Old Crow Medicine Show Signs With Sony Music Nashville

ocms-blonde-on-blonde

Talk about a pleasant surprise! Today Sony Music Nashville officially they’ve signed the popular, Grammy-winning Old Crow Medicine Show to their label. They’ve been assigned to the Columbia Records Nashville imprint and have announced the release of a new album of Bob Dylan covers, 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde. It will be released on April 28 and it celebrates the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s release of his album Blonde on Blonde. The group recorded this album live at the CMA Theatre in May 2016. It is already available for pre-order on their site and will be available everywhere for pre-order this coming Friday. They’ve also announced a tour supporting the album, Old Crow Medicine Show Performing Blonde on Blonde. You can see the full tour dates schedule below.

It makes perfect sense that this iconic roots group would be honoring Dylan, as the band has crafted two great songs out of Dylan chorus, the most famous being “Wagon Wheel.” The band really came onto people’s radars after Darius Rucker covered it of course. The bigger news here is a major country label signing Old Crow Medicine Show. Certainly not for a lack of a talent because they’re one of the best groups in country/folk today. Certainly not for a lack of achievements: members of the Grand Ole Opry, certified platinum status, multiple Grammys and a very popular touring band.

It’s that a major country label would actually sign them. Or perhaps not. We’re now seeing the effects of the rise of acts like Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton. It’s forced major labels to pay more attention to acts outside the mainstream sound who sell and cultivate a major following. They’re still never going to get played on country radio. But they’re more relevant and sell better (both touring and music) than many on the radio. Remember Sony Music just recently also revived Monument Records inking Caitlyn Smith, an artist in a similar position. This very well could signal a shift in the way major country labels do business. We’ll have to wait and see.

 

MAY 2017
4          Santa Barbara, CA @ The Granada Theatre
5          Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
6          Oakland, CA @ Fox Theater
8          Portland, OR @ Revolution Hall
10        Seattle, WA @ The Moore Theatre
12        Salt Lake City, UT @ Delta Hall at Eccles Theater
13        Aspen, CO @ Belly Up Aspen
14        Denver, CO @ Paramount Theatre
20        Knoxville, TN @ Tennessee Theatre
22        Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theatre
24        New York, NY @ The Town Hall
25        Boston, MA @ Orpheum Theatre
28        Cooperstown, NY @ Brewery Ommegang
30        Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
31        Columbus, OH @ EXPRESS LIVE!

JUNE 2017
1          Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre
2          Louisville, KY @ Iroquois Amphitheater
8          Chicago, IL @ The Vic Theatre
9          Milwaukee, WI @ Pabst Theater
10        St. Paul, MN @ The Palace Theatre
11        Kansas City, MO @ Uptown Theater
12        St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant

UK/Netherlands
JUNE 2017
24        Manchester, UK @ O2 Ritz
25        Glasgow, UK @ O2ABC
28        London, UK @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire
30        Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso

Review – Luke Combs’ “Hurricane”

luke-combs-hurricane

Luke Combs is a new and upcoming artist that was picked up by Sony Music Nashville late in 2016. The 26-year-old artist hails from Asheville, North Carolina and has the look and sound you want out of a country artist, so it was no surprise to see a major label scoop him up. The first time I caught wind of him was in a Rolling Stones piece listing up and coming artists to watch, where he was likened to Eric Church. I won’t get started on how ridiculous I think it is when new artists get compared to established greats, but hey it did catch my attention so mission accomplished. So onto Combs’ debut single “Hurricane.” I will say first off its structured well, as the song is about an off and on again relationship where the guy is doing fine without her until she walks into the bar and he’s once again hooked. This is likened to a hurricane, as the emotions came back to him hard and fast. This is a solid comparison and makes for a nice visual, despite a few cliché lines. But it’s all completely butchered by the ham-fisted modernized production, which leans too much pop rock for my liking. This sterilized the song and takes the zing out of the lyrics completely. Then we get to the vocals. Combs has a solid voice with a distinctive twang, but for some reason somebody thought it would be great to add these annoying vocals effects to his voice on the hook and the bridge of the song. I guess they thought this would a good sonic complement to the whole hurricane image, but really it’s unnecessary, masturbatory Nashville meddling at it’s best. These things completely ruin this song’s chance at being decent to good. With a more country production and taking away the annoying vocal effects, I would have given this a higher grade. But instead this is unfortunately just another generic sounding song at country radio.

