Sunday Selections: December 4, 2016

What’s the correct controversy name here? Bryangate? Charlie Daniels Charitygate? Slapgate?

Regardless of how you refer to it, Luke Bryan’s decision to strike an audience member at Charlie Daniels’ Volunteer Jam on Wednesday was indefensible. But dancing like someone who got fired from their role as a Magic Mike extra isn’t the only wrong-doing in this story. Break out the eye-drops, gang, I got long-winded on this one!

It’s been a light couple of weeks on the new release front. Garth Brooks’ new album, Gunslinger, officially hit shelves on Black Friday, along with a long-awaited Gillian Welch bootleg. This week, nearly every album in the great Fred Eaglesmith’s catalogue seems to have been reissued; he’s always great, but 2008’s Tinderbox is my favorite album of his. Phil Vassar is also back with his first album in seven years; Kane Brown’s self-titled album is out now if that’s your thing; and there’s a cool reissue of Sonny James singles.


garth-brooks-gunslingerNew Releases & Reissues, 11/25/2016:
Garth Brooks, Gunslinger. (Pearl)
Gillian Welch, Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg. (Acony)

fred-eaglesmith-tinderboxNew Releases & Reissues, 12/02/2016:
Kane Brown, Kane Brown. (RCA Nashville / Zone 4)
Fred Eaglesmith, Things is Changin’ (1993), Ballin’ (2000), Falling Stars and Broken Hearts (2002), Dusty (2004), Milly’s Cafe (2006), Tinderbox (2008), Cha Cha Cha (2010), 6 Volts (2011), Tambourine (2013), plus several live albums. (Independent Label Services, Inc)
Sonny James, The Singles Collection 1952 – 62. (Acrobat)
Naomi Judd, River of Time: My Descent Into Depression and How I Emerged With Hope. (Hardcover – Center Street press; co-author, Marcia Wilkie).
Sister Hazel, Unplugged from Daryl’s House Club. (Crackin’ Poet / Average Joe’s Entertainment)
Phil Vassar, American Soul. (The Orchard)

florida-georgia-line-may-we-allCharted Territory
Billboard Country National Airplay:
#1: Florida Georgia Line & Tim McGraw, “May We All”
Most Increased Audience: Brett Eldgredge, “Wanna Be That Song”
Debuts: Billy Currington, “Do I Make You Wanna” (#49); David Nail feat. Brothers Osborne, “Good at Tonight” (re-entry, #53); Tucker effing Beathard, “Momma and Jesus” (#58); Jason Aldean, “Any Ol’ Barstool” (#60).
Most Added: Dierks Bentley, “Black” (22); Jon Pardi, “Dirt On My Boots” (21); Kelsea Ballerini, “Yeah Boy” (18); Miranda Lambert, “We Should Be Friends” (11);  Dan + Shay, “How Not To” (10).
Notes: Florida Georgia Line ascend to the top of the chart for the tenth time; the top 10 is a fairly marginal group, except for Carrie Underwood’s “Dirty Laundry,” which holds at #10 for another week; the teens are now fully in logjam, with the same 10 songs occupying the #11 – #20 slots as last week with just minor reshuffling of positions; Maren Morris’ “80s Mercedes” (#14) appears to be struggling, as she posts only a tiny gain in audience; Little Big Town’s “Better Man” has raced up to #21 in just six weeks; Chris Janson’s “Holdin’ Her” continues its slow climb, reaching a new peak position of #27 in its 30th week on the chart; radio really seems to have embraced Dierks Bentley’s career-worst run of singles, as “Black” vaults up from #39 to #33 in its third week; in happier news, Runaway June’s “Lipstick” keeps chugging along, as the trio is up to #34; Miranda Lambert’s “We Should Be Friends” posts a solid gain, jumping up to #41 after debuting at #50 last week; because radio just isn’t ready to let go of the bros, Chase Rice’s gross “Everybody We Know Does” rebounds to #43; Morgan Wallen’s “The Way I Talk (Is Hopefully Better Than The Way I Sing)” is at #52 after five weeks on the chart; Jana Kramer’s “Circles” continues to struggle (up from #60 to #59 despite losing audience) despite her gig on Dancing With The Stars; Jennifer Nettles’ “Hey Heartbreak” is being spun on a total of 14 stations as of this week; on the Indicator chart that includes small markets, Stephanie Quayle’s terrific “Drinking With Dolly” posts a small gain from a total of 10 stations with good taste; on that chart, Cody Jinks’ “I’m Not the Devil” scored over 300 total spins within the past week.

