The Hodgepodge: What Song Defines Country Music to You?

willie-merle

It made it’s debut a few weeks back and now it’s back again. That right, this is an Ask The Readers Hodgepodge. It’s quite simple: I pose a question to you the readers and in the comments below we will discuss what our answers would be to the question. Sometimes it will be a yes or no question, but most times it’ll be something a little more detailed. This second Ask The Readers Hodgepodge will be quite subjective and should have a variety of answers.

If you had to choose one song, what song defines country music to you?

Guidelines:

  • This song can be from any era at anytime. Just be prepared of course to defend your choice, as someone will always be naturally curious as to why you chose a song.
  • There are no wrong answers, just like the previous Ask the Hodgepodge.
  • And of course feel free to pick songs for other genres if you feel like it, as we’re all music fans first.

 

As far as my answer for this question, the song I would pick that I feel defines country music is Townes van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty.” There have been many versions of this song, but I would have to pick Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s version as my favorite. The reason I would choose this song is it just has everything that a perfect country song should have. It was written by one of music’s greatest songwriters of all-time and performed by two of the best artists in the genre’s history. The song explores death, sadness and grief with some of the best storytelling you’ll ever hear in music. The instrumentation perfectly conveys the melancholy nature expressed by the lyricism in the song. To my ears it’s the perfect country song, defining the rich tapestry of the genre.

I would also highly recommend Jason Isbell and Elizabeth Cook’s version of the song, which is quite excellent too.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow William Michael Morgan will release his highly anticipated debut album Vinyl.
  • Also tomorrow the legendary John Prine will release his new duets album For Better, or Worse.
  • Aubrie Sellers new album New City Blues will be re-released through Warner Bros. Nashville tomorrow. “Sit Here and Cry” is going for adds at country radio on October 17.
  • Strap yourself in for October because it’s going to be a very busy month of releases, starting next Friday when the following albums are released:
    • Shovels & RopeLittle Seeds
    • Mo PitneyBehind This Guitar
    • Brent CobbSolving Problems
    • Matt WoodsHow To Survive 
  • Josh Abbott Band’s new single is “Amnesia” and it’s going for adds at country radio on October 17.
  • The Last Bandoleros released a self-titled, six song EP via digital services last week.

Throwback Thursday Song

Gary Stewart – “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” – I feel like a lot of week’s I’m picking too many well-known acts and songs so this week I wanted to find a deeper cut from the past. Stewart is sort of unsung when discussing the best country artists of the 70s, but he shouldn’t because his music is excellent. This is his biggest hit and one of my personal favorites.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial – So this is an album and group I’ve been hearing a lot about from fellow music fans and critics. It’s received widespread praise and finally I got around to checking it out. Well now I know why it’s getting so much praise. I’m not usually a big fan of emo indie rock, but the songwriting on display on this album is impeccable. Turns out Teens of Denial is the 10th studio album and 13th overall album by Car Seat Headrest and they’ve only been a band for six years. That’s insane! Check these guys out.

Tweet of the Week

The picture he’s referring to is John Prine hugging Isbell after he won Americana Song of the Year for “Something More Than Free” at the Americana Awards last week. I would be pretty damn happy to get a hug from a legend too.

A Spot-on Review of Luke Bryan’s New EP

luke-bryan-rehashed-bullshit

Luke Bryan released a new EP for his annual farm tour and predictably it’s not good. The only difference between it and his usual studio albums is here he thinks he can pander to farmers and the working people of America because I’m sure they see the millionaire artist who now sings about the clubs and dresses like a Nordstrom model as someone they can relate to (wanking motion). This listener above wasn’t fooled though and rightly calls him out.

