John Rich, Son of a Preacher Man

by

April 12, 2009

john-richJohn Rich
Son of a Preacher Man

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I guess I should say from the outset that this review isn’t being written in the real world, but rather in “that New York City town.”  For what it’s worth, here’s the view from New York City: this album stinks.

I’m going to keep this review brief. There’s honestly not much to be said. There are only three types of songs on Son of a Preacher Man anyway:

1. Power ballads, minus the power.

John Rich may be the least convincing love singer in history. He doesn’t sound desperate when he’s trying to sound desperate (“I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love.”) He doesn’t sound head over heels in love when he’s trying to sound head over heels in love (“Another You.”) He doesn’t sound fully committed when he’s trying to sound fully committed (“I Thought You’d Never Ask.”)

2. Loud rockers, minus the rocker.

He may sing that “Everybody Wants to Be Me”, but his timid vocal and anemic backing band suggest that there wasn’t a single person in the studio who believed that line. His ode to the “Trucker Man” has all the potency of an eight year old boy playing with a toy big rig on the living room carpet.

3. Message songs, minus the message.

The album is dominated by messages large and small, personal and political, and every single one of them is garbled and incoherent. Any woman with dignity who believes John Rich’s advice on how to “Turn a Country Boy On” will know that she’s better off alone than lowering herself to do what he suggests.

While he’s quick to criticize the government in “Shuttin’ Detroit Down”, he quickly pivots and criticizes those on “T.V. taking shots at Uncle Sam.” His logic: they don’t appreciate the sacrifices made by the greatest generation, and that they kept us from “speaking German living under the flag of Japan.” If that sentence makes sense to you, stop reading this review right now and go buy the album. You’re his target audience.

And the less said about “Why Does Somebody Always Have to Die” the better, unless you’ve been anxiously awaiting a country song about one kid getting killed by a train, another by a drunk driver (a “white-collar” one, natch), and how it all connects to Jesus being crucified.

What the album finally comes to a close with the insufferable big band number – yes, big band number – “Drive Myself to Drink”, I reached an inescapable conclusion. This is is the worst country album that I’ve ever heard.


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  1. LOL, Kevin. I have not even heard this and don’t plan on it, but I have a feeling I would totally agree with you. Maybe it’s because I live on the planet New York too.

  2. CFNo Gravatar says:

    Haha I like this review. Well put.

  3. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Jonathan Keefe’s over at Slant did a much better job:

    http://www.slantmagazine.com/music/music_review.asp?ID=1687

  4. LynnNo Gravatar says:

    Big band? Seriously? I appreciate branching out/experimentation, but no no no. That clip was hideous!

    Why is it that every time I read a review this bad I’m actually more curious about the album than if it was a mediocre review. I think it’s in the vein of slowing down on the freeway to see a car wreck (which is wrong in itself as well!).

  5. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Ah, the big band song is something special. He sounds like a washed up lounge singer in the worst way.

  6. AaronNo Gravatar says:

    I cant stand John Rich so the fact that his album sucks doesn’t surprise me. Loved the review Kevin!!

  7. Cowboy BleauNo Gravatar says:

    Nicely Put. I must say I was a little held back in my own review, but obviously I couldn’t have said it better.

  8. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    Someone once said “good riddance to bad rubbish”. I finally have a great application for that phrase!

  9. Paul DennisNo Gravatar says:

    I will dissent

    Okay – so you don’t like John Rich. I get it. I agree, he can be a bit much. I’m not overly fond of him either , but I am seeing the man reviewed here, not the music. This reads like a slap down of a singer who did not succumb to Obama-mania and is being punished for “Raising McCain”

    This is NOT a great album but it is on a par with most current Nashville product – worth somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5 stars. There are several songs that, given to more proficient vocalists, could be hits. Maybe New Yorkers cannot appreciate “Shuttin’ Detroit Down”, but in other parts of the country, the song resonates well

    “Drive Myself To Drink” is a clever song that I would like to hear someone like Michael Andrew (of Swingerhead) or Brian Setzer tackle as I think it has real possibilities. Even with Rich’s uneven vocals, I liked the song.

