Sunday Morning Time Capsule

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Like so many in the country music community I was incredibly sad to hear of the passing of Troy Gentry who was one half of the duo Montgomery Gentry. Now this isn’t going to be an obituary or a sad post but I just wanted to share how Troy and Montgomery Gentry as a whole affected me. As a child growing up in New Jersey I wasn’t exposed very much to country music in fact there wasn’t a country radio station in our market (New York) until I was 17. I remember two songs in particular that I heard on a car ride with my father when I was 11 after visiting family that made me want to discover more music from the country genre. Those songs were “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” (Brooks and Dunn with Reba) and “My Town” by Montgomery Gentry. I remember telling my best friend at the time about the incredible song that I heard on the radio and how he should listen to it as well. This was my first real exposure to country music, a genre that I never had given a chance up until that point in my life. Discovering this song and country music in general has been to me at least one of the most important parts of my life and has lead to me discovering other genres I love including Bluegrass and Americana. Thank you Troy Gentry.

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First Impressions

Hello everyone! It’s been quite awhile since I wrote anything for this blog but if after all this time your reading this I do appreciate it. There were some things going on in my life this summer that didn’t allow me to write consistently which is why a stepped away for a few months. I hope to be able to write a few posts a week from here on out and this is the new feature that I thought I would start with. First impressions is going to be basically a short reaction to recent song releases. It will be a way of learning about new stuff that was released as well as getting a brief summary of whether or not it’s worth your time. I will have only listened to the songs one time before writing my thoughts so my opinions could absolutely change with time. Hope you enjoy and thanks for coming back!

“Lions” Chase Rice: An extremely weird song that would sound more at home on an alternative rock album. Not horrible I guess but certainly not country.

“I’ll Name The Dogs” Blake Shelton: The new Blake Shelton song isn’t horrible and I can tell what genre it is! Just drop the moronic oohs and aahs.

“Who’s Your Farmer” Chris Janson: Generic, pandering, bullshit. Remember “Holdin’ Her?”

“I Wish You Were Beer” Dustin Lynch: Listen to Adele’s song “Send My Love” and tell me this doesn’t sound like a ripoff of that. The song is garbage.

“Better to My Baby” Whitney Rose: If you like real country music look no further than Whitney Rose. Another great song from the Canadian born artist.

“A Little Pain” Margo Price: In a just world this would be a hit on the radio. A song with decent tempo and something to say… Oh by the way it’s classic country.

“Sleepin’ With The Reaper” The Grascals: Review coming soon but I couldn’t wait. Possibly my favorite song of 2017 any genre.

 

The Interview Featuring Josh Ward

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Currently sitting at number 3 on the Texas Country Chart, Josh Ward finds himself in a familiar place. Josh is about to notch the 5th number 1 single from his most recent album Holding Me Together. Josh is a true traditionalist who represents the kind of country music that so many people have fallen in love with. This summer Josh will be joining fellow Texas artist Cody Johnson on his west coast tour. A special thanks to Josh for being the first person I have ever interviewed for the blog!

You list legends like Keith Whitley, Chris LeDoux and Merle Haggard among others as your musical influences. Do you try to incorporate some of their sound into your music intentionally or is it more subconscious for you when you write?

It’s subconscious I think, but those are the guys that have always inspired me, so I tend to stay in that same vein of country music.

What current artists do you find yourself listening to and drawing inspiration from?

I’ve got a lot of good buddies that are putting out great music right now and I tend to listen to them when I’m at home or on the road. Cody Johnson, Jake Worthington, Randall King, Dustin Sonnier, those guys are always on rotation on my playlists.

While on the rodeo circuit you honed your craft as an artist and saw how much the crowds enjoyed your music. Is that what propelled you into a career in music?

Yes, 100%.  I fell in love with being able to entertain a crowd, see them enjoy the show, getting their feedback and their support pushed me to where I’m at today.

