It’s no secret that in country music, some expressions of patriotism are more prevalent, and arguably more acceptable, than others. It’s refreshing, then, to see Paisley offer a solid albeit frivolous departure from the conventional with “American Saturday Night,” a proud depiction of America as a nation whose identity is molded by not one, but numerous cultures:
The past two decades have only brought eight winners in the CMA Male Vocalist race, with only two of them – Toby Keith and Clint Black – winning only once. Compare this to the Female Vocalist race, which has brought twelve winners during the same time frame, though even that race has become more streaky of late, with Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood combining for seven victories in the past eleven years.
Is it time for an overhaul in the Male Vocalist race? Yes and no. There’s no denying that some of the multiple nominees/winners over the past nineteen years remain the genre’s strongest male voices. Still, there’s room for some others at the table. The problem is that there are so very few of the genre’s male artists that are genuinely at the top of their game. Even most of the men listed below have had weak singles this year.
Still, if I picked the five nominees for the 2009 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year, they would be:
If Johnson earns fewer less than five nominations at this year’s CMA Awards, I’ll be shocked. In fact, I think he’ll earn six, with the surprise nomination being in this category. These aren’t predictions, though, so I’ll state that while I’m not particularly a fan of Johnson, his success at retail with a traditional project that has only received airplay for one single is darn impressive. Along with Brad Paisley, he’s one of only two artists I’ve listed that were determined by genuine merit, not process of elimination.
Atkins’ latest single is pure, straight-up fun without being hokey or over-the-top – a tricky thing to do in country music. Against a pleasing, honky-tonk arrangement, Atkins delivers a clever hook about a misguided attempt at giving up smoking, women and drinking, resulting in the worst 15 minutes of his life. It’s simply a well-crafted bar sing-a-long that doesn’t take itself too seriously:
It’s time for an album sales update, our first since May 23. Brad Paisley is off to a strong start with American Saturday Night, selling 130k in its first week. That’s about 70k less than his previous two studio albums – Time Well Wasted and 5th Gear – opened with, but not a terrible drop-off, considering the state of the music market.
Meanwhile, the new studio albums by Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban are slowing down considerably, now being outpaced on a weekly basis by 2008 releases by Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band, Darius Rucker and Lady Antebellum.
Among younger acts with a new album in 2009, the most impressive sales are coming from Jason Aldean, while 2008 releases from Kellie Pickler, Billy Currington, and Randy Houser are showing new signs of life.
Biggest disappointments? It’s hard not to look in the direction of Martina McBride, who has barely cleared the 100k mark on her new studio set. Lee Ann Womack’s 2008 set just made it over that mark, too. Then again, one only needs to have sold 455 copies to make the chart this week, with the anchor position going to Wynonna with that total. Her covers album Sing – Chapter 1 has sold 41k to date.
Here are the latest totals for albums released over the past three years that are still charting:
- Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable – 842,000
- Keith Urban, Defying Gravity – 452,000
- Jason Aldean, Wide Open – 384,000
- Kenny Chesney, Greatest Hits II – 281,000
- Dierks Bentley, Feel That Fire – 219,000
- Martina McBride, Shine – 104,000
- John Rich, Son of a Preacher Man – 103,000
- Eric Church, Carolina – 94,000
- Rodney Atkins, It’s America – 88,000
- Jake Owen, Easy Does It – 81,000
* Rascal Flatts, Unstoppable – 669,000
* Keith Urban, Defying Gravity – 349,000
* Jason Aldean, Wide Open – 241,000
* Dierks Bentley, Feel That Fire – 189,000
* Martina McBride, Shine – 89,000
* John Rich, Son of a Preacher Man – 89,000
* Rodney Atkins, It’s America – 72,000
* Jake Owen, Easy Does It – 70,000
* Eric Church, Carolina – 66,000
* Randy Travis, I Told You So: Ultimate Hits – 59,000
* Randy Rogers Band, Randy Rogers Band – 57,000
* Pat Green, What I’m For – 54,000
* Willie Nelson & Asleep at the Wheel, Willie & The Wheel – 50,000
* Billy Ray Cyrus, Back to Tennessee – 29,000
* Jason Michael Carroll, Growing Up is Getting Old – 26,000
* Dean Brody, Dean Brody – 5,000
Today’s Recommend a Track focuses on those songs that remind us to “Keep on the Sunny Side.”
As I wrote in my review of the new Rodney Atkins album, I’m an optimistic guy. So while I do love me some dark and depressing country music, the songs that best match my personal philosophy are those that look at the brighter side of life.
Some of my favorites:
The Carter Family, “Keep on the Sunny Side”
The Grandmama of them all. This was released during The Great Depression, y’all.
Shania Twain, “Up!”
Rodney Atkins sounds about as optimistic as Dwight Yoakam when compared to Shania Twain. This remains one of my favorite songs she’s ever released. Bonus points awarded to this clip because it not only features Alison Krauss & Union Station behind her, but Krauss and Twain discuss deodorant and shaving during the winter seasons.
The name of the new Rodney Atkins album is It’s America, but it could just as easily have been called Rodney Atkins and the Power of Positive Thinking.
Pessimists, be wary of this record. You run the risk of abandoning your perennial half-empty glass and purchasing a lifetime subscription to Keep on the Sunny Side Quarterly. For an optimist like me, listening to Atkins is like discovering a new friend, one who shares your enthusiasm for looking on the bright side but has the added bonus of punctuating his look on the bright side sentences with fiddles and steel guitar.
I can’t remember the last time I smiled so many times while listening to a new country record. In the opener, “Tell a Country Boy”, I grinned when he described a country boy as someone who will “always take his time, if you give him a choice.” As “Chasing Girls” progressed from chasing the girls you’re suiting to chasing the girls you’ve fathered, I laughed out loud as he pleaded with his three year-old daughter, “Don’t let that dog lick you in the mouth!”
And even though I’ve been a frustrated out-of-towner stuck behind a tractor on a one-lane road in Alabama, I couldn’t help but smirk at his celebration of his “Friends with Tractors” who “are good at slowing speeders down when they pass through from out of town.”