When George Strait talks about pendulums, you’d be advised to listen.
There’s been quite a bit of talk of late about how the mainstream is swinging back into a more traditional phase. Last month, Jon Pardi hit #1 with his single “Head Over Boots.” William Michael Morgan is all over the radio with his breakthrough hit, “I Met a Girl,” and his debut album was released last week to strong reviews. And perhaps the most traditional-leaning of those three acts, Mo Pitney, released his album, Behind This Guitar, just this week. In an interview with Dallas Observer, no less than George Strait admitted that he thinks the pendulum of styles within mainstream country is headed back in a direction that values traditional sounds, though he also admits that he doesn’t hear much of his own influence on today’s stars.
Strait wasn’t the only artist with something interesting to say this week. Alt-country stalwart Todd Snider hit the trail to promote his new album, Eastside Bulldog, and Sturgill Simpson talked about some of his favorite hip-hop artists. Jana Kramer opened up about her first marriage, while Maren Morris talked about some of the best advice she ever received. In addition to the new albums from Pitney and Snider, there are new releases from Brent “Cousin of Dave” Cobb, Loretta Lynn, and Shovels & Rope, and 80s star Sylvia also released her first new album in 14 years. Brad Paisley and Shovels & Rope dropped new singles, while Aubrie Sellers and Amanda Shires with Jason Isbell gave terrific live performances of their latest.
New Releases & Reissues: 10/07/2016
Troy Cartwright, Don’t Fade EP. (Hard Luck Recordings)
Brent Cobb, Shine On Rainy Day. (Elektra)
John Fogerty, On the Box: The Television Appearances. (Zip City)
Eric Johnson, EJ. (Provogue / Mascot)
Norah Jones, Day Breaks. (Blue Note)
Loretta Lynn, White Christmas Blue. (Legacy Recordings)
Mo Pitney, Behind This Guitar. (Curb)
Jim Reeves, Yours Sincerely, Jim Reeves (1966), Blue Side of Lonesome (1967), A Touch of Sadness (1968), Jim Reeves on Stage (1968). (BGO)
The Shires, My Universe. (Decca)
Shovels & Rope, Little Seeds. (New West)
Todd Snider, Eastside Bulldog. (Aimless / Thirty Tigers)
Sylvia, It’s All in the Family. (Red Pony)
Various Artists, In Case You Missed It: 15 Years of Dualtone. (Dualtone)
Billboard Country National Airplay:
#1: Billy Currington, “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”
Most Increased Audience: William Michael Morgan, “I Met a Girl”
Debuts: Thomas Rhett, “Star of the Show” (#38); Blake Shelton, “A Guy With a Girl” (#48); Dan + Shay, “How Not To” (#59); David Nail feat. Brothers Osborne, “Good At Tonight” (#60).
Most Added: Carrie Underwood, “Dirty Laundry” (26); Eric Church feat. Rhiannon Giddens, “Kill a Word” (19); Thomas Rhett, “Star of the Show” (19); Blake Shelton, “A Guy With a Girl” (16); Jon Pardi, “Dirt On My Boots” (13); Jana Kramer, “Circles” (13).
Notes: Last week’s #1 song, Justin Moore’s “You Look Like I Need A Drink,” plummeted so hard in audience that it was already sent to recurrent status; William Michael Morgan’s “I Met a Girl” celebrates its chart birthday with a #2 peak; there’s an absolutely appalling run of songs in the top 10, thanks to Tucker Beathard’s “Rock On” (#4), Luke Bryan’s “Move” (#5), LOCASH’s “I Know Somebody” (#6), and Cole Swindell’s “Middle of a Memory” (#7); Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” looks to improve the relative quality of the top 10 next week, as she moves up fro #13 to #11; Tim McGraw’s trifecta of current singles all posted bullets this week, with “How I’ll Always Be” at #12, Florida Georgia Line feat. McGraw’s “May We All” at #14, and Big & Rich feat. McGraw’s “Lovin’ Lately” at #15; Carrie Underwood’s “Dirty Laundry” (#21), Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled” (#22), Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute” (#23), Brothers Osborne’s “21 Summer” (#24), and Eric Church feat. Rhiannon Giddens’ “Kill A Word” (#25) all posted 3-spot gains this week; “Forever Country” made a modest airplay gain this week, moving up from #32; The Band Perry’s “Comeback Kid” inexplicably re-entered the top 40, moving up from #44 to #39; Jon Pardi’s “Dirt On My Boots” looks to be off to a much faster start than “Head Over Boots,” as the single vaults up from #49 to #40 in just its second chart week; Eli Young Bang’s “Saltwater Gospel” (#42) and Easton Corbin’s “Are You With Me” (#43) continue to struggle to gain traction; Jana Kramer’s gig on Dancing With the Stars may have helped “Circles” score some new station adds this week, but the single has yet to crack the top 60.