    Calling this ‘the worst country album that I’ve ever heard’ is really overstating it. Granted your review isn’t the hatchet job that that clueless Jonathan Keefe (over at the appropriately named SLANT) spewed, but I doubt that I’ve disagreed more with a review at this website. I’ve heard numerous albums including some by such noted figures as Dolly Parton, Colin Wray and Faith Hill that are far worse trainwrecks than this album.

  10. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    Jon Caramanica, of the New York Times, nailed John Rich’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down”: it’s “the first great song of the bailout era”.

    Kevin, can you replace your review with that of Paul Dennis? I’d much rather read a fair take on an album than what amounts to playground name-calling.

  11. JaneNo Gravatar says:

    lol. I love this review!

  12. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Paul,

    At this point, my work speaks for itself. The entire review focuses on the music – primarily the songwriting, but also the vocals and the production – as my reviews always do.

    I reviewed “Raisin’ McCain” and my issue with it was that it made an interesting man sound boring. I happen to like Senator McCain quite a lot, even if I didn’t vote for him because of his policies.
    My father was a Republican and there has never been another person I’ve respected so much, so I don’t go around demonizing people who vote differently than me.

    But again, anybody who reads my site – certainly anyone who has for as long as you have – should know that by now. I stay away from covering artists from the personal/political perspective and focus on their music. That’s difficult to do with John Rich because so much of that is in his music, but this review still isn’t about what he claims to be or to believe. It’s about how effectively those claims are translated into music.

    This may not be the worst country album that you’ve ever heard, but that certainly doesn’t make it an overstatement for me to say it’s the worst one I’ve ever heard. Having listened to every Collin Raye, Faith Hill and Dolly Parton solo album, they each have redeeming qualities that would lift them above one star. (Dolly’s Rainbow comes close though.)

    As for Jonathan Keefe, his work also speaks for itself, but in my opinion, he is the finest writer in country music right now, rivaled only by Chris Willman. I don’t even read his reviews until mine are done because he always ends up saying what I want to say in a way that is more informed, more clever and more thought-provoking.

    He’s also somebody who has shared his deep knowledge of country in the comments on this site for many years, as have you. So I take issue with you calling him “clueless”, much like I’d take issue with anyone calling you the same.

    One of the things that I’m most proud of about Country Universe is that the comment threads are largely respectful of differing opinions. We can’t always get that from readers who stumble upon our site from a fan club board that linked to a negative review, but I think it’s fair for me to expect that of longtime readers.

  13. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    That’s a right pretty speech, Kevin. But your review still reads like the slam book from Mean Girls. When did Country Universe become gawker.com?

  14. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    Hold up. If Kevin disliked the album as much as he says he did, why in the heck wouldn’t he write a very negative review to reflect that?

    I don’t hear any general character attacks (of the sort in Mean Girls, at least) whatsoever in this review; if there is so-called “slamming”, it is only in the context of discussing how Rich carries out the songs. You may disagree with the verdicts on those songs, but that doesn’t mean the process by which they were judged or reported is inherently unfair. I don’t think there’s a single point in this review that isn’t supported by reference to at least one song on the album.

    Honestly, I could see the exact same review being applied to several different artists and no one saying a word in objection. But because it’s John Rich, there’s an easy excuse to call foul play. I just don’t buy it.

  15. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Kevin – I have a very high regard for your writing (and I look at this site virtually every day) but everyone has blind spots, and areas where objectivity is likely impossible to achieve. The trick is to recognize those blind spots. In my case there are several artists that I will never review.

    While I really liked GUITAR TOWN, virtually everything else Steve Earle has done, personally and professionally, has been a gigantic turnoff. Another such artist is Barbra Streisand whom I regard as a totally worthless human being. She has (or had) a magnificent voice (although often questionable taste in material) but my personal dislike for her is such that I don’t think I could give her a fair review.

