Sunday Selections: July 31, 2016

You say, “tomato,” we say… actually, we’ll let Margo Price fill in the rest.

It’s been a while since the #TomatoGate controversy reared its head, but that topic figured prominently in this week’s discussions. Margo Price, one of 2016’s biggest breakthrough successes, had quite a bit to say about #TomatoGate and her interactions with Keith Hill– which included some nasty harrassment that eventually led her to step away from her social media accounts for a while. Price’s comments came as part of a roundtable discussion that Jewly Hight led for Billboard. Price was joined by Kacey Mugraves, Cam, Maren Morris, Mickey Guyton, and Aubrie Sellers– pause for a just a quick second and imagine how much better country radio would sound if those 6 women were all regularly scoring the airplay their music deserves– for a fascinating discussion about the barriers they have faced as women in the music industry, the different points-of-view that they each bring to country music, and contemporary politics. It’s a must-read piece.

And let’s just give an additional hi-five to Hight here. She’s long been one of our favorite country music writers, but with this roundtable and the vital interviews she did with Cam and Eric Church earlier this year, Hight is on an absolute tear in 2016.

Elsewhere, The Mavericks and James McMurtry talked politics, Garth Brooks made a big announcement regarding his new SiriusXM channel, and Chris Stapleton chatted up Axl Rose. Toby Keith, Ryan Adams, and case/lang/veirs all gave standout live performances, while several acts premiered new music videos.

This week’s new releases are led by Lori McKenna’s The Bird & The Rifle, which includes lead single “Wreck You” and her rendition of “Humble & Kind,” the song she wrote that recently became a massive crossover hit for Tim McGraw. Jake Owen also released a new album, and Hillary Scott & The Scott Family’s Love Remains finds the Lady Antebellum singer joined by her parents– her mother is Linda “Does He Love You” Davis, and younger sister for a gospel album.


Bird & RifleNew Releases & Reissues, 7/29/2016
Gregg Allman, No Stranger to the Dark: The Best of Gregg Allman. (Floating World)
The Charlie Daniels Band, The Epic Trilogy, Vol. 3. (Floating World)
Gary Hoey, Dust & Bones. (Provogue)
Bob Lind, Magellan Was Wrong. (Ace)
Lori McKenna, The Bird & The Rifle. (CN)
Jake Owen, American Love. (RCA Nashville)
Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel. (Silver Arrow)
Hillary Scott & The Scott Family, Love Remains. (EMI Nashville)

Florida Georgia Line HOLYCharted Territory
Billboard Country National Airplay:
#1: Florida Georgia Line, “H.O.L.Y.”
Most Increased Audience: Miranda Lambert, “Vice”
Debuts: Miranda Lambert, “Vice” (18); Brantley Gilbert, “The Weekend” (38); Trent Harmon, “There’s a Girl” (53).
Most Added: Miranda Lambert, “Vice” (86); Brantley Gilbert, “The Weekend” (49); Tim McGraw, “How I’ll Always Be” (29); Luke Bryan, “Move” (28); Jason Aldean, “A Little More Summertime” (28).
Notes: After a week at #1, Carrie Underwood’s “Church Bells” gives way to the H.O.L.Y. crap that is Florida Georgia Line’s latest single– there are rumblings that the terrific “Dirty Laundry” will be Underwood’s next single, but we’re still crossing our fingers for “Choctaw County Affair,” which is even better; Eric Church’s “Record Year” continues to outpace Chris Lane’s garbage single “Fix,” as they rise to #3 and #4, respectively; Lambert earns the biggest debut of her career, which has always run hot-and-cold with radio, thanks to an hourly-spin promotional deal with iHeartMedia, so she’s likely to take a tumble on next week’s chart as “Vice” settles into its natural chart run; Kenny Chesney’s “Noise” misses the top 10, falling from a peak of #13 to #23; Luke Bryan’s latest, “Move,” makes a huge leap from #58 to #35 in its second chart week; two of the better singles on the lower part of the chart, “Lipstick” by Runaway June (#46 to #49) and “Where Do You Go?” by The Last Bandoleros (#51 to #52), both lost their bullets, while Aaron Watson’s lovely “Bluebonnets” was bumped off the chart.

