonic metal group Avantasia upon first listen. Their entire new album Ghostlights is highly recommended from yours truly, but my favorite on it is hands down this song. It’s a whopping 12 minute epic! But I assure it’s fantastic. This is probably one of my favorite songs of 2016.

Tweet of the Week

This is in reference to a recent interview Granger Smith had with The Boot, calling Texas the minor leagues. And this tweet is pretty damn funny (funnier than anything Earl Dibbles Jr. has ever done).

The Perfect Steven Tyler Album Review

Steven Tyler Sucks

There’s no chance in hell we’re reviewing the new Steven Tyler album because it is all kinds of awful. This iTunes review here sums it up pretty well (although I’m not sure if I agree on the Run DMC version of “Walk This Way” being bad). Tyler is nothing but a trend chaser desperately trying to cling to the spotlight.

The Hodgepodge: Instant Gratification and Music

Sturgill

I saw comments like this last year, and I’ve seen them this year. Something like “this has been a down year for music” or “releases haven’t been as strong this year.” I think it’s funny, and somewhat frustrating, that comments like that constantly pop up after an anticipated album is released and not up to someone’s standards. I think our culture in America has become so ingrained with the idea of “instant gratification.” In sports, every great game is an instant classic or a great player or team is immediately brought into the conversation for greatest of all time. Or if someone struggles early on, they’re immediately written off. More than anything, I think technology and social media have perpetuated a desire to be first and quick: first with breaking news, first with an announcement, quickly discussing major story lines from shows like Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black.

While music fans don’t have to worry about spoilers, and musicians don’t get blasted for having an “off night” on tour, the same mentality of instant gratification still seeps into the music world. If a single or an album doesn’t wow us right away, we’re critical. We, as fans and users of technology (yes, I’m generalizing here), have become so accustomed to responding and making up our minds right away, that we judge the music we hear in the same fashion.

And just a few things to keep in mind before we dive into this: 1) this is purely from my observations reading comments left here, on other similar sites or on social media. 2) my timeframe starts in 2014, when I began writing for Country Perspective and exploring country music in-depth. 3) I’m just as guilty of this kind of thought and behavior.

The big part of instant gratification that annoys me are comments about how music released this year haven’t been as strong as last year. That could be true, that could be false. But when I see comments like that in the summer, I think it’s stupid. We have six more months of music releases to consume before we can accurately make those kinds of judgements. Sure, maybe the first half of the year hasn’t had an album blow up like Sturgill’s Metamodern (released May 2014), or Randy and Wade’s Hold My Beer (released April 2015), but that doesn’t mean 2016 won’t have an album like either of the two.

Take Chris Stapleton’s Traveller. Released in April last year, our circle of independent blogs and fans were high and mighty on Stapleton. Sure he had a slower rise, but by the time November rolled around, Chris Stapleton was a huge name in country music thanks to some CMA hardware. That’s just one example, and someone like Luke Bell probably won’t get any mainstream attention, despite a fantastic, pure country album. Sometimes it may take an album a few months for people to come around to it, or for an artist to see the benefits of fan growth. Not everyone will be an overnight success from one album release. There are a number of albums that took me multiple listens, or even several months, before I understood the hype or praise that album received. Whenever possible, I try to listen to an album multiple times before reviewing it to fully form an opinion. Judgement on art can change, and writing your opinion in stone after one listen isn’t always the best practice.

I think another mindset that plays into the notion of a weak year for albums or whatever is the desire to compare current works with past works – be it an artist’s newest album with the one before or comparing one artist’s new album with a different artist’s great album from “X” year. As a reviewer, I may compare the albums from a certain artist to highlight a growth or improvement I noticed within the artist from release to release, but I try to judge and grade an album as a piece of art independent from others. I’m sure I’m not perfect and that I’ve made that mistake a few times. However, artists who write their songs and albums, write them with their personal life influencing the songs. Just like everyone else, life happens and things change for singers and songwriters. It’s seems likely that an album released in 2013 represents what was going on in that singer/songwriter’s life at that time. And there’s a damn good chance that in 2016, that same person’s life looks completely different and will write about something different for the album that year.

However, what appears to be a common reaction to a new album that veers off the direction or sound of the previous one is that fear or worry that the artist is abandoning his or her music. Statements like “I was a fan until this album” or “he/she/they just lost a fan because I hate this new sound” are just plain idiotic. How can you possibly know that the new, different album will completely dictate and control the artist’s entire career and musical direction until retirement? So the artist released an album you didn’t like, big deal. There’s absolutely no rule that says you must like every song and album from your favorite artist.

