Country radio needs to be “Fix”ed.
We took a week off from Sunday Selections, and we ended up missing the ascent of Eric Church’s “Record Year” to the top of the airplay charts… Only to return in time to see Chris Lane’s “Fix” take over as #1. Whenever country radio starts to make some headway, it just can’t help but fall back into its most regrettable habits. For what it’s worth, Lane’s album, Girl Problems, couldn’t capitalize on his lead single’s airplay, selling just a scant 6,000 copies in its first week.
Outside of that bit of unfortunate business, there’s some good news to be found. Dwight Yoakam announced a surprise new album, and Chely Wright talked to the always on-point Jason Scott about the recording of her upcoming album, I Am The Rain. Scott also dropped a must-read, long-form essay about “fandom” culture, including several prominent country artists.
Elsewhere, Jason Isbell proved that he is the Michael Phelps of Twitter, but Blake Shelton turned out to be more like Russian diver Nadezhda Bazhina. Both Miranda Lambert and Lauren Alaina gave candid, revealing interviews that gave insights into their latest singles, and Kellie Pickler got animated. There were noteworthy live performances from Carrie Underwood, Eric Church, and Isbell, along with new music videos from Shovels & Rope, Brothers Osborne, and Maren Morris.
New Releases & Reissues, 8/05/2016
American Young, AY. (Curb)
Blackfoot, Southern Native. (Loud & Proud)
The Cadillac Three, Bury Me In My Boots. (Big Machine)
Ry Cooder & David Lindley, If Walls Could Talk: Live On Air 1979. (Laser Media)
Diamond Rio, The Definitive Hits Collection. (Real Gone Music)
Alan Jackson, Geniune: The Alan Jackson Story. (Arista Nashville / Legacy)
Waylon Jennings, Nashville Rebel. (RCA / Legacy)
Cody Johnson, Gotta Be Me. (COJO Music)
The Lacs & Hard Target Present Racket Country, Welcome To Dodge City. (Barn Burner)
Chris Lane, Girl And Very Basic Music Problems. (Big Loud)
Andrew Leahey & The Homestead, Skyline in Central Time. (Skyline Music)
Little River Band, Little River Band (1975). (Music On Vinyl)
Neal McCoy, You Don’t Know Me. (New Design)
O’Connor Band (With Mark O’Connor), Coming Home. (Rounder)
Elvis Presley, Way Down In The Jungle Room. (RCA / Legacy)
Chelle Rose, Blue Ridge Blood. (Lil’ Damsel)
New Releases & Reissues, 8/12/2016
The Allman Brothers Band, Almost the 80s: Nassau Coliseum, NY, 30th December 1979. (Leftfield)
Blind Pilot, And Then Like Lions. (ATO)
Dave & Sugar, Greatest Hits / New York Wine & Tennessee Shine. (Morello)
Stewart Eastham, Dancers In The Mansion. (Long Bar Music)
John Fogerty, Tales From The Bayou. (Platinum Sounds)
Janie Fricke, Singer of Songs, Love Notes, I’ll Need Someone to Hold Me When I Cry, and From the Heart. (BGO)
Don Gibson, The Complete Singles As & Bs 1952 – 1962. (Acrobat)
Hymn for Her, Drive Til U Die. (Hymn for Her)
Cody Jinks, I’m Not The Devil. (Thirty Tigers)
Edwin McCain, O Edwin, Where Art Thou?. (Edwin McCain)
Justin Moore, Kinda Don’t Care. (Valory)
Willie Nelson, New Year’s Eve in Houston 1984. (Golden Rain)
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Nashville 1974: The Tennessee Broadcast. (All Access)
Charlie Rich, Every Time You Touch Me, Silver Linings, Take Me, and Rollin’ With The Flow. (BGO)
Dylan Scott, Dylan Scott. (Curb)
Kelsey Waldon, I’ve Got a Way. (Monkey’s Eyebrow)
Billboard Country National Airplay:
#1: Chris Lane, “Fix”
Most Increased Audience: The Band Perry, “Comeback Kid”
Debuts: The Band Perry, “Comeback Kid” (#39); Florida Georgia Line w Tim McGraw, “May We All” (#51); Mickey Guyton, “Heartbreak Song” (#56).
