Re-Charting The Chart

Image result for we should be friends miranda lambert

Every week we will take a look at the top 30 Mediabase Country Chart. We will re-rank the songs on the chart based on the quality and overall enjoyment of each song. Next to each song I will provide the ranking that we would give it and the actual ranking on the Mediabase chart in parenthesis (From America’s Music Charts). At the end of each ranking there will be some thoughts about the current chart as well as any news or updates that are deemed important. I hope everyone enjoys this weekly post and feel free to comment/agree/disagree with anything you see.

  1. Eric Church ft. Rhiannon Giddens                     Kill A Word (11) 8.5/10
  2. Craig Campbell                                                         Outskirts of Heaven (28) 8/10
  3. Runaway June                                                            Lipstick (27) 8/10
  4. Chris Janson                                                               Holdin’ Her (22) 8/10
  5. Brad Paisley                                                                Today (7) 8/10
  6. Miranda Lambert                                                      We Should Be Friends (30) 7/10
  7. Darius Rucker                                                             If I Told You (26) 7/10
  8. Chris Young                                                                Sober Saturday Night (5) 7/10
  9. Chris Stapleton                                                          Parachute (24) 7/10
  10. Dan and Shay                                                              How Not To (29) 7/10
  11. Little Big Town                                                           Better Man (4) 6.5/10
  12. Carrie Underwood                                                     Dirty Laundry (12) 6/10
  13. Josh Turner                                                                  Hometown Girl (19) 5/10
  14. Jon Pardi                                                                       Dirt On My Boots (9) 5/10
  15. Luke Bryan                                                                  Fast (13) 5/10
  16. Jason Aldean                                                               Any Ol’ Barstool 16) 5/10
  17. High Valley                                                                 Make You Mine (20) 5/10
  18. Kenny Chesney                                                          Bar At The End of…(21) 4/10
  19. Blake Shelton                                                             A Guy With a Girl (1) 4/10
  20. Garth Brooks                                                              Baby, Let’s Lay Down… (17) 4/10
  21. Trent Harmon                                                            There’s a Girl (23) 4/10
  22. Maren Morris                                                             80’s Mercedes (10) 4/10
  23. Thomas Rhett                                                            Star Of The Show (2) 4/10
  24. Lauren Alaina                                                             Road Less Traveled (14) 4/10
  25. Granger Smith                                                            If The Boot Fits (6) 3/10
  26. Kelsea Ballerini                                                          Yeah Boy (18) 0/10
  27. Dierks Bentley                                                            Black (25) 0/10
  28. Dustin Lynch                                                              Seein’ Red (3) 0/10
  29. Michael Ray                                                                Think a Little Less (8) 0/10
  30. Brantley Gilbert                                                        The Weekend (15) 0/10

Score 137 +3

New To The Top 30: “We Should Be Friends” Miranda Lambert’s second single off her terrific album The Weight of These Wings. Even one of the lesser songs on her new album is one of the best on the country charts coming in at #6 on our chart. This is a fun song about the type of people that Miranda would like to be friends with.

Songs That Left The Top 30: “Blue Ain’t Your Color” Keith Urban’s next single will be “The Fighter” which features Carrie Underwood.

Quick Thoughts: “Parachute” by Chris Stapleton is done. This was the last single we will get from the critically acclaimed Traveler. I am hopeful that a lead single for the new album will be out soon. Besides that, there are still too many songs lingering on the charts that should fall off soon to make room for quarter 1 singles. Josh Turner is in the top 20 for the first time since “Time is Love” and a new album will be out March 10th. “Dirt On My Boots” is Jon Pardi’s fastest rising single and is turning into a monster hit on both the radio and in sales. Two people on this chart came out with new albums Friday (Lauren Alaina and Brantley Gilbert). I am not sure if I will be reviewing either one but if I do it would be Alaina’s.

