Not since Slackeye Slim’s 2011 masterpiece El Santo Grial, La Pistola Piadola have I heard an album embrace a Western theme and do it this damn well. I’ll admit, this album has really sunk in with me more and more with every listen, and right about now I’d say it’s a high mark for 2017 albums. Continue reading
Talking about songs is hard. Believe me, I’ve tried. I find it much easier to talk about albums and always have. Still, songs can’t be ignored. That’s what this feature is for. Every week I’ll try to round up some new songs that have been released throughout the week as well as provide my feedback on them. Get it? Got it? Good. Let’s start.
This week’s roundup includes…
Chris Stapleton – “Broken Halos”
Just released today, this is the first full taste of new music we’ve gotten from Stapleton since his performance of “Second One To Know” at the ACM Awards (and prior to that, we had to go back to 2015). Anyway, this isn’t the lead single (“Either Way” is), but it is the first track listed on the tracklist, so perhaps there’s some significance behind this choice. Anyway, this is a fantastic song. I like that it’s got a little (again, little) more tempo than most of the Traveller album, and I also like the acoustic bedrock this song rests upon. The songwriting is also really great as well, using “Broken Halos” to describe the people who walk in and out of our lives, mentioning how they teach us how to advance through life before they “fly away”. We then use that knowledge to pass it down to the next generation before we do the same thing. It packs so much into three minutes and yet it’s very well done. I guess if I were to nitpick with it, I suppose it could use an extra verse to really tie the story together, but again, that’s nitpicking.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS – For a fantastic opener to what looks to be a wonderful start to one of 2017’s (potentially) best albums.
Tyller Gummersall – “I’m Not Dead”
This is definitely for you traditional fans out there. For those who don’t know, Tyller Gummersall hails from Colorado and currently splits his time between Nashville, Texas, and Colorado recording the music he loves. Produced by Lloyd Maines, his new single “I’m Not Dead” is sort of related to Chris’ song up above. It explores the concept of mortality, only this time going the route of being thankful for what we have and being thankful we’re not dead. It’s got a great hook, and honestly, while the theme has been done before it’s just a message we really need these days, and with the jaunty melody and instrumentation supporting it, it’s a winner in my book. It might be a little *too* cheery given its subject matter as well as some of the lines, but it’s a damn fine song.
FOUR STARS – For a song with a message we all need right now.
Kelleigh Bannen – “Church Clothes”
In all honesty I’m not that familiar with Kelleigh’s music, but I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this song, so I figured I’d check it out. I like it. I’m not a fan of the constant pausing between each line in the verses, and it takes a bit long to get to the point, but the song tells a great message of hiding who we are so that the public doesn’t know what’s going on (in this case, the narrator and her lover are covering up their troubled relationship). Moreover, they both know that doing this and hiding what’s going on isn’t right. By the end you can tell that there’s nothing left between these two, and that’s a powerful way to end a well-written song.
THREE AND A HALF STARS – For a song that brings a valuable point and wraps it around some great writing.
Cannan Smith – “Like You That Way”
Sigh…does anyone even remember this guy? I don’t say that to be mean but come on, Canaan Smith is the epitome of your average male newcomer in Nashville these days. His debut album was filled with songs that chased the bro-country craze (save for the incredible “Bronco”), and his new single appears to do the same damn thing. The guitars are incredibly watered down and generic sounding, the lyrics are littered with putrid sexual innuendos, and for God’s sake, I swear he raps in one verse, and goes all reggae on the bridge. Like, what? The production is way too overdone, and I don’t think any girl wants to be called “Miranda Lambert” crazy. For starters, yes, she’s had some extreme songs, but still, it’s offensive, and do you really want a woman who will pump your ass full of gunpowder and lead (since that’s what your namedrop implies). Even Miranda moved on from that stuff. But I digress.
ONE AND A HALF STAR – For a song that’s in no way, shape, or form good, but also not as terrible as the worst songs in country music. It’s boring, forgettable, and even bad, but it’s not clearing that low bar, so congratulations Canaan.
I believe that does it for this week, gang! Check back next week for another roundup!
We all have guilty pleasures when it comes to music. I’m no different. Therefore, I wanted to have a feature that would be open and honest, detailing one song, album, or artist that I’ve been ashamedly enjoying. It could easily turn into a regular feature if I have enough fun with it.
My first candidate for this feature is none other than “God, Your Mama, and Me”, the love child of Florida Georgia Line and the Backstreet Boys. Now, first of all I have no problem with the Backstreet Boys on country radio. We’ve had worse, you know, like Florida Georgia Line. My history with Florida Georgia Line has been essentially the same as everyone else’s, only less hateful. I don’t hate “Cruise” or really any of their songs outside of “This Is How We Roll” and “Itz Just What We Do”, but I also don’t really like the duo outside of a couple songs like “Dirt”, “While He’s Still Around”, “Like You Ain’t Even Gone” and of course some more guilty pleasures like “Round Here” and “Music Is Healing”.