    The above being the case I don’t review either Steve Earle or Barbra Streisand albums.

  16. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    Paul is right: the review reveals a gigantic blind spot in Kevin but, I think too, in many of the other commenters on here. I know that when you’re preaching to the choir, you can get so loud that sometimes it’s hard to listen to other voices and other points of view.

  17. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Paul,

    The problem here is you projecting biases on to me. Just because you can’t separate the personal from the professional and write a fair review does not mean that I cannot. Judging artists based on their personal lives or political beliefs is not one of my blind spots.

    For example, I cringe every time Toby Keith goes off on one of his tirades, but I’ve given countless rave reviews to his music. I think he’s a phenomenal songwriter and the greatest male voice of his generation. I find Taylor Swift tremendously irritating, but I’ve given positive reviews to several of her singles.

    I think it’s important for your writing that you’re able to recognize an inability to separate the two, but projecting it on to me is unwarranted.

  18. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    Dan – My favorite example of Kevin’s Mean Girls b****iness is this line: “If that sentence makes sense to you, stop reading this review right now and go buy the album. You’re his target audience.”

    So Kevin doesn’t like John Rich and pretty bluntly tells readers who like John Rich to piss off. “If you’re her friend, you can’t be mine”. Hail Regina George.

  19. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Reminder:

    We’re a profanity-free site. Future comments that include profane language will be deleted.

  20. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    That’s weird. I just searched the website and found a number of uses of the word “d*mn” within the past 6 months, but those uses of the word were not quotes from songs and were not flagged with Asteriks Denoting Profane Language. See, e.g., Blake Boldt’s December review of Call Me Crazy or Matt B’s comment about 3 weeks ago on a review of the most recent song from Joey+Rory. I’m all for consistently-applied censorship and all, but for me, the key is “consistently-applied”.

  21. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I look at that more as saying, “If that sounds like something you can get behind, this review is probably not for you.” Which is true. It may be a bit snappy, but it’s not nearly as hostile or irrational as the Regina George-ism you’re comparing it to (although as a total aside, I think it speaks well of the substance of Mean Girls that such arguments can even be attempted).

    For the record, I haven’t even heard the album yet, and while I’m not a fan of John Rich’s public persona, I’ve also vocally liked some of what he’s written over the years. So I would appreciate having whatever arguments I make not dismissed as “choir” talk.

  22. Chris N.No Gravatar says:

    I think he just meant: Why would our Japanese rulers make us speak German?

  23. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    Dan – The choir I was referring to is evident in the responses to Kevin’s review by above. Take a look at what Roger, Aaron and John had to say. It’s call-response, isn’t it? Queen Bee sings the verse and the rest of the Plastics join in the chorus.

  24. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Chris N.,

    I thought that was obvious, and I appreciate yo pointing it out!

    Cutting the Treacle,

    I don’t equate “damn” with the word you used, though you’ve just proven my point that you can make comments that take digs at what you perceive as my insufficient masculinity without using that word. Isn’t it more rewarding when you get to be creative?

  25. MichaelNo Gravatar says:

    Great review! I had to giggle because I dislike John Rich’s public persona so much and it makes me a more than a little happy that his album is such a dud. It all comes down to the music and his album will soon be forgotten. Were this a great disc, I would buy it. I’d cringe as I did it because I would hate to hand over my money to John Rich… but I would. I’m glad I don’t have to now. Thank you. :)

  26. William WardNo Gravatar says:

    It is interesting to me that Kevin mentions that he has given Toby Keith positive reviews despite have large differences with him (much the same as he could have with John Rich).

    Honestly, I always kind of thought that John Rich was just a less talented version of Toby Keith. Or, at least, it seems to me that he is going for the same audience in the same way, but less effectively.

    Personally I would give them both terrible reviews most of the time because I dislike the content. I think that is different than a “Blind Spot.”

    For instance I think Stanley Kubrick has made some excellent movies. However Eyes Wide Shut, no matter how well it is executed, will not be Full Metal Jacket or 2001: A Space Odyssey for me because of the content it chooses to show.

