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.

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.

Re-Charting The Chart

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). Songs that are in the color red are songs that are either recurrent or in danger of going recurrent soon, while blue is for songs that I predict will go to number 1 at some point. 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.

This is from last week. It failed to post not sure why but here it is.

  1. Zac Brown Band “My Old Man” (16) up 3 A
  2. Midland “Drinkin’ Problem” (14) up 3 A-
  3. Drake White “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” (30) down 2 B+
  4. Maren Morris “I Could Use a Love Song” (29) up 1 B+
  5. Carly Pearce “Every Little Thing” (28) up 3 B+
  6. Old Dominion “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart” (17) up 4 B
  7. Brothers Osborne “It Ain’t My Fault” (21) up 2 B
  8. Darius Rucker “If I Told You” (4) up 1 B
  9. Dan and Shay “How Not To” (5) up 2 
  10. Luke Combs “Hurricane” (3) down 2 C
  11. Kip Moore “More Girls Like You” (23) up 2 C
  12. Brett Eldredge “Somethin’ I’m Good At” (25) up 1 C
  13. Justin Moore “Somebody Else Will” (15) up 3 C-
  14. Tim Mcgraw & Faith Hill “Speak to a Girl” (18) up 2 C-
  15. Billy Currington “Do I Make You Wanna” (20) up 2 C-
  16. Blake Shelton “Every Time I Hear That Song” (7) up 2 C-
  17. Rascal Flatts “Yours If You Want It” (10) up 1 C-
  18. Brett Young “In Case You Didn’t Know” (2) no change C-
  19. Cole Swindell & Sellout “Flatliner” (13) up 3 D
  20. Dylan Scott “My Girl” (8) up 4 D
  21. Dustin Lynch “Small Town Boy” (26) up 1 D-
  22. LoTalent “Ring on Every Finger” (27) up 2 D-
  23. Thomas Rhett & Maren Morris  “Craving You”  (9) up 5 D- 
  24. Keith Urban & Carrie Underwood “The Fighter” (11) up 2 F
  25. Kelsea Ballerini “Yeah Boy” (24) down 14 F
  26. Dierks Bentley “Black” (1) up 2 F
  27. Lady Antebellum “You Look Good” (12) up 3 F
  28. Chris Lane “For Her” (22) up 2 F
  29. Brantley Gilbert “The Weekend” (19) down 12 F
  30. Florida Georgia Line & Another Boy Band “Boy Band’s Are Lit” (6) up 2 F

New To The Top 30: “Every Little Thing.” Carly Pearce is IHeart’s new On The Verge pick. I was first introduced to her when she appeared on Josh Abbott’s single “Wasn’t That Drunk.” From what I have read she has had a long difficult road getting a record deal with Big Machine. This song in particular is pretty good and tows the line between country and r&b without crossing it. I am fearful for what path she will go down after this inevitably reaches number one. Will she go in the r&b direction or more traditional?

Songs That Left The Top 30: “Body Like a Backroad.” I think I have made my feelings about this song pretty clear.

Songs In Danger: “The Weekend”

“Yeah Boy”

“Yours If You Want It”

“Hurricane”

“Black”

Quick Thoughts: “My Old Man” jumped 3 spots this week. There are a number of songs in front of this that could fall off the chart in the coming weeks so I continue to stand by my prediction of number 1. Brett Eldredge however continues a slow climb.

The Country Music Chat Featuring The Critical Abyss and Country Exclusive

Alex: So getting started I think we should talk about Leon changing up his blog. Would you like to talk about that?

Leon: I have a post on that soon actually. Believe me, it’s somewhat I wanted to do. I’ll post it after I clean everything up. It’s sort of a scattered mess at the moment

Alex: Oh Okay awesome. I’m just starting to get back in the swing of things after a few weeks with limited posts

Leon: Same here after my vacation week. I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to write about.

Alex: I have some catching up to do. My next album reviews are going to be Wheeler Walker and Dalton Domino

Megan: I think I’m the only one not on the Dalton Domino bandwagon. But looking forward to what you have to say.