Elsewhere on Billboard‘s radio charts:
After a 5-week run at #1, The Avett Brothers’ “Ain’t No Man” drops to #2 on the AAA chart; Amos Lee logs the only debut at that format this week, with his single “Vaporize” debuting at #24; alt-country / dadrock mainstays Wilco scored the most AAA station adds this week with “If I Ever Was A Child,” the lead single from their upcoming album, Schmilco; as it ascends to #1 at country radio, Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.” also cracks the top 30 at Adult Top 40; after losing its bullet last week, Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” has one of the largest gains in spins at Adult Contemporary radio, where it holds at #15; Hillary Scott & The Scott Family were bumped out of the top 10 at Christian radio this week, where “Thy Will” dropped to #11.

margo price snl

News & Notes

I was so fired up when that tomato thing happened, I made a shirt that said, “You say ‘Tomato,’ I say ‘F— you.’ ” (Laughter.) I tweeted it at [Keith Hill, the radio consultant responsible for the uproar]. I had an argument with him. There was just no changing his mind. He actually made my photo his Facebook profile picture and got all these people to say bad things about me — how I’m ugly and need a nose job… I ended up getting rid of my personal Facebook and blocking him on Twitter. I can feel my blood pressure rising talking about it.”
— Margo Price, a year post-#TomatoGate, put to bed any lingering doubts that Keith Hill, whose absurd comments started that cycle of internet outrage, is a misogynist boor. Because had Hill’s comments about women in country music been only about (his selectively-chosen sample of self-validating) market research and data like he insisted they were, he wouldn’t have made attacks about Price’s physical appearance. Earlier this year, Price’s terrific album, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, became the first ever album to debut in the top 10 of Billboard‘s country albums chart without ever having had a single chart at country radio. Price’s comments were part of yet another essential feature by Jewly Hight; this time, Hight led a roundtable discussion with six of the most promising up-and-coming women in country for Billboard. (JK)

Sometimes the gatekeepers — everybody loves that word, but whomever decides what is going on in mainstream country music don’t give country audiences enough credit. There’s a lot of different kinds of people listening and they’re all smart.
— Cam, from that same roundtable discussion, can always be counted on to be respectful of the country audience. Just as much as her music, it’s her thoughtful perspective that makes her such a refreshing addition to the genre. (JK)

“You can have a depressing song, but if you can take a sarcastic approach it kind of lightens the load a little bit. I’ve never intended to be a lobbyist on any side, but I am proud of bringing people to country music who might never have listened to it and never thought they liked it. Country music has always been a genre about real life and real things: people losing their jobs, getting divorced, and cheating—all that crazy shit that happens in everyday life. That’s what I respect about country music, and that’s what I’m trying to keep alive.”
— Kacey Musgraves reflected on how her style fits into the country genre. Musgraves also participated in the roundtable for Billboard, but this comment came from an interview she gave with Mike Usinger of The Georgia Straight in advance of a tour stop in Vancouver. (JK)

The Grand Ole Opry’s YouTube channel comes through yet again, this time with Toby Keith’s on-point tribute to Merle Haggard from his performance back in May. (JK)

“I asked him how many nights in a row he can possibly scream like that, and do all the high, high rock & roll singing that he does. Because I know for myself I have limits, and how many nights in a row I can actually sing. Then we discussed him doing stuff with AC/DC a little bit. It was conversations you don’t think you’re ever going to have.”
— Chris Stapleton asked another big-voiced singer, Axl Rose, about his limits as a performer when Stapleton opened for Guns N’ Roses at the Nashville stop on their Not In This Lifetime tour earlier this month. (JK)

case/lang/veirs performed their dreamy single “Atomic Number” on Good Morning America. (JK)

“I think this song represents how most Americans feel about our country… It’s patriotic without being jingoistic. It paints a picture of what and who we are that many have forgotten or are simply trying to erase. This is why we’ve decided to record it at this time.”
— Raul Malo explained to Rolling Stone why The Mavericks unveiled a cover of Frank Sinatra’s politically charged “The House I Live In” this week. The band also announced that they will release a live album (!) in October. (JK)

“It’s really hard to write a good political song. Steve Earle is the best at getting what he wants to say into a song, but most of us, if we try to force our point of view into the song, then you kill the song. You get a sermon.”
— James McMurtry considered the challenges of writing explicitly political songs as part of an interview with Bill Nevins of No Depression… after saying that, when he lets his hair grow too wild, he looks like Bernie Sanders. (JK)

Rather than any of the death metal covers he performed at last week’s Newport Folk Festival, Ryan Adams brought The Infamous Stringdusters along for his appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to perform “Oh My Sweet Carolina,” one of the highlights from his debut album, Heartbreaker, which was re-issued on vinyl earlier this year. (JK)

SiriusXM has announced that Garth Brooks will be performing his first ever concert at the Ryman Auditorium on September 8th to coincide with the launch of his new SiriusXM channel. (LMW)

