Category Archives: Say What?

Say What? – Terri Clark

In an interview with Gibson.com , Terri Clark reflects on her hit-making days:

Country radio was good to me for many years, but it also pigeonholed me. After my first album, I was expected to fill the slot on their playlist for ‘fun, up-tempo female.’ That provided me with a space to fill on that playlist, and a string of turntable hits, but in my entire career I had only two ballads that broke the Top 10.

There have been quite a few songs, songs that never got released as singles, that I felt were stronger than a lot of the singles that came out.

Lamenting the restraints that their former labels placed on their artistic freedom is a common refrain of country artists once they go indie. But in Clark’s case, I see her point. Her first wave of hits included two ballads, but most of the biggest hits were uptempo rockers like “You’re Easy On the Eyes” and “Better Things To Do.”  Her second wave was only three hits deep, a trio of upbeat numbers that all reached the top two.  Radio essentially walked away when she took a turn for the serious.

Interestingly enough, she fell out of favor during Gretchen Wilson’s meteoric rise, who essentially filled that “fun, up-tempo female” slot.  Radio embraced Wilson more than they ever embraced Clark, but also tired of her quickly.  Radio has since backed more female artists than it did in the early part of the decade, with Carrie Underwood,  Taylor Swift and Sugarland regularly topping the charts.  But it could be argued that Clark’s niche has never been filled again, much like Mary Chapin Carpenter and Patty Loveless were never succeeded by a younger counterpart.

Do you agree with Clark that radio pigeonholds its artists to the detriment of their music?  If so, what artists are currently being the most limited by this mindset?

H/T: GAC

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Say What? – Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood 09As reported by Billboard, Carrie Underwood’s response to being offered a free copy of Miranda Lambert’s new album, Revolution:

No. I’m going to buy it.

Gotta love that!

Billboard’s been previewing some new tracks from Underwood’s upcoming third album, Play On. I’ve found “Temporary Home” and “Mama’s Song” to be far more promising previews of the new set than lead single “Cowboy Casanova.”

Check out the entire interview with Underwood here.

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Read This: Country Dignity

Craig BickhardtHere you go.………………………………………………………………………..

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Say What? – Bob Lefsetz

question_markAnyone who reads Bob Lefsetz' “The Lefsetz Letter” knows that Lefsetz is a fairly new country music fan, but a passionate one all the same.  I frequently disagree with his current assessment of country music, particularly country radio (although recently  he has clued in to its frequent vapidness and monotony), but he's a fantastic voice out there championing country music.

In a recent letter, he made some interesting statements about his desired role for the future of country music (i.e. the classic rock of the future). After approvingly citing the recent Newsweek article which bemoaned the current state of country music, Lefsetz stated:
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blockquote>Country used to have an edge.  My buddy Pete Anderson would love to bring it back.  But I’m thinking we’ve just got to move the needle a little bit, and suddenly we’ve got the rock business we used to have, the one that triumphed in the seventies.

He went on to state:

If they just took off the cowboy hats and lost the banjos they’d be closer to Lynyrd Skynyrd than Dolly Parton or George Jones.  When are the country acts going to go after their rightful audience, boomers who lived through the seventies and younger people who want melody!

***

The future is in country, or something quite like it.

It’s not the final resting place for has-beens like Bon Jovi or wannabes like Jessica Simpson, but a phoenix ready to rise if it’s taken seriously, adds a bit of true cred, emphasizes electric guitars and is willing to have an edge.

As fans of country, new and old, how do you feel about this assessment of the future of country music?

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Say What? – Little Big Town

little-big-town-flIn a review of the recent Little Big Town concert in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Star-Tribune reporter Jon Bream commented on the group’s lack of a lead singer. He noted that although the group has the potential to be big, it misses consistent star power. According to Bream:

For a group to blossom in Nashville, it needs a focal point. Randy Owen dominated Alabama, Gary LeVox is the main man with Rascal Flatts and Natalie Maines is the mouthpiece of the Dixie Chicks. But who is the mayor of Little Big Town?

After discussing how no singer stepped forward during the concert in the Twin Cities, Bream continued:

Multiple lead singers may work for the Eagles or Fleetwood Mac, two groups that have obviously influenced Little Big Town. But those groups are the exceptions. Be a democracy offstage, but choose one dominant star for the stage.

For the record, I happen to agree with him, at least when it comes to Little Big Town. In my opinion, the group makes beautiful music, but lacks a certain spark, which apparently translates into the concert setting. I don’t know if pushing one member of Little Big Town to the forefront will make a difference, but it is an interesting discussion given the plethora of groups without front (wo)men coming out of Nashville these days (e.g., Lady Antebellum, One Flew South). What’s your take?

Do you believe that a country group needs a lead singer in order for the band to reach that next level?

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Say What? – Kristian Bush

I ran across the following quote attributed to Kristian Bush (of Sugarland) in an article in the U.K. newspaper The Independent, frankly titled: “Far from the old country music: Nashville is making yet another attempt to conquer the UK charts with artists who have crossed over so far they are virtually mainstream.”

