Josh’s Jukebox Journal — Country Hits: 2006

Once upon a time there was a popular feature on this blog called The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music and it’s sister feature The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music. It was an enjoyable feature for both you and I, before I decided to take a hiatus from blogging. My own enjoyment of the feature had waned, but I’ve wanted to return to a feature like this ever since.

Kyle over at Kyle’s Korner Blog took over the torch for The Current Pulse and is doing a fantastic job with it, so please go check it out if you haven’t done so. But I was wanting to do a Past Pulse. Unfortunately as I’ve discovered, Billboard has become greedy and decided to lock past charts behind a paywall. Quite an asinine decision in my view. So with this stupid decision by Billboard, I obviously can’t do The Past Pulse. But that sent me down the idea rabbit hole and I got to thinking how I could re-adapt the Past Pulse into something new. Combined with another feature idea I had been tinkering with, I’ve come up with Josh’s Jukebox Journal.

Josh’s Jukebox Journal is a brand new feature on the blog that will be similar to The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music, but with a twist. Rather than rely on past charts from Billboard instead I will look at playlists. This could be from any genre, from any year, past or present, various artists or just one artist. I will run through the playlist giving a thumbs up (let it play), shrug (essentially playlist filler) or a thumbs down (skip it). The best song will get two thumbs up and the worst will get two thumbs down. At the end I will give a grade for the quality of the playlist. These playlists can come from any of the streaming services (preferably Spotify, Apple Music or YouTube).

This feature won’t have a set day or time of when it releases. It will essentially be when I want to do one. And of course I want to hear playlist ideas for future versions of Josh’s Jukebox Journal in the comments! Today I will take a look at the Apple Music playlist Country Hits: 2006…

    • Rodney Atkins – “If You’re Going Through Hell” 👎
    • Rascal Flatts – “What Hurts the Most”🤷
    • Josh Turner – “Your Man” 👍
    • Carrie Underwood – “Jesus, Take the Wheel” 👍
    • Jennifer Nettles & Bon Jovi – “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”🤷
    • Brad Paisley – “When I Get Where I’m Going (feat. Dolly Parton)” 👍
    • Jason Aldean – “Why”🤷
    • Kenny Chesney – “Summertime”🤷
    • Phil Vassar – “Last Day of My Life” 👍
    • LeAnn Rimes – “Something’s Gotta Give”🤷
    • George Strait – “She Let Herself Go”🤷
    • Jack Ingram – “Wherever You Are” 👍
    • The Wreckers – “Leave the Pieces” 👍
    • Kenny Chesney – “Living In Fast Forward” 👍
    • Brad Paisley – “The World” 👍
    • Carrie Underwood – “Before He Cheats” 👍
    • Trace Adkins – “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” 👎👎
    • Rascal Flatts – “My Wish (10th Anniversary)” 👎
    • Blake Shelton – “Nobody But Me” 👍
    • Dierks Bentley – “Settle for a Slowdown” 👍👍
    • Steve Holy – “Brand New Girlfriend” 👍
    • Josh Turner – “Would You Go With Me” 👍
    • Little Big Town – “Bring It On Home” 👍
    • Sugarland – “Want To” 👍
    • Toby Keith – “Get Drunk and Be Somebody” 👎

Thumbs up: 15
Shrugs: 6
Thumbs down: 4

Grade: 7/10

This is a pretty solid playlist (until you see a lot of the songs missing I list below that I would have added and then you’re going to get angry like me). I was actually a little surprised, but then as I listened to it more not so much because I remember every single one of these songs vividly. I was 14/15 years old when these songs were popular and this was when my brother and I would watch the CMT music video countdown show every week. So I definitely got some nostalgia running through this playlist. And I can’t get over how much mandolin was allowed on country radio back then!

So many great songs to choose from for the best. Josh Turner was absolutely on fire during this time. I really enjoyed Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley’s material at that time too. Underwood of course just released her debut album and it’s arguably still her best record. Paisley helped Dolly get another hit and that’s always great. But I had to go with Dierks Bentley’s “Settle For a Slowdown” from the excellent Modern Day Drifter album. The ominous and dark atmosphere created by the guitars and the descriptive lyricism that so perfectly lays out the longing heartbreak taking place in the song made me choose it as best.