Elsewhere on Billboard‘s radio charts:
It was another dire week for Americana / alt-country acts on the AAA chart; The Lumineers’ “Cleopatra” holds at #5 at AAA radio for the third straight week; Norah Jones’ “Carry On” re-enters the top 10 at #10; Shovels & Rope’s “I Know” drops from #24 to #29; and Doyle Bramhall II’s “Mama Can’t Help You” scored 4 station adds this week; Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.” falls from #33 to #40 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” hold at #3 on the Christian music chart.
News & Notes
“This is probably my record that I like the most, but I don’t think people that like me are going to like it that much.”
— Todd Snider, one of our favorites around here, gave a terrific and often hilarious interview with The Tennessean‘s Juli Thanki, also one of our favorites around here, about his new album, Eastside Bulldog. He talks about John Prine, the blink-and-you-missed-it recording process for the album, and gardening, all with his trademark wit. (JK)
“Maybe I’ll do a dance record. Or maybe another song cycle, this time a love story from the Old West. Whichever way I go, I’m trying to learn not to second-guess myself. As long as I put art before business, I’ll just let love lead the way.”
— Sturgill Simpson actively trolled traditionalists during an interview with David Ritz of Rolling Stone. Simpson probably dug his grave even further within those circles by talking about how strongly he is influenced by contemporary hip-hop artists like Kendrick Lamar (!) and D’Angelo (!!) and the role rock music and vintage soul played in his formative years. It’s a fascinating interview, as Simpson’s interview typically are. (JK)
It has been ages– or 4 years– since the brilliant Tift Merritt released new music; anyone on the lookout for some of the best alt-country of the 2000s should check out her albums Bramble Rose and especially the Grammy-nominated Tambourine. This week, Rolling Stone shared Merritt’s new single, “Dusty Old Man,” which owes a debt to Bonnie Raitt’s early work. (JK)
“If I can help one person, I’ll be thankful for what happened – and I can move forward.”
— Jana Kramer gave a candid interview to People magazine, recounting the horrifying domestic violence she endured throughout her marriage to her first husband, Michael Gambino. The abuse landed Gambino in prison in 2005 for attempted murder, and Kramer spoke about the long-term effects of her harrowing experiences. (JK)
Brad Paisley released his new single and music video, “Today,” this past Thursday. The single, which is of a piece of hits like “Then” and “Perfect Storm,” is allegedly a song that Paisley wrote 9 years ago, well before he hit the creative dry spell that has characterized his recent work. (JK)
“She notes that her mother didn’t thrust religion on any of her children, but instead urged them to pursue their own truths, and be themselves to the fullest. Her celebration of God and religion is deeply personal and inclusive, something she reiterates several times throughout the show. It makes sense that it would’ve taken a mother’s urging for a woman like Dolly to emerge with such a celebration of her own femininity, especially in an era when women in the music industry were consistently relegated to the role of sidekick. Dolly Parton is no sidekick.”
— Caitlin White of Uproxx wrote an incisive, thought-provoking review of Dolly Parton’s recent concert at the Hollywood Bowl. White considers the roles of religion and sex-forward feminism in Parton’s work and how it is her ability to reconcile those elements into a cohesive point-of-view that informs her songwriting and her public persona that has made Parton an icon. (JK)
“There are some new guitar sounds… Frankly, with some of the new things I’ve been writing, I’ve been trying to get out of my wheelhouse a little bit. I tend to lean naturally a little neo-traditionalist country guy and it’s going to be a lot of that infused with some new sounds. I’ll leave that for the listeners to take a peek at when I get some new music. It will not be long. It will be in the new year.”