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This Month In Review (January)

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This month I had the pleasure of reviewing some really terrific music. This was the first full month of the blog and I have really enjoyed it. I appreciate everyone who has read the blog and made comments. This piece that I am calling This Month In Review will be something that I do every month. I will summarize all the music that was reviewed during the month as well as talk about important things that happened this month in music. I hope you all enjoy this piece and if you have any thoughts/opinions feel free to share them.

Albums Reviewed In Order Of Grade

  1. Puxico by Natalie Hemby: This was an album that I really enjoyed by longtime songwriter Natalie Hemby. This was an acoustic country album that tackled small town life similarly to how Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark have done. The album was not perfect and could have done a better job with tempo but the songwriting as expected elevated this project. 8/10
  2. Duende by The Band of Heathens: I’ll be honest, I really did not know what to think about this album the first time that I heard it. Before this album I was not overly familiar with this group and after the first listen to Duende I was finding it hard to express how I felt. This was an album that grew on me with every listen  however to the point where I really enjoyed the Americana/Southern Rock/Gospel/Country group. 8/10
  3. Laws Of Gravity by The Infamous Stringdusters: The Stringdusters had what I think was the best album of 2017 thus far. The modern bluegrass band’s lyrics read like poetry from start to finish. The Stringdusters modern approach to bluegrass proves that you do not need to abandon what makes a genre great in order to evolve. 9/10

Songs Reviewed In Order Of Grade

  1. Drinkin’ Too Much by Sam Hunt: This was no way to start off the new year. On the first bloody day of the year my ears were defiled by this absolute filth. This just continues the streak of creepy, stalker, non country bullshit that MCA tries to pass off as country. 0/10
  2. Yours If You Want It by Rascal Flatts: This review caused a bit of a stir among Rascal Flatts fans but as always I just give my honest opinion. I actually think that I am much kinder to Rascal Flatts’ music than most other critics. There was a time when Rascal Flatts put out quality pop country songs but that ship has sailed. This is a love song about giving your heart to a women (if she wants it) but really is just a generic song that does not delve deep. 4/10
  3. A Girl Like You by Easton Corbin: I have always been a fan of what Easton Corbin could become but continue to be disappointed in the generic pop country songs that he is releasing. A Girl Like You isn’t bad but I just don’t think it’s anywhere near what Corbin is capable of. This is a song about how incredible it is that he got a girl like the one that he has. The lyrics are extremely generic but I find the music to be pretty catchy and I love Corbins voice. 5/10
  4. Burn The Bed by Candi Carpenter: Easily the best song that I reviewed in January. Carpenter uses great imagery to describe the betrayal of her husband who cheated on her. This is a great debut single from a really talented artist. My biggest complaint is the length of the song which comes in at about two and a half minutes long. 8/10

Think Pieces

  1. There is a Such Thing as Bad Music: In this piece I argue that there is indeed a such thing as bad music and that there are repercussions for the listeners of that music.
  2. State of The Country (Music That Is): Here I talk about what is going on in country music from the independent to the mainstream. I ask important questions about the industry as a whole and country radio.

Other Work

  1. Throwback Spotlight: Josh Turner “Another Try”
  2. Top Ten Songs: Turnpike Troubadours
  3. Josh Turner:Top 10 Songs
  4. Re-Charting The Chart

Easton Corbin Single Review:A Girl Like You

Image result for easton corbin a girl like youI’m not sure anyone was as disappointed in Easton Corbin’s last album It’s About to Get Real as I was. It’s not that it was even one of the worst mainstream albums of 2015 but the fact that Easton Corbin recorded such a generic bro countryish album was terrible. Before It’s About to Get Real, Corbin was becoming one of my favorite mainstream artists who had a great neo-traditional sound despite a few lackluster singles.

When I heard Easton Corbin was coming out with new material in 2017 my hope was that he would get back to a more traditional sound and his lyrics would be more substantive. What we get with “A Girl Like You” is sort of neither. “A Girl Like You” is a love song that has it’s share of generic buzzwords like tan legs, cutoff jeans, cold beer and the word girl. The song describes there being no place that has anything that is quite like this girl he is singing about. He wonders what he ever did to get a girl like her but fails to dig deep as to why besides her looks.