Most Added: Kenny Chesney feat. Pink, “Setting the World on Fire” (36); The Band Perry, “Comeback Kid” (34); Luke Bryan, “Move” (27); Dylan Scott, “My Girl” (19); LANCO, “Long Live Tonight” (17).
Notes: Last week, Eric Church took one of the finest songs on the chart, “Record Year,” to the #1 position, but he loses that spot this week to Chris Lane’s execrable “Fix,” easily the worst song currently at radio; Carrie Underwood’s recent chart-topper, “Church Bells,” is dropping somewhat slowly (#6 – #9 this week), but it should soon give way to “Dirty Laundry,” which has officially been announced as Underwood’s next single; Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” moves up from #25 to #21 in its third chart week and should soon surpass its #18 debut position; Thomas Rhett’s “Vacation” loses its bullet at #35 after 8 weeks, so maybe there is some hope for country radio; after spending a solid month at #41, Chris Janson finally cracks the top 40 with his terrific single, “Holdin’ Her,” which moves up to #40; Runaway June’s “Lipstick” continues to lose steam (#50 for a second week), while The Last Bandoleros’ “Where Do You Go” drops hard from #52 to #58.
Elsewhere on Billboard‘s radio charts:
The venerable alt-country pioneers Wilco continue to make inroads at AAA radio with “If I Ever Was A Child,” which moves up from #30 to #26; even more encouraging is the debut of Shovels & Rope’s “I Know” at #28 on the AAA chart; Amanda Shires’ “When You’re Gone” and Drive-By Truckers’ “Surrender Under Protest” each landed 4 station adds at AAA, while Sturgill Simpson scored 3 adds with his cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom;” despite those new additions, overall, the tenor of the AAA chart has shifted away from Americana and alt-country artists over the past year in favor of artists who, a few years ago, would have been more at-home at Adult Top 40; on that chart this week, Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.” moves up from #29 to #25; despite gaining spins at 2 new stations, Tim McGraw’s “Humble & Kind” drops from #13 to #14 at Adult Contemporary radio; Hillary Scott & The Scott Family post another big gain at Christian radio this week, where “Thy Will” moves up to #7.
News & Notes
“Joe [Henry] repeated to me something a poet friend had said to him, ‘Sometimes the poem possesses an intelligence the poet doesn’t necessarily have.’ What that told me was that you have to follow your intentions. It can take you a number of places. If you really surrender and acquiesce to what you intend to do in the universe, chances are you are going to get somewhere close to that. That really changed a lot about me. It changed how I approach friendships and a discussion with my wife.”
— Chely Wright gave a wide-ranging interview to friend-of-the-blog Jason Scott for AXS. Scott raves about Wright’s upcoming album, I Am The Rain, which sounds like it will be a career-best for the singer-songwriter, and he digs deep into Wright’s recording and songwriting processes. Throughout the interview, Wright impresses with her technical know-how– her discussion about incorporating a bass clarinet into her live band is a true peek behind-the-curtain– with her incorporation of classic country influences, and with her willingness to take risks. It’s a must-read profile. (JK)
“Fans have a lot of pride in the artist they support from the beginning. That’s probably healthy. Then, fans expect that artist to always be exactly how they were when they had nothing. That can be dangerous. You can’t acknowledge every single fan, like when there were five of them. As much as you want to acknowledge the people who got you there, every artist struggles with that. They stay after every show and meet people at the merch table. Then, if you are Luke Bryan, you can’t do that. Or if you are Kip Moore and you do do that, you stay three hours after a show.”
— Annie Dineen, founder of The Shotgun Seat, spoke at length about the relationship between artists and their most dedicated fans as part of “Fandom Culture in 2016: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly,” a fascinating long-read by, once again, Jason Scott for PopDust. Scott delves into contemporary “fandom” culture, speaking to Country Universe favorites Vickye Fisher of For The Country Record and Zackary Kephart of Country Perspective among others, and he even talks to fans on both sides of the greatest political divide of our time, The Carrie Underwood Vs Miranda Lambert Debate. (JK)
In addition to debuting at AAA radio, Shovels & Rope’s fantastic single “I Know” now has a shiny new music video. (JK)
“I want to use my time to fix the things I can and put as much love as I can into the world before the boatman rows me across the big river. I’m not afraid. We all have to face this one day. I want to continue my cosmic adventures. I want to see my beloved grandmother Brigid again. (Elvis will just have to wait).”
