Sunday Selections: May 8, 2016

It’s going down this week, and Keith Urban is the one yelling, “Timber,” with Pitbull.

The country superstar has had a lot to say– some of it coherent, some of it less so– about the recording of his new album, Ripcord, which includes his collaboration with hip-hop star Pitbull and R&B legend Nile Rodgers. Urban isn’t the only one looking well beyond the borders of the country genre this week. Jennifer Nettles dropped a duet with one of Urban’s fellow American Idol judges, Kimberly Perry suffered from a case of mistaken identity while she and her siblings embarrassed themselves at Stagecoach Festival, and Eric Paslay talked about doo-wop (that thing).

Urban’s latest is the highest-profile new release of the week, but there are plenty of other big names in the mix. Mary Chapin Carpenter collaborated with producer Dave Cobb on her strongest album in ages, Ryan Adams reissued his solo debut, and Cyndi Lauper took a detour into the country genre. And there’s also the new album by Cole Swindell.


RipcordNew Releases & Reissues, May 6, 2016
Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker Deluxe Edition (2000). (PAXAM)
Ryan Beaver, Rx. (St. Beaver Music)
Bethany Becker, I Want Love. (Spectra Music Group)
Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Things That We Are Made Of. (Thirty Tigers)
Jared Deck, Jared Deck. (Sony RED)
Kacy & Clayton, Strange Country. (New West)
Cyndi Lauper, Detour. (Sire)
Mountain Heart, Blue Skies. (Compass)
Johnny Paycheck, Take This Job And Shove It: The Definitive Collection. (Real Gone Music)
The Rides, Pierced Arrow. (429)
Cole Swindell, You Should Be Here. (Warner Nashville)
Keith Urban, Ripcord. (Capitol Nashville)
Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, The Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys Collection 1935 – 50. (Avitone)
Faron Young, The Faron Young Collection 1951 – 62. (Acrobat)


The Band Perry performs on the Toyota Mane Stage at the Stagecoach Festival on 30 April 2016.

News & Notes

“But nowhere was this genre-blurring more subtly explored than through the performances. Country artists have always embraced covers (Merle Haggard, of course, was given tribute), but a number of headliners chose to play pop tracks of yesterday and today, as if hesitant to rely on their own actual material for an outing like this… On Saturday, The Band Perry did The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” CeeLo’s “Crazy” and Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack,” as well as Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” and a frankly embarrassing version of Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls,” all while in front of a backdrop of an neon, electropop-looking heart. (“In my heart, I am Beyoncé,” Perry’s frontwoman Kimberly Perry said before shaking her ass during the latter track. “My body is still trying to catch up.” She was clad in the apparent preferred outfit of woman performers that weekend, one that I’m sure would have fit in a Coachella, consisting of a halter top and harem-style pants, because the ‘90s are back everywhere.)”
— Kate Dries asked, “Who Goes to Country Music’s Coachella?” in regard to the Stagecoach Festival, and the answer involved more of The Band Perry’s ongoing identity crisis slash public meltdown slash cry for help. Kimberly Perry’s belief in her heart that she is Beyoncé is a good reminder that, just because you believe something, that doesn’t make it true. (JK)

I’m grateful that the songs that have been hits I really do love. I definitely have a lot of great songs that no one probably will ever record, because it’s a little too deep or it might not fit exactly what doo-wops are going on right now. But the wild thing about songs is they have forever to be heard, and music goes in phases. We’re almost back to the 50’s right now, there’s a lot of doo-wops, there’s whistles on everything which is fun, I don’t mind whistles, but even guitar tones and things sound like The Temptations, and I love it. We go in these phases that are cool. I love all kinds of music so I’m glad country music accepts it all right now. I just try to keep up with the times and have fun doing it.
— Eric Paslay confessed his affinity for “doo-wops” as part of a lengthy interview with Annie Dineen of The Shotgun Seat. Paslay speaks at length about having his songs cut by other artists and talks about listening to a lot of U2, Tom Petty, and Fleetwood Mac… (JK)

“Rhythm is everything, and [Pitbull]’s got the Cuban blood, so his sense of rhythm is super cool… I just wanted him on the track. I wanted what he does. It wasn’t about having a rapper on there. . .The thing that separates this record from any others is I never second guessed anything. If an idea hit me, I’d act on it. You can always change it after the fact. But I wasn’t thinking in terms of limitations or parameters. If Pitbull didn’t respond to the track, we would’ve just left it how it was. It wasn’t like I was going to find another rapper.”
— Keith Urban, on not second-guessing anything and simply acting on impulse. Listeners can gauge Urban’s latest attempts at quality control, as his new album, Ripcord, was released on Friday. Relatively speaking, Urban’s collaborations with Pitbull and Nile Rodgers are more listenable than the new duet with Jennifer Lopez that Jennifer Nettles debuted this week. Make of that what you will. (JK)

Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle took to YouTube to announce their “Colvin & Earle” project, which will release a self-titled debut on June 10th. (JK)