Well we can add one more song to that list, and you can all guess what it is. Now, whether you love or hate this is completely up to you, but for the life of me, I can’t understand how this song gets the same hatred that say, Sam Hunt’s songs or most of the worst country songs get. Yes, it does have the Backstreet Boys, but is that reason alone?
Perhaps it’s the lyrical content. After all, it’s so sweet and schmaltzy that it might make you throw up what with this guy telling his lover how much he loves her. It’s a complete 180 from their usual “you girl look at my truck and have some fireball” routine. I admittedly kind of like it though, mostly because you could see it either as a love song as I just described, or perhaps a love letter to their future children wanting them to know how much they’re loved. As horrible of vocalists as these two are, they’re at least pretty good emotive interpreters at that particular moment.
Maybe it’s the fact that it’s not all that country. I kind of like it for what it is. I especially like that steel guitar during the chorus…at least I think that’s a steel guitar? I honestly have no clue. It’s got that more clear, liquid tone to it, and honestly it could just be something electronic for all I know. Either way, I like it.
There’s so many reasons ultimately why I probably shouldn’t like this, but I do. Oh well, that’s the point of the confessional, right? We don’t have to agree, but let’s at least be friendly.
That photo up above is credited towards Saving Country Music, although we’ll be getting to them in a bit.
Streaming is a polarizing topic in the music industry, and it’s one that keeps getting bigger. We keep feeding the elephant in the room lots of sweets and goodies (making him grow larger) so to say. Anyway, the beginning of today’s discussion is linked towards this article from NPR, more importantly the effects of streaming and how it affects the industry, artists, and fans.
Today, a streaming service such as Spotify has 50 million subscribers (according to that article), including yours truly. I myself pay for Spotify premium, and I have to say I’m quite happy with it. I’m a music nerd, and now that I have my own platform to express these thoughts, I want to be sure I can hear all of the artists out there. This isn’t the same age where you had to hope radio played your favorite song, now you can pull it up when you like!
The problem with streaming, or at least the problems that people have voiced about streaming have never been about its existence. It’s awesome to have a network that allows people to listen to music whenever they want. I wish I had it as a kid. No, the problems have always been concerned with fairness in regards to how artists are affected by streaming. The traditional argument is that they’ve been treated quite poorly (putting it mildly).
This article in particular detailed how Spotify had recently teamed up with Universal Music to withhold offering certain albums to free users for as long as two weeks. Ultimately the plan is to hopefully get more people to pay for Spotify premium rather than just use it for free and suffer through the advertisements.
One quote in particular I thought was interesting (stated by Universal Music chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge) was, “Streaming is both the dominant source of revenue for the major labels”. I actually didn’t know it had grown that large, but according to research, it is.
Anyway, on to the Saving Country Music article. Now, I’ve been a fan of Trigger’s work for a long time, and to see him address this issue is fantastic. Trigger takes issue not with the people who pay to stream (like me), but the people who don’t pay to stream.
Really, it is just a mere $10 an entire month, and with the way I consume music, it should be a LOT higher. Maybe that’s a solution – raise the price a little. Not a lot of course, after all, streaming is helping the industry grow in a troubling time, but perhaps a slight increase to $15 would go a little way. Then again, it might also piss off the people who use the service as well, so my idea can probably be thrown out the window.
Anyway, much like Trigger says, it’s important to note that YOU STILL CAN BUY MUSIC! Typically if I hear something I like, I wait until payday to show my support if I can’t buy something right then and there. I first heard Shinyribs on Spotify, but today I coughed up $9.49 over at Google Play for a great album, and I don’t regret a thing.
One important thing to keep in mind with streaming that I want to address to fans is – please don’t abuse it. Yes, it’s nice, and I myself love discovering new music everyday. But if you do truly love something or want it to stick around, pay for it! I get it, money’s tight, but at least buy something to show your support. A t-shirt, a hard copy CD, vinyl, poster, anything! What’s better too, buy it directly from their website if you can. That’s the undisputed best way to show your support.
From a business standpoint, I also think it’s important for artists (for their own sake) to not try to “wage a war” on streaming. You won’t ultimately win. Streaming is fortunately and unfortunately here to stay, and pissing off fans isn’t a wise business investment, no matter how loyal your fans are. Fans are fickle (let’s be honest), so I get that it may be tough, but the artists who embrace it rather than fight it are the ones who will come out on top, especially if the music is you know, good.