Grade: 4/10

 

Recommend? – No

Written by Luke Combs, Taylor Phillips and Thomas Archer

Review – Candi Carpenter’s “Burn The Bed”

candi-carpenter-burn-the-bed

Candi Carpenter is an artist I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz from my fellow country insiders and numerous readers of the blog. So I imagine this is a review many of you might have been anticipating. Carpenter has certainly taken an interesting path up to this point in her career. She started out at a young age touring the midwest with her family’s gospel band. Country legend Jack Greene eventually took her on as a protegé and duet partner, allowing her to write and tour with legends like Bill Anderson and Loretta Lynn. But then she hit a snag, having to fight her way out of a bad situation at a management company and then getting out of a poisonous marriage. After having to work numerous jobs she landed her ideal management deal and is now signed with Sony Music Nashville, releasing her first single late last year, “Burn The Bed.” And you’ll find right away that Carpenter’s bad marriage certainly had to be the fuel behind this song. It’s about a woman finding her husband in their bed with another woman. She immediately runs through every detail in her head of this situation she’s found, like wondering how long this has been happening and why he would do this to her. And it’s not a situation she wants to fix, but get rid of as the hook of the song says, “I don’t want to wash the sheets, I want to burn the bed.” The production and instrumentation is kept mostly parse, with the occasional fluttering steel guitar. This really allows the lyrics to be front and center, which is great. Carpenter makes a fantastic first impression with this song and I definitely want to hear more from her. It would be fortunate to hear a great song like this played regularly on country radio, but regardless Candi Carpenter is an artist you need to keep an eye on.

Grade: 8/10

 

Recommend? – Yes

Written by Candi Carpenter, Jerilyn Sawyer and Alden Witt

Label Review – The Major Country Labels of Nashville

I’ve reviewed all kinds of artists from all across the world of country music and Americana. From all corners of the United States, to Canada, Europe, Australia and everywhere in-between I’ve listened and reviewed music here on Country Perspective. But today we’re going to do something a little different. Today I’m going to review the major country labels of Nashville. This is an idea I’ve had for a while and quite frankly is overdue. While it’s easy to bash the likes of Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt, we have to also remember they have a label behind the scenes pulling a lot of strings and really causing a lot of the problems in the genre today. They deserve a lot of blame for why there’s so much bad music because at the end of the day they don’t care about quality. All they care about is money and they will do anything to get you the consumer to fork over your hard-earned dollars. This includes pushing artists who have no business in the genre and are only here for a quick cash grab. So let’s take a look at the major country labels and grade them for their rosters they put out.

Sony Music Nashville

Good

  • Dolly Parton
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Brad Paisley
  • Cam
  • Miranda Lambert

In-Between

  • Maren Morris
  • Chris Young

Bad

  • Dee Jay Silver
  • Old Dominion
  • Lanco
  • Jake Owen
  • Chase Rice
  • Kane Brown
  • Tyler Farr
  • Kenny Chesney

Unknown/Irrelevant

  • Kix Brooks
  • Luke Combs
  • Seth Ennis

Analysis: Well looking at the good, it’s pretty much the ladies club with Paisley as a plus one. In fact all of the women except one on the roster fall under good, which is no surprise. You have a legend in Dolly, two stalwarts in Lambert and Underwood and promising young talent in Cam. Paisley appears to be on the right track again with his music. Young and Morris land on the in-between space because Young has turned into the country Daughtry (h/t to reader Nadia) and Morris is only country sometimes. The bad has some absolute doozies. Old Dominion are the poster boys for douche bands everywhere, Kane Brown thinks he can be the country Bieber, Lanco sounds like a bus stop and Chase Rice was a semi-finalist in our worst country artist tournament earlier this year. The bad ultimately outweighs the good, so I can’t give Sony Music Nashville a positive grade. But the good artists are good enough to save it from a failing grade. Grade: C-