Not a lot of bad songs to choose from on this playlist, which is nice of course. I enjoyed all of Rodney Atkins biggest hits at first, including the one above, but thank country radio and grocery stores for overplaying them to the point I cringe when I hear them. I don’t mind Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish,” but for some bizarre reason they put a flat and bad 10th anniversary version on this playlist. Long-time readers know how I feel about post-9/11 Toby Keith. But picking Trace Adkins’ “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” as the worst was a slam dunk choice. This song was everywhere, well rather the remix version, which I’m surprised isn’t what was chosen for this playlist. It’s an annoying novelty song that will only age worse with time. (That I’ll also admit that teenager me loved at the time)

Songs I Would Have Added to the Playlist

  • Billy Currington – “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” (Currington was so good during this time and his omission is bad)
  • Dierks Bentley – “Every Mile a Memory”
  • Brooks & Dunn – “Believe”
  • Little Big Town – “Boondocks” (A cult classic!)
  • George Strait – “Give It Away” (How in the hell was this not on the playlist, yet the sleepy Strait hit was chosen?!?)
  • Emerson Drive – “A Good Man”
  • Eric Church – “How ‘Bout You” (Not a single Church song on the playlist is criminal!)
  • Kenny Rogers – “I Can’t Unlove You” (Rest in peace Mr. Rogers. Also people forget this was a top 20 song for him in 2006 and definitely worthy of this playlist)
  • Gary Allan – “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful” (Why was this not on the playlist either?!)
  • Alan Jackson – “Like Red on a Rose” (I’m just getting more angry at what was not on this playlist)
  • Jack Ingram – “Love You”
  • Van Zant – “Nobody Gonna Tell Me What to Do”
  • Eric Church – “Two Pink Lines” (Incredible song!)
  • Keith Urban – “Once in a Lifetime”
  • George Strait – “The Seashores of Old Mexico”
  • Joe Nichols – “Size Matters (Someday)”
  • Tim McGraw – “When the Stars Go Blue” (Not a single McGraw song on the playlist, especially not this one?! Come on)
  • Billy Currington – “Why, Why, Why”
  • Jake Owen – “Yee Haw”
  • Kenny Chesney – “You Save Me” (Take the two songs he has on the playlist and replace them with just this one, his best hit of the year)

Be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts on the playlist and what you would have added to the playlist too below!

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [December 1999]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Every week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. Each song on the chart will receive either a +1, 0, or -1. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the top 30 songs with the highest score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. Songs rated between a 7 and 10 will receive a +1. Songs rated either 5 or 6 will receive a 0. Songs rated 4 or lower will receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from December 4, 1999.

  1. Clint Black – “When I Said I Do (w/ Lisa Hartman Black)” 0
  2. John Michael Montgomery – “Home To You” +1
  3. Martina McBride – “I Love You” -1 [Worst Song]
  4. Brad Paisley – “He Didn’t Have To Be” +1
  5. Faith Hill – “Breathe” +1
  6. Shania Twain – “Come On Over” -1
  7. Tim McGraw – “Something Like That” +1
  8. Yankee Grey – “All Things Considered” +1
  9. George Strait – “What Do You Say To That” +1
  10. Reba – “What Do You Say” +1
  11. Alan Jackson – “Pop A Top” +1
  12. LeAnn Rimes – “Big Deal” 0
  13. Dixie Chicks – “Cowboy Take Me Away” +1
  14. Andy Griggs – “I’ll Go Crazy” +1
  15. Tim McGraw – “My Best Friend” +1
  16. Steve Wariner – “I’m Already Taken” +1
  17. Kenny Chesney – “She Thinks My Tractors Sexy” -1
  18. Randy Travis – “A Man Ain’t Made Of Stone” +1
  19. Lonestar – “Amazed” 0
  20. Clay Walker – “Live, Laugh, Love” 0
  21. Jo Dee Messina – “Lesson In Leavin’” +1
  22. Lonestar – “Smile” 0
  23. Ty Herndon – “Steam” 0
  24. Tracy Byrd – “Put Your Hand In Mine” +1
  25. Gary Allan – “Smoke Rings In The Dark” +1 [Best Song]
  26. Joe Diffie – “The Quittin’ Kind” +1
  27. Brooks & Dunn – “Beer Thirty” 0
  28. Keith Urban – “It’s A Love Thing” -1
  29. Trace Adkins – “Don’t Lie” +1
  30. SHeDAISY – “This Woman Needs” +1