At a time when much of country music has moved away from its roots, you have developed a classic country sound with your first 2 albums. How important is it to you to stay true to that sound?

It’s extremely important to me, it’s who I am. While others get told what to write, what to record, I have 100% control of what I’m putting out there, and what people are paying for.

How did your childhood growing up in Montgomery Texas influence your music?

I grew up with my Grandpa Hubert “Pop” and my Uncle JL, they raised me. They were always listening to country music…Merle Haggard, George Jones, Faron Young, Marty Robbins – from as far back as I can remember.

In August you will be touring with fellow country artist Cody Johnson for some west coast dates. How excited are you to get to tour with someone like that? Did you ever think that you would be touring with an artist like Cody?

Cody and I have known each other for 10+ years, we’ve shared many stages together here in Texas. This will be my first run with Cody out of state and we’re pumped about it!  It’s gonna get Western for sure! It’s always an honor to get the call to go out and perform with Cody and his band. 

“Whiskey and Whitley” is a pretty special song. Could you talk about how you discovered this gem?

I heard Kevin Denney perform it live years ago at the Blue Bird Cafe, that’s where I found the song years later when I ran into Buddy Owens & Kevin who wrote it along with Mark Narmore. They gave me the go ahead to record it on the second album, that was really cool. Then we released it and it went #1 and also earned the Texas Regional Radio Song of the year in 2016.  I was honored to give that song some life and get that award for those guys. It’s always going to be a favorite of mine, and the crowd loves it equally as much.

For people who haven’t gotten to see you live, what is a Josh Ward show like? What are some of the things you look to bring to your tours?

It’s “COUNTRY” – Songs you can dance to, songs you can cry to, songs you can love to, it’s a high energy honky-tonk show, I want to give the fans what they paid their hard earned money for and that’s a good time.

Your most recent album Holding Me Together already has 4 number 1 singles and may have a 5th soon with “Change My Mind,” so are there any plans for your next album?

Yes, we’re gearing up and the next album is currently in the writing and song selection process. I’m making a few trips up to Nashville when we get back from the West Coast Run, late August. Excited to get together with some great song-writing buddies up there.  We’re anticipating giving the fans a new album in early 2018.

 

Again a special thanks to Josh Ward for allowing me to interview him.

The Mainstream Report

Welcome to the newest weekly feature at Critically Country called The Mainstream Report. This may take the place of Re-Charting The Chart and I would love to hear your opinions of which you like better. This will be the test week. Below you can find my ranking of the top 30 with some news from this week. Find the full Mediabase Chart here.

Number 1: “God, Your Mama and Me” -Florida Georgia Line Ft Backstreet Boys

Most Added: “When Someone Stops Loving You” -Little Big Town

Biggest Movers: “All The Pretty Girls” -Kenny Chesney up 6, “If I Told You” -Darius Rucker down 7

New To The Top 30: “All The Pretty Girls” -Kenny Chesney

Next Number 1: Some milquetoast Blake Shelton song

A Texas Citing: Not top 30 but Aaron Watson and his fiddles come in at number 37!

Chart Discussion: I find it very strange that Darius Rucker’s lead single hit number 1 and there is still not even a title for his album. This song took a long time getting to number 1 (nearly a year) so it seems risky to release another single before the album. Florida Georgia Line scored another number 1 single with the Backstreet Boys proving yet again that country radio has no standards at all. Little Big Town follow up their flop “Happy People” with Jimi Westbrook taking the lead vocals. Midland slides into number 11 which is awesome but William Michael Morgan continues to struggle with “Missing” still only at 36.

Shining a Spotlight on Ol’ Wheeler

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Warning: Foul language

You won’t find a song on Wheeler Walker Jr’s sophomore album Ol’ Wheeler that doesn’t have an explicit content warning. Wheeler Walker Jr/Ben Hoffman burst onto the scene just a year ago with his debut album Redneck Shit. His brand of anti mainstream and traditional country music has been great to watch and he clearly fills a void in the explicit country music department. At a time in country music when artists are going more vanilla and less country Wheeler Walker Jr is giving the industry the finger and doing his own thing.