Big Machine Records

Good

  • Tim McGraw
  • Jennifer Nettles
  • Maddie & Tae
  • Drake White
  • Reba McEntire

In-Between

  • Zac Brown Band
  • A Thousand Horses
  • Ronnie Dunn
  • Martina McBride

Bad

  • Danielle Bradbery
  • The Cadillac Three
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Eli Young Band
  • Brantley Gilbert
  • Justin Moore
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Cassadee Pope
  • Brett Young
  • Tucker Beathard
  • Aaron Lewis
  • Steven Tyler
  • Hank Williams Jr.

Unknown

  • Breaking Southwest
  • Trent Harmon
  • Lauren Jenkins
  • Midland
  • The Church Sisters
  • Tara Thompson
  • Ryan Follese
  • Kalie Shorr

Analysis: Big Machine is a large roster mostly full of crap. Of the handful of good artists they have, they’re pretty good and a mix of different styles. McGraw has become one of the leading proprietors of great music on the radio, Reba is a living legend, Nettles is one of the most underrated vocalists of the genre, Maddie & Tae have unlimited potential and Drake White impressed me with his debut album. Zac Brown Band will be back in good graces once they follow through on their promise for the next album. Dunn has left a sour taste in my mouth with the music he’s set to release, including an Ariana Grande cover (why?!). The bad is pretty self-explanatory with some of the worst pop chasers in the genre here to represent. I know people will disagree with Lewis and Hank Jr. under bad, but I will firmly stand by it. Lewis is a panderer and Hank Jr. put out a horrible album earlier this year (he isn’t trying anymore). There’s just so much terrible on this roster that is completely overtakes the good. Grade: D

Warner Music Nashville

Good

  • Ashley Monroe
  • Aubrie Sellers
  • Charlie Worsham
  • William Michael Morgan

In-Between

  • Frankie Ballard
  • Chris Janson

Bad

  • Blake Shelton
  • Big Smo
  • Brett Eldredge
  • Cole Swindell
  • Dan + Shay
  • High Valley
  • Hunter Hayes
  • Jana Kramer
  • Michael Ray
  • RaeLynn

Unknown

  • The Last Bandoleros
  • Ryan Kinder
  • The Railers

Analysis: Only having four good artists is pretty pathetic. But they are pretty good of the four. Monroe and Sellers are two of the best on a major label, Morgan is a traditionalist that has a lot of people excited and Charlie Worsham is an artist more people need to know (listen to his debut album). I would like to put Janson in the good, but I don’t know if he won’t fall back into the bad songs trap. Ballard is the type of artist that never wows you, but has decent enough music. The bad on Warner’s roster is pretty horrific, led by racist tweeter and the King of Petty Shit Mountain himself Blake Shelton. By the way if you say anything bad about Warner’s golden boy you won’t get the promised early copy of William Michael Morgan’s new album from them because Warner is run by assholes. Trust me I know. The rest of the bad artists aren’t even worth getting that angry about because they’re boringly bad and barely worth discussing. This is definitely a label in need of more substance for sure. Grade: D-

Broken Bow Records

Good

  • Craig Campbell
  • Kristian Bush

In-Between

  • Thompson Square
  • Trace Adkins

Bad

  • Jason Aldean
  • Dustin Lynch
  • Jordan Rager
  • Adam Craig
  • Lindsay Ell
  • Randy Houser
  • Parmalee
  • Chase Bryant
  • Joe Nichols
  • Granger Smith

Unknown 

  • Kristy Lee Cook
  • Jackie Lee
  • James Wesley
  • Brooke Eden
  • Runaway June (their first single is pretty good, but I want to hear more before putting them in good)
  • Walker McGuire

