Sunday Selections: October 2, 2016

No one-star reviews here.

While promoting his new side project– Sir Rosevelt, and no, I’m honestly not sure why Rosevelt is spelled that way– Zac Brown took issue with the middling reception that the most recent Zac Brown Band album, Jekyll & Hyde, received. He lashed out at fans who weren’t on-board with some of his attempts at genre-hopping and critics of the project who all, per Brown’s assessment, live with their parents.

So The Band Perry have some new competition for the title of country music’s most petulant, least self-aware act.

Not everyone was in such a foul mood this week. T Bone Burnett certainly was during the anti-technology screed he delivered at Americana Fest, but acts like Eric Paslay, Maren Morris, and Suzy Bogguss were all more positive in their outlooks. This week also boasts a stacked new release calendar. William Michael Morgan’s debut album, Vinyl, is probably the highest profile new album; he has already gained some positive notices for his style, which owes considerably to the 90s heydays of Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Lawrence. John Prine returns with a killer duets album, and Drive-By Truckers roar back with a politically-charged album that is their most focused work in a decade. Country Universe favorite Tami Neilson finally releases her stellar album, Don’t Be Afraid, in US markets, and it is absolutely worth hearing.


tami-neilson-dont-be-afraidNew Releases & Reissues: 9/30/2016
Doyle Bramhall II, Rich Man. (Concord)
Marc Broussard, Save Our Soul II: Soul on a Mission. (G-Man Touring)
Drive-By Truckers, American Band. (ATO)
Will Erickson, The Five Year Weight. (Red Beard Group)
Mandolin Orange, Blindfaller. (Yep Roc)
William Michael Morgan, Vinyl. (Warner Nashville)
Tami Neilson, Don’t Be Afraid. (Outside)
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & Friends, Circlin’ Back: Celebrating 50 Years. (Warner Nashville)
John Prine, For Better or Worse. (Oh Boy)
Bob Weir, Blue Mountain. (Columbia)
Luke Winslow-King, I’m Glad Trouble Don’t Last Always. (Bloodshot)

you-look-like-i-need-a-drinkCharted Territory
Billboard Country National Airplay:
#1: Justin Moore, “You Look Like I Need a Drink”
Most Increased Audience: Justin Moore, “You Look Like I Need a Drink”
Debuts: Brothers Osborne, “21 Summer” (re-entry, #27); Jon Pardi, “Dirt On My Boots” (#49)..
Most Added: Jon Pardi, “Dirt On My Boots” (29); Artists of Then, Now, & Forever, “Forever Country” (26); Carrie Underwood, “Dirty Laundry” (22); Keith Urban, “Blue Ain’t Your Color” (16); Chris Young feat. Vince Gill, “Sober Saturday Night” (16)
Notes: So much for a two-week run at #1 for Dierks Bentley’s and Elle King’s “Different for Girls,” as the gross exercise in stereotyping tumbles from the top spot down to #4; William Michael Morgan, whose debut album, Vinyl, has been released this week to strong reviews, moves up to #3 with his “I Met A Girl” in its 51st chart week; Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” reaches a new peak, moving up to #13; Drake White’s “Livin’ the Dream” continues its slow ascent, up to #16; after flying up the chart in its first month, Carrie Underwood’s “Dirty Laundry” runs into a crowded section of the chart, so she only moves up one spot to #24; Underwood switches places with Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled,” which gained an early boost from the iHeartMedia OnTheVerge program but has been treading water for the past couple of weeks; Brothers Osborne’s understated “21 Summer” was sent to a recurrent status by Billboard a few weeks back but re-enters the chart based upon small but steady gains in audience; “Kill A Word” by Eric Church featuring Rhiannon Giddens officially cracks the top 30, moving up from #31 to #28; “Forever Country” ranks at #1 on Billboard’‘s “Hot Country Songs” chart based upon its strong sales and streaming statistics, and it posts a solid airplay gain this week, moving up from #39 to #33; Runaway June’s charming “Lipstick” continues to knock on the door of the top 40, inching up from #44 to #42; Jon  Pardi scores a big debut on the heels of his #1 hit, “Head Over Boots,” with his latest single being the most added track at radio this week; RaeLynn’s “Love Triangle” continues to falter, dropping from #49 to #54 after 7 weeks.

