Josh Hedley’s New Album Mr. Jukebox Proves That We Can’t Have Nice Things

“Classic country is like a suit. Nothing about a men’s suit has changed in like 100 years. Classic never goes out of style. Something can’t be a throwback if it’s never been out of style.” –Josh Hedley quote

I kindly ask that everyone take a step back for a moment. Think about what has been going on in country music over the last couple of decades especially the last say five years. The complete erosion of the foundation of what makes country so unique and special particularly in the mainstream.

Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha currently have the number one song in country music with the disastrous pop song “Meant to Be.” Last year “Body Like a Backroad” an r&b/pop song was the biggest radio hit of the year. And I can go on and on with examples of just how bad things have gotten like I dunno the Backstreet Boys having a big hit on country radio.

Sure there are plenty of quality independent artists out there that do a terrific job at making genuine country music. But for so long, classic country fans and fans of older country styles such as countrypolitan have had very few options.

You see, country music is a genre of music that is so special in part because of its ability and desire to honor the roots of the genre. Of course, the idea of “real country” is not limited to a 1950’s style of music but gosh darn it, it is refreshing and cool to hear an album like this in 2018.

Besides the sound of country music, throughout country music’s history similar stories of love and hardship are seen throughout. Its because these ideas are timeless and do not change with time even as the sounds of the music and place in history does. It doesn’t mean that a song isn’t creative or innovative just because it draws from past songs.

I have seen countless criticism of this album across blogs, comment sections and Twitter, some of which is fair but some of it is not. The criticism is centered around but not limited to the fact that Josh Hedley is taking us back to a different era of country music with this album. This is from the past! People don’t make music like this anymore!

How exactly is that a criticism? Many people including myself criticize mainstream country music for not honoring the roots of the genre and for pushing the boundaries beyond anything resembling country music.

So when an artist like Josh Hedley comes along and makes a unique album (for 2018) with quality material, great vocals and an authentic throwback country sound he gets hammered? I don’t hear that same criticism of other traditional sounding country artists whose sound can be traced back decades.

Shouldn’t that same criticism in turn be applied to Jon Pardi for his current single “She Ain’t In It?” Doesn’t it sound too much like that George Strait sound from 20 years ago? But you won’t hear that criticism will you?

What it comes down to here is that there is a bit of hypocrisy afoot when it comes to criticizing Hedley for his throwback country sound.

Country music has evolved over decades while continuing to honor the past and in many cases, the music from many great artists sounds like it would find a place in other decades as well. The idea that this album can’t be creative because of its throwback sound is to me ridiculous.

And this brings me to the point of why we can’t have nice things in country music. No matter what an artist does they will be criticized in some shape or form.

Remember when the Zac Brown Band came out with their album Jekyll and Hyde and it included a number of bad EDM inspired songs? They were criticized as they should be but when they turned around and recorded a back to roots style album it was dismissed and ignored.

Maybe it isn’t an album of the year candidate, but Josh Hedley’s new debut album Mr. Jukebox is a solid, true country album that he should be proud of. There’s nothing wrong with honoring the traditions of country music by playing a style of music that has gone all but extinct.

More than one style of country music can be welcome at the same table. Is it so wrong that countrypolitan fans have an artist they can hold on to?

Josh Hedley should continue to make country music that comes so naturally to him. He can’t and won’t please everyone. Continue to grow as an artist and prove that there is an audience for this style of country music.

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7 Comments

  1. I don’t know if I’m the complete opposite I grew up listening to 90s and 80s country maybe even the early 2000s. My biggest problem with a lot of that early country music is it’s just plain boring I mean I have no reason to listen to a lot of that stuff again. I mean I know it’s probably blasphemy to say but I’m a country enthusiastic but I will say that Hank Williams puts me to sleep and a return to this style of music is probably much better then your Florida Georgia Line and others but it does nothing for me. I hate to admit this but I honestly meant to be if I tune out the lyrics I may still Bob my head along with it I can’t say a lot of this Josh Headley album I can do that with. I know a lot of people that maybe aren’t necessarily into music as much as the critics are and what not or even reading the blogs that tend to agree with me. They would rather hear an album like holding me together from Josh Ward than anything on the radio but they don’t want to hear the style fro. The start of country music. Sadly does it have replay value has been coming in to my true how can I say conflict with this year’s music. Has there been a lot of great country music produce this year absolutely did I listen to it twice No not most of it. It may not be the best way to say it but is it playlist Worthy. Could an average listener of country music listen to it with you and enjoy it. I think this is something that’s often not brought up. And unless you heard this 1950s through 70s style country when you were growing up this album is going to leave you with a whole lot of understanding that this is good country music but maybe not country music for you. I recorded most of this on my phone and it’s probably riddled with errors. Talk to text isn’t a science but that’s how I feel honestly. What I’m trying to say there’s a whole bunch of us who need something that grabs us more than this album that’s all

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    1. Country music really does include a wide variety of different styles, which were popular at different points in time. There were hillbilly string bands, western campfire songs, blues-influenced country from Jimmie Rodgers through Hank, Sr, western swing/cowboy jazz, countrypolitan, rockabilly, folk-country, Bakersfield, country-soul and country-R&B, outlaw, pop and disco country, country-rock, Nashville Sound, and on and on and on. And it’s perfectly valid to like or dislike some or all or none of these, and still be an avid country fan. Whenever I hear someone say they like only “real” country, I do sort of roll my eyes, because there’s no consistent definition to it.

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      1. Well there are certain artists that are objectively not country such as Sam Hunt, Walker Hayes and Kelsea Ballerini. I expect to hear real country instrumentation not computerized sounds and some kind of story. I don’t think that’s overly restrictive

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      2. “I expect to hear real country instrumentation not computerized sounds and some kind of story. I don’t think that’s overly restrictive ” That sounds fair. One can turn on the radio and hear plenty of “what country music is not.”

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  2. My bigger issue with this whole post is that what one might consider good classic country can be completely different then another’s. And even when we are digging through the past someone might put their finger down on were to stop before another

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    1. Ok so I’m going to respond the best I can although the first comment was a little confusing. The point of this post wasn’t to chastise anyone for disliking this album/style. There are some criticisms of this album that are perfectly valid even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. The point was that to criticize Hedley and this album strictly because you don’t think that by playing this style of country you can be innovative and creative is a poor argument. You also mentioned that if you didn’t grow up on this style of country it wouldn’t be for you and although that might be the case for you it wasn’t for me. I didn’t grow up on 50’s or 60’s country but I can appreciate the classic country style and this effort in particular. That’s really just a matter of preference though which of course is completely subjective.

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