— Irish singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy wrote about the results of his recent surgery for his health blog. 2016 has been a bad year for the music industry, and cancer is about the worst thing on the planet. So it’s not surprising that cancer has hit the music world twice more in recent weeks. Kennedy announced several months ago that he was diagnosed with cancer. He had surgery at the end of July, but the tumor was found to be inoperable. Bap has released a stellar line of solo albums, starting with “Domestic Blues” on Steve Earle’s E2 records in 1998. His most recent album was the critically lauded “The Sailor’s Revenge” from 2012, produced by Mark Knopfler. In between is a stellar catalog, including a Hank Williams tribute, a cycle of songs about Williams and Elvis Presley, and a rare duet with Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, to name just a few highlights. If you want to send Bap an e-mail, send it to email@example.com. His team says that he is determined to write and respond to every message he gets. (SG)
Austin bass-player/producer/engineer George Reiff was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in his brain liver, adrenal gland and right lung. He has undergone surgery to remove a tumor from his brain. The family is requesting privacy at this time, but a GoFundMe account has been set up to help with his medical expenses. If you would like to contribute, go to https://www.gofundme.com/
Ryan Adams joined Jason Isbell on stage in San Fransisco to perform a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Sway” that is exactly as great as you think it is. (JK)
Wish the dickhead in the next room would either shut up or learn some English so I would atleast know what he’s planning to bomb!!
— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) March 28, 2011
On Saturday, Twitter users took a stroll through Blake Shelton’s verified Twitter account and began re-tweeting a series of Shelton’s tweets that reveal a far more insidious side of his calculated aw-shucks public persona. Given Shelton’s prominence, it’s certainly problematic to see this type of validation of the stereotype that country music is steeped in prejudices that fester just beneath its surfaces. While social media outrage cycles are a daily occurrence and have been used to vilify both celebrities and non-celebrities alike, we believe it’s still important and relevant to call out instances of overt racism when they occur. Yes, the Tweet is several years old, but that means that there have been countless opportunities when it could have been addressed. At this point, Shelton has deleted the Tweet without comment, but he hasn’t issued any sort of statement about the attention his remarks have garnered, nor has he doubled-down on this statement or any of the homophobic tweets that have also gone viral. Considering how quick he has been over the years to tell people to “Kiss [his] country ass,” it will be interesting to see how, if at all, he responds to this situation. (JK)
“Michael Phelps is the Alison Krauss of swimming.”
— Jason Isbell, in far less controversial Twitter news, drew an apt parallel between two all-time greats. (JK)
“Dad’s singing harmony on it and we have a couple of male voices on it, but for the most part it’s a ‘girl’ song, it’s a ‘sister’ song.”
— Hillary Scott spoke to Rolling Stone about “The River,” which interpolates a few bars of the well-known hymn “Down to the River to Pray” and on which her mother, Linda Davis, sings lead. “Thy Will” is still posting gains at radio, but “The River” is a standout track on the surprisingly great Love Remains. (TS)
ABC seems to have removed the official CMA Fest video from YouTube, but, since our last Sunday Selections post, the “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night To Rock” broadcast has aired, which means it’s fair game to post the video of Carrie Underwood throwing down on the harmonica and belting the ever-living shit out of “Choctaw County Affair,” which had better make for the first time she’s ever released a fifth single from one of her albums. (JK)
In one of the year’s most exciting announcements, Dwight Yoakam is scheduled to release an album of Bluegrass covers of eleven of his hits on September 23rd. The project is titled, Swimming Pools, Movie Stars… (LMW)
“Friday, the Dixie Chicks will return to Dallas for the band’s first performance here in a decade. The last time the Chicks took to the stage, at American Airlines Center, they were contending with death threats (as seen in Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck’s vital 2006 documentary Shut Up & Sing), and while it would seem reasonable that anger has cooled, and fans are willing to forgive and forget any perceived slights, such an assumption would be incorrect.”
