Single Review: Blake Shelton, “Neon Light”

Blake Shelton Neon Light“Neon Light”

Blake Shelton

Written by Andrew Dorff, Mark Irwin, and Josh Kear

Brooks & Dunn made an entire career out of honky tonk puns and play on words.  “Neon Light” is a throwback to those songs, with Blake Shelton previewing his new album with a song built around there being “a neon light at the end of the tunnel.”

To his credit, Shelton plays it subtle, with the song not having that arena-in-mind noisiness that has come to define today’s country music.  But the song never quite gets out of first gear, either.  Sure, the song didn’t need power chords and hair band chants.   But it certainly would benefit from more aggressive fiddle and steel guitar.

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2014 CMA Nominations

This year’s CMA nominees are the best in years, with multiple nominations for Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, and Brandy Clark.  Country radio may still be shunning women, but their embrace by CMA voters suggests that the industry knows who is really leading the way in the genre these days.

George Strait ACMEntertainer of the Year

  • Luke Bryan
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Blake Shelton
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban

Who’s In:  Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban

Who’s Out: Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift

George Strait, a surprise winner last year, is nominated again in a year that includes his record-shattering final concert.   Miranda Lambert’s domination of this year’s nominations extends to the big category, where she competes for the first time since 2010.

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Single Review: Garth Brooks, “People Loving People”

Garth Brooks People Loving People“People Loving People”

Garth Brooks

Written by Michael Busbee, Lee Thomas Miller & Chris Wallin

There is no nuanced way to say it. Garth Brooks’ long anticipated comeback single is really bad with a little bit of good to keep it from being really, really bad.

We’ll start with the good. The message and concept of the song is admirable and hits my personal sweet spot of songs that promote love, peace and goodness in the world. He posits that it’s simply people loving people that will make the world better. It’s a simplistic view of things, but a sweet one that I can get behind on a basic level. In fact, the lyrics are well constructed and not even too cloying to sell the sentiment, which is a difficult line to balance.

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100 Greatest Men: #1. Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

The Poet of the Common Man.  Merle Haggard emerged from the Bakersfield music scene in the mid-sixties, and over the course of time, became the greatest man in the history of country music.

Born during the height of the Great Depression, the son of a honky tonk fiddler and a church-going mother, Haggard’s life was a hard one from early on.  When he lost his father at age nine, he rebelled to the point that much of his youth was spent in juvenile detention centers.  His only positive outlet was country music, and he listened to and studied obsessively the work of his heroes Bob Willis, Hank Williams, and Lefty Frizzell, all of whom would shape his singing and his songwriting.

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100 Greatest Men: #2. George Jones

George Jones100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Quite possibly country music’s most distinctive vocalist, George Jones wrapped his distinguished vocals around great songs for more than five decades.

Jones was born and raised in Texas, and his earliest musical tastes were shaped by the gospel he heard at church, and by the Carter Family songs he heard on the radio.   After his dad bought him a guitar, he would play on the streets of Beaumont for tips.   He was singing on the radio by his late teens, and after a brief stint in the military, he returned to Texas, where he was discovered by a local record producer named Pappy Daily.

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100 Greatest Men: #3. Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

He started out as an unconventional songwriter trying to be a conventional artist.  But when Willie Nelson let his hair down, he became a country legend for the ages.

Nelson was raised by his grandparents in Texas, who encouraged him to play the guitar and to write songs.  When his sister Bonnie married fiddle player Buddy Fletcher, Nelson joined his band as the frontman, staying with him until he graduated high school and did a brief stint in the Air Force.

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100 Greatest Men: #4. Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Known affectionately as the Man in Black, Johnny Cash is a figure who has towered over popular music, casting a long shadow over the history of both country and rock and roll.

He was born and raised in Arkansas, and was writing songs from the age of twelve, inspired by the artists that he heard on country radio.   Unlike many of the legends of his time, he did not pick up a guitar until much later, purchasing one while he was in the Air Force.  After his time in the service, Cash married and settled down in Memphis, Tennessee, working odd jobs while focusing on his music at night.

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100 Greatest Men: #5. Hank Williams

Hank Williams100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

So epic was his life story, and so tragic its ending, that it’s easy to forget a simple truth: Hank Williams was one of the strongest vocalists and songwriters to ever grace the country music genre.

Williams hailed from Alabama, and played guitar from a very young age.  He was drawn to both country and the blues, and by his teens, was already an established performer on the local scene.  He formed a band called the Drifting Cowboys, and was soon singing regularly on the radio, where he was dubbed, “the Singing Kid.”

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100 Greatest Men: #6. Jimmie Rodgers

Jimmie Rodgers100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

All of country music history is connected by its tradition, with the artists of one generation tracing their sound back to the generations that came before.  For male country singers, all roads eventually lead back to Jimmie Rodgers.What is all the more remarkable about his lasting influence is that Rodgers only recorded for six years.

Rodger was born and raised in Meridian, Mississippi.  His father was a railroad man, which is a line of work that would later feature heavily in his material.   He loved music from a young age, even as he was running wild in pool halls and dive bars before he even reached his teens.  He won a singing contest at age 12, and it inspired him to pursue music as a career.

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100 Greatest Men: #7. Buck Owens

Buck Owens100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

For many Americans, he was the guitar-slinging comedian that co-hosted Hee Haw.  But before he signed up for that popular show, he had already amassed a body of work that defined the sound of California country.

Owens was born in Texas and raised in Arizona, where he picked up the guitar from an early age.   He played gigs in Phoenix and other Arizona cities until his late teens, when he relocated to the city that would be synonymous with his sound and style: Bakersfield, California.

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