Analysis: Geez we’re getting worse with each label. Only two good artists on this label in Campbell, a traditionalist, and Bush, a singer-songwriter type who put out a solid debut album. Thompson Square and Adkins are pretty inoffensive and basically irrelevant. The bad artists don’t seem so bad until you really think about it. A majority of the bad artists need radio gerrymandering to even get airplay, which gives you a pretty good idea of how bad they are. At the same time they aren’t the absolute worst, so they have something going for them. Aldean is their only major artist and while his music has been inoffensive as of late, you can’t forget his past singles either. Grade: D-

Universal Music Group Nashville 

Good

  • Jon Pardi
  • Eric Church
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Alan Jackson
  • Vince Gill
  • Kip Moore
  • David Nail
  • George Strait
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Chris Stapleton
  • Josh Turner

In-Between

  • Dierks Bentley (before his latest album he was easily in the good)
  • Mickey Guyton (her latest single makes me question her)
  • Charles Kelley
  • Little Big Town
  • Darius Rucker
  • Gary Allan
  • Eric Paslay
  • Hillary Scott
  • Lauren Alaina
  • Billy Currington
  • Shania Twain

Bad

  • Luke Bryan
  • Keith Urban
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Haley Georgia
  • Clare Dunn
  • Sam Hunt
  • The Band Perry
  • Easton Corbin
  • Canaan Smith

Analysis: Here’s the perfect example of a label that plays it safe, while also hedging their bets. There’s a lot of great artists on this label, probably the best group of good artists out of all the labels reviewed here. But there’s about an equal group of bad artists and in-between artists. UMG Nashville could easily get over the hump if a few of the in-between artists put out better music, but could easily tank if they go the opposite. The great (Church, Musgraves, Stapleton, etc.) ultimately cancels the horrible (Bryan, Urban, Hunt, etc.) out. Grade: C+

Curb Records

Good

  • Mo Pitney
  • Wynonna & The Big Noise

In-Between

  • Lee Brice
  • Ruthie Collins (despite her EDM version of a Hank song, she’s quite talented)
  • Rodney Atkins
  • Love & Theft

Bad

  • Jerrod Niemann
  • Dylan Scott

Analysis: First off Curb’s artists section on its website is an absolute joke. So if I missed any of their artists, please let me know. Mo Pitney is a hands down the best artist on this label and it’s unfortunate how much they’ve mishandled him up to this point. Wynonna is a great veteran artist to have on any label. The in-between artists are an interesting bunch. When Brice tries he can be good, but he’s put out his fair share of crap. Collins is another one they’re mishandling. Atkins has been MIA for a while. The bad is pretty easy to breakdown: Niemann’s career peaked with his EDM-influenced country and will never reach those heights again. He’s a has-been, while Scott is a never-was and a never-will be. Why this guy is pushed so hard by Curb I will never understand. Scott couldn’t even properly cash-in on the bro country trend because he failed to garner a hit in the bro era. Remember when Curb had Tim McGraw? Grade: D+

 

So that’s my thoughts on the major country labels and their rosters. Let me know what you think of each of the labels and if I missed any artist please let me know.

Album Review – Dolly Parton’s ‘Pure & Simple’

11 - Pure & Simple cover - Dolly Parton

In the big three professional sports, an athlete has a finite shelf-life. They’re prime is even shorter than that. Once they hit a certain age, there’s nothing more they can do and they have to hang up their jersey forever. In music though, an artist can make music from the time they’re a kid to their last dying breath. Not only can they play forever, but an artist’s prime is not set in stone. It can go for decades. That is certainly the case for country music legend Dolly Parton. At the ripe age of 70, Dolly shows no signs of slowing down making music and touring. Her voice is still as intact and great as her early days. Her age doesn’t show one bit and it’s why she’s such an inspiration to countless artists and the fans who listen to her music. Dolly Parton is an artist all music fans should listen to and hold in the highest of regards. And anytime she releases new music, it should be a cause for celebration. Today Parton released her brand new album Pure & Simple. Once again Dolly delivers an album full of great music that any music fan can appreciate.