“Lori has enough Nashville in her to write killer songs for the market, but she has enough distance to not be scared to write a song like ‘Girl Crush.’ That’s one of the things about her that’s crucial: she’s not so ingrained that she wouldn’t think to write a song like that.”
— Brandy Clark offered high praise of Lori McKenna as part of an in-depth profile of McKenna by Jonathan Bernstein for The Guardian. McKenna’s new album, The Bird & The Rifle, has earned some of the year’s most rapturous reviews and follows some of her biggest commercial hits in Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and Tim McGraw’s “Humble & Kind.” (JK)

And now, a slew of new music videos and singles…

Country Universe favorites Turnpike Troubadours premiered their new single, “Come As You Are,” and its accompanying music video. (JK)

LeAnn Rimes has been flying far below the radar for a while now, despite making some of the finest music of her career over the past few years. Case in point: There’s been relatively minimal fanfare over the release of her new music video for her cover of Brandi Carlile’s “The Story.” (JK)

Kiefer Sutherland released a black-and-white performance video for “Can’t Stay Away,” the second single from his album, Down in a Hole. The arrangement on “Can’t Stay Away” suits Sutherland’s gravelly voice better than did the most straightforward folk production on his previous single, “Not Enough Whiskey.” Though he’ll forevermore be Jack Bauer to some of us, Sutherland’s new series, Designated Survivor, premieres on ABC this fall. (JK)

Jon Paul White, formerly of The Civil Wars, comes roaring back with “What’s So,” which favorably recalls the stomp and bluster of that duo’s Grammy-winning “Barton Hollow.” “What’s So” is the lead single from White’s forthcoming album, Beulah. (JK)

That will do it for this week! Be sure to check out Kevin’s review of Miranda Lambert’s “Vice,” and check back for our Dixie Chicks: Revisited round-up on Taking The Long Way.


  1. Re. Margo Price vs. Keith Hill–I can certainly understand her attitude, since not everyone can, or even should, look or sound like Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert. I think she’d have been fully justified in giving Mr. Hill an impromptu nose job of her own if the spirit moved her to do so. She does have one of the best albums of 2016, country or otherwise, in Midwest Farmer’s Daughter.

    And as a friendly gesture, last week Margo and more than a few of her fellow East Nashville girlfriends did a tribute show for Linda Ronstadt, who turned 70 on July 15th.

  2. Out of all the new album releases (P.S I am a mainstream listener) the Hillary Scott album is pretty good while Jake Owen has a few stand out tracks but his lacks a whole, I’d say.

    I am rather indifferent towards “H.O.L.Y” as it’s a cheesy pop song, but inoffensive as a whole. Carrie Underwood I guarntee will release “Dirty Laundry” and I’m a little disappointed as “Choctaw County Affair” screams a career type hit to my ears. I am happy to announce that “Record Year” is a #1 on Mediabase and will be tomorrow on BB.

    “Move” is the definition of a guilty pleasure as I like the melody.

    I would still love it if you guys could review “Lipstick” and I’d also love it if you could review Lauren Alaina’s new single “Road Less Traveled”.

    For the female in country radio problem, it’d help if the male superstars invited the females in the genre to sing a duet or something to give them a fighting chance. At least Maren Morris is making a name for herself.

    I have always loved Leann Rimes and it’s a shame she isn’t more popular as she’s somehow has managed to get better as time goes on.

  3. It just kills me that all these young female country artists are always whining about how they don’t get treated like the guys. There’s probably a lot of truth to that but how many hundreds of artists – male and female – never get played. Especially former greats who are considered too old for anyone to care about even though their music is still selling like crazy.

    I also roll my eyes at how every young female country singer has to reference Dolly, Loretta, or Patsy (just like the young guys have to reference Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, or Willie Nelson). Hey girls, there are a couple of decades between Loretta and the Dixie Chicks that are great as well. Yet, all you ignore their very existence.

    Barbara Mandrell can play umpteen instruments better than you’ll ever dream of doing. Donna Fargo wrote better songs that you’ll ever dream of writing. Crystal Gayle and Anne Murray brought more people to country music than you’ll ever manage to do. And Tanya Tucker was more ballsy than any of you in you wildest dreams.

    So keep on whining, cursing, and trying to be controversial. Wear your revealing outfits (and then complain when you’re only thought of as a trophy). But while you’re at it, do some serious researching on women in country music because you all sound just alike in your interviews.

  4. I would submit that both Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, who come from that particular wide gap between Loretta Lynn’s 1960s emergence and that of the Dixie Chicks in the late 1990s, have exerted a huge influence on a lot of the women in country music even to this day, and have been named so by many of them: Trisha Yearwood; Patty Loveless; Martina McBride; Caitlin Rose; Tift Merritt; Margo Price; Carrie Underwood; and the list goes on an on. And both Linda and Emmy are scions of the 1970s country-rock boom and the 1960s folk music revival/scare. So it wouldn’t be accurate to say that this 30-year period isn’t recognized by today’s women.