  27. AaronNo Gravatar says:

    No offense to anyone, but am I the only one cracking up that Kevin’s review is being compared to some of the stuff in Mean Girls?? I find it too funny.

    Just for the record, I have no problem admitting that I don’t like John Rich. It’s not that I don’t like John Rich the person because I’ve never met him, but I just can’t stand any of his music. Plus, most of the stuff I’ve heard is a lot of rubbish, with the exception of “Lost in this Moment.” I mean can we really take someone seriously who releases stuff like “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” and “Coming to Your City?” My answer to that question would be no.

    Also, I love how we can all come here and voice our own opinions…that’s what a blog should be about. But I don’t think it’s fair to start attacking Kevin for his opinion nor the people who happen to agree with it. If you go back and read the review, it clearly focuses on Rich’s album and there are no references to how Kevin feels about Rich as a person.

  28. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t have any perception of Kevin’s masculinity, as I don’t know him and have never (to my knowledge) met him. And I would love to see the Dictionary of Profanity that includes “b*tchy” but excludes “damn”. I know a couple parents and an awful lot of school teachers who’d be surprised by such fine distinctions. But that’s probably more of an issue of the consistently-applied censorship I was talking about earlier.

  29. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    William – I didn’t understand Kevin’s reference to Toby Keith. Why bring him up at all? Kevin’s not the first person who seems to want to tie John’s horse to Toby’s cart (and it’s usually done defensively something along the lines of “I like some of Toby’s music and he’s a crazy chest-thumping, pro-America nut like John Rich, so I don’t hate all crazy chest-thumping, pro-America nuts”).

  30. JonathanNo Gravatar says:

    Kevin,

    Thanks for the plug and for the kind words. I always try to admit my shortcomings, so I will say again (as I did on the blog entry about the Huffington Post) that Chris Willman is a much better writer than I am.

    As for being “clueless” or writing a “hatchet job”: I’ve had much, much worse said about me. Most often by irate members of Carrie Underwood’s fan club.

  31. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Bringing up Toby is relevant, since Kevin was accused of not being able to seperate his political differences or personal feelings regarding an artist from an artist’s work. The fact that he could give Toby very positive reviews, illustrates his ability to do just that, because we all know Kevin is a very big Dixie Chicks supporter…maybe even more than he is an Obama supporter.:)

    I’m kidding about the Obama part, by the way (if it wasn’t obvious), because I have no grounds on which to seriously make such a claim.

  32. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Oh yeah, I’m gonna have to rent Mean Girls now. I should have already done it though, considering Tina Faye’s involvement.

  33. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    Leeann, I don’t understand what one thing (Toby Keith) has to do with the other (John Rich), but the reference to the Chicks is telling. I think this is how the narrative must play out in the heads of those who insist on making such comparisons:

    1. Natalie Maines insulted Toby Keith because she did not like his song.

    2. Toby Keith insulted Maines back.

    3. Maines was in London and insulted President Bush.

    And so by alchemy, Toby Keith becomes a right-wing crazy nut. But Toby writes some of the best songs in country music, so Kevin acknowledges the quality of Toby’s songs but disagrees with Toby’s tirades (although I don’t know what tirades of Toby’s have been particularly offensive). And this is useful because when someone hints that Kevin’s review is less of a neutral take on an album and more of a settling of grievances for issues unrelated to music, Kevin can haul out his complimentary comments about that crazy right-wing nut Toby Keith.

    There is certainly an unacknowledged political element here (both in the review of Rich and in the grasping comparison to Keith) but it will probably continue to be unacknowledged by Kevin and some folks on here.

  34. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    And you should rent Mean Girls, if just to hear the line “too g*y to function”.

  35. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    I’m not interested in getting into a Dixie Chicks argument today. I will, however, remind you that Toby spliced a picture of Natalie with Saddam Hussein on a screen at several of his concerts. If that’s not extreme, I don’t know what is. This is why I brought the Chicks into this discussion, though I can see why it seems like a stretch.