Leon: I don’t think I’ll cover the Wheeler Walker one. I just don’t get how one would review it. Summers In Kentucky is a good song though. For Domino, sorry Megan, but it has really grown on me

Alex: The Dalton Domino album is taking time for me. It’s a lot to digest

Alex: And the Wheeler review is one I am looking forward to

Leon: Yeah, I get that. I don’t like every song but there’s a few I really love. There’s nothing I want to cover until June 9th. I’ve already started focusing on my mid year list actually

Alex: Megan seemed to echo the same thing on Twitter… Nothing grabbing her atm

Megan: I’m not sure how one would review Wheeler either, but I’m kind of looking forward to the challenge.

Leon: I guess it will depend, but I doubt I’ll cover Wheeler. Should be better than that new A Thousand Horses one though. I mean, 5 new songs and like 7 or 8 live cuts? What the hell?

Leon: And Luke Combs’ album seems like it’ll be boring as hell too

Alex: Luke Combs has been destroyed by the Nashville machine

Alex: It’s a shame I think he’s much better than this

Megan: Something’s grabbing me now for sure, and that’s Kasey Chambers’ new album Dragonfly. That’s out in the U.S. Friday. I’ll have my thoughts soon. I agree about Luke.

Leon: You’ve told me about that one. I don’t feel like covering a double album but I’ll give it a go.

Alex: Leon talked about mid year lists which I plan on doing also. Out of curiosity what is your favorite album (both of you) of 2017

Leon: So far? Well, I actually haven’t reviewed mine yet. I will on Friday though. For now, we’ll go with Sunny Sweeney’s ‘Trophy’

Alex: I actually have a different “favorite” and “best” album. Trophy is my album of the year and Tenderheart is my favorite.

Megan: There’s some filler for sure, but overall very strong. Not always the case with double albums. To your question, Alex, that honor goes to Way Out West by Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, no contest, without question, and I dare anyone to top it in 2017, both from a critical standpoint and as a personal favorite.

Alex: I MUST revisit Marty Stuarts album. I only gave it one listen when it came out and I just didn’t “get it.” But I think that type of album needs multiple listens

Leon: Why are you seperating favorite and best Alex? And Marty’s is excellent. Top 5 for me.

Megan: I would agree. Also recommend not being sober lol. Colter Wall is probably the closest second, but a couple songs on his hold it back from being my favorite.

Alex: Well I think Trophy is the best album of the year and my second favorite album. I think Tenderheart is great but not quite as high quality as trophy. However as a fan I enjoy Tenderheart more than anything else this year if that makes sense.

Alex: Another example is me loving Cody Johnson’s albums more than anything else while admitting there are higher quality albums from a critical perspective

Megan: Aaron Watson’s is a good example of that too.

Leon: Eh, I’d say go with what you love most man. I want to hear Alex, not a critic. But it’s your blog man. But I get what you’re saying.

Leon: Aaron Watson made my list actually, haha

Leon: I haven’t made it through once. Not worth my time.

Megan: That thing was awful, but it didn’t piss me off as much as some others. Just bland, boring, forgettable, not sexy, etc. Chris Young can pull off sexy better than that. His voice was almost unrecognizable as well. Ironic title because I wanted to sleep.

Alex: If you asked me 5 years ago I would have named him and Keith Urban is 2 of my top 5 favorite artists. After their recent material I just have no respect for their music anymore.

Megan: Don’t get me started on Keith, we’ll be here all night.

Leon: As a Pop album I didn’t hate Urban’s last album. I hate that he’s calling it country. With Chris I just hate it in general

Alex: Young’s last album was just boring as dirt. This album I think is going to be straight Bieber

Leon: I didn’t even make it through Young’s album and I think I reviewed it at 1 point. I liked his first 2 or 3 albums a lot, but ever since Neon bombed there’s just been no going back for him.