The Hodgepodge: Blake Shelton, He Doesn’t Have a Way With Words

Creepy Blake

This past weekend social media was abuzz over Blake Shelton. It wasn’t the tabloids talking about his relationship with Gwen Stefani and whether if it’s on the rocks. That’s just a standard weekend. No, this was something else entirely. Apparently some tabloids and vindictive fans decided to dig through Blake Shelton’s old tweets. The results turned up some pretty damning words from the country superstar. Here’s some screenshots of a couple of them:

Stupid Blake Tweet #1

Stupid Blake Tweet #2

The first one is obviously homophobic and the second one is racist and islamophobic. There’s actually more offensive tweets, but I think these two get the point across enough. There’s no need to be spreading anymore ignorance. Yesterday Shelton issued a statement apologizing for the tweets, which you can read by clicking here. Ironically also issued on Twitter, I can imagine Shelton got quite the talk from his label for this incident. These are obviously the not the type of “jokes” anyone should be making, let alone a major country artist who is regularly on national television. For fans outside country music, Blake is one of the first people they will think of when they think of country music. Yes, this sounds ridiculous to us that Shelton is one of the first you think of when you think of country music. But it’s the (sad and frustrating) truth. One thing many will point out is the date of the tweets, which are 2010 and 2011. Two things in regards to this point. One, it shouldn’t be dismissed because they’re old. Two, I understand that at this time the culture was different and the greater public might have been more receptive to these attempts at jokes. If any of you watch South Park, they regularly made these offensive-based jokes at this time (granted they were much more clever and actually funny).

Now I could spend an entire post talking about how dumb these tweets are and how Blake Shelton continues to taint the reputation of country music in different ways. I could talk about how this reinforces negative stereotypes of the genre. But it feels like I’m beating a dead horse. I think we can all pretty much agree at this point that it’s well established that Blake Shelton is a certified moron with a loud mouth and little regard for decency (in music and society). There’s a reason we did not review his album: it would have been a waste of time and energy when there’s so much more music out there worth reviewing. Talking about Blake Shelton is pointless because he’s going to do what he’s going to do and nothing we say will affect it. So while Blake Shelton’s management team deletes thousands of his tweets (they’ve already deleted about 10,000 of them) and tell the judge of The Voice to mind his manners so he can get his corporate paydays, I decided to do something constructive. I wrote a little song about the ex-husband of Miranda Lambert. It’s called “He Doesn’t Have a Way With Words” (A Parody of “She’s Got a Way With Words”). Enjoy…

He Doesn’t Have a Way With Words

 

When you put it all together

You figure out dumb has four letters

I should have known that when I heard “Boys ‘Round Here”

But he tweeted it out for me

After little second guessing

It was a pretty easy lesson

Hell it’s clearly spelled out in front of me

And now I understand perfectly

 

He put the sell in sellout

He put the foot in his mouth

He put the pop in country

He put the red-red-red-red-red in redneck (redneck)

He put the ache in headache

He put the ass in classless

He put the creep factor in album covers

Yeah he doesn’t have a way

He doesn’t have a way with words

Yeah he doesn’t have a way with words

 

Little words like bad and fads

Pompous, egotistical, rude

Yeah all the words that represent Blake

They got a whole new meaning now

 

He put the sell in sellout

He put the foot in his mouth

He put the pop in country

He put the red-red-red-red-red in redneck (redneck)

He put the ache in headache

He put the ass in classless

He put the creep factor in album covers

Yeah he doesn’t have a way

He doesn’t have a way with words

(insert stupid oh-oh-ohs here)

Yeah he doesn’t have a way with words

(insert even more stupid oh-oh-ohs here)

 

[Add the chorus and more oh-oh-ohs here until your label tells you that hits their song length quota]

 

[End the song with generic, mediocre guitar riff]

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow is a big day for releases! The following albums are out tomorrow:
    • Dolly PartonPure & Simple (I’ll have a review of this one really soon)
    • BJ Barham – Rockingham 
    • John Paul WhiteBeulah 
    • Lydia LovelessReal
    • Drake WhiteSpark
  • Next week Jack Ingram will release his first new album in seven years, titled Midnight Motel
  • Matt Woods will be releasing a new album on October 7 titled How To Survive 
  • The Mavericks are set to release a live album this fall and will be releasing a new album in April 2017. These are the first releases through their self-created label and first since leaving Valory Music (Big Machine)
  • This past weekend I saw The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band perform at a concert. It was an entertaining and fun show (go check them out). During it they passed along the news they will be releasing a new album “this winter.” We’ll keep an eye out for an official release date

Throwback Thursday Song

Darrell Scott – “It’s a Great Day To Be Alive” – Everyone associates this song with Travis Tritt, who made it famous and gave it a big platform. But it’s a Scott song and I’ve always liked his more restrained performance of the song (ditto “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”). You can never go wrong listening to Scott.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

The Traveling Wilburys – “End of the Line” – Next to The Highwaymen, this was the most star-powered supergroup of all-time. Made up of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne, this group only put out one album with the five of them and another with only four (Orbison passed way after the first one). But that one album is pretty terrific and it’s amazing that this much talent was in one group.