Up-and-coming star Mickey Guyton, who has a new single slated for release later this spring, earned a surprise visit from the one-and-only Dolly Parton, and she reacts the way we think most people would react to a surprise visit from the one-and-only Dolly Parton. (JK)

“I think for the millennial group, understanding how millennials are different than previous generations that came before them — it’s a different mindset and they have different options for consuming music now.”
— Karen Stump, senior director of market research for the Country Music Association, considered how younger generations of fans engage with country music in comparison to the genre’s long-standing fanbase. Data from the CMA indicates that country’s audience is skewing both younger and more ethnically diverse. (JK)

“Artists like Merle Haggard are important because they became legends and set trends not by worrying about money and fame but just by being themselves. So it just inspires me even more to uphold what’s important to me as a person and songwriter first and not worry about the rest.”
— Kacey Musgraves talked about the influence of the late Merle Haggard when she was announced as one of the headliners for “G Fest,” a festival that was originally slated to feature Haggard but has transformed into a tribute to the genre legend. Other performers announced for the event, which will take place just outside of Muskogee on June 16 – 18, include Old Crow Medicine Show, Turnpike Troubadours, Marty Stuart, The Avett Brothers, and Aubrie Sellers. (JK)

American Idol finalist Kree Harrison released the music video for her new single, “This Old Thing,” a retro-soul throwback that showcases her powerful voice and intuitive sense of phrasing. (JK)

“I feel more confident as a vocalist than I ever have. Definitely my stage presence has evolved. I used to hardly talk to the audience, I was so shy. Now I’ve got a lot more animated on stage and communicate with the audience more. I think my songwriting has evolved. I’ve kept up a certain level of artistry. I’m writing as much or more than I ever have.”
— Lucinda Williams reflected on the newfound confidence in her vocal style and the prolific– by her standards, at least– period of songwriting she has been in, as part of an interview with Laurel Hiatt for The Red & Black prior to a show in Athens, Georgia. (JK)

“Prince and Merle Haggard have a lot more in common than they don’t, and that true musicianship is a force that knows no class distinction, genre distinction, race [or] region.  Little Richard and Bob Dylan sure look a lot different but they have an element to them that is exactly the same. As entertainers, they know something. Charlie Chaplin and Bert Williams knew it, too. Prince and Merle Haggard — they’re finally singing their duet together.”
— Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show considered the distinctions, or lack thereof, between some of popular music’s most iconic figures, in a fascinating and insightful interview for The Emory Wheel. Secor talks about where OCMS fits into the country genre– he lands on “rock and roll string-band,” which is an apt descriptor– along with the legacy of “Wagon Wheel.” (JK)

“‘Papa Was A Rodeo’ mixes together the sensibilities of a few of those genres. Even though it’s rendered as a hollowed-out, indie-rock ballad, at its core it’s a kind of tear-in-your-beer country duet with lyrics that somehow both poke fun of and embrace the conventions of just such a song. Like so many Merritt compositions, it will keep you laughing right until you find yourself all choked up.
— Jim Beviglia of American Songwriter chose The Magnetic Fields’ “Papa Was a Rodeo” for this week’s “Lyric of the Week.” Beviglia digs deep into the song’s syntax and shifting points-of-view, and we’ll take literally any excuse to plug Kelly Hogan’s masterful cover of the song. (JK)

“Without wading into the murky waters of what constitutes ‘real’ country music, there’s no question that “Daddy Lessons” sounds as much like country as many of the genre’s biggest contemporary stars: It’s easy to imagine a version sung by Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert, one that would generate substantially less anxiety about whether or where it belongs.”
— Sam Adams of Slate forged into the still-ongoing debate as to whether or not Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons” is a country song. We addressed the issue in last week’s post– because, obviously, our commentary is always on the most cutting of edges– but it’s noteworthy to see that the discussion about the song’s genre ties has continued unabated. (JK)

Though he passed away on March 18th, it was only confirmed earlier this week that songwriter Ned Miller, best known for the country standard “From a Jack to a King,” has died at the age of 90. (JK)

“I had no furniture; I had no clothes; I had a very small amount of things… There were no lamps in the house but one – I didn’t have a shade on it. It had luckily been left there. So I would just plug that in at night so I could see to get into the room I slept in.”
— Ryan Adams recounted living in bare-bones conditions during the recording of his solo debut, 2000’s Heartbreaker, in an interview with Rolling Stone. The album was recently reissued in a deluxe edition on vinyl and is still an essential listen from the alt-country canon. (JK)

Josh Abbott Band premiered the music video for their single “Wasn’t That Drunk,” featuring Carly Pearce. (JK)