    I cannot speak for the other writers here, but I will not deny that I am not a conservative. I grew up in a conservative home, however. So, like Kevin, I am used to seperating my political differences from the people who hold them. I’ve been doing it for most of my adult life, since I love my parents who are truly compassionate conservatives.

  36. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    It’s not a stretch at all, Leeann: it’s part and parcel of why folks make the Toby / John comparison. I thought it was hilarious that Toby doctored a pic of Natalie after she said of Toby’s song: “I hate it. It’s ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant.” And I thought it was hilarious of Natalie to wear an FUTK t-shirt. Natalie started a playground fight, and Toby joined right in. But it always escapes me as to how that transforms Toby into a political figure against whom one might credibly compare John Rich.

  37. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I think we’ve done a good job of doing that on the site, Leeann, and I’m proud of that. Hopefully most of our readers feel the same. We can’t do much more than honestly respond to the music we listen to in the end, and those responses cannot please everyone.
    Ultimately, the work has to speak for itself, so much of this discussion is futile anyway.

  38. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    I have no doubt, Kevin, that most of your readers (at least the ones who post) feel the same as you.

  39. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Well, there are plenty of CU readers who disagree with us, both on politics (since not even all of the writers agree in that area) and the music itself. While we reserve the right to counter argue and defend our points, we welcome disagreement, as long as it’s respectful and adhere’s to our comment policy. It’s what makes this whole blogging thing so fun/interesting.

  40. Razor XNo Gravatar says:

    I haven’t listened to the album and don’t really plan to since I don’t like John Rich at all — with or without Big Kenny. It’s got nothing to do with his politics; I’ve disliked his music since before I even knew what his political leanings were.

    I don’t think Kevin crossed any lines by taking shots at Rich personally. That being said, it is a harsh review, perhaps justifiably so, but harsh nonetheless. John Rich is so disliked on a personal level, that he’s become an easy target. And perhaps because of that, it’s easy to look between the lines on a very negative review such as this one, and read something that wasn’t intended to be there.

  41. MichaelNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, this certainly got off track a little bit. It seems to me that what this comes down to is that John Rich’s music is just plain bland… except when it’s obnoxious. Even if you do agree with his political opinions, why would you listen to lousy music? I have purchased a few Toby Keith CDs because, even though I haven’t always agreed with his politics, I liked some of his music. By the same token, I’ve never purchased a Barbra Streisand album because, even though I do agree with many of her political views, I don’t really enjoy her music. It’s as simple as that for me.

  42. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    Michael – Your comment is exactly the point of Kevin’s post: it’s this weird insinuation of politics (what, by the way, are Toby’s politics?).

    I think Kevin hates John Rich’s politics, and it informs anything he writes about John Rich’s music.

  43. Dan MillikenNo Gravatar says:

    I think it’s telling that almost none of this back-and-forth has actually concerned the strengths and weaknesses of this album, quite unlike the original review.

    Truth is, we all have our biases in one way or another. We can sit around trying to call each other out on them every time the option arises – shoot, that’s what some fan-clubbers do with every negative review – or we can supersede them by having an intelligent discussion about the music. Personally, I’m much more drawn to the latter option.

  44. AnnieNo Gravatar says:

    I posted a comment regarding this CD on another site, and the comments got a little intense on that review too. I like the CD, especially “Drive Myself To Drink” I have no problem with Kevin’s review here. I don’t agree with it – but, that’s ok! I have never joined any artists fan club and don’t consider myself “rabid” about any artist. (Except maybe I’m a bit rabid about Merle, George, and Dolly!) CU is one of my favorite sites! Sometimes I agree with the reviews – sometimes I don’t! I was also raised in a conservative home, and I believe good manners and appropriate language are important when posting. I will say this – as I was told by another blogger recently – If you’re going to participate in these discussions, don’t be too sensitive when other bloggers disagree with you! The discussions that follow these posts are often as interesting as the posts themselves. I’m just glad there are sites like CU that give me the opportunity to participate, I don’t need anybody to think like me for me to respect their opinion.