Megan: I’d like to discuss two artists I covered in May who haven’t received a lot of attention and definitely should, Robyn Ludwick and Kody West. West’s album came out in April, and I found it through SCM. I found Ludwick thrugh a recommendation from Jamie Lin Wilson. Both really cool albums, and I’d like to see them getting more coverage.

Leon: I still want to cover Kody since I heard the first eight or so songs. You know time though.

Alex: In regards to what Megan said, I unfortunately haven’t listened to either of those albums

Alex: I’ll have to add them to my list

Leon: There’s just too much music coming out honestly. Like I get it and all, but it’s so hard to absorb a piece of music as it is, let alone feel like you have a time limit. I’ve gotten pickier about the stuff I cover.

Alex: This month I was just so busy and I felt overwhelmed trying to cover everything and I just exploded lol

Leon: May was probably the best month so far for me personally in terms of finding albums I love. A weak year is slowly turning into a good year for me.

Megan: I think the excess of music is a great thing, I’m also slightly at an advantage there because I have Bri to help cover things, but I stopped giving myself time limits and things. Sometimes lots of albums hit me at once. Sometimes, like this week, there’s barely anything I want to write about at all. And Leon, I agree, May was a very strong month for me in terms of finding good music.

Alexander: I have actually been a little disappointed so far. I thought Josh Turner and Zac Brown would have been better than they were. And as far as Bluegrass goes, only one Bluegrass album has blown me away this year.

Alex: Last year there were a lot of spectacular bluegrass albums

Leon: I’m not saying there haven’t been disappointments. I find myself being frustrated because I often say “well this is good, but it could have been great if it did this, this and this…”. I’ve only given 4 9/10’s this year so far.

Alex: Right. I find a lot of albums this year are around 8/10 which we have discussed before.

Megan: Zac Brown Band was probably the single most disappointing album of 2017 for me, and the thing is, it’s a good album. It’s just I wanted so much more from it.

Alex: Yes. I thought it would be an album of the year contender and it’s just not. Very good but not great

Leon: Same, but for me it’s more 7’s. I liked Zac Brown Band’s album honestly. I get why people don’t, but I don’t know, it’s just highly enjoyable for me. I’ve definitely overrated a lot of albums this year though.

Megan: I’ve overrated a couple, and sorry, Alex, but for me, Trophy was one of them. It hasn’t held up like I thought it would. As for ZBB, it’s enjoyable, they’re just better than that.

Alex: I never said anything about it but I thought I would mention that that Andrew Pope album that you reviewed (Leon) I gave it a listen when it came out and I surprisingly did not like it at all. And no worries Megan, it’s okay if you don’t like Trophy but, I loved it.

Leon: I feel like I overrate a lot of independent albums. There’s just some things that are hard for me to shake. One album that I honestly don’t like as well as I did was Wrangled, so sorry Megan, haha

Alex: I liked 3 songs on Wrangled and didn’t like the rest.

Leon: Andrew doesn’t hold up either now. I’d go with a 7 for that

Alex: I would think Andrew Pope would be right in my wheelhouse but I just found the album boring.

Leon: It definitely need more variety in the tempo. I’ll give you that.

Megan: Surprisingly, I don’t like Wrangled quite as much, but it’d still be like a 9. Wish I hadn’t given it a 10, but things change. As for Andrew, that’s a 7 for me, but I didn’t cover that, Bri did, so I didn’t listen to it a whole lot.

Leon: I want to be more critical for starters. I hate that criticism has become synonymous with hating or bullying. Aside from that, I don’t know. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing now

Leon: I do want to make my own blog logo and hopefully pay for the blog so there’s that

Alex: I think I have the weirdest logo lol

Alex: And I also want to pay for the blog eventually

Leon: At least it’s a logo, haha.

Megan: I’m not sure. I want to cover more bluegrass and more older music, which we’re now doing the older stuff. I want to do more collaborative reviewing with Bri, we really enjoy that. I don’t have really anything too long-range in mind, though, as I’ve told Leon before, Country Exclusive has pretty much been one giant experiment in winging it, lol, and so far, it’s worked. We will take it one day and one song at a time.