— Preston Jones of the Star Telegram asked, “Should The Dixie Chicks Just Shut Up & Sing” in advance of the trio’s first show in Dallas in a decade; Jones was surprised to find out how many locals felt that the answer was a resounding, “yes.” (JK)
Eric Church opened his recent show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre with an acoustic version of “Mistress Named Music” from Mr. Misunderstood, and his performance of the song took a detour into a medley of songs by Bob Seger, Kenny Loggins, Little Feat, Billy Joel, and George Strait. (JK)
“The sassy confidence, yes, that’s what I’ve kind of built my career on. But it also takes a lot of confidence and strength to be willing to be vulnerable. And I feel like when you listen to this song, there’s really nothing to read into. It says what it says. Everybody has a vice. Everybody goes through a time in their life when they run to it a little bit more than when they don’t. When I’m journaling my life and putting it on paper to a melody and then allowing people to hear it, I can’t worry about what somebody might twist it into, because it’s not like I’m hiding anything.”
— Miranda Lambert admitted that she isn’t afraid to be vulnerable while speaking to Chris Willman of Billboard about her new single, “Vice,” and her songwriting process in preparing for her upcoming album. (JK)
Kellie Pickler has always been a pretty animated character, so it’s not a huge stretch as she prepares for her new role as… an animated character. She’ll be lending her vocal talents to play the role of a pirate in the Nick Jr. show “Shimmer and Shine.” She’ll sing a couple songs in the 2-part episode. (SG)
Speaking of the always-delightful Pickler, she recently appeared on Celebrity Family Feud, and it ended up being one of the best thing that has ever been televised, as her effervescence caused host Steve Harvey to get increasingly befuddled all the way through Pickler’s attempt to play “Fast Money.” (JK)
Mary Chapin Carpenter reads an essay about finding love in life’s “final lap” for the Modern Love podcast, which pairs celebrities with essays written about love for the New York Times‘ “Modern Love” column. (LMW)
Brothers Osborne premiered the music video for their wistful single, “21 Summer.” (JK)
“I went to the doctor for my vocal cords, because I was really struggling with my vocal cords… The doctor asked if I had ever had an eating disorder. I was like, ‘Uh, no.’ My mom was in the room and I was like, ‘No.’ My mom said, ‘Lauren’. You know, like in that mom tone. I lost it. I thought I was hiding it. You know you always think when you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing that no one knows. For my mom to know really embarrassed me. They sent me to a beach house with my mom for two weeks and put me on vocal rest, so I wasn’t allowed to speak at all. It really made me think, and I think that was part of the point. It was really for my voice, because my voice was done. It was destroyed at that point. My mom pretty much stayed with me at all times to make sure that there were no problems. I had bulimia, that’s why I was destroying my vocal cords.”
— Lauren Alaina opened up to Lisa Konicki of Nashville Daily News about her recovery from an eating disorder, which threatened to cause permanent damage to her voice. Alaina spoke candidly about her impact of the eating disorder, which began before her run to the American Idol finale, and how that figures into the inspirational tone of her new single, “Road Less Traveled.” (JK)
Joey+Rory’s Hymns That Are Important To Us is one of our favorite albums of the year, and it scored three nominations for the 2016 GMA Dove Awards. Shenandoah, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and The Oak Ridge Boys are also among the nominees. (JK)
To follow-up on the great discussion from the last Sunday Selection post, video from the recent tribute to Linda Ronstadt at Nashville’s Basement East has finally turned up on YouTube. Here, a line-up that includes Annie Clements, Emily West, The Watson Twins, Margo Price, and Kree Harrison tackle “When Will I Be Loved.” (JK)
But for the way Maren Morris drawls some of her vowels, her single “80s Mercedes” really doesn’t scan as country in any meaningful way, but it’s a strong pop single that, once again, draws favorable comparisons to Sheryl Crow’s 90s output. Morris premiered a candy-colored music video for the single. (JK)
That will do it for this week. There are several new single reviews in the works, along with the final installment of the Dixie Chicks: Revisited series, so be sure to check back in!