  45. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    I agree, Dan. There’s not much here about the music. One of Kevin’s very sentences (“John Rich may be the least convincing love singer in history”) is absurd. There are very fine love songs written and sung by John Rich on Horse of a Different Color and Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace. To write a sentence like that is to pretty much admit you’re interested in a review of something other than music.

    And, of course, the very first response to Kevin’s review admitted that he hadn’t and wouldn’t listen to Rich’s new album but that he loved the review anyway. If there’s a clear indication that this ain’t about the music, that’s it.

    I agree we all have biases. But don’t pretend you’re doing one thing (writing a neutral review of a John Rich album) when you’re really doing another (working off your John Rich frustrations). Or better yet, admit your bias and then revel in trashing John Rich.

  46. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Cutting the Treacle wrote:

    “I think Kevin hates John Rich’s politics, and it informs anything he writes about John Rich’s music.”

    I think it’s hilarious that you fancy yourself more of an authority on my thinking process than I am. I happen to have a deep respect for Senator John McCain, who was one of my father’s heroes as well. I think he would’ve been a good president.

    Not that it matters. As soon as you set up the false pretense that I hate his politics and it affects my opinion of his music, you’ve eliminated the possibility that I could genuinely dislike it on the merits of the music, despite that being very clear through my reviews of his album and of “Raisin’ McCain.” It’s a classic ad hominem logical fallacy.

  47. Fred SaidNo Gravatar says:

    It appears that John Rich is a very resourceful songwriter and promoter who is a also a decent musician; but not a gifted singer or “vocalist”.

    The odds are against him as a solo artist.

  48. Cutting the TreacleNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t fancy anything about Kevin, but I do think he hates Rich’s politics; thus, he makes the Toby / John comparison (which only make sense in the political context).

  49. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Kevin is certainly not the first reviewer or commenter to point out Rich’s inability to vocally sell a song. I like Big & Rich’s first album and still play songs from it, particularly “Live This Life”, but Big Kenny is the part that helps give body to Rich’s thin voice. Without Kenny, Rich struggles significantly as a vocalist.

    I actually own Rich’s first solo album out of curiosity because he sounded pretty good with B&R, but was not very impressed. I’ve listened to this album and was equally unimpressed. In my opinion, Rich is not a convincing vocalist on his own. He’s better as a harmony singer.

  50. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    The only reason Kevin equated Rich with Keith is to show that he can separate political disagreements from the actual music, since Paul suggested otherwise. He did not say that Keith is like Rich. He just pointed out another artist with whom he tends to disagree as an example of being able to fairly review based on musical merit.

    Oh wait, I’ve said this already.

  51. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Annie,
    Thank you. That’s the best compliment you could give us, I believe.

    By the way, I must say that I agree with Razor X…that this review is certainly harsh (I’ve written a few of those myself), but doesn’t cross the line. Furthermore, like Razor and Dan said, it’s too easy to call foul play if somebody gives Rich a negative review, because he makes his political leanings so public.

  52. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    It’s Toby Keith’s personality that grates on me, not his personal beliefs.

  53. Stephen H.No Gravatar says:

    a) Cutting said that there were some good love songs on “Horse of a Different Color”. I’m curious what would be considered a “love” song beyond “Wild West Show”.

    b) I’m curious why so many people are more of a fan of Big Kenny as a vocalist than Rich. I mostly agree that, especially on this CD (I don’t own it but listened to all of the snippets above), Rich is very weak. However, as a Big & Rich fan, I was never impressed with Alphin’s vocal abilities. However, most of their songs didn’t depend on being able to sing well (which is probably why their third album was so poorly received by most, when they had songs requiring good performance).

    Rich has again surrounded himself with songs he needs to “sing”, not “deliver”, and I doubt I will purchase this CD.

  54. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I echo Leeann’s comments regarding Annie’s compliment. We really do appreciate that!

