Anyone 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:
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?
A decade into a middle-management career, Montgomery Gentry scored back-to-back No.1 singles last year, “Back When I Knew It All” and “Roll with Me,” a testament to their enduring popularity with radio programmers nationwide. However, sales of their current album (Back When I Knew It All) are tepid at best, with only 150,000 copies sold since the disc’s debut last June. The duo has slipped into the trap of many acts who presently dominate the airwaves. Their radio releases serve as the perfect companion on evening commutes, but they don’t boil the blood of the potential recordbuyer.
“One in Every Crowd” (no relation to the flaccid 1975 Eric Clapton album) is another standard-issue story of the party boy who sets the good-timin’ tone every Friday night. The usual ingredients are here—a six-pack, a pissed-off barkeep, a rowdy house band—for a honky-tonk tonic. As a (worn-out) reference to their hillbilly heroes, the boys toss off mentions of “Free Bird” and ”Gimme Three Steps.” (Newcomers to country music would be forgiven for believing that Lynyrd Skynyrd created the heaven and the earth. Let there be light and greasy guitar licks.)
The whole point of this hook is to grab the listeners by their blue collars, but it fails spectacularly in that regard (“There’s one in every crowd, and it’s usually me,” they admit.). The chorus’ coda (a disconcerting growl of “Hey, y’all! Hey, y’all!”) is designed to promote audience participation, but it only sends the melodic structure to its death.
In 2000, Montgomery Gentry was riding the crest of a wave, basking in the glory of their CMA win for Vocal Duo of the Year. Now, with Sugarland shooting towards superstardom and Brooks & Dunn maintaining their prime presence in the genre, Eddie and Troy have lapsed into journeyman status. With redneck recipes like “One in Every Crowd,” they don’t stand out in any crowd.
Written by Ira Dean, Kim Tribble and Eddie Montgomery