Bush can barely hide his impatience at alt.country’s arrogance. “The songs that will survive 40 years from now will have to do, not with their excellence at how they interpreted post-modern Appalachia, but how they interpreted the human condition. And in the end, as much as I’m a huge Wilco fan, no one’s going to remember them. They’re going to remember Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” – because that story is true. There’ll be another girl sitting at a window who’s kissed someone and that song speaks to her. And really, [Wilco and ex-Uncle Tupelo singer-songwriter] Jeff Tweedy singing about being lonely and poor and dumped, all these things which he is not…

“There are only so many thirtysomethings who’ll emotionally connect to style over substance, which a lot of [modern] Appalachian stuff is. I’m a huge Gillian Welch fan, but she’s from Malibu, California. I’m from Dolly Parton’s hometown Sevierville, Tennessee. I should be playing what she’s playing, according to our histories. Our song “Baby Girl” deals with some sort of human archetype, anyway, a story of the hero. It just rings differently in your bones. Country music is unafraid of that human substance.”

Without intending to pick on Bush (and still disbelieving that Katy Perry has a tag on Country Universe), do you agree with him?

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Say What? – Merle Haggard

hagToday’s Say What? comes courtesy of country music legend Merle Haggard, who recalled a salty conversation with a label executive in the 1980s. The memory was prompted by Emmylou Harris performing “Kern River”, a Haggard classic that is also a highlight of her most recent album, All I Intended to Be.

Since the comment is definitely nsfw, it’s embedded after the jump:

Continue reading

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“Say What?” Classic – Harlan Howard

why-not-meHarlan Howard is one of the most distinguished songwriters in country music history. When interviewed about his #1 hit for the Judds (“Why Not Me”), he made an interesting statement about the need for repeating certain titles throughout a song:

“Why Not Me” wasn’t a great title. To get a really good record, you’ve gotta write a hell of a song when you’re dealing with a title that average. The only thing I know to do with songs like “Why Not Me” and “Busted” – which I never thought was a good title – is to put the title in there often so that people remember it. The weaker the title, the more you gotta hear it.”

“Why Not Me” earned the Judds the Country Duo/Group Grammy and the CMA award for Single of the Year. “Busted” was hit for both Johnny Cash with the Carter Family in the sixties and John Conlee in the eighties. Both songs feature the titles repeated endlessly.

I think this quote is fascinating because it provides a window into how two songs from different eras were crafted by the same writer. I never noticed the similarities before reading the quote.

I’d also add that the Little Texas hit “My Love” and the Brooks & Dunn hit “That’s What It’s All About” show how the rule can be taken too far, in my opinion, and turn into just an annoying song.

What do you think?

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Kenny Chesney’s Denials Lead to Discomfort

kenny-chesneyIn the upcoming March issue of Playboy Magazine, Kenny Chesney forcefully denies old rumors that he’s gay. He, however, forgoes tact and tries to assure us that he’s straight by proving that he’s a womanizer instead.

In response to suggestions that he’s gay, Chesney quips, “I think people need to live their lives the way they want to, but I’m pretty confident in the fact that I love girls (laughs). I’ve got a long line of girls who could testify that I am not gay.”

As if that wasn’t already too much information, when asked if he had reached 100 women yet, he flagrantly boasts that he probably reached 100 women in 2001,

“Man, I was over 100 several years ago. There were years when I had a better summer than A-Rod, buddy. You know? I got on the boards quite often…My first five years on the road were intense because I was the guy in college who never got laid until I started playing guitar.”

At The9513, commenter, Craig R., thoughtfully analyzes the problems with Chesney’s comments:

“As a country music fan Kenny Chesney’s music depresses me. As a gay man Kenny Chesney’s comment saddens me. I understand that the idea of a country singer being called gay would make most want to run to the hills. The country audience, though wide and varied, may not want,need,or desire a gay country singer. But the problem about being tagged “gay” is not about being gay, but about about how you approach your own self- worth and respect.

“Kenny Chesney has never done anything in public that might lead one to think he is gay except this is the second time (with force) that he has denied being gay. I am happy and proud that he is straight. But in order to convince us does he have to degrade women and gays. If I were one of the women he slept with I would be insulted to think that he grouped me and used me to promote his image and quash his fears. As a gay person I would rather him say, ”I am not gay, but I am flattered that my fan base includes that group.

“The shows he puts on are all about having fun, remembering when you were a pre adult, having a beer and hanging out with the boys(by the way all things gay men enjoy as well). That frat boy/beach boy image would be, at least in Chesney’s mind, ruined if he were gay or thought of as gay. And this is the point that truly saddens me: Does Kenny Chesney really think that his fans are that immature, and if so what does that deeply say about Kenny Chesney?”

What are your thoughts?

As always, be mindful of our Comment Policy. Please be respectful and sensitive to your fellow commenters.

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Say What? – Michelle Branch

michelle-branchMichelle Branch on her upcoming album, from last week’s issue of Billboard:

It’s more singer/songwriter than, I would say, country, but I think the term ‘country’ is all relative now.  There’s really no room for singer/songwriters anymore at radio, so I think this is a natural step.

The album will be marketed as country by Warner Bros. Nashville and features a duet with Dwight Yoakam.

Thoughts?

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