Elsewhere on Billboard‘s radio charts:
The Lumineers’ “Cleopatra” holds at #5 at AAA radio for the second straight week; Norah Jones’ “Carry On” rebounds to #11 on that chart; Shovels & Rope’s “I Know” posts a slight gain for a second straight week, moving up to #24 at AAA; Avett Brothers’ “True Sadness” scores 5 new station adds; Todd Snider’s “Ways and Means” and Doyle Bramhall II’s “Mama Can’t Help You” both score 4 station adds this week;  Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.” falls from #31 to #33 at Adult Top 40; both Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw dropped off the Adult Contemporary chart this week; Hillary Scott & The Scott Family’s “Thy Will” falls from #1 to #3 on the Christian music chart after two weeks at the top.

zac-brown-press-photo-shorefire-2015-billboard-650News & Notes

“This is the outlet I get to do that because we’re criticized and given one-star reviews now for people saying this isn’t country. Well, we had to pick one category on iTunes to release our record, we had to pick country. So people got our last record, would listen to ‘Heavy Is The Head,’ the song we did with Chris Cornell. They would listen to that record, say, ‘This isn’t country, one star.’ It’s either good or it’s not, I’m sick of being in a bucket, here’s Sir Rosevelt.”
— Zac Brown unveiled his new side project with Niko Moon and Ben Simonetti, Sir Rosevelt, this week. In an interview with Steve Baltin of Billboard, Brown struck a petulant, entitled tone about how the Zac Brown Band’s previous album, Jekyll & Hyde, was received for its genre-hopping. Brown rehashed the lazy cliche about how critics are all just 40 year-old losers who live in their parents’ basements and who contribute nothing at all of value to society, and he seems to believe that his every effort should be praised simply for the virtue of its existing at all. What Brown overlooks, of course, is that the “one-star” reviews he’s taking issue with are iTunes reviews by fans who purchased his album– he may want to consider an expression about “biting the hand”– and not by critics or bloggers; among reputable critics, only Pop Matters gave the album such a low rating. Moreover, the critics who reviewed the album poorly did so not because his rock and EDM genre explorations weren’t sufficiently country but because they were poorly executed on their own merits. (JK)

“I’ve written some new songs that are really good songs, and I’m going to control its distribution very carefully, just to do it…  First of all, I’m going to just release it on vinyl. And I don’t know if I’m ever going to even put it on a digital platform. I don’t know if I’m ever gonna digitize it. I don’t really care. I don’t really care how many likes I get. It does nothing for me, that kind of attention. You know the saying: artist dies of exposure. So I’m going to stand up for my own work and I’ll decide what value I’m going to place on it.”
— T Bone Burnett spoke as part of a panel discussion during last week’s Americana Music Festival & Conference, and he railed against technological advances and the distribution of income for artists. Getting past the “Get Off My Lawn” tone of the remarks, Burnett spoke about alternative media formats and the importance of artists controlling their own income streams. (JK)

“Another regular tack taken in the debate about what Americana is—still putting it in opposition to ‘mainstream’ music—is that it’s realer, more authentic. Audibly, that often seems to translate to sparer or at least more retro-feeling production, and instruments that read as distinctly country or blues, like fiddles, steel and bottleneck guitar.”
— Alison Fensterstock of Pitchfork considered the permeable boundaries of the Americana genre in an editorial, “Whose America Gets to Define Americana Anyway.” (JK)

We’re big fans of Charlie Worsham’s 2013 debut album, Rubberband, and are eagerly awaiting his follow-up. Recently, Worsham joined Vince Gill on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry for a performance of Gill’s “The Key to Life.” (TS / JK)

“‘She Don’t Love You’ was a song I needed to write and a song that people needed to hear. I’ve always said you’ve got to find the right sad song to get you back to the happy ones. If you don’t know you have a broken heart, it’s hard to fix it. You’ll keep going down the heartbreak avenue thinking it’ll fill you back up again, and that’s not the truth. You’ve got to find the right love that will love you the way you are. That’s where I hope people get to after hearing that song.”
— Eric Paslay spoke with friend-of-the-blog Jason Scott for AXS about the upward trajectory of his career, his upcoming album, and his platform as a spokesperson for Type I Diabetes. (JK)

“I’m glad we’re having conversations about diversity at IBMA, to have the space to include different identities. That had not happened here before this year.”
— Justin Hiltner spoke about how audiences at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual “Bluegrass Ramble” have become more open to different perspectives. The theme of this year’s IBMA festival and conference was, “Bluegrass Belongs to Us All.” (JK)

Little Seeds, the new album from Country Universe favorites Shovels & Rope, will be released next Friday; in the meantime, you can steam the album in full on NPR’s “First Listen.” (LMW)

Her cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love” has been earning rave notices as part of her Storyteller: In the Round tour, and Carrie Underwood gave an acoustic performance of the iconic song during a recent stop by Bobby Bones’ radio show. (TS / JK)

“There’s no denying that it’s difficult for us to put stuff out into the world that may not be, as you say, as meticulous as we’d have it, but the 20-year time gap makes it easier. I’m also aware that I have always learned more from other artists’ imperfect works than from their masterpieces. The glimpse behind the curtain can be illuminating.”
— Gillian Welch chatted with the always insightful Jewly Hight for NPR about releasing a rough demo of her song “Dry Town,” which had previously only been released in cover form by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Miranda Lambert. (JK)

