Crystal Shawanda, “My Roots Are Showing”

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October 28, 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve heard a mainstream country single that really surprised me. This one does. The song combines the basic theme of Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine” with the bluesy rollick of Tanya Tucker’s “It’s a Little Too Late,” and the result is a swaggering little sass-fest that sounds like nothing else on the radio right now.

There are hitches: the central image of exposed “roots” proves too frivolous to carry the song along the whole way, and as interesting a vocalist as Shawanda is, she sounds a little green behind the mic here, like she’s not yet sure how to harness her massive voice on record.

But the funny thing about this single is how it almost seems to be less about the song itself and more about the message conveyed through the combination of sound, style, performance and sentiment. It’s like Shawanda and RCA are daring the same radio programmers who embraced “You Can Let Go” to take up their swords for an artist who isn’t afraid to show her true colors and sing outside the box – and that’s pretty friggin’ cool.

Written by Whitney Duncan, Christi Dannemiller, & Robin Lee Bruce

Grade: B

Listen: My Roots Are Showing

Buy: My Roots Are Showing

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  1. It is an interesting choice for a second single. Here in Canada they released “What Do I Have To Do” which was very successful and I’m a little surprised they didn’t choose that in the states. I’m holind out hope for “Try” to be released sometime in the future because it’s my favorite off the album. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” Would be interesting as well.

  2. Matt BNo Gravatar says:

    This one was co-written by Whitney Duncan, Christi Dannemiller, and Robin Lee Bruce (herself known for a blusey vocal). I really hope this one does well. It’s exactly the kind of song women like to hear yet it’s also not cookie-cutter pop.

  3. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Hey, thanks for the writers tip-off, Matt! Completely forgot to look it up.

  4. Jim O says:

    “You can Let Go now Daddy” didn’t really grab me.
    >
    The overall sound does grab me this time, and now I am able to pay attention to the lyrics.

    After hearing this Crystal has become someone I want to hear a lot more of.

  5. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar says:

    The central theme/title does seem disconnected from the song in general, but it is refreshing to hear something different, and vocals are better than those of most of the newcomers. I agree—”B”.

  6. Chris D.No Gravatar says:

    I got this song when it was free on itunes, and I really love it. It makes me want to get her album, eventually.

  7. MartoneNo Gravatar says:

    Sorry but this song and singer fall directly into the Make it stop category. More unbearable Pop Country fluff.

  8. Matt BNo Gravatar says:

    Martone,

    This song is pretty country, it may be rooted in blues but it’s hard to call this one a pop song?

    What IS country to you?

  9. MartoneNo Gravatar says:

    Rooted in Blues? I’m sorry but you can’t be serious. I’m curious to know your definition of what Pop music is. I’ll be glad to introduce you to some of the country music I listen to.

  10. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t think I’d call it a “country” song in the musical sense. I think it would be accurate to say it has a lot of roots in traditional rock ‘n’ roll, which isn’t too far off of what we now call “blues,” but there is definitely a pop songwriting structure here. Still, I find it more sonically interesting than a lot of what’s on the radio right now, and that’s not a bad start.

  11. MartoneNo Gravatar says:

    Dan, I respectfully disagree. Except for “Pop songwriting structure”. That I agree with.

  12. Matt BNo Gravatar says:

    Martone,

    One of my biggest issues with the ‘traditional only’ mindset is that music has ALWAYS evolved and genres do shift over time. ‘pop songwriting structure’ or ‘blues’ or classic/traditional rock sounds are bound to influence singers and songwriters nowadays.

    Do I think there are some songs that are more ‘pop’ than perhaps would’ve been on country radio in the past? Sure but the same can be said for any time in country music’s history. Hell, there was a time when Hank Williams was considered ‘different’ for country radio. Waylon too.

    I enjoy much of what falls under the big tent that we call country music. I can easily listen to “There Stands The Glass” and then listen to this song or even a Jimmy Wayne song and go right into another ‘genre bending’ song. I define music buy this: if I like it and if I think the lyric and spirit of the song are country, then they are.

  13. MartoneNo Gravatar says:

    Well I certainly don’t have a “traditional only” mindset if that’s what you’re implying. I listen to many styles/genres of music, but I always come back to Americana music which is Roots music based on the traditions of Rock, Country, Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass, Folk. Since you mentioned Hank Williams, I was wondering who are some of todays artists you think has evolved his music?

  14. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I’m not a small-tenter, but I do believe in classifying music honestly. Otherwise the lines get so blurred that you do eventually get songs like that new Jimmy Wayne single – which, realistically, has zero to do with country music – shipped exclusively to country radio, and no one really bats an eye. That’s not evolution; that’s 90′s pop relocating itself.