Case in point, Sturgill Simpson. I’d be lying if I said the release and reactions of A Sailor’s Guide to Earth didn’t have some influence on this post. However, a common critique I’ve noticed is that it’s not the same as Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Well it’s not going to be! I’d much rather have a new, different album than a direct sequel of a previous album that hits all the same marks. If you loved his first couple albums and this new one doesn’t do it for you, then that’s okay. Album number four could be more in line with his previous album and ASGTE will just be that outlier. We don’t know what the future holds, and it’s crazy to think that Sturgill will never ever make an album with hard-hitting honky tonk country like Metamodern again.

Artists want to experiment and express themselves. They’re own music and albums will be different from year to year, and country music will be different from year to year. Maybe we won’t have another album that explodes a little-known act to stardom for another 10 years, but that’s not to say we’ll be left without great music for that decade of time. And at the same time, 10 years down the road we could possibly be looking back to 2016 as a defining year for country music. We don’t know, and we won’t know until it happens. Sure the moment itself may not be as flashy, or the music might not hit you right away like albums before, but that doesn’t mean the magic is lost or that the music is on a downward spiral.

We live in a time where we have more accessibility to music than ever before, for better or worse. Maybe it takes longer to find that gem of an album. Maybe this is the year your favorite artist decides to experiment and explore something different. Whatever the case may be, immediately writing the year or artist off because it doesn’t meet any personal, preconceived standards isn’t the right way to approach music. Give it time before making an absolute judgement. And even then, don’t make that judgement absolute.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • The Avett Brothers will released True Sadness tomorrow.
  • Mark Chesnutt’s Tradition Lives will be released on July 8.
  • Lori McKenna’s The Bird & the Rifle will be released on July 29.
  • Cody Jinks‘ newest album I’m Not the Devil will be released on August 12.
  • Kelsey Waldon’s will release a new album on August 13 called I’ve Got a Way. 
  • Amanda Shires’ announced a new album for September 16 called My Piece of Land.

Throwback Thursday Song

“The Silver Tongued Devil and I” by Kris Kristofferson. One of country’s best songwriters celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


A.J. Ghent Band. This funk rock/soul band from Atlanta, Georgia was once upon time signed to Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label. This is a solid live album which I think showcases the band’s talents well. And I’m eager and ready to hear a full length studio album whenever the band releases one.

Tweet of the Week

Bro-country didn’t completely ruin the genre!

Two Stupid iTunes Review for Kane Brown

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 1.07.21 PM Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 1.08.01 PM

These were left under Kane Brown’s newest single “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.” That’s a scary thought because he needs to be stopped, and at least Bobby Bones is on our side with this. But these two reviews just crack me up. From thinking this isn’t “immature like a typical pop song” to insinuating that country music “involves.”

Album Review – Ryan Beaver’s ‘Rx’

Ryan Beaver Rx

When it comes to finding new and upcoming artists in country and Americana, I feel I do a pretty job. But obviously I can’t find and hear them all. So when I looked over Rolling Stone’s 10 New Country Artists You Need To Know last November, I saw a name on it I hadn’t heard of that caught my eye and that was Ryan Beaver. Rolling Stone compared him to Will Hoge and Dierks Bentley, which after hearing him I can definitely hear. Beaver hails from Texas, but has established himself as a singer-songwriter in Nashville the last few years. Over this time he has written a lot of songs while waiting for his chance to release the record he wants to release. Now that the current environment is becoming more accepting of…well what I would call quality, mature music from the likes of Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, Beaver has released his third album Rx. The reason Beaver named it this is because he described making this record as “therapeutic” and healing. And you can definitely feel this in most of the songs.

Beaver kicks the album off with “Dark,” appropriately titled considering the theme of the song. It’s about a heartbroken man who just wants to be left alone in the dark while his heart heals. The gritty guitar play really compliments the lyrics and gives the song some teeth. Beaver says he wrote this song after losing his grandfather and close friend, making “Dark” quite personal. It’s the reason he made it the album’s lead single and song. It’s the perfect song to begin the album with and get you interested in it because it draws you in with ease. Staying in that same dark and gritty place, “Rum & Roses” is a song that deals with the day after. Beaver really impresses me with his vocals on this song and the guitar play is once again really good. If you enjoy garage rock meets country, you’ll enjoy this song.