    But it would, in my opinion, be fair to say that a lot of them don’t get a whole lot of respect from the Keith Hills of the world, who deem them “tomatoes” while the men (usually the Bros) are the Salad. Is anyone aware that salad tends to spoil when it’s left out too long? (LOL).

  5. I’m compelled to go on record, for posterity’s sake, to say that caj’s comment is offensive/ willfully ignorant on several levels. But I don’t believe there’s a point in taking the time to try to have a meaningful discussion about it, because I suspect he intended to be as offensive as he was. .

  6. Kudos to the Mavericks for recording “The House I Live In” and thanks for including the Rolling Stone article here. Since I’m old I can’t believe that I never heard this song before. My education will never be complete.
    Kudos also to Lori McKenna. Love “Humble and Kind”. Should be required listening for every politician.

  7. Leeann, I’m sorry you found my post offensive. It just angers me that so many great female singers are ignored by the younger generation. If they are familiar with artists as far back as Loretta and Dolly then they should know Barbara, Crystal, Donna, Anne, and Tanya.

    Can we agree that it would be nice if some of the younger generation did at least acknowledge some of these great singers I mentioned from time to time? And Erik, I agree that Ronstadt and Harris have both been major influences on today’s female singers (thank God) – and have been mentioned by some of them in interviews. So I am wrong about that.

  8. Ha., You’ve got to know that wasn’t the offensive part of your comment, though I think Erik has rightly pointed out that Dolly and Loretta aren’t the only female influences that younger female artists have mentioned (This roundtable notwithstanding.).

  9. While there are many reasons, I fell in love with country music, Loretta Lynn, Anne Murray and Lynn Anderson were three of the best reasons, along with a host of other great female vocalists, prominent during the 70s. Why, my first concert ever, that I recall, was Loretta Lynn’s performance in Cohasset, Massachusetts. Her opener was a guy named Hank Williams, Jr. I recently saw in person one of the greatest vocal artists ever, Emmy Lou Harris. She performed with Rodney Crowell in Boston last summer. Wow. I know country radio doesn’t fully recognize it today, yet the talent of so many female country artists over the years just cannot be described in words. And present times bring artists like Ashley Monroe whose lyrics and music just amaze. There are many other female artists right now whose music just stuns. And then still, there are artists like Reba McEntire, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Trisha Yearwood, Patti Loveless, Lee Ann Womack and Martina McBride who have performed for many years and yet whose best work may be out there now for us to enjoy. (Okay. I have to say this. Martina. Is there a better voice and classier artist on this planet? I say, no, there is not.) There is so much great country music out there, even today. I appreciate this website for identifying so much of it. I especially enjoy these Sunday selections. Thank you!

  10. I also think it’s important to note another trait that both Linda and Emmylou shared in their own ways, and why so many female artists look up to them: They don’t put on an attitude or an image, they just go out and do what they do, and do it with a passion, intensity, and (why use any lesser word) heart that their peers seem not only to listen to, but also seem to study as well. Maybe this is a verboten thing to the Keith Hills of the country radio programming world who think that image is paramount above all else, but, beyond them being arguably sexist and misogynistic in their Tomato way of thinking, they’re just dead wrong historically when it comes to the womenfolk.

  11. While I hated Keith Hill’s remarks about female artists and radio, it does seem unfortunate that there might be some truth to his comments about radio stations not playing a lot of females.

    As reported in Rolling Stone magazine a little over a year ago, there has only been ONE WEEK in the ENTIRE history of the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart where female artists dominated the top 5. On April 19, 1980, the top 5 singles were 1) It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye by Crystal Gayle, 2) A Lesson In Leavin’ by Dottie West, 3) Are You On The Road To Loving Me Again by Debby Boone, 5) Beneath Still Waters by Emmylou Harris, and 5) Two Story House by George Jones & Tammy Wynette. It should also be noted that all but Two Story House went to Number One.

  12. I discovered Margot Price on the CBS Saturday Morning new show and have been completely hooked on her music. (Interestingly, I have found some great country performers on that program such as Sam Outlaw. It’s a great music venue to learn who new is out there.) I then found she had been on SNL, too. I just downloaded her album on my Kindle Fire. I would love to hear more thoughts from readers on her music.