The legendary John Prine was a guest on comedian Marc Maron’s WTF podcast this week. (LMW)

“I think the first thing was reconnecting with so many people over the last four or five years, now that our son’s in college. I have been coming back to so many of the country fans from the ‘90s that had this album. And each one of them had their own favorite song – and different ones, not just the hits that we do in the show. So, they were requesting these songs and I’d look and the band like, ‘Maybe we can pull this off…’ We were butchering through stuff the band didn’t really know.”
— Suzy Bogguss gave Craig Shelburne of Music Row magazine some insight into the release of Aces Redux, on which she re-recorded her 1991 breakthrough album with new, stripped-down arrangements that a better suited to her current touring set-up. (JK)

“That’s the special thing about songs: sometimes the meaning of them hits you way later… I don’t know if there is another part of your brain that turns on and accesses emotions that you aren’t quite ready to talk about in real life, but the music room is sort of a safe space.”
— Maren Morris considered the unique role music plays in emotional development as part of a lengthy profile in Noisey. (JK)

“… I was living in the Roosevelt Hotel when I recorded this. I had so many cool songs, ideas, so many memories that had become technicolor from how black and white they had been only a year before. I knew I wanted to capture that after having toured the world by myself, solo show after solo show. I had one harmonica and it was rusted and knicked- I threw it in the LA River. I wanted to explore hope again. I wanted to write songs about what it felt like to be kissed again. To feel like hot fireworks in a roof in a paper bag. I wanted to live. I’m so grateful I stayed who I was and made this leap when all anyone wanted was Heartbreaker part 2. You gotta be who you really are- not something people can sell. I never have had that problem. It labeled me difficult but it also meant I wouldn’t have to pretend I didn’t have something to say. I did.”
— Ryan Adams wrote a post on his Instagram to commemorate the 15th anniversary of his album, Gold. The full post is nostalgic and self-aware and looks back fondly on his brush with commercial success. (JK)

Todd Snider released a rare music video for his single “Ways and Means,” from Eastside Bulldog, which is out next Friday. (JK)

That will do it for this week. We hope everyone has enjoyed the uptick in new content!



  1. I really hope you guys review “Lipstick” or “Road Less Traveled”. They are still among my favorite songs on the chart. I do respectfully disagree that “Road Less Traveled” is treading water. It’s doing alright on the charts nothing outstanding, but definitely not struggling. I fo though really hope you guys review the latest songs from Lauren Alaina and Runaway June (if you can’t I understand)

  2. It’s either good or it’s not, I’m sick of being in a bucket

    I have said it before and will say it again: genres and radio formats are still a thing to a lot of people for perfectly legitimate reasons. Zac Brown can complain all he likes, but his fans are going to have expectations in relation to what genre he initially put himself in just like everyone else’s fans do, and they have every right to be upset if those expectations aren’t met. They have a right to those expectations, and to those negative opinions. He’s not the first artist who has put out work that hasn’t lived up to fans’ expectations, and he won’t be the last.

    Put another way, he has the right to put out whatever music he wants, but his fans have a right to be displeased about it and to make their displeasure known. But it seems to be a one-way street with some of these people. See also: Brad Paisley’s reactions to the reviews of Moonshine in the Trunk and “Accidental Racist.”

  3. Perhaps Zac Brown ought to heed the words of Harry Truman: “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen”. If he’s going to be (or act) that pained, he should get into another line of work, because he isn’t the first to meet up with this kind of reaction because he took an artistic left turn and the audience took a commercial right turn–and rest assure, he won’t be the last.

  4. @ Raymond,

    “Road Less Traveled” had a net gain of 3 spots on the chart in a month. It’s picked up more momentum this week, but it’s one of many singles that haven’t been able to break out of the logjam in the 15 – 35 range of the chart. I don’t love “Lipstick,” but I would like to see it make some inroads at radio.

    @ Jason,

    The only person I would have trusted to write that expose– Dev Ghosh– passed away last month.

    @ The Pistolero,

    Agree full-stop with your points. I will say that Paisley did a couple of interesting interviews regarding the backlash he faced over “Accidental Racist,” and, a couple of years removed from it, he honestly sounded like he had learned quite a bit from that experience and had some thoughtful things to say about it.

    @ Erik,

    Brown was quick to voice his criticism of bro-country acts a couple of years ago, but he does seem mighty thin-skinned when it comes to reception of his own work.

  5. I guess, but in terms of gains as in audience and spin gains Lauren Alaina is doing just fine. I more or less just want a review for it as I actually played it for a couple of my friends and they said they really liked it and I love to see Lauren Alaina get a review on that song as I really haven’t seen really any single reviews for it.

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