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +15

Wow, a double-digit positive score, and one that’s halfway to a perfect score! Sure beats 2010 from last week. As you all remember, 2010 didn’t even have a Pulse! As a child of the 2000s, I have to admit I was very unfamiliar with a few of these songs and artists prior to conducting this pulse. That’s why doing this particular Past Pulse was especially fun. I get to discover some great new songs! First of all, I never had once heard of Yankee Gray. “All Things Considered” isn’t exactly something anyone would call “deep”, but it’s fun enough with the catchy melody and bouncy fiddles. This was their only top 10 hit. Elsewhere, while I am familiar with artists such as Clint Black, John Michael Montgomery, Steve Wariner, and Tracy Byrd, I can’t say that I had ever heard any of their respective singles on this chart. I’ve also never heard a single SHeDAISY song despite hearing of them multiple times. “This Woman Needs” is a pretty enjoyable country-pop tune.

However, I’m not totally out of tune with what was going on in 1999. Alan Jackson’s “Pop A Top” was (and still is) a damn catchy tune that hardly feels like a cover song at all. And of course there’s the monster hit by the Dixie Chicks with “Cowboy Take Me Away.” I can understand why they are a very polarizing band to many, but when you look at them from a pure musical standpoint, they were a very talented group who made some fine country music. With Gary Allan, they share the honor of being tied for the best song on this chart. I’ve always loved “Smoke Rings In The Dark” for its dark, ominous atmosphere and sharp lyrics combined with Gary’s vocal delivery. In fact, it’s probably my favorite Gary song ever. Oh, can we also talk about how awesome Trace Adkins is when he’s trying to be a serious country singer? The man has always had a set of pipes, and when he’s not doing the whole “Swing” or “Honkytonk Badonkadonk” crap, he’s excellent.

But of course, at any given moment there’s always some type of bad in country music, even in 1999. Hell, I’m sure at one point somebody somewhere declared Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” the worst country song in history. Nowadays it wouldn’t come anywhere close. Elsewhere, we had Martina McBride’s annoying “I Love You” which easily is the worst song here. To put it bluntly, this song sounds extremely immature and annoying. And then of course we have “Come On Over.” Now, I actually like Shania Twain for the most part, but this song is just terrible and definitely didn’t belong on country radio, especially not in 1999. Keith Urban’s first song also wasn’t great either. But that’s it folks. FOUR negative scores on the pulse. Nowadays that’s about as many positive scores you’ll find on the pulse. Evolution my ass.

If you have any questions as to why I gave a certain song the score I did, or perhaps just want to make your own Pulse, sound off in the comments!

The Hodgepodge: Going Country and Respecting the Roots

Don Henley

“Going Country” is a phrase that’s been around for a while. Rock music and country music have similar roots, with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and even Dwight Yoakam treading the lines of country and rock all while keeping the same sound for the most part. Hank Williams had some influence on rock music too. Not only was Hank’s “Move It On Over” a big influence for rock’s first big hit single “Rock Around The Clock”, but George Thorogood recorded the song and popularized it for rock radio. Embarrassing admission: I didn’t know Thorogood’s “Move It On Over” was a Hank Williams cover, no less a cover song, until I really started listening to Hank almost 2 years ago. Even some of rock’s biggest acts have blurred the lines of rock and country with some of their hits. “Honky Tonk Woman” was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and covered by many rock and country artists including Waylon, Hank Jr., Tesla and Def Leppard.

Those examples are just a few of music history’s country and rock crossovers. Rock versions of the songs more or less had a rock feel and inspiration to them. Country versions had a country feel to them. They were blended and no one really batted an eye because the roots were there. The problem with so many rock acts “going country” these days is because mainstream country has lost its roots. There aren’t many today who care or respect the roots of country music, and yet those are the bands and act that claim to make country music. This is why we can get washed up 90s pop rock acts joining forces to give us “B.Y.H.B.” or Bret Michael’s train wreck of a “country” song. No one cares to make an actual country song because these types of trashy pop anthems get played on radio all the time by the likes of Florida Georgia Line. Instead of making a song with any artistic value, they make sellout anthems for 15 minutes of fame.

