We’re only 23 days away from the election, y’all.
Presidential politics and country music news don’t intersect all too often, but this week marked a couple of noteworthy exceptions. Republican nominee Donald Trump’s recorded comments about women have sparked considerable controversy over the past week; those remarks included a dig that an up-and-coming country star needed to consult with a dermatologist. Moreover, his statements about what his intersecting social privileges have led him to believe he can do to women without their consent and without consequences have spurred countless women– including one country artist– to share their experiences with sexual assault.
Outside the divisive political climate, artists like Margo Price, Eric Church, Sturgill Simpson, and Chris Thile all gave thoughtful interviews this week, while Dwight Yoakam ventured back into acting by getting into a drunken bar-fight slash historical re-enactment. Our friends over at Country Perspective asked some important questions about whether or not country music needs to be saved and if some of the young guns who have been hailed as its saviors are truly up to the task. For the record, I’d answer those questions with a resounding “no” (though the landfill inferno that is country radio absolutely does) and a non-committal “give them an album or two and get back to me while I’m listening to Tami Neilson and Turnpike Troubadours.”
This week is fairly light on new releases. Other than Chris Young’s first Christmas album– and, heads-up, there are like 100 holiday albums by country artists slated for release next week– the week’s highest profile new album comes from Blackberry Smoke. Fans of The Traveling Wilburys who are also vinyl aficionados will want to pick up reissues of two of that supergroup’s albums, and there’s a 30th anniversary reissue of one of Steve Earle’s best records.
New Releases & Reissues, 10/14/2016
Blackberry Smoke, Like An Arrow. (Thirty Tigers)
Jim Ed Brown & Helen Cornelius, Best of Jim Ed Brown / Jim Ed & Helen Greatest Hits. (Morello / Cherry Red)
Dawg Yawp, Dawg Yawp. (Old Flame)
Steve Earle, Guitar Town: 30th Anniversary Edition. (MCA Nashville)
George Jones, My Very Special Guests (1979), Ladies Choice (1984). (Morello / Cherry Red)
The Mavericks, All Night Live, Volume 1. (Mono Mundo Recordings)
Conor Oberst, Ruminations. (Nonesuch)
Marty Robbins, RFD (1964), My Kind of Country (1967). (Morello / Cherry Red)
The Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1 (1988), Volume 3 (1990). (Concord)
Various Artists, Feel Like Going Home: The Songs of Charlie Rich. (Memphis International)
Chris Young, It Must Be Christmas. (RCA Nashville)
Billboard Country National Airplay:
#1: Billy Currington, “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”
Most Increased Audience: Brad Paisley, “Today”
Debuts: Brad Paisley, “Today” (#25); Kelsea Ballerini, “Yeah Boy” (#56).
Most Added: Brad Paisley, “Today” (55); Thomas Rhett, “Star of the Show” (46); Blake Shelton, “Guy With a Girl” (32); Eric Church feat. Rhiannon Giddens, “Kill a Word” (22); Kelsea Ballerini, “Yeah Boy” (9).
Notes: Billy Currington scores an increasingly rare multi-week #1 hit with “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To,” which holds off challenges from Tucker Beathard and the Kenny Chesney featuring Pink duet; but for Pink, the top 10 is once again a (mostly rancid) sausage party; Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” was passed by two of the three Tim McGraw entries in the top 20 and lost a bit of its audience, dropping back from #11 to #12; the songs between #11 and #25 are stuck in a logjam with very little movement, as Brett Eldredge’s “Wanna Be That Song” (up from #20 to #18) and “Kill A Word” (up from #25 to #23) are the only singles to post a gain of more than one chart position; radio has already dropped “Forever Country,” as the all-star collaboration falls from a #32 peak to #39 after just a month; because we cannot have nice things, Runaway June’s “Lipstick” drops from #41 to #44 and looks like it may miss the top 40; the talented Mickey Guyton still can’t gain much traction at radio, as her “Heartbreak Song” slips from #46 to #48; Chase Rice’s gross “Everybody We Know Does” drops from #49 to #53, so this week at country radio isn’t a total wash.
Elsewhere on Billboard‘s radio charts:
At AAA radio, The Lumineers’ “Cleopatra” moves up to a new peak of #3, while Norah Jones’ “Carry On” holds at #10; Father John Misty’s “Real Love Baby” debuts at #25; Dr. John’s & John Fogerty’s duet, “New Orleans,” picked up 5 station adds; the Avett Brothers’ “True Sadness” and James Vincent McMorrow’s “Get Low” were both added by 4 stations on the AAA panel; there are no country artists currently charting on either the Adult Top 4o or Adult Contemporary charts, but Brad Paisley’s “Today” did score one Adult Contemporary station add; Hillary Scott & The Scott Family’s “Thy Will” hold at #3 on the Christian music chart for a third week, posting only a small drop in audience.
News & Notes
“When I was touring with Steel Magnolia in 2010, a very powerful man in the music business grabbed up my skirt. He was groping me and proceeded to try to pick me up by my ass on a bus in front of a lot of important people. I was mortified and told him not to touch me and to put me down. It caused quite a scene and I could tell that he was embarrassed and angry. The next night he came up behind me and whispered in my ear, he said, ‘I have boats bigger than you could ever imagine, and I could put you in the middle of the ocean where no one would ever hear from you again. Just remember that.’ He laughed and walked away. I stood there still with chills running through me. I couldn’t believe what he had just said to me. I knew I had to tell someone. I called my manager and she told me to never breathe a word of that story to anyone ever. I told the head of my label and he told me the same thing. They both said if I wanted to have a career in country music then I could never say anything about it out loud, to anyone. Men have done far worse things to me in the past, but this was the first time I was told I couldn’t say anything because of how it would affect my career. Because of how powerful he was, he could do anything he wanted to me. If I wanted to have a singing career, then I had to let him grab me wherever he wanted and he was allowed to threaten me. It was only I who had consequences to pay if I didn’t comply.”