To go off topic for a moment, one business tactic that I like seeing is the release of Chris Stapleton’s upcoming album, From A Room Volume 1. If you’re an iTunes user, click here. If you’re a Google Play user, click here. Do you notice anything? Probably not from simply clicking on the link, but for those who can see it, you’ll notice you can preview the entire record. Why did it take until 2017 to think of this? I don’t know about you all, but I hate it when I hear a pre-release track to an album only to be completely disappointed with the rest of it or else set up expectations listening to a few other tracks.
With the Stapleton album, I’m excited to hear the full album since the previews have given me a good taste of what’s yet to come. I’ve pre-ordered it and am anxiously waiting its release, and in today’s world where there’s something coming out every five minutes, it’s nice to be excited to hear something again.
Now you might say, “well, you can do that anyway on the release day! What’s so special about this”? That’s true, but why wait until your album has to compete with others on release days? It might lose attention to some other album that more people are interested in, and as a result you might get lose in the shuffle, so why not just give a taste of it early?
Granted, one objection you could formulate to this is that, by showing people exactly what they’re going to get it may also drive them away (if they don’t like what they hear), but really I do believe that the benefits outweigh the costs. If someone likes what they hear and wants to hear the rest come release day, maybe they’ll either at least buy the album in some type of format, or the very least pay to stream and do something for the artists. Who knows?
To end today’s discussion, I’ll share this tweet from artist Rich O’ Toole
Yes, please buy music, but if you can’t always do that, at least pay to stream. Support the music you love in some type of fashion.
I’ll admit, I am a little to the Shinyribs party. I don’t just mean with the album either (which came out in February). In general, Shinyribs is a brand new phenomenon for me this year, and damn am I ever glad I found them.
Shinyribs is described as a musical journey for Kevin Russell, much like this little website is a journey for me. Describing their traditional sound is extremely hard, and believe me I’ve seen others try. After hearing this album multiple times, I can understand that. After all, the band is pulling from soul, funk, blues, rock, country and all sorts of different things to craft a damn good sound. All in all it’s a melting pot that sizzles.
The most famous sell that I’ve seen of this album is that it’s incredibly fun, and really that’s what I have to say as well. Kevin and his band have such a knack for combining not only incredibly tight, fun melodies, but also blending them with the right instrumentation. The flute that can be heard around the 3:10 mark of “Don’t Leave It A Lie” combined with the horns is one example of where it fits together, and furthermore, those moments are all over this album.
That’s another note on this album – it is horn heavy. Now, those things have been creeping their way back into a lot of music over the past couple of years, so if they’re not your thing, you’ve been warned. If you’re like me and like them, you’ll most likely appreciate how much they bring to the table on this album. I particularly enjoyed the more rock leaning tracks such as “Trouble Trouble” and “Tub Gut Stomp and Red Eyed Soul” for really emphasizing that fun atmosphere. The latter in particular really has a cool 50’s sound to it.
That brings us to another note. While this album does dip its toes into a lot of older sounds such as Chuck Berry esque Rock & Roll, doo-wop, and soul, it never once feels stuck in time or “old”. Kudos to producer Jimbo Mathus on that end.
The slower songs such as “I Gave Up All I Had”, “I Knew It All Along”, and “Nothing Takes The Place Of You” showcase that Kevin himself is a very soulful singer with a ton of range and power. While the fun, upbeat songs are good showcases for the instrumentation and melodies, the slower, more serious tunes are for the vocals. I’ll admit, they’re not my favorite tracks on the record though. “Nothing Takes The Place Of You” is a very well put together track about a haunting love, but the other two don’t really have anything else interesting going on with them outside of the vocals.
I suppose while we’re talking about faults of this album though, I will say that, while there a TON of standouts, there are some tracks that also don’t feel necessary (namely the first two in the last paragraph but also…) such as “Hands On Your Hips” that isn’t quite as weird and “out there” as some of the best tracks here, or features as engaging as a melody.
So is there anything else to say? Let’s see… I did like the title track a lot for really establishing the overall theme of this record, alleviating stress from the real world. Of course I also have to mention “I Don’t Give A Shit” sung with Alice Spencer (a soul sister) which is really the poster child for this entire album and arguably the best song on this entire record. Actually, the latter half of this album is particularly strong. “Ambulance” is just flat out weird and crazy…and I love it (sidenote though, how can you deliver the medicine if you yourself are in an ambulance?). Also, “The Cross Is Boss” is a fun song that yes, is religious (I know it alienates some people. As a man of faith I usually like these songs), but is also very fun and engaging. I’ve said that a lot haven’t I?