Uncle Ezra Ray and Bret Michaels represent the worst of the gone country acts. The singers and band who make sellout music for the sake of trying to earn a quick buck. They don’t care what the song actually sounds like as long as the sound makes money. Another kind of “going country” act are the middle of the road bands. These are the acts that make country music that is somewhat rooted in country, but still dangle their feet in a populous area because money is still the first priority. Darius Rucker is the best example of this. For the most part, Rucker’s turn to country has resulted in some decent to good pop country songs. Learn to Live isn’t that bad of an album and showed serious commitment to Rucker’s turn to country. Since then, his quality as slowly declined with each subsequent album, but Rucker still keeps his sound country despite some terrible lyrics. Even Bon Jovi’s short turn to country with their album Lost Highway showed some country influence within their pop rock sound. The album yielded a beautiful duet with LeAnn Rimes, but mostly the album was still mostly generic pop rock. We’ll just try to forget that awful collaboration with Big & Rich.

Then we have the serious country moves: the artists who say they’re going country and then make real, honest country music. Don Henley of the Eagles is the best current example of this. The Eagles are a classic rock mainstay, yet they’ve always had some country influence to them. But Don Henley’s Cass County is nothing but country music. Henley brings in the likes of Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard for collaborations and features many classic country sounds through and through. When artists and bands announce that they are “going country” this is the expectation and standard that should be met.

If any artist jumps genres for an album or an entire career move, that artist should approach that move with respect for the roots and history of that genre. Merle Haggard would never take “Mama Tried” the way it is and try to convince Jay Z that it’s the next big rap song. In the same way, a “talk-sing” R&B groove shouldn’t be called country. A pop rock bro anthem shouldn’t be called country. Country music has lost its gatekeepers and most people who make a move to country know that and take advantage of it. Instead we need more crossovers into country where the artists make real country music that shows respect and appreciation for the history and roots of the genre. We need more Don Henley and less Bret Michaels.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Jason Boland & The Stragglers will release their next album, Squelch, on October 7.
  • Corb Lunds newest album, Things That Can’t Be Undone, will come out on October 9.
  • After a delay, Toby Keith’s 35 MPH Town will be released on October 9.
  • Eric Church has announced his newest single will be “Roller Coaster Ride.”
  • Jana Kramer will release her newest album, Thirty One, on October 9.

Today in Country Music History

  • In 1969, Loretta Lynn records three songs at Bradley’s Barn in Mr. Juliet, Tennessee. Among the three recordings is Lynn’s well-known hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
  • Garth Brooks’ debut album goes platinum in 1990.
  • In 2005, Dierks Bentley is inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.

Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Highway’s Home” by Will Hoge. This song closed out Will’s 2007 album Draw the Curtains. In my opinion, Draw the Curtains is Hoge’s most country album of his collection and it’s worth a listen if you haven’t heard it yet. The steel guitar on this track is excellent and the vocals are great. When Will sings this one at his concerts he moves into a short segment of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” to conclude the performance.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” – Since I talked about “Honky Tonk Woman” earlier, I’ll suggest the Stones for my non-country listen of the week. Primarily, I suggest “Gimme Shelter” because this is one of my all time favorite songs.

Tweet of the Week

Everyone is calling their music country so I’m going to call all my favorite music acts country so I can simplify my favorites into one genre. Led Zeppelin, Springsteen, John Williams’ Star Wars Score…all country.

iTunes Review That Makes Me Happy

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This was left on Don Henley’s Cass County. Bringing today’s column full circle with a review that I agree with 100%. I also find it funny that it’s a rock star who brings us one of the many great, real country albums this year.

(Note from Josh: You’ll see my review of Don Henley’s Cass County tomorrow)

Album Review – Nashville Outlaw’s Tribute to Motley Crue

When it was announced that there would be a tribute album for rock band Motley Crue from “Nashville Outlaws”, two questions popped into my head. First, why? Why, why, why? What has Motley Crue done in their career to warrant a tribute album from Music Row? They aren’t southern rock; they never ran to country for relevancy before. Motley Crue has always been bad boy hard rock. This tribute album is 100% pointless. My second question comes from this viewpoint. I understand to make the album seem badass and edgy in country music, the producers advertised it with “outlaw”; I understand logic behind the marketing. But how in God’s name can you consider half of these artists as outlaws?!?! Rascal Flatts?! Are you kidding me? They are the furthest thing from a country outlaw.

With those questions and mindsets in place, I approached this album expecting the worst. Surprisingly, there were some good moments on the album, hell, even some great covers. When an artist approaches a cover song with creative liberty and creates an original composition to the lyrics, and executes that liberty well, it is one of my favorite things. Save for a select few songs that accomplish that, the album is mostly a bland, pointless tribute album.