Tweet of the Week

I make the same face, Margo.

iTunes Reviews from Pissed off Justin Moore Fans

Angry Justin Moore fans

I’m going to be honest. I’ve never been a fan of Moore’s music and thought it was disingenuous attempts at being outlaw country at best and annoying bro country at worst. But he did stick to sounding country. On his new album his sound takes a turn and his fans aren’t happy as you can see. Just another mainstream country fan base swindled by their favorite artist.

Watch: Matt Woods Debuts New Music Video for “Ain’t No Living”

Matt Woods released one of the best country albums of 2014 in With Love From Brushy Mountain, which I gave a high recommendation to last year. He’s just released a music video for one of the highlight songs of the album, “Ain’t No Living.” It’s the first music video he’s released since “Deadman’s Blues” in 2013, which received plenty of praise from critics and fans. It was directed by Chris Metts for Goldstream Productions and filmed in Orlando, Florida.

“I truly had a blast working on the video with the Goldstream Productions folks. I want to thank director Chris Metts for taking such care to bring this all to life,” said Woods of the music video.

It’s certainly another great music video from Woods, proving he has an acumen for making videos that bring his songs to life. I thought this really captured the mood of “Ain’t No Living” and enhanced the story of the song. It shows that when Woods releases a music video, you should definitely pay attention.

Woods is now heading out with fellow Southern-rocker Fifth on the Floor for their farewell tour. It kicked off this past week in Birmingham, Alabama. The “Dead Men and Angels Tour” will take place across the east coast and midwest, including major markets Atlanta, New York City and Chicago. For more information, check out his website here.

Country Perspective’s Best Country Albums of 2014

We have reached the end of 2014 and over the course of the year we’ve reviewed a lot of great country music. So in case you just found the site or don’t remember all of the great country albums we’ve reviewed, you’re in luck. Here are the links to every album we rated an 8/10 or higher over the course of the year. These are the albums we give a solid recommendation or more for you to listen to. Keep in mind this site started in May, so we won’t have every single great album. For example we never got around to reviewing Dierks Bentley’s album or Don Williams’ album, two albums that would have definitely made this list. So if there are albums missing that you love, they were most likely not reviewed. Others of course may have not been rated high enough to make it. I’m also including our album of the year candidates in case you missed those too. One more thing: only albums are included, no EPs. So without further ado here are Country Perspective’s most recommended albums of 2014.

10/10 (Album of the Year Candidates)

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music 

Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time 

Karen Jonas – Oklahoma Lottery 

Lucette – Black Is The Color 

Tami Neilson – Dynamite! 

Sunny Sweeney – Provoked 

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold 

Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy 

The Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down 

9.5/10

Angaleena Presley – American Middle Class 

Micky & The Motorcars – Hearts From Above 

Stoney LaRue – Aviator 

9/10

Wade Bowen – Wade Bowen 

Matt Woods – With Love From Brushy Mountain 

Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’ 

BlackHawk – Brothers of the Southland 

The Roys – The View 

Jason Eady – Daylight & Dark 

Mack McKenzie – One Last, One More 

Bonnie Montgomery – Bonnie Montgomery 

8.5/10

Jon Pardi – Write You A Song 

Ray Scott – Ray Scott 

Mary Sarah – Bridges 

The Buffalo Ruckus – The Buffalo Ruckus 

Rich O’Toole – Jaded 

Corb Lund – Counterfeit Blues 

8/10

Eric Paslay – Eric Paslay 

Phillip Fox Band – Heartland 

Terri Clark – Some Songs 

Country Perspective’s Best Male Country Artist of 2014 Nominees

Over the course of 2014 we saw many talented male country artists put out fantastic albums. Most of them came from the independent and Red Dirt Texas scenes. Determining who was the best male country artist of 2014 will be no easy feat. The main guidelines for determining who should win are the following: the quality of music they’ve released in 2014, the impact they have made on the genre over the course of the year and the amount of growth they made as an individual artist.

