Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year

Determining song of the year comes down to a few key attributes within the song. The song should tell a story with confidence and consistency in its approach. The lyrics need to be evocative and connect with the audience. The musical production should match the writing in its confidence and nuance. The artist singing the should deliver the material in a way to reach the desired effect of the lyrics. There were a few songs Josh and I narrowed this category down to. Songwriting was our main focus and we felt there were strong candidates in that regard. Ultimately, there was one song that stood out to us not only with the above criteria in mind, but also due to one final attribute: impact. To us, there was one obvious choice for Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year…

Bowen & Rogers Hold My Beer

“Standards” by Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen caught the attention of the country music world. When Hold My Beer was announced, I think the general assumption was that the album was going to be a snapshot of Rogers & Bowen’s collaborative acoustic tour. But when the duo debut the first single from the project, everyone was surprised not only by an original song, but a well-written country protest song. A song steeped with fiddles and steel guitars, fun word play and double meanings in song’s hook, and two singers delivering the song with a fun, light-hearted attitude. “Standards” took the country world by storm in April and has maintained its impact through the year.

Protest songs about the establishment of Music Row are commonplace in independent country music circles. Many of the songs come from a place of anger or resentment against Nashville. What makes “Standards” stand out among the crowd is that it comes from a place of acceptance and confidence in one’s music. “But it ain’t me, so I shook my head and that’s all there is to that” sings Bowen to end the first verse. “Don’t get me wrong I want to hear my songs on country radio, but it’s gotta feel right standing here singing them at the show” the duo sings in song’s bridge. Both Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen spent some time on a major label, but now they’re both back making their music independently. They sing the song from a place of experience and assert their place in country’s world while only slightly dismissing the Nashville establishment.

Rogers and Bowen’s confidence in their music is due to the fact that they know their songs have a longer shelf life than a Nashville hit song. They have fans who swarm their shows happy to hear any song the bands will play. As they say in the song “I don’t have hits, I have standards.” Standards meaning a timeless collection of country songs, and standards meaning that they won’t sell out to sing a dirt road song simply to have a top ten song on Billboard. Seven words full of rich meaning that not only connect with their audience, many of whom dislike Nashville and love the subtle jab, but the song also connects with their peers in the independent country music world.

As mainstream country continued to push away from the country sound, “Standards” feels more relevant each day. “Standards” has all the makings to be a country music standard. As great and well written as the other Song of the Year finalists are, “Standards” made an impact that wasn’t matched. This song and its lyrics perfectly describes the independent country music circle and those fighting the good fight for quality and country in our music. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen dropped the defining song of 2015. “Standards” is a song that’s built to last and could very well maintain relevancy for years to come.

Eric Paslay Proves He’s The Real Deal: A Live Concert Review

Eric Paslay

This past weekend I had the opportunity to see Eric Paslay perform at a nearby local fair and since I enjoyed his debut album for the most part, I decided to attend. The opening act for Paslay was The Lost Trailers, who had a couple of minor hits on radio in the last ten years. Some of you might recognize their song, “Holler Back.” This was actually my very first concert I’ve attended, which is probably shocking to hear. But I live in an area where there isn’t a lot of concerts that are conveniently close nor a lot of the artists I would pay money to see perform come by often. It was an experience where I learned a few things about country music and is something that’ll definitely affect my reviews from here on out. Here are some of the things I learned:

1. The Lost Trailers Fell Off Radio For A Reason – Before the show began music played over the loud-speaker as we waited for The Lost Trailers to take the stage. It was classic country music playing from artists like Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. If you follow me on Twitter, I pointed out how some people were confused by this music. Well these same people didn’t look confused when The Lost Trailers took the stage for their first song. What was the song? Blake Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here.” Talk about complete opposites. My ears wanted to murder me for having to listen to this crap. Overall The Lost Trailers mostly performed bro country hits from radio, a Garth Brooks song, some classic country and only three of their own songs. Maybe losing their lead singer Jason Wyatt earlier this year has shaken this band up and caused for them to sound worse. I don’t know, but all I know is they sounded absolutely horrible. The instrumentation and production were so loud I could barely hear them singing. One of the lead singers kept bouncing around the stage and yelling for people to get their hands up. Is this a country band or a karaoke band? My brother, who likes bro country, even thought they sounded bad. The crowd, who seemed to also like bro country judging from the conversations I overheard before the show, seemed to like bro country too and even they barely made any noise. Speaking of bro country…

2. Bro country Sucks Even Worse Live – This seems like a no-brainer to you. But you cannot imagine the feeling of listening to such horrible music like bro country until you hear it live. It got so bad at one point during The Lost Trailers’ performance that I almost got up and left. Luckily they got slightly less annoying as their performance progressed. Two of their better performances were Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy” and their closing song, “Holler Back.” I should also note they didn’t just butcher bro country even worse. They managed to make Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” sound even worse than Florida Georgia Line’s version of the song. It was that bad. Bro country on the radio is bad. Wannabe bro country is really bad. At least Luke Bryan has a good voice when he sings garbage songs. I never want to hear The Lost Trailers perform another song again.

3. Eric Paslay Is The Real Deal – Now I want to talk about the positive experience I had at the concert. As bad as The Lost Trailers were, that’s how great Eric Paslay performed. The night and day difference between both ends of the spectrum in country music was clearly evident. Not only was the music better from Paslay, but the crowd was a lot louder and more into his performance. And Paslay nor his band needed to tell the crowd to get up because the crowd was into his performance from the very first song. Paslay performed all of the songs from his debut album. The best song from the album, “She Don’t Love You,” sounded just as great live as it sounds on the album. Before the song he also talked about making the album sound like real life and you can tell how much thought goes behind his music.

 

4. Paslay Makes Bad Songs Sound Not So Bad – Paslay also performed songs he wrote for other artists too. Among those songs are Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” Lady Antebellum’s “Friday Night” (he does his own version too on the album) and Rascal Flatts’ “Rewind.” I hate all of these songs, yet Paslay and his band were so great that I couldn’t loathe them. Does that make them great songs? No. But Paslay and his band prove how talented they are by making bad songs sound not so bad. Plus these songs are what helped Paslay land his record deal and he isn’t the first artist to take this route to getting a record deal. Remember Jamey Johnson helped write “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” If you notice that other than “Friday Night” and “Song About A Girl” (which isn’t that bad), the rest of his album is true country songs with some substance. Paslay also performed Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” U2’s “With or Without You” and another song he wrote that has yet to be released “Amarillo Rain.” He sounded great on all of these songs. Kudos to his band too who did great and really seem to enjoy their jobs. They showed a lot of passion and heart, which shined through in the music. This kind of performance cemented my respect for Paslay and his band.

Eric Paslay 2

If you ever get a chance to see Eric Paslay perform live it’s worth your money. He’s one of the few in mainstream country music who actually understands the genre and crafts genuinely good music. I would definitely recommend checking out his debut album too. Paslay is one to watch in the coming years because the sky is the limit for him if he chooses to continue to make quality country music.