The Worst Songs on the Album

Right away, we are introduced to the worst song of the entire collection. Rascal Flatts’ cover of “Kickstart My Heart” is, in one word, terrible. Gary LeVox does not have a voice suited for rock music. When you listen to it, you can tell he’s way out of his element. The worst thing about the song, for me, came at the “When we started this band” bridge. They censored the word “ass” in this bridge. “Years gone by, I say we’ve kicked some [HEAVY GUITAR LICK].” You’re seriously attempting to pass off this soccer-mom pop band as “outlaw” and you censor them from swearing? Gary LeVox, you’re now an outlaw, it’s okay to say ass when you sing. But by doing this, you take away whatever microscopic outlaw credibility Rascal Flatts apparently had to warrant a spot on the album. The other song that truly stood out to me as awful was Brantley Gilbert’s take on “Girls, Girls, Girls.” On paper, Brantley is easily the most outlaw of the fifteen artists represented here and musically the most capable of doing a Motley Crue cover song justice. But in real life?  Nope. Brantley Gilbert sounded bored out of his mind singing this song. There are no vocal inflections, no emphasis on words or anything. Gilbert is completely monotone throughout the whole track. I was bored listening to this song. To me, the bad thing about both these tracks was that there was no attempt to bring anything new or original to these songs. Both of these songs are essentially carbon copies of the original with new vocals dubbed over and it doesn’t work.

The Best Songs on the Album

I was surprised that there were actually three songs that I enjoyed on this tribute. Each of these songs took a lot of creative liberty with the covers, recomposed the melody to fit their style of music and delivered great vocal performances. “Without You” by Clare Bowen and Sam Palladio took the tough-guy power ballad and turned it into a beautiful, stripped down love ballad sang as a duet. The music fits perfectly with the lyrics. My favorite track on the album is Lauren Jenkin’s “Looks That Kill.” This rendition is a haunting reworking of original rock song. The track is filled with many electric string instruments, which gives the heartbreaker in the song a more mysterious personality. It’s almost as if Lauren is singing along to a Vitamin String Quartet instrumental of the song.  It’s brilliant; cover music done right, in my opinion.  The last song that stood out to me was The Mavericks’ reworking of “Dr. Feelgood.” Imagine watching an old-west movie about a drug dealer in the town’s saloon. This would make for a perfect theme song for that movie. The Mavericks also take some liberty with the lyrics and make it work to a completely new beat and feel for the song.  You can tell The Mavericks are having fun and enjoying themselves on the track.  It’s a fun listen.

The Rest of the Album

The ten remaining tracks are relatively bland in my opinion. Big & Rich, Cassadee Pope and Florida Georgia Line all do their best to make these songs their own, but overall they just don’t measure up to the bar set by the three songs in the above section. They’re not bad; and quite frankly, Cassadee Pope sounds natural as an alternative rocker in “The Animal in Me.” But sonically, that song, along with FGL’s “If I Die Tomorrow” are similar to that of Nickelback or Three Days Grace.  They don’t sound like themselves on the tracks, and they vary too far from Motley Crue to justify it as a carbon copy cover.  Many of these artists, including Justin Moore, The Cadillac Three and The Eli Young Band don’t stand out on the track because they don’t stray too far from Motley Crue’s original song.  And as for the rest of the artists who do take that risk, most of them strikeout. Aaron Lewis’ production is far and away the most classic country song on the whole album, but he fabricated a southern drawl for the verses that takes away from the track. Gretchen Wilson is on the verge of screaming throughout her whole song. LeAnn Rimes takes advantage of her song and shows off her vocal abilities, but the song is “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room.”  She didn’t change the lyric to “girl’s room” so I find it odd that they chose a female to undertake that song.  Darius Rucker, surprisingly, has a good cover song here. It’s an honest melody to his established country sound, and if I didn’t know this was a cover tribute, I’d assume this was an original for Hootie. This version of “Time for Change” is 100% Darius Rucker, and I think it would be a decent country single for him (had his last major hit not also been a cover).

Overall Thoughts

The album is just bland, uninteresting and inconsistent. In my opinion, tribute albums like this should stick to one mindset. Either pay tribute to Motley Crue by bringing in artists who can do the song justice without changing the melody too much, or bring in artists like Lauren Jenkins and The Mavericks who will do a country tribute to the band and recompose their songs to be country. This Nashville Outlaw tribute jumps between the two mindsets and doesn’t offer much of anything. Three points for three good songs.

Grade: 3/10