ntry radio these days. While there is a ton of great country music out there, the play lists for mainstream country stations seem to be very inflexible and limited to a frustratingly low number of artists/songs. Furthermore, what country radio embraces these days is not well-aligned with my music tastes. Consequently, I keep up with country music through satellite radio, copious research and suggestions by other bloggers whose music tastes I trust.
Judging by the volume of music I’ve acquired in the past 4 years since I’ve stopped regularly listening to mainstream country radio, I’ve been doing a more than satisfactory job of keeping up. Even more importantly, I’ve been able to maintain my love of country music, which surely would have fizzled out if I had continued on the mainstream country radio track.
C.M. Wilcox, proprietor of Country California (who incidentally is one of my most trusted bloggers that has turned me onto an inordinate amount of music), has inspired me to borrow tonight’s discussion topic from his live blogging of 30 minutes of country radio. I decided to check into one of my own local country radio stations for a half hour to hear what was happening there.
At 6:20 P.M., on Tuesday night, I turned my alarm clock radio (my only way to listen to the radio without sitting in the car) to a local country station, q106.5, where it seemed that a local disc jockey was at the helm. Here is what I heard during my half hour of radio:
Billy Currington, “Must Be Doing Something Right”
Brooks & Dunn/Reba McEntire, “Cowgirls Don’t Cry”
Neal McCoy, “Wink”
Kenny Chesney, “Don’t Blink”
Keith Urban, “Sweet Thing”
Craig Morgan, “That’s What I Love About Sunday”
While it certainly could have been worse, I have to say that it was a rather uninspiring half hour of radio. I think I’ll stick to my current regimen of music discovery for now.
So, since C.M. Wilcox and I have done it. I would like all of you to do the same. Turn on your radio for thirty minutes and come back here and report what you’ve heard. We can commiserate. It’ll be fun.
In the past, one could credibly argue that while Craig Morgan’s music hasn’t been especially memorable or intriguing, his music had a sort of authentic charm that helped set him apart from some other mid-level artists. However, with his move to Sony BMG, it seems that he’s trying his hardest to eradicate any semblance of originality from his songs at this point.
The melody is nauseatingly predictable, though he tries to spice up the chorus by interjecting two randomly sped up lines to make the song ridiculously earnest. Furthermore, the production employs every element of cheesiness imaginable: eighties electric guitar solos, moody piano undertones, an obnoxious synthesizer, obligatory steel guitar and fiddle, and, yes, even a church bell.
The most offensive component of this song, however, is its generic, yet irresponsible, message. It suggests that the reason he’s still alive despite his transgressions, is because God must really love him. Oh yeah, that’s why he has the perfect girl by his side too.
With such logic, the reason that others aren’t still alive is because God must not have really loved them?
In this era of rampant piracy and economic recession, things aren’t looking good for the music industry. We don’t post too often about the business side of the music business here, as we tend to keep the focus on the music. But the reality is that these numbers matter. If Little Big Town’s second Equity album had performed as well as the first, the label might still be in business.
It’s not all doom and gloom, as many artists go on to make their best music once they leave major labels. But this Christmas, you can guarantee that some artists and record executives will be bracing for the New Year, while others are embracing it.
Here’s a look at some totals for albums released in 2008, ranked by total sales (rounded to the nearest thousand):
Taylor Swift, Fearless – 1,519,000
Sugarland, Love on the Inside – 1,179,000
George Strait, Troubadour – 693,000
Alan Jackson, Good Time – 628,000
Toby Keith, 35 Biggest Hits – 530,000
Kenny Chesney, Lucky Old Sun – 479,000
Faith Hill, Joy to the World – 341,000
Lady Antebellum, Lady Antebellum – 337,000
James Otto, Sunset Man – 332,000
Rascal Flatts, Greatest Hits Volume 1 – 330,000
Darius Rucker, Learn to Live – 284,000
Julianne Hough, Julianne Hough – 260,000
Toby Keith, That Don’t Make Me a Bad Guy – 224,000
Jewel, Perfectly Clear – 203,000
Dierks Bentley, Greatest Hits: Every Mile a Memory - 195,000
Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song – 183,000
Heidi Newfield, What Am I Waiting For – 162,000
Jessica Simpson, Do You Know – 153,000
Brad Paisley, Play – 137,000
Kellie Pickler, Kellie Pickler – 129,000
Montgomery Gentry, Back When I Knew it All – 127,000
Tim McGraw, Greatest Hits Vol. 3 – 127,000
Emmylou Harris, All I Intended to Be – 119,000
Zac Brown Band, Foundation – 118,000
Randy Travis, Around the Bend – 89,000
Ashton Shepherd, Sounds So Good - 84,000
Jimmy Wayne, Do You Believe Me Now – 81,000
Trace Adkins, X – 72,000
Billy Currington, Little Bit of Everything – 65,000
On Craig Morgan’s new album, That’s Why, life is about sitting in Cracker Barrel rockers, driving around the old town square and sipping on Boones Farm wine.