Of course with Wheeler Walker Jr there is plenty of comedy in his songs and that’s fantastic. However, what I love about Walker Jr the most are the songs that aren’t meant to be humorous. That’s not to say I didn’t chuckle a bit the first time I heard “Summers in Kentucky” but it wasn’t because the song was even meant to be funny. The shock  of some of the words used on this song will make you laugh at first. It’s an honest song without the bullshit. Two people that were in love when they were young drifting apart and lived separate lives. The woman had a couple kids and is settled down with a husband but her former lover still misses her and wants her back. He’s heard that she hasn’t aged well but then again neither has he. It’s not only the best song on the album but one of the best songs you will hear all year.

I like all the songs on the album for different reasons but again the songs that I love the most are the ones that aren’t meant to be humorous. “Fuckin’ Around” is another great example and I love Kacey Walker (Nikki Lane) for this track as well. The husband decides to come clean to his wife about his cheating while out on the road only to find out she’s been cheating on him also. This track was originally supposed to feature Maren Morris but I actually think Nikki Lane is better anyway. “If My Dick is up, Why am I down” has Wheeler singing about all the women throwing themselves at him now that he’s a country singer. Even though they are all over him and part of him likes that he can’t help but still feel down. It’s a song that may make you laugh at first again however when you peel it back and get passed the vulgarity it’s a very emotional track.

The lead single on the album was “Pussy King” and I think you can infer what the song is about. It was cool to hear the harmonica and New Orleans sound on this song which is also pretty damn hilarious. The funniest track on the album for me has to be “Finger in my Butt.” This one definitely gets the funniest reactions from people in my car who have never heard Wheeler before. The song is 1 minute in 26 seconds of hilarity.

Wheeler Walker Jr without a doubt followed up Redneck Shit with another great album. If you can’t get passed the foul language, you are missing the point. It’s meant to be funny while also including some stellar traditional country tracks that put modern mainstream country to shame. Great album.

Best Songs: Summers In Kentucky, Fuckin’ Around

Community Writing Piece Reminder (June)

Like every month I will be taking submissions for the Community Writing Piece. To anyone that is new to the blog or this feature, this is an opportunity for you the reader to submit any piece of writing/s that you would like. It could be a song, poem, story, really anything you want. The deadline for submissions this month will be Friday June 23rd. You can submit via email at criticallycountry@gmail.com or in the comment section of this post. I look forward to your submissions and thanks again for participating!

Well… What Do You Think?

Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about new features that I can add to the blog that would be interesting and stimulate conversation. This is a new feature that I will do from time to time when idea’s for it pop into my head. Essentially, this feature will be me shortly describing something that I have been considering and asking that you the reader tell me what your thoughts are about it. So without further ado…

For the first piece with this feature I would like to talk about politics and music. Obviously, country music is no stranger to artists with strong political opinions both liberal and conservative. Recently, ESPN announced that it would be bringing back Hank Williams Jr. to be the voice of Monday Night Football after a hiatus following comments about former president Barrack Obama. The Dixie Chicks have basically been exiled from country radio after Natalie Maines criticized former President George W Bush. I can go on and on with examples but specific examples aren’t really the point of what I am going to ask. I am curious how much an artists politics affects your listening habits in regards to their music. Does it matter if it was simply a comment they made or if they are constantly outspoken like Charlie Daniels is? Do you do it subconsciously if you do or does it happen without you realizing?

I know that at times I have been guilty of this. As someone with very strong political views who has a real interest in politics I would be lying if I said it didn’t factor into the equation. For me personally though it’s not difference of opinion that drives me away from certain artists music it is the artists that are nasty about it and attempt to shove their beliefs down the throats of everyone else. Whether or not it matters that so many of us allow these things to affect our listening habits is worthy of discussion in my opinion.