— Chris Janson told Rolling Stone that he is already working on his sophomore album for a release in early 2017. Janson states that he would like for a few more of his singles to take off at radio– “Holdin’ Her” is still one of the best singles on the chart at the moment, and it re-enters the top 30 this week– to help bolster the energy at his live shows, as well. (JK)
Amanda Shires was accompanied by Jason Isbell when she stopped by the American Songwriter offices to perform “Pale Fire” from her new album, My Piece of Land. (JK)
“I’ve used the analogy about Chinatown so much talking about our work… Chinatown was made in ’74 and was so much a film about that moment in time, but it was set in the ’30s. Many of our songs have been period pieces about other moments in time that are still relevant today.”
— Patterson Hood, co-frontman of Drive-By Truckers, talked about how works of art can be timely and relevant even when they are set in other periods of time. It’s an important theme on the band’s politically charged new album, American Band. Tyler Coates of Esquire spoke at length to Hood and Mike Cooley about how the current political climate informed their songwriting about what they’ve dubbed “the Southern thing.” (JK)
“Natalie Hemby, a big writer in Nashville, told me, ‘Don’t be an asshole on the way up and don’t be an asshole on the way down.'”
— Maren Morris revealed the best advice she’s been given from another artist as part of a panel discussion with Billboard magazine, profiling three artists (Morris, Chance the Rapper, and Alessia Cara) with their sights on the General Field categories at the Grammy Awards). (JK)
As we round the bend toward list-making season, the esteemed Chris Willman has posted his picks for 2016’s best country albums to date. There are picks we applaud (Sturgill Simpson, Aubrie Sellers, Jon Pardi, Margo Price), and some we arch an eyebrow at (Dierks Bentley, mostly). (JK)
Speaking of Sellers, she released a lyric video for her single, “Sit Here and Cry.” But since I still don’t think lyric videos should be a thing, here’s an ace live performance of the song from Audience Music. (JK)
“I don’t see a lot of my influence out there in country music today, out there being played on the radio… The country music scene is always changing, and the music is always changing. I’ve seen the pendulum swing this way and back this way. It’s very country, and then not so country. I think right now it’s kind of trending back to more traditional country music, which is what I like and I like to do. So I’m glad to see that. But I can’t put anybody down for having success in the business, which is just tough. And for someone to go out and have some success in the music business, more power to ’em. I’m not saying I have to like it, but I just know how tough it is.”
— The legendary George Strait said that he thinks the pendulum of mainstream country is swinging back in a more traditional direction, a trend that has been widely noted based upon the recent successes of Jon Pardi and William Michael Morgan. Strait’s remarks are part of a lengthy interview with Joe Pappalardo of Dallas Observer. (JK)
In what may be the year’s most exciting news, Miranda Lambert announced via twitter that her upcoming record, The Weight of These Wings, will be a double-album. Given the consistency and depth of her catalogue thus far, it seems like a challenge she’s more the capable of meeting head-on. (JK)
Now that “I Know” seems to have run its course at AAA radio, Shovels & Rope have released the second single and music video, “Botched Execution,” from their terrific new album, Little Seeds. (JK)
That will do it for this week. Kevin has been on an absolute tear with the new single reviews, so be sure to check back this week for more new content!
Re. Tift Merritt’s new single “Dusty Old Man”–It is indeed a tremendous song, so typical of the high level of quality she has been able to muster in her time. As such, it is very depressing to think that she is one of far too many artists who can’t get much in the way of radio airplay, just because she is an “Americana” artist. Beyond the influence of Bonnie Raitt on “Dusty Old Man”, Tift has always struck me as a combination of modern Americana and old-school country-rock a la Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris on all of her albums to date, but with a songwriting style that’s authentically hers.
For my money, Tift is the best female singer of any genre to have emerged in this century, bar none.
Thanks for the Drive-By Truckers article. I like these guys – bought “American Band”.