Now I have to say I actually don’t find this to be a bad song necessarily. I think it has a great beat/sound to it and even includes a bit of steel guitar towards the end. The other thing I like is Corbin’s voice which is just a great traditional country voice.

Do I wish Corbin put out a better song? Of course, but I don’t think this is bad especially for a first single off a new album. I don’t think country radio will have any reservations about playing this song and perhaps (maybe I am being naive) but maybe this allows him to release a good album after a well performing single.

Single Grade: 5/10

 

State of The Country (Music That Is)

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Lately I have been thinking about what is going on in country music over the last year or so. How much the mainstream and independent realms have evolved following the crash of the bro country era. I have also been thinking about how artists like Chris Stapleton, Cody Jinks and Sturgill Simpson are changing the game and proving that success can be had with or without the aid of country radio. Finally, I have been thinking about who is to blame for not only the bad music that is on the radio but the good stuff as well.

First I want to talk about the state of the mainstream at this moment. If you have been following the charts and country music news over the last couple of years you will see that the substance is greater than it was in the previous few years and more women are finding success on the charts. Of course, the quality of the music is still significantly off what it was even ten years ago but progress takes time. In regards to women, we currently have five that are in the top 30 of the Mediabase Chart something that should be seen as a small victory after the tomatogate fiasco. With all of this being said though, there are still far too many artists being pushed to radio that either have no talent or are not remotely country.

I have seen far too many artists gerrymandered to the top of the country charts just because they become an IHeart Radio On The Verge pick. What On The Verge does (for people that aren’t familiar with it) is that they basically guarantee that a song will get to top 30 at radio and usually even higher. The IHeart Radio stations give the song that is chosen tons of airplay and artificially create hits. Some of the artists to benefit from On The Verge include Sam Hunt, Tucker Beathard, Maren Morris and Lauren Alaina. In the case of Sam Hunt and Maren Morris, being chosen for this literally propelled them to super stardom despite not being country. In the case of Lauren Alaina being chosen meant that she was all of a sudden relevant on country radio after basically disappearing for years.

Next, I want to get to something that has been on my mind for a couple of weeks. One of my favorite things about having a blog now is not only the comment section in my own blog but the comment sections of other blogs. Oftentimes, interesting conversations emerge as a result of comments made. Well a couple weeks ago I was talking to my friend Leon over at Country Music Minds in his comment section as I often do. We got to the idea about the question of why labels invest the time and resources into launching these pop singers to radio when artists without airplay, whose music is of quality are performing much better.

Artists like Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and Cody Jinks are all proving that they do not need radio to play their music. Chris Stapleton is arguably the biggest star in country music despite not getting massive airplay. I know I have talked about this before but this shows just how backwards and behind country radio is in regards to the music that it plays. Perhaps that would explain why Cumulus and IHeart Media are both in danger of going under with massive debt and stock prices hovering around one dollar. In Sturgill Simpson’s case he has had a number one selling album and is nominated for a Grammy even though he has gotten zero radio play. How embarrassing will it be for country radio if Sturgill shocks everyone and wins a Grammy defeating Adele when they refuse to even play him on the radio? One of my favorite album stories of the year was Cody Jinks’ album I’m Not The Devil. Not only was it a great album that got critical praise but it also outsold Chris Lanes debut Girl Problems by roughly DOUBLE. That’s right, someone with no airplay sold double the albums that Chris Lane did despite having a number one song.

So with all of this success being had without radio and lack of success with radio why are labels still so focused on radio play? It is so incredibly competitive, time consuming and expensive to launch a new artist on the radio so why don’t these labels just launch sustainable country artists and if radio won’t play them tell them to screw off. I am not an industry insider so unfortunately I don’t have the answer however, I think it is abundantly clear that this business model is hurting practically everyone involved.