Elsewhere on Billboard‘s Radio Charts:
At AAA radio, The Lumineers’ “Cleopatra” has begun to fall quickly, dropping from #3 to #9; The Avett Brothers’ “True Sadness” moves up to #15 and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats’ “Wasting Time” moves up to #21; John Mayer’s “Love On The Weekend” allegedly has some country overtones to it– I wouldn’t know, as I honest-to-God can’t stand his music at all, so I haven’t listened to it yet– and debuts at #24; Alejandro Escovedo (!!) scores a couple of station adds with “Heartbeat Smile,” the lead single from his latest album; Mayer’s single also moves up to #29 at Adult Top 40 in its second week; also on that chart, Kenny Chesney’s feat. Pink’s “Setting The World On Fire” continues to post gains in audience but still hasn’t cracked the top 20 (up from #23 to #22); most Adult Contemporary stations have made the switch to all-Christmas, all-the-time programming, which often gives country acts a bigger audience for their holiday fare; Brett Eldredge’s & Meghan Trainor’s duet on the ever-sleazy “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” debuts at #15; other country debuts at AC include Jennifer Nettles’ & Idina Menzel’s “Little Drummer Boy” (#19); Rascal Flatts’ “Let It Snow” (#21); Straight No Chaser (?) feat. Jana Kramer’s “Feels Like Christmas” (#25); and Trisha Yearwood’s “Santa Baby” (#28); and, rounding out the new Christmas singles, Amy Grant’s “To Be Together” debuts at #38 on the Christian radio chart.

News & Notes

“A man in [the] front row was making crude hand gestures toward Luke during his performance,” the statement reads. “It was insulting not only to him, but more importantly to the men, women and families sitting around him who were there to support and celebrate Charlie Daniels and the efforts of raising money for the military veterans — some of who were in the audience. The concert security personnel saw the man’s disruptive actions of the event and he was escorted out.”
— Luke Bryan’s publicist / PR team issued a statement regarding an incident that occurred at Wednesday night’s Volunteer Jam, a charity concert hosted annual by Charlie Daniels, during which Bryan appeared to have taken a brief interlude from his performance of “Move” to kind-of slap a man in the front row of the audience. Both the incident and the various media responses to it have set off a fair amount of hand-wringing online.

The long-and-short of the situation is that most everyone involved was demonstrating poor judgment to either a minor or major degree.

If you’re in attendance at a charity concert, it hardly seems unreasonable to ask that you not be the asshole who heckles a performer who is attempting to raise money for a worthy cause– in this case, for Daniels’ “Journey Home Project,” which provides funding and services to U.S. military veterans, a group that pretty well every right-minded person can agree is entitled to our collective goodwill and compassion. Allegedly, the man in question flipped Bryan off and made a reference to being able to see Bryan’s “camel toe” vis-a-vis the performer’s notorious skinny jeans. (Sidebar: the correct term for a cis-male’s equivalent “camel toe” is “moose knuckle,” so the heckler was both rude and incorrect on the merits of his insult). But if you’re not a fan of a performer on a multi-artist bill at a charity concert? Use that performer’s set to hit the bathroom or to go to the concessions stand or to buy something from the merch table of an artist you do like. This was not a comedy club or a sporting event or even a for-profit music festival. Seriously: Don’t be That Guy.

But if you’re Luke Bryan, maybe do a bit of research about the show where you’ve agreed to perform. Check out the other artists who are going to be on the bill with you– this year, that included Chris Stapleton, Travis Tritt, Kid Rock, and Three Doors Down, in addition to Daniels– and consider how to construct a set-list that wouldn’t be entirely out-of-place with that bill. I’ll admit that I’ve never understood Bryan’s appeal, but the incident in question came during a performance of “Move,” one of his singles that scrapes hardest against the bottom of the proverbial barrel. He has material that, while I wouldn’t go to bat for much of it, might not be seen as quite so egregious for someone sharing a stage with the superior talents of Daniels, Stapleton, and Tritt. Indeed, he was able to perform “Rain Is A Good Thing” and “Huntin’, Fishin’, and Lovin’ Every Day” without issue.