No surprise, given that he’s earned steady radio airplay for slice-of-life songs such as “Almost Home,” “Redneck Yacht Club,” and “That’s What I Love About Sunday” (Billboard’s #1 country song of 2005). But he’s failed to translate these successes into significant career advancement. His last album, 2006′s Little Bit of Life, has yet to reach gold status despite three top ten singles. Moving to a major record label (Sony BMG imprint BNA Records) is part of Morgan’s push to stamp his image into the public consciousness and rise to the top ranks of modern country singers. Although a nice effort, That’s Why still finds Morgan in a holding pattern, sticking to the tried-and-true but still struggling to carve out a niche.
The country music carousel has taken Craig Morgan on an unpredictable ride since the United States Army veteran began his career in late 1999 on Atlantic Records. After a five-year stint at Broken Bow Records, he left the label earlier this year to pursue an opportunity at BNA Records, a division of superpower conglomerate Sony BMG. His first single with the label, “Love Remembers,” has landed firmly in the Top 20. This month is arguably the most important in Morgan’s career, with his first album release with BNA, That’s Why, bowing on October 21, followed on October 25 by his formal induction into the Grand Ole Opry. In a conversation with Country Universe, Morgan explains his move to BNA Records, the making of his new album and his feelings on the Opry invitation.
This spring, it was announced that you’d be leaving independent label Broken Bow Records to join Joe Galante and his staff at Sony BMG on the BNA Records imprint. What are the benefits of operating with a major label as opposed to your recent relationship with Broken Bow?
Two things: They (BNA) have additional tools, and I don’t mean just money. The tools are available in terms of staff, the sales and marketing team, the publicity. It’s a big change. We’re used to 2-3 people handling the marketing, and now there’s a staff of 200-300 people. So there’s just more people getting the music out there. And the unexpected thing is there’s more creative control, and most people wouldn’t expect that from a major label.
At Broken Bow, the label heads wanted to have a little more control. On the album before the last one (2005’s My Kind of Livin’), I went in and produced it alone with Phil O’Donnell. On the last album, they felt that we needed to have a new producer, someone with name value, and you know, we’d been successful in the past and didn’t feel that we needed to do that. (Morgan’s 2006 release Little Bit of Life was co-produced by Morgan and renowned producer Keith Stegall.) But now there’s more freedom. With this new staff, we’re looking at the ability to market and staple and image to me.
After several years with Broken Bow, Craig Morgan has moved on to the Sony BMG family. As he preps his first release for his new label, his former home takes a look back with Greatest Hits, a collection of Morgan’s singles from his three albums with them.
While he hasn’t been a major record-seller or a consistent hitmaker, Morgan has built up a solid body of work over the past five years. Greatest Hits may surprise casual listeners of country radio, as they will recognize many songs here that they might not have realized were all by one artist. The biggest hits here include “That’s What I Love About Sunday”, “Redneck Yacht Club” and “Little Bit of Life”, and they represent Morgan’s kind of country perfectly, a winning combination of southern pride and self-deprecating humor.
The songs that weren’t quite as big hits, like “International Harvester” and “I Got You”, are still charming, packed with more personality than most mainstream country acts capture on records these days. Morgan has a knack for writing songs about women that are sincere but not condescending. “I Love It” is a perfect example of such a song, and it should be studied by Brad Paisley and Brooks & Dunn, who can’t seem to strike that balance when they write songs along those lines.
Morgan’s collection provides plenty of light romance and good-natured humor, but he also proves he can dig deeper, and the best tracks on the album are as substantial as anything that’s gotten spins at radio this decade. His breakthrough hit “Almost Home” is a tender portrayal of a vagrant who is angry to have been revived as he was nearing death, as he previewed the paradise that was waiting for him.
It’s a pair of heartbreaking ballads are the high points of the collection, ranking among the best singles released by any artist in the past five years. “Tough” pays tribute to a wife who is struggling with cancer, and it’s as authentic and real as it is heartfelt. Even more powerful is “Every Friday Afternoon”, which has a father reeling from the news that his ex-wife is moving her son so far away that he won’t be able to see him on the weekends. His painful realization that “even if I fight it, someone loses either way” is noble, but doesn’t change the hurt associated with knowing that he’ll miss seeing his son growing up.
Morgan’s career may be on the brink of breaking wide open, with his new label home and recent invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. If that comes to pass, there’s a good chance this collection will be seen as evidence that he was worthy of big stardom all along.
Forgive me, but the awkward writing int he chorus keeps making me think that he’s married to his sister.
Anyway, cute stuff. Any time I’ve been caught behind a tractor it’s been okay to pass on the left, but I guess some people get rude. This is about as far from my own personal experience as a country song can get. But he sings it with enthusiasm and the hook is solid.