The last thing that I wanted to get to is who should we be blaming for the state of country music both mainstream and independent, both good and bad? It is very easy to simply blame an artist for releasing a bad song or bad album although it’s not entirely fair. The way that I see it there are three major parties in the mainstream that we should consider when assigning blame and that is the label, the artist and country radio. In regards to independent artists I would take away the label and radio parts and add album sales. So with this in mind it has to be understood that labels ultimately have control over the music that the artist puts out. Sure no one is holding a gun to the artists head but you have to understand the predicament that these artists are in. For many of them they have tried for years to get a record deal, have families or have had record deals but failed to have success with the music that they want to make.

When we assign blame for the music being played on the radio specifically I would blame the labels, the radio and the artists in that order. The label is deciding what artists to sign and what music will be released so ultimately the most blame should be put on them for the good and for the bad. The radio however is not forced to play anything. There is plenty of great music out there that they can play from real country artists but instead they chose to play Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan and Kelsea Ballerini.

My blame for the independent realm and the artists that aren’t played on radio is mostly on the positive side. We should blame Sturgill Simpson for the resurgence of music with substance, traditional country music and the surge in independent artist popularity. If I am being honest Sturgill is not one of my favorite artists but I recognize the impact he has had on country music and respect his music. He also inspired Chris Stapleton’s debut album Traveler which went on to launch a country music superstar. In a previous post I talked about how independent artists and artists who have record deals but don’t get radio play, continue to see massive success with album sales. You can blame them for putting out great work and you can also blame the state of country music over the last decade or so. If the music in the mainstream was better perhaps country fans would not search outside the radio for new music.

To sum up, I think it’s fair to say that country music has come a long way in the last year or so. We may never be able to get rid of all the bro’s and pop music but progress takes time. Independent artists will always be out there for making great music despite what is going on on the radio. Fans and artists no longer require that platform to get the great music out there. I think the industry as a whole needs to reevaluate their business model and start focusing on more sustainable growth of the genre. In the case of IHeart Media and Cumulus the clock is ticking.

 

Re-Charting The Chart

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Every week we will take a look at the top 30 Mediabase Country Chart. We will re-rank the songs on the chart based on the quality and overall enjoyment of each song. Next to each song I will provide the ranking that we would give it and the actual ranking on the Mediabase chart in parenthesis (From America’s Music Charts). At the end of each ranking there will be some thoughts about the current chart as well as any news or updates that are deemed important. I hope everyone enjoys this weekly post and feel free to comment/agree/disagree with anything you see.

  1. Eric Church ft. Rhiannon Giddens                     Kill A Word (12) 8.5/10
  2. Craig Campbell                                                         Outskirts of Heaven (28) 8/10
  3. Runaway June                                                            Lipstick (29) 8/10
  4. Chris Janson                                                               Holdin’ Her (24) 8/10
  5. Brad Paisley                                                                Today (11) 8/10
  6. Darius Rucker                                                             If I Told You (27) 7/10
  7. Chris Young                                                                Sober Saturday Night (8) 7/10
  8. Chris Stapleton                                                          Parachute (17) 7/10
  9. Dan and Shay                                                              How Not To (30) 7/10
  10. Little Big Town                                                           Better Man (5) 6.5/10
  11. Carrie Underwood                                                     Dirty Laundry (2) 6/10
  12. Josh Turner                                                                  Hometown Girl (22) 5/10
  13. Jon Pardi                                                                       Dirt On My Boots (13) 5/10
  14. Luke Bryan                                                                  Fast (14) 5/10
  15. Jason Aldean                                                               Any Ol’ Barstool (21) 5/10
  16. High Valley                                                                 Make You Mine (20) 5/10
  17. Kenny Chesney                                                          Bar At The End of…(26) 4/10
  18. Blake Shelton                                                             A Guy With a Girl (1) 4/10
  19. Garth Brooks                                                              Baby, Let’s Lay Down… (18) 4/10
  20. Trent Harmon                                                            There’s a Girl (23) 4/10
  21. Maren Morris                                                             80’s Mercedes (9) 4/10
  22. Thomas Rhett                                                            Star Of The Show (3) 4/10
  23. Lauren Alaina                                                             Road Less Traveled (15) 4/10
  24. Granger Smith                                                            If The Boot Fits (7) 3/10
  25. Keith Urban                                                                Blue Ain’t Your Color (6) 3/10
  26. Kelsea Ballerini                                                          Yeah Boy (19) 0/10
  27. Dierks Bentley                                                            Black (25) 0/10
  28. Dustin Lynch                                                              Seein’ Red (4) 0/10
  29. Michael Ray                                                                Think a Little Less (10) 0/10
  30. Brantley Gilbert                                                        The Weekend (16) 0/10