Many fans have insisted that Bryan should never have been included on the bill at all on the grounds that his brand of prototypical bro-country doesn’t belong on a bill with the likes of Stapleton or Tritt. Again, there’s very little of Bryan’s music that I find listenable, let alone worthwhile, and that argument might carry more weight if this were a matter of creating a bill for a music festival or an awards show. But there’s no logical reason why a charity event– the goal of which, by design and by nature, is to raise the most money possible for a worthy cause– should be some kind of a “safe space” for genre traditionalists who don’t want to hear any bro-country. Bryan is simply a very, very big live draw: If you’re more interested in developing and promoting an event that is going to draw a large crowd than in winning an ideological debate about genre purity, then it stands to reason that you probably want Bryan on your stage instead of, say, John Moreland.

Moreover, Bryan’s more than a decade into his career at this point. As a performer, he should be better prepared to deal with criticism and heckling. However questionable the form of his Not A Slap, Not Yet A Punch strike was, the fact that he chose to assault someone in the audience at all is indefensible for any artist, but especially for one of his commercial stature. That was true of Tim McGraw when he slapped a woman for grabbing him last year, and it would be true of any performer who takes the stage. Stop the performance and have security remove the heckler. But have at least somewhat thicker skin and don’t hit someone.

As for the fallout from the incident, Bryan has yet to issue a statement beyond the evasive remarks from his PR team. ABC News tagged their video of the performance as, “Luke Bryan Interacts With Man Flipping Him Off,” which is either more charitable than the money raised by the concert itself or is a spectacular bit of shade-throwing with regard to Bryan’s skill as a pugilist. Taste Of Country spun their report in a predictably fawning, borderline illiterate way, claiming that Bryan was standing up to someone who was disrespecting veterans, an interpretation of events that seems perfect for our post-facts world.

Still, it’s always worth talking about and worth taking seriously when one of the genre’s A-list stars conducts themselves so poorly on such a large stage. In this case, pretty well everyone was at least somewhat in the wrong.

So let’s end the week on a counter-example of how an A-list star can act, shall we?


“On the night of Nov. 28, 2016, terrible wildfires affected the Great Smoky Mountains around Gatlinburg, TN where I grew up. The firefighters, first responders, the Red Cross and many other organizations have done an incredible job in their emergency response efforts. Now as we look to the future, there are a lot of families who will need our help rebuilding and restoring their lives and the beautiful land we all call home. I’ve always believed charity begins at home and that’s why I’ve asked my companies to help me establish a fund to assist the victims of the Great Smoky Mountain wildfires in Tennessee.”
— Dolly Parton, country music royalty and legitimate national treasure, has established the “My People Fund” to provide $1000 per month to families in Sevier County, Tennessee, where wildfires ravaged the communities of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Any family whose home was declared a total loss or otherwise uninhabitable as a result of the devastating fires, is eligible for the funds, and Parton’s Dollywood Foundation ensures that 100% of each donation will go directly to families in need.

And a couple of videos:

Drake White’s next single is the soulful “Makin’ Me Look Good Again,” a standout track from his terrific debut album, Spark. The singer shared a live clip of the song as part of his “Influences” video series, and it’s a showcase for his powerful voice, which has made him one of our favorite newcomers. (JK)

Aubrie Sellers has finally released a proper music video for her single, “Sit Here And Cry,” so we don’t have to keep linking to a lyric video. Because those are terrible. (JK)

That will do it for this week. We’ll do another Sunday Selections round-up next week, then we’ll be taking a short hiatus to get our Best of 1991 feature and our year-end rodeo posted! And keep checking back this week for Kevin’s fantastic “Conversation” series!


  1. Re. the Luke Bryan incident at Volunteer Jam: Yes indeed, “Bryangate” is an appropriate name for it. Mr. Bromeister Bryan really needs to take to heart the words of Harry Truman: “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    As for Dolly–well, she is very much a national treasure, and certainly for that part of the world where she grew up and which unfortunately has been incinerated by some of the worst wildfires in that region’s history. Growing up in abject poverty, and then making it big, while still giving back to those communities is so important these days to Dolly, and rightly so.


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