Derek and myself will ultimately determine which artist will win, but we also want to hear from you the readers who is deserving of the award. Your comments will be highly considered for determining who wins and you could possibly sway who should be the winner. So be sure to sound off in the comments! Without further ado the nominees for Country Perspective’s Best Male Country Artist of 2014 (in alphabetical order):

Corb Lund – The true underdog in the fight for Country Perspective’s Best Male Country Artist of 2014. Many may not be familiar with the Canadian country artist, but you absolutely should. Corb Lund is an artist everyone should listen to because you can tell he really pays attention to all of the little details in his music. He’s a true artist who cares about his craft. His ability to seamlessly blend Americana, country and blues into truly unique sounding music is something all true country music fans should appreciate. Can Lund pull off the ultimate upset?

 

 

Eric Paslay – The only mainstream artist to make this list. Paslay’s debut album was a solid debut after spending years writing songs in Nashville. While his two biggest radio singles were the weakest on his album, the rest is pretty fine music. His third single “She Don’t Love You” is a candidate for Country Perspective’s Best Country Song of 2014. Paslay has a slim chance at winning here, but him just earning the nomination with his debut album is impressive enough to this critic.

 

Jason Eady – The first time I heard Jason Eady was when I heard his popular song “A.M. Country Heaven.” His raw and deep voice immediately captured my attention. His 2014 album Daylight & Dark is considered by some to be the best album of 2014. Before Sturgill’s album was released this was the album that was the toast of independent country. While I wasn’t as impressed as others, I still find the album to be a great step forward for Eady and I really think he’s capable of producing even better music. Regardless the artistry he displayed in his album makes him a strong contender.

 

Matt Woods – The East Nashville artist really broke out with his album With Love From Brushy Mountain. Fans got a taste of how great this album is last year when he released “Deadman’s Blues,” one of the best country songs of 2013. His 2014 album had plenty of songs in the same vein and this is really just the beginning for Woods. Don’t be surprised if you hear his name pop up in future Country Perspective year-end awards list because I don’t think he is even close to his best yet. He still has a great shot though at pulling the ‘upset’ this year.

 

Stoney LaRue – LaRue is going the opposite direction of fellow Red Dirt artist Bowen. After impressing people on the Texas/independent scene for years, LaRue was signed to a major label and released his first album with them this year. While a few didn’t like the approach of the album, the majority was impressed. I think Derek says it best in his review of Aviator:

Overall, this album is loaded with great instrumentation and vocals within every track. Aviator is a musical definition for “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” There may be songs or instances within songs that can nit-picked for doing or not doing something. But this album is meant to be enjoyed by pushing play at “One and Only” and letting it spin from there. This is an album in the true sense of the word.

 

Sturgill Simpson – In the independent country realm, he’s been the most talked about male artist of 2014. He was a relative unknown at the start of the year, but with his album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music he captured country music fans’ hearts everywhere. He’s played on late night talk shows like Conan, Letterman and The Tonight Show. Simpson has even caught the attention of mainstream artists like Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley. Zac Brown Band liked his music so much he picked him to open for him on some tour dates. I would be lying if I said Sturgill isn’t the front-runner to win this award.

 

Wade Bowen – After signing with a major label and earning his first ever top ten album, Bowen realized he had to break away to make the music he really wants to make. I guess you could say his self-titled 2014 album was his ‘comeback.’ Whatever you want to call it the Red Dirt Texas artist holds your attention from beginning to end with one of the best albums of his career. As I said in my review of his album:

There really isn’t one bad song on this album, although there are a couple of songs that don’t shine as bright as the other songs on the album. Nevertheless I really have no complaints about this album. Bowen is pretty much all-around solid on almost every song. The instrumentation is good and the songwriting tells stories and evokes emotions in listeners.

 

Who should win? Be sure to make your case in the comments below.