Score 133 No Change

New To The Top 30

Songs That Left The Top 30

Quick Thoughts: The chart essentially did not change from last week. No new songs entered the top 30 and no songs left the top 30. There are some songs hanging on by a string and I expect the chart to change rapidly in the coming weeks. 80’s Mercedes, Holdin’ Her, Outskirts of Heaven, Kill A Word, Parachute, Dirty Laundry, Road Less Traveled, Make You Mine, Blue Ain’t Your Color and Guy With A Girl will all likely leave the chart soon making way for quarter 1 singles.

Josh Turner:Top 10 Songs

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Josh Turner’s music has always connected with me in a way that no other artist ever has on as consistent of a basis. Whether it is Turner’s incredible voice, his traditional sound or the lyrics in his songs, you cannot go wrong. Josh Turner was signed by MCA Nashville in 2003 and has released 6 studio albums including the hit songs Why Don’t We Just Dance and Time Is Love. The 10 songs that I have chosen for this list are what I deem to be Turner’s best songs which include a mix of singles and album cuts. This is simply my opinion so I would love to see what everyone else’s top 10 songs are for Josh Turner!

10. Your Man: Your Man was the title track off of Turner’s second album. The song is about a man wanting to be alone with his women. He has wanted to get her alone and have a romantic evening. It was his first career number 1 hit.

9. Would You Go With Me?: Another number 1 hit for Josh Turner which also came off of the album Your Man. This is about a man asking a woman to marry him. He asks her if she is willing to stick by him through thick and thin and make him the happiest man in the world. There is some great bluegrass influenced instrumentation in this song.

8. Cold Shoulder: An album cut from Josh Turner’s most recent album Punching Bag about a troubled marriage. The man wishes that his wife would tell him what is wrong instead of simply giving him the cold shoulder. If she is going to leave him he wishes that she would just get it over with however all he is getting tonight is a cold shoulder.

7. As Fast As I Could: Showing up on Turner’s Best of Album this song is about the journey that it took to find the love of his life. There were some stumbling and bumps along the way but he found her as fast as he could.

6. The Longer The Waiting (The Sweeter The Kiss): A song that most people who are not Josh Turner fans would be aware of but this is an absolute gem. The song has a real throwback feel to it with the main character sailing away in search of treasures. He promises the women that when he gets back he will never leave her alone again and he asks her to wait for him. The time apart will make it that much sweeter when they are finally reunited.

5. Long Black Train: Turner’s second single from his debut album Long Black Train is a very religiously influenced song. The song uses the long black train as symbolism for the devil and a life of sin. It preaches the idea of redemption and finding meaning through god.

4. I Wouldn’t Be A Man: I Wouldn’t Be A Man is actually a cover of the song that was originally recorded by the great Don Williams. Turner sings about how strong the love is that he feels for his wife and how he wouldn’t be a man if he didn’t feel the way that he does for her.

3. Another Try: One of Turner’s best songs was a single from his Everything is Fine Album. The narrator recognizes his mistakes that cost him the love of his life. He promises that if he ever gets another try at love he will hold on tight and not make the mistakes that he made before which included not communicating and not showing his emotions. I did an extensive throwback review of this song and the accompanying music video that can be found here.

