Having only purchased a minute amount of mainstream albums the past few years, I have kept my ears towards some of the hopeful mainstream artists. Jon Pardi and William Michael Morgan have been the only ones I have pulled the trigger on and instead choose support the talent in Texas and independent arenas. I am not naive to think that all Texas music is the best thing since sliced bread. That mindset is laughable as I have watched fans protect some acts that are right up there with the bro-country mainstreamers. Hearing the first few tracks leading up to Joe Nichols new album Never Gets Old, I began to feel excited. Could this be the first mainstream purchase I make of 2017?
Well it’s about time I give you a short list of some of my favorite albums of 2017. This year continues to display the momentum the independent country underground has been gaining. This represents just five of my favorite albums thus far. I chose them for not only their content, but their marketability in some cases, which could impact the mainstream audience.
The farther that I have immersed myself into the world of Texas Country Music, the bigger picture I begin to put together. I went from moving slowly away from mainstream country to nearly exclusively listening to Texas and Red Dirt music. As I have stated on multiple prior accounts, I find it to be a consistently higher quality melting pot for music. It satisfies the variations in genres such as country, folk and southern rock without me having to change the station if I’m streaming a Texas Red Dirt radio station. However, I have noticed an attitude among some of the music fans that I find bothersome and confusing that I believe could hurt the spread of good music all around.
One of the most likable guys I have come to experience from being so invested in the Texas music scene, is Ray Johnston. First off, I really enjoy his music and he has an enjoyable light feel to his music. One of my favorites of his is the beautiful Watching the Lord Turn on the Lights which features Brady Black. The folky feel to this song creates a pleasant aura that will captivate you. From the soft plucking of the banjo to the dancing fiddle, this will not only make you tap your toes, but also stop and listen to his appreciation to the beauty and serenity of a sun rise inspired by hunting trips with his dad. You know, that daily phenomenon that we far to often take advantage of. We forget how important it is to stop and smell the roses as they say.
Well this past Weekend I headed up to my grandfather's house way up in Maine for a nice long weekend of relaxation and family time. While I listen to a lot of country music, you may have observed the name of this "whole thing" as being Pitstop for Country. Well, that hints that I am a fan of racing – in particular NASCAR and have followed it for most of my young life. I listen to Sirius XM NASCAR daily to keep up with all the news and commentary in the NASCAR world. On the ride up I listened per usual and on of my favorite shows, The Morning Drive, Jeff Gluck and Pete Pistone interviewed country artist Carly Pearce. For this weekends Brickyard 400, Carly had the honor of singing the National Anthem at the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this very special race.
As someone born in the very early 1990’s, I have witnessed the different stages of country music. From the high days of 90’s country with AJ, Strait, Chesnut and the like, to the early days to Kenny Chesney - I've heard it all. That also means I was a fan of country before the ”dark ages” of the pop infused rubbish. In the early 2000’s I was introduced to the music of Gretchen Wilson and never found her style dangerous to the genre. She is a woman with a strong presence, demanding vocals showcasing that she is here to party and still has the country edge to her style. Admittedly, there was a gap in the time that I listened to her music. Recently I decided to see what the heck she has been up to and realized that she had a new album. I think I checked in at precisely the right time.
There are times when you find a new artist and you start to listen to their work and you're captivated. Everything feels put together in a way that directs you to the lyrics - not passive listening. It just feels natural. You listen through and you have to listen again because you want to soak up the experience again. It's a sensation that is elusive on so many occasions, but when it happens, you know it. While listening to through some recommended music on Spoitfy, I saw a name I was unfamiliar with and the song titled peaked my interest. "Kentucky" by Thomas Csorba. While it provided the initial introduction, it's his latest album, From the Foxhole that prompted this writing.
Once a powerful part of our society, radio has experienced some changes that many likely never could forecast. It's one of those communications that is just a given. Radio. A simple word that unlocks the hidden channels to hear music, politics, religion, or sports at home, at the office, in the car. It leaves room for the imagination. Before the digital switch in 2009, some television stations even had their own radio stations and you could listen in to tv shows, news, etc. I vividly remember countless times driving home from camping on Cape Cod on a Sunday night in the summer with The Wonderful World of Disney coming through the speakers of my dad's truck. Kids nowadays have no idea what that's like. Some of us may be sentimental about radio, but should it continue to wither and die? Country radio especially has been experiencing some difficult changes with how we take in music.
The old expression, "An empty barrel makes the most noise" can define nearly the entire last decade of country music. As country music began it's explosive rise to "the cool genre" that everyone likes, the name dropping posers grew right along side it. These are the Brantley Gilberts, Jason Aldeans, Luke Bryans, and Billy Currington's of the world. The guys that decided to say "screw it" to their original listeners and headed across the street to whore out their music. So what exactly did they do? They started pushing out pop-country garbage and name dropping in efforts to somehow give themselves credibility. You shouldn't need to qualify your music to make people believe it's legit real country. Someone like Jackson Taylor has been pushing out real outlaw music for over 15 years and his music speaks for itself.
You know the old guys that get bitter about being shown up by the young guns? I have a sneaking suspicion that there will be some irritated folks out there when all of the Texas "youngsters" start to eat into the mainstream machine market share. If you have any sort of appetite for quality country music, you may be familiar with some names such as Dalton Domino, Randall King, Cleto Cordero, and Mr. Parker McCollum. All these artists have worked to hone their skills and re-imagine a neo-traditionalist style of country music exclusive to each of them. Parker in particular has risen to gain some serious recognition in a relatively short period of time. Hopefully he's used to it, because the first installment off his album Probably Wrong, is going to most definitely make some waves.
Just a Massachusetts guy supporting Texas and other independent country/Americana artists.
Check out my spotify for good tunes!