“Fast” is one of a few songs on this album that just doesn’t quite work for me. It’s about a man and woman drinking and possibly leading to more later on and the guy enjoy how fast they’re getting to that point. It’s really not much different from the slow sex jams we’ve heard on country radio in the past year or so. Yes the songwriting is better and more mature, but the theme doesn’t deviate much from it at all. The instrumentation also feels more generic rock than country. It’s an okay song that I probably won’t remember. The next song, “When This World Ends,” is another one that feels a lot like what you would hear on country radio. Not just because the song has an overall pop vibe about it, but also because the theme has been done to death. It’s about being in love and the world ending and I think you know where this is going. I’ll admit it is pretty catchy and not necessarily a bad song. Also if you’re wondering, that’s Maren Morris as the female background vocalist, fellow Texan and friend of Beaver.

“Jesus Was A Capricorn” is a short and light opener to “Kristofferson,” Beaver’s ode to the iconic singer-songwriter. “Jesus Was A Capricorn” of course is one of Kristofferson’s better known songs and Beaver plays a snippet of it to introduce his song about him. As for “Kristofferson,” it’s about the rocky life of a troubadour. The lyrics are decent, although it takes a few listens to figure out where Beaver is going with it. The song really just kind of meanders and doesn’t really say much other than that. I’m not really sure how this has anything to do with Kris Kristofferson because the hook of the word “Kristofferson” feels jammed in and forced. Beaver gets back on track with “Habit,” where once again Morris shows up as a background vocalist. The song is about a man knowing his woman has a habit to pack up her stuff and leave, as he’s saw it so many times before. The production is a tad overdone, but I like the space-y sound it gives off.

One of my favorite tracks on Rx is “Vegas.” Playing on the phrase “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” the song is about a man realizing this really isn’t true, as the memories of a weekend he spent with a woman in Vegas aren’t really going away. She’s left him and now he continues to be haunted by her and their time in Vegas. Not only did that weekend break his bank, but his heart too. This is Beaver’s songwriting at it’s best. The heavy “Gravedigger” is about a woman making life hell for a man. She’s pure poison to him and she’s made him realize how low his life can really get. The whole song has a haunting vibe about it and really sets the mood well for the song. This is probably the coolest sounding song on the album.

The conventional “Still Yours” is a love song with a catchy hook. Unlike “Fast” and “When This World Ends,” this song does a good job of balancing a country sound and being accessible to mainstream audiences. It’s solid, yet unspectacular. The album title track deals with heartbreak and finding ways to cope with it. The heartbroken man says it takes a little more medicine for him to get over it, which I’m assuming are time and drinking. “Rx” is another solid track, although it could have been better with a more impactful production. Rx closes out with “If I Had A Horse.” It’s a reflective, solemn song where Beaver wishes he could go back and change some of the things in his past. Not only does he wish some stuff would change, but he remembers his days of youth and how his imagination would run wild, which was slowly killed off by growing up. The songwriting is pretty sharp on this song and the production is spot on. I would argue this is the best song on the album, so Beaver saved the best for last.

With all of the hype I was hearing about this album and Ryan Beaver from critical circles, I’ll admit I was expecting a little more. But I wouldn’t say Rx is a disappointment. It’s a very solid country album with smart songwriting for the most part. There’s just a few songs that aren’t quite up to grade with the rest and the production gets a little carried away at times. The rest of the album though is an enjoyable listen once it grows on you. Beaver is a great songwriter who I believe still has even better songs yet to come because his career feels so young, despite being a singer-songwriter for years now and this being his third album. Nevertheless I would recommend checking out Ryan Beaver and Rx, especially if you enjoy artists like Eric Church and Kip Moore. I’m looking forward to hearing more from Beaver in the future because I think he’s capable of making great music for years to come.

Grade: 8/10

 

 

The Hodgepodge: A Historical Snapshot of Kris Kristofferson

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From left to right: Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings

“Renaissance Man” may be the perfect way to describe Kris Kristofferson. Kris attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He was a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army. He was an athlete in high school running distance, playing rugby, football, and was a Golden Gloves boxer. After leaving the Army in 1965, Kristofferson was offered a teaching position at West Point. After the offer came through, Kristofferson says, “I was in Nashville for two weeks on leave between assignments. I just fell in love with the music community that was going on there.” With all those accomplishments and a wealth of high-end opportunities on the horizon, Kris decided to take a different path and remain in Nashville. Call him crazy, but he took a job as a janitor at Columbia Records, intent on finding success as a singer and songwriter in country music.