2. I Had One One Time: This is an incredibly powerful song about a man who has lost literally everything in his life. The man is homeless and he has lost his job, his friends, his home, his wife and very possibly his mind. He meets a man on the street that reminds him of his former self and the life that he used to lead back when he had it all. It is an incredibly sad song and a reminder of how we could all lose everything.

1. She’ll Go On You: Josh Turner’s first song also happens to be in my opinion his best song. This is a song about how all of the women in your life can eventually leave you and how you shouldn’t take them for granted. The first women to leave him is his daughter who grows up and goes away to college. He states that you should take every opportunity to play with her before she grows up and leaves you. The next women is his wife who could leave him if he doesn’t treat her the way that she deserves. Leave her notes on the refrigerator, send her flowers and be there for her when she needs you. Finally, his mother will eventually leave him when she dies. The message is to appreciate your mother for all the things that she did for you like taking care of you when you were sick and staying up late when you went out to make sure you were okay.

The Band of Heathens: Duende Album Review

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The Band of Heathens are an Austin based southern rock group with Americana, blues, gospel and country influences. The band formed in 2005 although only two of the original members (Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist) are still a part of the group. The group began as three individual guys at an Austin club called Momo’s. They would perform separately for awhile before they began to perform as a group. The bands first album which was self titled  went to number one on the Americana charts in 2008 and the band has gone on to release four non live records since.

Duende, The Band of Heathens first album since 2013 continues to push boundaries and show off the bands different musical influences. Duende which is a spanish word means a quality of passion or inspiration. You can hear influences from the first song on the record “All I’m Asking” which sounds like an Americana track. This one is about a man trying to change a women’s mind. He is admitting his faults and promising that he is trying to improve as a person. All he is asking for is a second chance in this relationship. “Sugar Queen” is a fun, catchy southern rock song.

Next up we have a song where the man tries to explain to the women he loves how much he loves her in “Deep is Love.” The lyrics are a little bit generic and cliche but what stands out is again the catchy melody. In “Keys to the Kingdom” we get a deep track about a women who is never satisfied with what she has. This plays off the saying the grass is always greener. The woman in the story is married to a great man who gives her everything that she could ever want. She decides to leave him for a man who can give her more material things. Like on every track Ed Jurdi sounds phenomenal here.

“Trouble Came Early” is a straight rocker with infectious electric guitar and drum play. There are also some gospel influences with a choir singing in the background. This is about a man who loses it all including his wife who is packing her things to leave him in the second verse. Another great song on the album describes the social media culture of today in “Cracking the Code.” The idea is that when we are online we have all these friends. We take pictures and post on walls but, in the end we are truly all alone when we get off our phone. The song also criticizes the lack of face to face human interaction. We are too involved in our machines to realize this.

The last two songs on the album are “Road Dust Wheels” and “Green Grass of California.” Road Dust Wheels is about families leaving everything behind in Mexico to come make a new life for themselves in America. It gives a voice to the struggle of Mexican immigrants who frequently get blamed for all the troubles in American society without context or thought. Finally we get to “Green Grass of California,” a great way to finish off the album. The steel guitar in this song is something I wish they would do in more songs on Duende. The group beautifully harmonizes this song as opposed to just Jurdi singing. This is about the struggles of different groups of people in California. This song has a very relaxing vibe.

I found this to be a really good album which continues the string of good albums that I have reviewed this week! The Band of Heathens remind me of Jamestown Revival a lot which is another southern rock/Americana group. What stands out in their music is the vocals of Ed Jurdi as well as the instrumentation that has an infectious sound to it. Not every song connected with me but, I didn’t hear any songs that I deemed as bad. There were many songs that I thought were great on this album so choosing the best three was certainly a challenge.

Album Grade: 8/10

Best Songs: All I’m Asking, Keys to the Kingdom, Green Grass of California.

Who Would Like This? Fans of Southern rock, Americana and Jamestown Revival