    That’s not to say I think musical evolution isn’t a valid concept, but I wish people would call it like it is. Brad Paisley, however you feel about him, is a clear evolution of country music; he has a distinctly contemporary sound, but it’s rooted in some sort of discernible tradition. You can’t say that about most of Kenny Chesney’s recent output; songs like “Young” may appeal to country fans, but when they clearly have much more to do with John Mellencamp than they do with George Jones, why pretend otherwise?

  15. MartoneNo Gravatar says:

    …and yet from what I understand Paisley, Wayne, and Chesney, are played side by side on the Pop Country Music radio format. Like it or not Wayne is country, Pop Country, just as Paisley, and Chesney. I too believe in classifying music honestly. To me the lines have never been more clear between todays Pop and Roots music. All you have to do is listen.

  16. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar says:

    Genre classifications are bound to create confusion, but I agree with Dan that certain songs now have no vestige of country music’s original concepts.

    My favorites tend to be those that reinvigorate the format without aiming to reinvent it. I’m interested to see what the future holds, but to hazard a guess, I see a more distinct split between country and country pop occurring in the coming years. Country music in its current state, with the dramatic decrease in agrarian communities, has become music for the suburbs. These people grew up on not just country music, but also pop, rock and blues among other genres, and they enjoy music that combines all these elements.

    In my opinion, the change in country music is as much due to a societal shift as in the creative decisions of the almighty record labels. Too few artists continue to keep the long-standing traditions alive because a certain country lifestyle ceases to exist in many areas. And if these artists attempt to sneak into the forefront, they are met with the corporate resistance that defines Nashville circa 2008.

    Contemporary country is still a successful enterprise, but generally, I prefer country artists whose roots are showing.

  17. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    The fact that Paisley is played side by side with Chesney and Wayne does not inherently make all of his music “pop”-country (though some of it is), unless in this case you just mean “pop” as an abbreviation of “popular” (which would be more of a commercial classification than a musical one, and thus not what I think we’ve been discussing here). I’m not even generally a big fan of Paisley’s, but I wouldn’t pretend that he hasn’t honored the traditions of the genre a lot more than some of his peers with songs like “Whiskey Lullaby.”

  18. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I’ll add again, Martone, that if you or anyone else knows of any particular artists or albums that might not be as much on our radar, definitely feel free to make suggestions and we’ll see about featuring them alongside all the commercial stuff. I know I’m always open to listening to something a little more roots-oriented.

  19. MartoneNo Gravatar says:

    To Dan, by definition Pop Country is a commercial classification. I’d be interested in hearing your musical definition of Pop Country or Pop Music in general.

    To Blake, I disagree, Genre description/classification for me makes everything crystal clear. Again, by definition the Pop music industries intent is not to convey vestige of music’s original concept, whether it be Country or Rock. In Country music for example…if someone tells me they are going to by some of todays Roots Country(as a genre), I know what to expect, just as I do if someone said the same for Pop Country(as a genre).

    Let me ask both of you, do you listen to any of todays music know as Americana/Roots music? Just wondering.

  20. Blake BoldtNo Gravatar says:

    I suppose I’m approaching this issue from a broad perspective. From a general music fan’s standpoint, genres are still labeled as “country” or “pop” or “rock”. Your average listener likely doesn’t divide into sub-classifications (for example, roots country, adult alternative, neosoul). The average person isn’t using these terms and often enjoys the variety of listening to different genres, now all of these elements are blending (Chesney’s rock anthems and Buffett retreads, for example), for better or for worse.

  21. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Martone, you could well be right in saying “pop country” is generally more of a commercial defintion; I personally tend not to classify music according to its commercial presence, as I think that often leads people to prejudge music without consideration of its actual content.

    I think what we call “pop” music has changed radically over time (compare Perry Como’s “pop” to Rihanna’s “pop”), but I think it’s safe to say that a pop song is generally defined by a strong rhythmic focus and the nature of its chord progressions as opposed to a lyrics-first approach, which is more characteristic of country or folk (which are traditionally minimalistic from a musical standpoint). I’d call “pop country” anything that combines that melodic/rhythmic sensibility with a “country”-sounding vocal and storytelling style. Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler” is a great example of such a song. But I wouldn’t call Randy Travis “pop country” despite the fact that he’s been played on mainstream radio, because his music rarely relies on pop music devices; it’s pretty much straight-ahead country most of the time (listen to “Three Wooden Crosses” for recent evidence).

    To answer your other question, I’m not sure which artists you’d count as Americana/Roots, but iTunes says I’ve been listening to Bruce Robison, Dwight Yoakam, Justin Townes Earle, the Avett Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Robbie Fulks, Old Crow Medicine Show, and Kasey Chambers/Shane Nicholson lately, along with a lot of modern bluegrass (Cadillac Sky, the SteelDrivers). I’m always open to more enrichment, but I wouldn’t call myself a slave to contemporary country, no.

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