  55. glory2001No Gravatar says:

    I am a John Rich fan but I realize not everybody likes him, but your review was a review against John Rich politics, and everything else. He is a talented songwriter, just ask Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Jason Aldean, and many others. I personally like the different way John Rich writes, I may have to check out how how review Taylor”I am not country in anyway” Swift.

  56. Matt BNo Gravatar says:

    Cutting the Treacle,

    I have a very different political opinion than John Rich, yet I separated my opinions of the man from the music, just like Kevin did here. He just happened to not like the music.

    Writers are like artists themselves, we have to have thick skin when people come at us claiming us to be something that we’re not and, again like artists, we’re not going to be liked by everybody so it’s a fallacy to expect such things.

  57. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    Kevin, is it that you think John Rich and Big $ Rich have gone down hill since their debut album, or did you not like Horse of a Different Color either?

    Personally, I really liked their first album, but have been dissapointed with pretty much every follow up they have attempted.

    I agree with those who say that John Rich is not a great solo vocalist, (and neither is Big Kenny for that matter) But when they merge, their vocals complement each other’s strengths, and compensate for each other’s weaknesses, imo. I think they sound great together. Some may disagree, but I think their harmonies are reminiscent of the Eagles.

    And I do think that JR is a very talented and prolific songwriter. Glory2001 gives some good examples of some of Mr. Rich’s beneficiaries in that area, and I would also add Gretchen Wilson, Keith Anderson, and James Otto (?) to that list as well.

    I think Shutting Detroit Down is a good message song, and as I have stated before on Kevin’s review thread of the song, I do not think JR is taking shots at NYC, his target is Wall Steet corruption, and misplaced bailout money. And Kevin, however “garbled and incoherent” you may believe the message of this song may be, I think JR deserves some credit for speaking up for the masses, who have not benefited from the bailout. Many, many people have heard the message in this song, loud and clear, and they appreciate someone singing out for them.

    I can’t really comment on JR’s current album, as I have only heard “Detroit”…But, I do think the tone of your review from the opening line on is sarcastic. But perhaps in this case, the sarcasm is warranted. Between the downward spiral of Rich’s album efforts,as well as your substantiated criticism of this album, I am not in a hurry to give it a listen.

    Oh, and Leeann…I also have JR’s first solo album, and I think much of it is forgetable, but I do love his duet with Sara Evans, “That Old Blue Mountain”.. :)

  58. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I usually like Rich’s songwriting, with his mid-2000s output being some of my favorite country songs of that era (“Like We Never Loved at All”, “Live This Life”, “Holy Water”, etc.) I gave a positive review to the most recent Big & Rich album.

    I didn’t expect to flat-out hate this album, even though I didn’t care for any of his solo singles of the past year.

    It’s not the subject matter he chooses. It’s the execution of said subject matter. Either the words or his vocal performances fail to match up with the message he’s trying to send, and often both at the same time.

    Although it’s not on this album, I think “Raisin’ McCain” demonstrated this more vividly than anything else. How do you take the biography of a prisoner of war who comes back home and dedicates his life to public service, and turn it into a mindless rocker that trivializes that lifetime of service to his country?

    I was speaking to a friend of mine from work today on the phone, and I ran the line past her: “We’d all be speaking German, living under the flag of Japan.” Without hesitation, she responded: “No, we’d either be living under the flag of Germany speaking German or living under the flag of Japan speaking Japanese. Why would the Japanese make us speak German?”

    Perhaps it’s my own bias here, but I can’t understand how any intelligent person cannot cringe at that line, regardless of their position on war. (Though I somehow doubt there’s fevered debate over the justification of World War II, but nothing surprises me at this point.)

    I actually agree with Rich about the misplaced bailout money, and I wish it had gone to Detroit instead. I don’t think that the former president put working Americans first, and I don’t think the current president does either.

    But all of that is irrelevant anyway because once I start listening to music, I flip the switch. I don’t evaluate music based on how it lines up with my political beliefs, of all things. I was loving music long before I knew what politics even was.

