Rather than focusing on their unrivaled vocal skill, Little Big Town and producer Jay Joyce approach Pain Killer like a game of “Chicken”: Listening to the album, it appears that no idea that occurred to the band or to Joyce during their recording sessions was deemed too outlandish or too gauche.
Despite the Grammys and even the ACM’s demonstrating more consistent taste over the past few years, the CMA’s remain the most significant industry awards that honor country music. This year’s slate of nominees gives the organization an opportunity to build on the credibility of last year’s George Strait victory. His win for Entertainer saved a dismal show in its closing minutes.
Here’s our take on this year’s contenders:
Entertainer of the Year
George Strait – Kevin, Jonathan, Tara, Ben
George Strait – Jonathan, Kevin, Tara, Ben
Kevin: I’d settle for a Miranda Lambert victory, as she had an amazing year. But my first choice is George Strait, who deserves a fourth trophy for that record-breaking final concert. The rest of these nominees have either won before or still seem to have their best days ahead of them. There will never be another George Strait again.
Jonathan: The appalling sense of entitlement Jason Aldean has shown in his seemingly endless campaign of adult temper-tantrums disguised as interviews since these nominees were announced makes it all the more satisfying that the voters didn’t exclusively consider commercial and touring stats when voting for this award. I think that will likely continue with the final ballots, giving Strait the win here as a final send-off– a win that, as Kevin said, Strait’s last concert fully justifies based on even Aldean’s logic.
Tara: I have a feeling I’ll be pulling for Lambert next year, but 20 months after seeing it, I’m still high on Strait’s phenomenal farewell show. He deserves this.
Ben: Why not? Miranda will have plenty more shots at it, but this could be our last chance to see George Strait accept a CMA Entertainer of the Year trophy. Let the cowboy ride away in style.
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.
Entertainer of the Year
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.
Eric Church has said that “Smoke a Little Smoke” is the single that changed his career. He’s totally right. Though he’d had bigger chart hits with tamer material, “Smoke” reintroduced Church as a fully formed artist, marrying his typical swagger to a bold lyric and one of Jay Joyce’s feistiest productions. It didn’t matter that the gatekeepers cialis australia online at country radio winced, stalling the song at #16; fans made “Smoke” a Gold single, and critics joined them in eagerly awaiting Church’s next effort.
It was savvy move, then, to have the next album’s opening trackecho “Smoke”‘s spirit. “Creepin'” runs on a similar blend of swampy acoustic guitars, thrashing electrics, and thumping percussion, and once again toys with its arrangement enough to keep the listening experience unpredictable.
But the track is hardly a Me-Too; if anything, it’s a Yes-And, conducting its groovy chaos even more confidently than its predecessor. It’s a record packed with great little hooks and changes: a rattlesnake-shake opening; some creepy-cool “bum bum”s; a snarling hair-metal solo; a series of whip-smart couplets (“Like a honey bee beatin’ on my screen door / I got a little buzz and my head is sore”). Banjos sneak in and out; drums march and crash; Church wriggles and howls as if in a fever sweat. “Creepin'” milks each moment to the max, urging you to push “Play” again and again to catch ‘em all.
It was already a fantastic opening to the album. But now that Church has enough clout to also make it the radio hit “Smoke a Little Smoke” never was, I dare say it deserves to become for him what “Whiskey River” has become for Willie Nelson: a signature song, and an immortal show-starter.