FOUR STARS – For an album with a ton of heart and character in an age where we need it. I’ll admit, this album may need time to grow on you as it did with me. But honestly, it’s too damn fun not to like.
As I sat in the office wondering what to write about for today (at the time it would have been considered the next day), and nothing had hit me for awhile. A “review”? No, I don’t really want to go down that avenue. A piece about some of my favorite artists? No, too hard to narrow down. So what?
Well, it hit as I was driving home from work last night. I was tired admittedly, and while I don’t often like to turn on my radio these days, I needed it to stay awake. So I flicked the dial – just kidding, in this day and age it’s “pushing a button”, and what song played? The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two”, and then I thought to myself, “I’ve got an idea”.
There have been numerous thinkpieces citing the Band Perry’s almighty fall from grace, and I’m late in covering all of that, but that’s not what this is about anyway. Really, I just want to have a place to say, “I miss you, Band Perry”. As someone who enjoys a good rootsy country sound, this band was providing something different from the mainstream when they arrived onto the scene. “Hip To My Heart” wasn’t all that special, but the remaining singles from their debut album all had a certain flair to them that was unique. Moreover, it showed a band with a ton of promise.
2012’s Pioneer seems to draw ire from the traditional crowd (and even some hardcore Band Perry fans). Personally, I found that the added pop-rock textures contributed to their signature roots sound instead of detracted from it. The title track may have been one of my favorite songs of 2013, and “Better Dig Two” had such a creepy, malicious tone to it that I couldn’t believe it was a huge hit in 2012! It also goes to show how far country radio has slipped away since 2012, but that’s another discussion for another time and place.
It wasn’t even like the music was simply good, they were also having some tremendous success with it as well! One might argue that their cover of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” hindered their success by peaking at #30 on the Billboard Country Airplay charts, but come on, that was a song merely intended to draw promotion for the I’ll Be Me movie. The point is, this band was red hot.
And then “Live Forever” happened. It’s sort of like when your child, a promising architect decides that he’s happy working forever at the local 7-11. Yeah, you’ll go far with that Bobby. Way to let Mom and Dad down. Jokes aside, it wasn’t that the band wanted to push their love for Pop even further. After all, we all got a taste of that on their Pioneer album. It was admittedly disappointing to hear the direction the band wanted to go in as a fan, but still, I didn’t want to begrudge them any success they desired.
But then it became more than just the music. That changed, yes, but so did their attire, and worst of all their attitudes did as well. It’s no surprise Scott Borchetta didn’t want anything to do with them. They were completely off their rockers.
Ever since then, they haven’t been the same at all. “Comeback Kid” was an incredibly offensive double set of middle fingers towards their fans, and their new song “Stay In The Dark” isn’t terrible, but it’s so lifeless.
As I sit and type this, I’m listening to some of my favorite songs of theirs like “Pioneer”, “Better Dig Two”, “All Your Life”, and especially their cover of “Gentle On My Mind” and wondering what happened. They went from a family band to looking like the Simpsons, and now it seems they’re in their goth stage. Again, all of the best words about this band have been said by others. This is just another letter from a former fan.
I’m not angry as I type this. Again, I don’t begrudge anyone their success. I’m just disappointed as a fan, because while we’ve had artists we all love fall from grace, normally it’s because of label politics. It’s rare that the band kills their career all by themselves just as the Band Perry had.
Ah, this is exciting. After playing around with WordPress for a little bit (and getting delightfully lost in customizing this website), I am proud to announce the grand opening of The Whippoorwill. What is it you might ask?
I’ve always wanted to have an outlet to express my own thoughts on certain things in life, and what I am going to use this outlet for is music. What kind of music you say? Well, predominantly Country music I would suppose, however I wouldn’t rule out other stuff as of yet.
So who am I anyway? Well, I am Jason Little, and I hail from the greater Pennsylvania area. As you can tell by the website image (or logo), I do have a love for birds. There’s just something so magical about being able to fly away anytime you want to, unbound by shackles, and able to escape anything you want to. The thought of naming this website what it is came after revisiting southern-rock group Blackberry Smoke’s 2012 The Whippoorwill album. I’ve kept saying eventually I would go ahead and make one of these, however time just kept getting away from me.
Therefore, I decided to conquer time and be like my little bird friend up above – unbound by shackles and free to do as I please. I’ve certainly got some thoughts concerning the music industry and the artists involved, so now it’s time to actually share them.
I am not sure what else to say to all of you. If any of you eventually find this and have questions, don’t be afraid to drop a comment below! Moreover, you can connect with me on the following social media platforms: Twitter and Facebook.
I thank you all for reading this post, and I hope that this turns into something magical for both of us!