    I’m not denying myself musical pleasure of artists I disagree with or forcing myself to take interest in the music of artists that I don’t like because their politics appeal to me. What a waste of time.

  59. William WardNo Gravatar says:

    I actually do evaluate music with how it lines up with my beliefs,political, socially, and otherwise. Or at least it weighs in heavily for me, I’m not sure I understand why it shouldn’t.

    Of course, how it gets across those beliefs is important as well. It is a part of how I evaluate if the music makes a connection with me or not. Thinking of four different “Pro-War” (and I use the term in quotes because I think that is simplifying them) song I enjoy two of them and think two of them are childish and were produced just to cash in.

    Anyway, I am definitely guilty of this ultimate error, what music says is very important to me in judging it. While I don’t feel I judge songs based on what artist believe, if those beliefs are in the songs it definitely weighs in.

    Maybe I am misunderstanding people’s arguement?

  60. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    The insertion of one word, “or”, would make that awkward, cringe-inducing line make more sense: “We’d all be speaking German OR living under the flag of Japan”.

  61. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with evaluating music on how it lines up with your beliefs. It’s just a different approach than mine. I only brought up my approach because the validity of my review was questioned due to factors that others assumed were in play that actually weren’t.

    I generally don’t find political music very interesting in the first place, but I do relate very well to music that speaks to my general beliefs of social justice and service to others. That’s one of my “sweet spots”, to borrow from Leeann’s excellent discussion starter.

    I do agree with you that execution is very important, and I tend to respond more negatively to songs that express a position I agree with awkwardly than those that express a position I disagree with.

    I’ve said this to my students for years when they write persuasive papers. They don’t get graded on whether or not I agree with them, but on how well they make their arguments. However, those who are writing about a position that I agree with have a higher hurdle to clear, simply because I can more easily spot weak or ineffective arguments, having already come to the same conclusion myself.

  62. J.R. JourneyNo Gravatar says:

    The only comment I have is that I wish people would stop calling John Rich by the initials J.R. :)

  63. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar says:

    LOL, Sorry J.R….I thought of that after I made my comments, but had hoped you wouldn’t mind. Just lazy shorthand on my part. ;)

  64. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Ha, J.R.!

  65. CharlieNo Gravatar says:

    “There are very fine love songs written and sung by John Rich on Horse of a Different Color and Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace. To write a sentence like that is to pretty much admit you’re interested in a review of something other than music.”

    To speak about the quality of the writing in love songs penned by Rich does not really address how convincing he is as a singer of love songs, does it?

    As for the Rich/Keith comments, I think its fairly obvious that Kevin refuting the notion that his political views would affect his musical opinion; by pointing out an example of an artist with whom he might express similar political disagreement, but whose music he is able to judge on its merits.

  66. Kevin J. CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    Exactly. Songwriting and singing are two different things. As I wrote in my review, my problem with the love songs wasn’t the songwriting, but the performances of the songs.

    As others have written, I think what makes Big & Rich work is that they balance each other out well. Even compare “I Pray For You” as done by Big & Rich to John Rich’s solo version. That deep harmony part by Big Kenny gives the song so much more heft.

  67. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    There are two basic problem with this album, in my opinion. One is that Rich isn’t doing anything on it that’s any different from what Nashville is putting out now. Secondly, he is basically doing the kinds of things that had been done in the past with far better aplomb by guys who know a thing or two about populist outrage and hell-raising, and lived to tell about it with honest: folks like Waylon, Willie, Johnny Cash, and Merle Haggard. In many ways, John Rich really is nothing more than a poseur.

  68. JgerNo Gravatar says:

    I think the real problem with the review of “shuttin Detroit Down” is that the reviewer is from New York City and most likely has no idea of what is really going on in the rest of the nation. For someone who spent a great deal of my life in the midwest, watching town after town die off, this song actually means something. I don’t know much about John Rich, in fact, I had never heard of him until this song. I suspect that he’s a hard-right winger, which I certainly don’t agree with; but this song is about more then politics, it’s about the reality of living in the rust belt and watching the American dream die.

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