Alex: Haha. I have this dream of doing a country bluegrass Americana podcast. I have gotten into podcasts recently and there aren’t any great country podcasts that I know of that talk about whats going on. I’m not counting Wheeler or Keleigh Bannen’s.

Megan: Same to you!

Alex: Same to both of u!

Re-Charting The Chart

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). Songs that are in the color red are songs that are either recurrent or in danger of going recurrent soon, while blue is for songs that I predict will go to number 1 at some point. 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. Zac Brown Band “My Old Man” (19)  no change A
  2. Midland “Drinkin’ Problem” (17) no change A-
  3. Drake White “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” (28) no change B+
  4. Maren Morris “I Could Use a Love Song” (30) no change B+
  5. Old Dominion “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart” (21) no change B
  6. Brothers Osborne “It Ain’t My Fault” (23) down 1 B
  7. Darius Rucker “If I Told You” (5) up 2 B
  8. Dan and Shay “How Not To” (6) up 2 
  9. Luke Combs “Hurricane” (1) no change C
  10. Kip Moore “More Girls Like You” (25) no change C
  11. Brett Eldredge “Somethin’ I’m Good At” (26) up 1 C
  12. Justin Moore “Somebody Else Will” (20) no change C-
  13. Tim Mcgraw & Faith Hill “Speak to a Girl” (20) no change C-
  14. Billy Currington “Do I Make You Wanna” (22) up 2 C-
  15. Blake Shelton “Every Time I Hear That Song” (9) up 1 C-
  16. Rascal Flatts “Yours If You Want It” (11) up 1 C-
  17. Brett Young “In Case You Didn’t Know” (2) no change C-
  18. Cole Swindell & Sellout “Flatliner” (16) down 2 D
  19. Dylan Scott “My Girl” (12) up 1 D
  20. Dustin Lynch “Small Town Boy” (27) up 4 D-
  21. LoTalent “Ring on Every Finger” (29) no change D-
  22. Thomas Rhett & Maren Morris  “Craving You”  (14) up 2 D- 
  23. Keith Urban & Carrie Underwood “The Fighter” (13) down 2 F
  24. Kelsea Ballerini “Yeah Boy” (10) down 6 F
  25. Dierks Bentley “Black” (3) up 2 F
  26. Lady Antebellum “You Look Good” (15) no change F
  27. Chris Lane “For Her” (24) down 1 F
  28. Brantley Gilbert “The Weekend” (7) down 1 F
  29. Florida Georgia Line & Another Boy Band “Boy Band’s Are Lit” (8) up 1 F
  30. Sam Hunt “Body Like a Backroad” (4) down 1 F

New To The Top 30: “I Could Use a Love Song.” This is a solid pop song from Maren Morris. A more mature dialed back song following 2 more uptempo/wild songs.

“Small Town Boy.” Instead of this maybe try listening to “Cowboys and Angels.” Believe it or not but 1 song into Dustin Lynch’ career he had a lot of promise. I just wonder when he’s going to ditch the cowboy hat like Chris Young did.

“Ring On Every Finger.” LoCash has no talent. What is it that they do well exactly? People criticize Cole Swindell but LoCash is significantly worse. They don’t sing well and the songs that they write are embarrassingly bad. “Keep in Mind” is their only song that I ever liked.

Songs That Left The Top 30: “Hometown Girl”

“Love Triangle”

“Bar At The End Of The World.” Kenny Chesney should mix it up with the next song and make it beach or alcohol themed.

Songs In Danger: “Yours If You Want It.” I stand by what I said. I think this is top 10 and done.

“Hurricane.” Luke Combs first #1 single is there 2 consecutive weeks.

“Yeah Boy.” Awe poor Kelsea not being gift wrapped a number 1 song for once. I feel for her, she’s a true artist.

“Body Like a Backroad.” Go to hell.