John Paul White, formerly of The Civil Wars, announced a tour to mark the official launch of his solo career. (JK)
“I always felt like I missed out, because I was so busy being famous I couldn’t go and experiment on all these things that everyone else did. For God’s sake, I never even moved to New Orleans to write an album like Rickie Lee Jones did.”
— Cyndi Lauper, who is only an Oscar away from an EGOT, spoke about her musical explorations and her stint on The Celebrity Apprentice in an interview with Rolling Stone, in anticipation of the release of her country album, Detour. (JK)
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell scored nominations for this year’s Tony Awards for Bright Star, which has been dubbed a “bluegrass musical” in some circles. Don McLeese of No Depression suggests that bluegrass fans, however, will find the cast recording album underwhelming, at best.
“A lot of people are having those problems too… And they can listen to my album and it kind of gets it all out of their system. If you’ve got those problems, Florida Georgia Line ain’t gonna help.”
— Wheeler Walker Jr., succinctly dismissing the escapism-only ethos of Florida Georgia Line, in Jewly Hight’s debut for The New York Times, “Corn Pone, Rebooted: Country’s New Humor.” We may not be fans of everyone profiled in the piece, but we’re fans of Wheeler Walker Jr.’s foul-mouthed shtick and of the always-insightful Hight. (JK)

“Buy Me A Boat” wasn’t exactly the most auspicious of debut singles, but Chris Janson’s “Holdin’ Her” is one of the best-written singles at country radio at the moment. (JK)

That will do it for this week. Be sure to check back on Thursday for our roundtable discussion of the Dixie Chicks’ Fly!


  1. Isn’t that Eric Paslay quote basically says he keeps up with whatever trend is happening in which case I am not surprised.

    Keith Urban’s latest album just felt way too pop and I honestly didn’t care for it at all. I don’t think Keith necessarily sold out as much as he just experimented way too much with this album.

    I am so ready for new Mickey Guyton music the woman has one of the best singing voices out there and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.

    Finally I am so happy that Chris Janson released “Holding Her” I just wish labels would realize that if you just release the best songs quality wise on those albums more people will tune into the radio and country music could be really popular again.

  2. With respect to Sturgill Simpson’s album–this is just my opinion, but if an artist really and truly believes in what they are doing, and they are not motivated only by the money, then I think audiences will respect them for it, even if what they’re doing seems insane to the commercial “establishment.” This seems true of Simpson, who really doesn’t have much to lose by doing what he wants because he’s not (just yet) a major star, though that is probably changing because his album is selling really well. There aren’t many out there in mainstream country music you can really say that about (IMHO).

  3. As a long time fan of DooWop, I wish Paslay had provided a few examples when he said “We’re almost back to the 50’s right now, there’s a lot of doo-wops, …” I’m curious as to what he calls Doo Wop. Ronnie Milsap’s “Lost in the 50’s Tonight” included part of “In the Still of the Night”, a 1956 doo-wop hit by the Five Satins. A song from Hal Ketchum’s 2001 “Lucky Man” album, “You Can’t Go Back”, has a Doo Wop flavor to it with its “shak a lak a boom boom” background singing toward the end. Ronnie and Hal would have been great at Doo Wop.

    I don’t make any claims of lyrical depth for most of the songs. It’s all about the sounds – fun music. My wife and I like to sing along (we do it badly), trying to imitate the often non-sensical sounds.

  4. I ‘ll admit my biases up front here and say that I’ve never quite “gotten” Keith Urban, and let me also say that I know that the blurring of genres with country artists covering pop songs and doing duets with pop stars isn’t exactly a new thing.

    But…really? Collaborations with Pitbull and Nile Rodgers in addition to the awfulness of “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”? (And frankly, I didn’t think “Break On Me” was all that either.) I shall continue to be mystified by Keith Urban’s popularity as a country artist. And what can one say about The Band Perry that hasn’t been said already?

    Seriously, is anyone who plays mainstream country music anymore proud of actual country music? It says absolutely nothing good about mainstream country music that the frontman of one of the most popular rock bands of the 1970s made a better country album than almost anyone who’s had a No. 1 hit on radio in at least the last five years.

    (Don Henley’s Cass County, if anyone’s wondering.)

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m just old and outside the target audience. My last music purchases were Jason Boland, Radney Foster, and Merle Haggard. But I remember when we didn’t have to turn off the radio to hear quality music. Is it so wrong to miss that?

  5. What’s really sad is that you have a genuine country artist like Josh Turner who can’t even get his next album released because he’s not mainstream enough. In other words, he sings about love, faith, and romance instead of getting drunk on beer or whiskey while chasing skirts.

  6. Sorry most of you guys don’t get Keith Urban! I do and I’m so glad. I’m not a young person either. I have always liked some country, some pop, and a lot of rock! That’s why I think Keith is my favorite artist. He can do it all. Keith also sings about love, faith, and romance and a casual mention of drinking since he is a recovering alcoholic himself. Music is what you yourself get out of it. I love Keith’s collaboration with Pitbull and Nile Rodgers. It’s one of my favorites on the album. And the John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 is also a favorite and I just can’t believe some that don’t get it. It’s full of nostalgia for me. I can relate to everything mentioned in the song. It takes me back to some of my best memories( guess you could call it some of my “wasted times”! ;)

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