  13. Speaking of “Choctaw County Affair,” did anyone else see the CMA Fest performance of the song that aired last week? She slayed the harmonica. For the singles on the latest album she has played guitar, drums, and harmonica live. She is doing all she can to be taken seriously as an artist. Too bad the industry voting bloc still won’t recognize it.

  14. There was also Miranda Lambert doing “Willing”, the Lowell George-penned truck-driving anthem that Linda had recorded on her landmark 1974 country-rock album Heart Like A Wheel. I kind of wonder, though, how many (if any) in attendance knew of this song in advance, let alone even heard of Linda herself.

  15. I hope this is the right comment thread for the following, yet I’ve listed this evening to two extraordinary new albums – Lori McKenna’s The Bird and the Rifle and Vince Gill’s Down to My Last Bad Habit. (Pardon my state pride, but Lori McKenna belongs to Massachusetts!) Lori’s lyrics are so moving; Vince Gill’s performance is utterly stunning. If I add in Margot Price’s new album to which I listened for the first time the other day, then I have to say country music is doing extraordinarily well in these current times.

  16. Sony Records Attacks American Songwriters

    The below letter was written to the CEO of Sony Records on August 3, 2016.

    Dear Mr. Morris,

    I write to you today struggling to even accurately convey the astonishment felt by American songwriters when recently learning that Sony Records plans to contest songwriters in the current Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) proceedings– intending to lower the already meager royalties we are receiving. What’s worse, you are doing so even after the other major and independent labels have decided not to engage in, and be actively hostile, to songwriters in this proceeding. I have to believe that you are aware that the past few years have seen the American songwriting profession devastated. The Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) estimates that the songwriting profession has dwindled some 80% to 90% in terms of the number of songwriters earning their primary income from royalties on current song activity. It is embarrassingly disingenuous that Sony would attempt to hide behind its claim to “increase the headline rate” when in fact its proposal to the CRB would actually lower the rates songwriters currently receive from digital interactive streaming services. Warner Brothers, Universal and other record labels have chosen not to attempt to suppress the rates digital interactive services pay to songwriters. Perhaps they understand that ultimately their profits really rest on the great songs we create.

    Some artists are also great songwriters. But many songs that earn Sony millions and millions of dollars are written by gifted tunesmiths whose names the public will never know. Those individuals cannot earn money from shares of the artist’s concert revenues, merchandising and other income streams like Sony can. Sony is already earning many, many times what songwriters earn from streaming royalties and now you want to reduce the meager amount songwriters are paid from interactive streams. Why? If there is a reason aside from greed, please let us know. It appears that Sony does not value the contribution from, nor the relationship with, songwriters as much as other record labels.

    NSAI has openly supported proposals for new/increased royalties for record labels including a royalty from terrestrial radio stations and legislative remedies for pre-1972 sound recordings that are found in the “Fair Play, Fair Pay Act” currently before Congress. Our support for record labels in the music ecosystem makes Sony’s position to lower our royalties for interactive streams particularly disturbing and amounts to picking on the little guy.

    NSAI asks that you immediately withdraw your rate proposals from the CRB proceedings and participation with respect to setting rates for digital interactive streaming services. The request you make for lowering our rates makes no sense and amounts to meddling when you consider that the digital services and their subscribers pay the songwriters, not the record labels. If you will not withdraw, we request that you publicly disclose your rate proposals so that everyone can see exactly what Sony Records is seeking to do. If you claim that you are doing what is in our best interest, there should no reason not to make your intentions public.

    Somehow it seems the large corporation that is Sony Records does not care about America’s smallest small business, the songwriter, and has forgotten that “It All Begins With a Song.”

    Bart Herbison
    Executive Director

  17. In the same issue of Billboard as the ladies’ interview, Billboard also has some all-time country charts to include Top 100 Country Artists, Country Songs, and Country Albums. The rankings are based on Billboard Country Charts for each category and a point system is given based on weekly chart positions.

    In the 100 Country Artists category, 24 female artists make the list with Reba McEntire ranking the highest at #7. 13 Duos/Groups make it, which leaves over half of the list by male singers with King George Strait at 1. (Although some groups are represented with females like The Judds, Little Big Town, and The Dixie Chicks.)

    In the Top 100 Country Songs, only 13 songs are by women (this includes solo, duets, and all-female groups). 11 songs are by other duo/groups, which again shows an overwhelming number for male artists dominating the list. You’ll all be thrilled to know that Cruise by FGL ranked #1.

    It’s only on the 100 Top Country Albums that we see females showing their muscle (which tellingly, these charts are based solely on sales). Shania Twain (at #1 and #9) , The Judds, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, and The Dixie Chicks hang tough with the boys on this list.

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