— Megan Linsey of Steel Magnolia (and, more recently, The Voice) shared an incendiary post to her Facebook account this week, recounting in harrowing detail how she was assaulted by a powerful figure within the music industry and then intimidated into silence for the sake of having a career. As a response to Donald Trump’s recorded boasting about committing acts of sexual assault, many women have been sharing their personal experiences with sexual assault across social media, and Linsey added her story to that ongoing discussion. She takes issue with Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric and concludes that she doesn’t “want a president who… sets the already skewed standard for how men are allowed to treat women.” (LMW / JK)
“In this country, I am grateful that we have the freedom to be kind to one another. Be loving. Have your beliefs, but be kind.”
— Emily West tweeted a message of fundamental kindness after a transcript of The Celebrity Apprentice was leaked and then authenticated, in which Donald Trump spoke disparagingly about West’s appearance– specifically, about her skin– during a challenge that found teams working on promotions for both West and future superstar Luke Bryan. (JK)
The “Forever Country Cover Series” has produced some hit-or-miss results thus far, but Josh Turner’s rendition of Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses” is just phenomenal, and a reminder that Turner should be one of the format’s contemporary superstars. (JK)
The incomparable Rhiannon Giddens performed on last week’s Austin City Limits broadcast. PBS shared a video of “Spanish Mary” that is, of course, flawless. (JK)
“First off let me just address the absurd notion of ‘saving’ country music. It’s an idea built on sensationalism and propaganda to appeal to the gullible and rebel hearted. Country music has never needed to be saved and it never will. It’s a marketing tactic that people will use to paint us vs them themes and build up a fictional battle taking place right in your backyard. It’s pandering to a natural human instinct to rebel against “the man” if you will. It’s no different from Toby Keith singing about having sex on the American flag on the back of an F-150 truck while fireworks go off in the background and bald eagles fly overhead. If you look me in the eye right now and told me country music needs saved I would laugh and point to Sturgill Simpson, Whitey Morgan and Margo Price. If you did this same thing in the 90s I would point to Alan Jackson, George Strait and Reba. In the 80s I would point to Dwight Yoakam, Keith Whitley and Randy Travis.”
— Josh Schott, one of our friends over at Country Perspective, posted a lengthy editorial, “Don’t You Think This Propaganda Bit’s Done Got Out Of Hand?” Schott takes issue with the recent talking point that the successes of Jon Pardi, William Michael Morgan, and Mo Pitney have signaled a sea change in contemporary country music. Moreover, he addresses the issue of whether or not country music currently needs– or has ever needed– to be saved. Megan Conley of Country Exclusivewrote a thoughtful response that doesn’t quite qualify as a rebuttal so much as a redirection. These are important conversations to have regarding the overall direction of the genre and how it’s written about. (JK)
Dolly Parton gave a spirited performance of her current single, “Outside Your Door,” on Jimmy Kimmel Live. (JK)
Marc Maron has already had Sturgill Simpson and John Prine on his WTF podcast in 2016, and this week he invited Margo Price over to the garage for an in-depth interview that covered tragedy, depression, substance abuse, and so much more! (LMW)
“I wonder if Loretta’s getting tired of seeing my name… People have said, ‘Oh, she’s the next Loretta Lynn,’ but there’ll never be another Loretta Lynn. What made her so wonderful is that she was so original. If there’s anything I pull from her, it’s to have that originality and to be different.”
— Price considered the influence of the artist she’s most often compared to, the legendary Loretta Lynn, as part of a terrific interview with Randy Lewis of The L.A. Times. Price spoke candidly about the difficult personal struggles that inspired her debut, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, and praised some contemporary alt-country / Americana acts like Alabama Shakes and Father John Misty. (JK)
Speaking of Simpson and his interview schedule, he recently sat down with Charlie Rose for a lengthy interview and in-studio performance, including “All Around You.” (JK)
“Right now, I’m into what I’d call high-art singer-songwriters: Leonard Cohen, Nick Lowe, John Prine. They don’t write songs thinking, ‘I have this much time’ or ‘I need this many songs.’ Leonard wrote 80-some verses to ‘Hallelujah.’ That blows my mind. That wouldn’t happen in my world, because there are rules and you don’t have the kind of freedom to let a song morph so much over time.”
— Eric Church gave a wide-ranging interview to Rolling Stone. If 2016 has proven anything about Church, it’s that he’s a better interview than any other contemporary country star, and this one is another essential read. (JK)
Dwight Yoakam, who can do anything, co-starred alongside Michael Cera in the latest installment of Comedy Central’s Drunk History series. (JK)
“I’m so delighted at the prospect of presenting a brand new show every week. My life up to this point, in general, has been about putting a show together and then touring that show. Basically, it’s playing a variation of that theme 40 or 50 times, that kind of thing, over the course of the year. That’s been one of the reasons I’ve been so keen on diversifying, just wanting to make sure that I’m making enough new music every year. ‘Prairie Home Companion’ is offering me the opportunity to put variety as the premium, putting that which is crackingly new at the forefront of the operation.”
— Certified genius Chris Thile could scarcely mask his excitement about his first official gig as the host of “A Prairie Home Companion.” For his first episode as the permanent host of the long-running broadcast, Thile enlisted Jack White, Lake Street Dive, and essayist Maeve Higgins as his guests. (JK)
Carrie Underwood leans heavily on animal symbolism in the music video for “Dirty Laundry,” her latest single from Storyteller. (JK)
That will do it for this week! Kevin’s been on a roll with new reviews, and the CMA Flashback series will continue this week, as well, so be sure to check back for more new content.