It took a few years, but Kris Kristofferson eventually found success in Nashville with his songwriting. Roger Miller gave him his first break when he recorded one of Kristofferson’s most well-known songs, “Me and Bobby McGee.” The song was written upon request by Monument Records’ Fred Foster who gave Kris the title “Me and Bobby McKee.” (Bobby McKee was a secretary in the building). But Kris misheard Foster and thought he said “McGee.” Kris found inspiration from the film La Strada and composed the lyrics to one of music’s best songs (in this writer’s opinion).

After Miller recorded “Me and Bobby McGee,” it was Johnny Cash’s recording of “Sunday Morning Coming Down” that thrusted Kris Kristofferson into spotlight. “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was awarded song of the year at the 1970 CMAs. Recognition continued for Kris with his second album Silver Tounged Devil and I being released in 1971, along with some more songwriting nominations for “Help me Make It Through The Night”, “Me and Bobby McGee” and “For the Good Times.”

Kris’ more poetic style of writing didn’t fit in with the Nashville Sound and style that was popular in the 1960s and 70s. He was proud of his writing style and story telling and didn’t waver for anyone, an attitude which rightfully positioned him with the Outlaws alongside Waylon and Willie. And along with Cash, those Outlaws formed the supergroup The Highwaymen and recorded Highwayman, an album whose title track remains one of country’s more famous songs.

When it came to writing, Kris says, “I’ve always felt that it was my was my job to tell the truth as I saw it, just the same as Hank Williams did and the way Bob Dylan did. It was important to me and I think I probably antagonised [sic] some audiences.” Kristofferson had stories to tell and love for music. His devotion to that mindset and attitude trumped everything else. “I was so in love with the thing I was doing, I wasn’t conscious of really not being very successful like the rest of my family was.”

Kristofferson exemplified an Outlaw not because he put up an over-masculine facade or sang songs about being a tough bad-ass, but because he blazed his own path to stardom and success. Kris Kirstofferson didn’t go down the Chet Atkins’ trail of corporate regurgitated country music. He did it his own way, and that’s why he was considered a country outlaw. Kris Kristofferson’s influence on country music holds steady even today. Next month, there will be an all-star tribute show in Kris’ honor. Taking place on March 16 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, The Life & Songs of Kris Kristofferson will feature Willie Nelson, Eric Church, Rosanne Cash, Ryan Bingham, Jamey Johnson, and several others performing Kristofferson songs in honor of Kris’ musical achievements and legacy for country music.

There’s much more to Kris Kristofferson’s legacy. He has a rich history and story about the work he put in and the people he met along the way. For instance, Kristofferson famously landed a helicopter on Johnny Cash’s lawn in his early efforts of getting songs recorded. While Cash wasn’t home at the time of the landing, it nonetheless shows the lengths he went to get his music noticed. His resiliency to make his dream come true is inspiring. Kris Kristofferson put his blood, sweat, and tears into his music and took the long road to find success. The work paid off and he will forever stand as one of country music’s most influential trailblazer.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Tomorrow, Waco Brothers’ Going Down in History will be released.
  • Carolina Ghost from Caleb Caudle will be released tomorrow as well.
  • Granger Smith’s album Remington will hit the shelves March 4.
  • An album I am very much looking forward to: Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter will be released on March 26.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Sunday Morning Coming Down” Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson: Both Cash and Kristofferson have recorded the song, but does it get any better than these two singing the song together? Also, you can tell how proud Kristofferson is to sing his own song alongside Johnny Cash.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Janis Joplin. Sticking with the Kris Kristofferson take over, I suggest you all go listen to Janis Joplin, a singer I could endlessly listen to on shuffle. She and Kristofferson dated for a while up until Joplin’s untimely death. Janis Joplin also recorded “Me and Bobby McGee” for her excellent album, Pearl, which was released posthumously. Janis Joplin also recorded “Piece of My Heart” as lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company. That song was later recorded by Faith Hill in 1994.

Tweet of the Week

That’s enticing, but I probably still wouldn’t join Tidal for that either.

A LoCash iTunes Review

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I’ve only heard “I Love This Life” from the radio, but this review tells me everything I need to know about LoCash, and what I know is I don’t want to listen to them if they’re taking notes from Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt.