Ranking the Country Chart

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Welcome to the weekly ranking of the top 30 Mediabase Country Chart! For this exercise I rank each song in the top 30 based on grade and then give a grade for the top 30 as a whole.

  1. Tin Man: Miranda Lambert 9/10
  2. Broken Halos: Chris Stapleton 9/10
  3. The Long Way: Brett Eldredge 8/10
  4. Boy: Lee Brice 8/10
  5. Round Here Buzz: Eric Church 8/10
  6. Five More Minutes: Scotty Mccreery 8/10
  7. Make a Little: Midland 7/10
  8. I Could Use a Love Song: Maren Morris 7/10
  9. Ask Me How I Know: Garth Brooks 7/10
  10. Outta Style: Aaron Watson 5/10
  11. She’s With Me: High Valley 5/10
  12. I’ll Name the Dogs: Blake Shelton 5/10
  13. Girl Like You: Easton Corbin 5/10
  14. Yours: Russell Dickerson 5/10
  15. Like I Loved You: Brett Young 5/10
  16. For the First Time: Darius Rucker 5/10
  17. Light It Up: Luke Bryan 4/10
  18. Marry Me: Thomas Rhett 4/10
  19. Stay Downtown: Cole Swindell 4/10
  20. Female: Keith Urban 4/10
  21. The Rest of Our Lives: Tim Mcgraw/Faith Hill 3/10
  22. Legends: Kelsea Ballerini 3/10
  23. The One’s That Like Me: Brantley Gilbert 2/10
  24. Singles You Up: Jordan Davis 2/10
  25. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright: David Lee Murphy/Kenny Chesney 2/10
  26. Written in the Sand: Old Dominion 2/10
  27. All on Me: Devin Dawson 2/10
  28. Happens Like That: Granger Smith 1/10
  29. Losing Sleep: Chris Young 1/10
  30. You Broke Up With ME: 37 year old with 7 Kids 0/10

Grade: 47% F (140/300)

New to the Top 30: Stay Downtown: Cole Swindell

Left the Top 30: None

 

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Critics Have a Genre Dilemma

 

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Imagine you are back in school. Your history teacher has given you an assignment to write an essay about Paul Revere’s role in the Revolutionary War. The assignment was due on a Friday and so that’s when you handed it in. You did an admirable job and it’s the best essay you have ever written. There’s only one problem, you wrote about the Irish Potato Famine.

Had the assignment been about the Irish Potato Famine you would have easily gotten an A. You were thorough and explained the causes and effects of the Famine in great detail but you still got a D. Despite your great work, you didn’t do the assignment that was given to you. The teacher was kind to give you higher than an F.

The point of this made up story has to do with the dilemma that we now face in mainstream country music. As critics and fans, we are judging music under the country label that has no resemblance to country music.

Even when the music is good (which it often isn’t) it is usually mislabeled. If you are releasing a song to country radio and selling it as a country song then shouldn’t we judge the work based on that?

Take “New Years Day” by Taylor Swift as an example. I actually find “New Years Day” to be a quality song that is better than a number of songs on country radio. The problem is that it is a pop song, from a pop album, from a pop artist that is being pushed as a “country” single. If it is labeled as a country song it is not deserving of the grade I would give it had it been properly labeled. Also, as someone that listens to very little pop music I find it difficult to review something from a genre I know little about in 2018.

I have seen some blogs go about this problem by simply giving the song a country grade and a pop grade which can be a tricky thing to do. If it’s not a country song and actually requires two separate grades then shouldn’t the country grade be a 0/10? I mean you are admitting that the song isn’t country which is the whole reason you needed the pop grade. Another option is to just review the song/album as a pop review but if it is being labeled a country song and played on country radio should you be doing that? And finally, I have seen blogs just give the song/album a lower grade because it is not truly a country song. But, as I said if it’s not a country song how do you give it any country grade besides a 0?

To be clear I am not saying there is one right or wrong way to go about doing this. I think it’s a very tricky and difficult decision that any reviewer has to figure out for themselves. I do think that the conversation needs to be had now more than ever as country radio drifts farther and farther away from the roots of the genre.

2018 Plans

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Hello everyone, hope you are having a good new year! I am getting back into the swing of things and wanted to share some of my plans for this blog in 2018. There were things that I liked from 2017 and things that I did not. It was my first year running a blog so, some experimentation was necessary.

Community Writing Piece

One of the things that I really enjoyed was the community writing piece. For those of you that are new to the blog, the community writing piece was an opportunity for you the readers to submit your own writing. Whether it was a song, poem or story, you could submit it in the comment section or via email and your writing will be shared in a collective piece. Other readers will get a chance to read your piece/s and comment on the work. I personally feel this was the coolest, most unique feature that this blog had from last year. We read so much about other peoples art over the course of the year and don’t get an opportunity to share our own work. I would like to do this at least once a month and this month I will set a deadline of Friday January 19th to be included in the January piece. Depending on how many submissions I get will determine how often I publish these. The email is criticallycountry@gmail.com

 Spotlighting Artists/Songs

This is a new idea that I had in which I will spotlight an artist or song that is not getting a lot of attention. It will be an opportunity to learn about music that isn’t getting the coverage it deserves. This will also include interviews and music shared to me through PR professionals that I feel is deserving.

Ranking the Top 30 Mediabase Songs

This is a continuation of Re-Charting The Chart. The name was clumsy but I like the idea which is ranking the top 30 songs on the Country Mediabase Chart in order of quality.

General

Finally, in general I would like to be more consistent with this blog in 2018. There were periods in 2017 where I was unable to really commit to this blog and I want that to change in the new year. I want to continue to have great conversations with all of you whether we agree or disagree. The community is why I enjoy doing this and I thank all of you that contribute to the conversation. If you have any suggestions or comments always feel free to share them.

Congress is Taking Action Against Walker Hayes

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The year is 2017. Congress can agree on nothing and even with a majority in all branches of government the Republican party has had a dickens of a time passing legislation.

The country has been looking for something, anything to bring congress together and end this partisan divide and that is where Walker Hayes comes in. Middle aged father of 7 Walker Hayes has released an album so outrageously dreadful that congress has literally stopped all other business in order to attend to this crisis.

Reports have been coming out of Washington that 11 senators had to be rushed to the hospital over the course of the weekend after being exposed to boom.

Mitch Mcconnell made an impassioned speech on the Senate floor Monday in which he said, “This is too much! Where do we draw the line? How many innocent Americans can we allow to be subjected to this sewage?”

Every senator from both parties stood up and applauded the majority leader’ words. So what is congress planning on doing to combat the filth that has permeated out of Nashville? They have agreed in a unanimous vote to pass the Middle Aged White Guy Talk Singing Act which will likely send shock waves throughout Nashville.

Sam Hunt and his team could not be reached for comment however, it is expected that his days making “music” are numbered. The only question that remains is whether or not President Trump will sign the bill into law. His Tweets about the album have been extremely unclear and troubling (see below).

Tweet 1. Walker Hayes’ new album is the greatest country album of all time. He has already sold more albums than fake country little Georgie Strait ever did #MCGA

Tweet 2. Why is Hillary trying to stop the public from hearing the GREAT Walker Hayes album? And WHY ISN’T THE FBI INVESTIGATING THAT?! #MCGA

Tweet 3. Fake blog sites with very low ratings Farce the Music, The Musical Divide and Country Exclusive are trying to hurt my good friend @WalkerHayes. I’ve heard many people, good people say that those blogs r crumbling. They hate REAL COUNTRY MUSIC! #MakeCountryGreatAgain #FakeBlogs

Whether or not the President signs the bill into law, both the house and the senate have veto proof majorities and will likely override him.

As citizens we can only pray that congress does the right thing and ends this madness.

 

Fake News

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.

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.