The mandolin-driven and upbeat “Pure and Simple” starts the album. The album’s title track is a heartfelt love song that’s impossible to hate. One of the things this song demonstrates is how great Dolly is at these softer songs, pulling off the perfect balance between connecting with the listener and having such a genuine, sincere feeling. Dolly does it again on the next song, “Say Forever You’ll Be Mine.” The instrumentation is really great here, particularly the ringing fiddles that give the song the hook that draws you in and makes you want to hear more. “Never Not Love You” is a song that will connect really well with pretty much anyone, from a loving parent to a loving spouse. It’s a vow to never stop loving someone and always being there for them.

Dolly really captures the loving feeling of a meaningful relationship on “Kiss It (And Make It All Better).” The song starts out by looking at the relationship of a child and parent and how the latter is always there for them to care for their safety and wellbeing. The song then moves onto a romantic relationship and the trust and safety two partners express for the other when they’re distressed. Dolly’s vocals always shine, but this song they’re especially top-notch. One of my favorites on Pure & Simple is “Can’t Be That Wrong.” Dolly sings about the feelings of guilt and doubts a person experiences after they cheat on their partner. She goes onto sing about how they can feel torn between two lovers and trying to decide between asking forgiveness and just saying to hell with it and staying with the person you’re cheating with. Unlike a lot of modern country cheating songs, this has nuance and shows that cheating isn’t such a black and white thing. There’s a lot of gray and in the end at least one person or possibly everyone involved is going to get hurt. Needless to say it’s a pretty fantastic song.

“Outside Your Door” swings in the other direction and is a more light-hearted song on love. The song is about a woman who can’t stop thinking about her love and the feelings she has when she’s with him. Again Dolly really shows up modern country artists’ take on love songs, as she makes love and sex sound like a fun affair. This is unlike a lot of modern country songs that sound too serious and make romance out to be cut and dry. Dolly’s positive vibes shine through again on “Tomorrow Is Forever.” She sings of how yesterday is gone, so you should look forward tomorrow because it’s forever and in the now. Yesterday is done and can’t be change, but tomorrow isn’t and can. While these themes read as simple on paper, they’re really honest and something anyone can relate to. In a nutshell, this is what country music is all about.

Probably the most fun song on this album is “I’m Sixteen.” Dolly sings about how you can feel like your 16-years-old forever if you choose to and don’t have to get old. It plays on the axiom of age is only a number and not how you have to feel. At 70-years-old Dolly sounds just as youthful and exuberant as ever. There are artists half her age that don’t sound as charismatic and great as she does still. “Head Over High Heels” is another love song that Parton just knocks clear out of the park. This is another one of my favorites on the album, as Dolly continues to demonstrate through both her lyrics and vocals how to perform a romantic song. I don’t mean to dog on modern artists so much, but they could really learn something from songs like this. With over 40 studio albums under her belt, Parton seemingly knocks these fantastic songs out in her sleep. The final song on Pure & Simple is “Forever Love,” which Dolly dedicates to her husband of now 50 years, Carl. I’m not even going to try to describe to you how wonderful of a performance Dolly delivers here and I’m just going to tell you to go listen to this song. It’s phenomenal and reminds you of why Dolly Parton is one of the all-time best artists not just in country, but in all of music.

Simply put Pure & Simple is a really great album that I can’t recommend enough. From the very listen of this album I was immediately hooked and couldn’t stop listening. This was a review that pretty much wrote itself. Dolly Parton proves she’s still as amazing as ever and is still producing high-quality music. She wrote, arranged and produced this entire album (co-producers are Richard Dennison & Tom Rutledge). That’s incredible. While radio and the greater mainstream at-large mostly write-off older artists, they’re missing out. Parton is just one of many older artists who have delivered this year, including fellow country icon Loretta Lynn. There’s not much else to say. It’s Dolly Parton and its great music. It doesn’t get anymore pure and simple than this.

Grade: 9/10