The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [December 1992]

vince_gill_-_dont_let_our_love_cd_single

This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from December 26, 1992. In honor of my ongoing chart request archive, this week’s chart goes out to commenter jmartin103. Thanks for reading jmartin103!

  1. Vince Gill – “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away” +3
  2. Alan Jackson – “She’s Got The Rhythm (And I Got The Blues)” +3
  3. Garth Brooks – “Somewhere Other Than The Night” 0 (Since I don’t have the CD with this song on it, I have no clue what to grade this song. Of course it isn’t anywhere on the Internet and I haven’t heard it before so it’s not going to help or hurt the Pulse)
  4. Hal Ketchum – “Sure Love” +1 [Least Good Song] (It’s just more “meh” than outright bad)
  5. Clint Black – “Burn One Down” +4
  6. George Strait – “I Cross My Heart” +2
  7. Trisha Yearwood – “Walkaway Joe” +4
  8. Brooks & Dunn – “Lost & Found” +3 (One of the few B&D songs featuring Kix on lead vocals. I haven’t checked, does Kix still have more solo songs than Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line? Dead serious)
  9. Restless Heart – “When She Cries’” +3 (Probably too pop for 1992 but still a good song)
  10. Tracy Lawrence – “Somebody Paints The Wall” +3 (The George Jones version is obviously highly recommended as well)
  11. Randy Travis – “Look Heart, No Hands” +3
  12. Lee Roy Parnell – “Love Without Mercy” +2
  13. Reba McEntire – “Take It Back” +3 (Probably being a little gracious, but it is certainly fun)
  14. Sammy Kershaw – “Anywhere But Here” +3
  15. John Michael Montgomery Gentry – “Life’s A Dance” +4 [Best Song]
  16. Ricky Van Shelton – “Wild Man” +3
  17. Doug Stone – “Too Busy Being In Love” +1
  18. Tanya Tucker – “Two Sparrows In A Hurricane” +3
  19. Alabama – “I’m In A Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)” +4 (It’s a damn fun song with a good message. We CAN make them!)
  20. Diamond Rio – “In A Week Or Two” +3
  21. Little Texas – “What Were You Thinking” +3
  22. Travis Tritt – “Can I Trust You With My Heart” +2
  23. Chris LeDoux – “Cadillac Ranch” +3 (There’s a lot of big names that came from the 90’s, but ironically enough Chris was one of the first artists from before 2000 I ever listened to)
  24. John Anderson – “Let Go Of The Stone” +3 (The one, two, three punch of Tritt, LeDoux, and Anderson is just awesome)
  25. Wynonna – “My Strongest Weakness” +2
  26. Confederate Railroad – “Queen Of Memphis” +2
  27. Mark Collie – “Even The Man In The Moon Is Cryin’” +3
  28. Billy Dean – “If There Hadn’t Been You” +3 (Borderline +3. The production is a little too sleepy for my tastes)
  29. Suzy Bogguss – “Drive South” +3
  30. Wynonna – “No One Else On Earth” +4 (A.K.A, the better Wynonna song here)

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: +77

It’s getting a little cliché at this point, but there’s really not much else to say other than this is another great chart! A little bit of a step up from last week even if there still wasn’t a song here that outright blew me away. Even still, when you have artists like Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Randy Travis, Reba, Sammy Kershaw, John Anderson, Chris LeDoux, Wynonna and SO many more cranking out at least great songs, there’s not much to complain about.

As an additional note, I have to say that the 90’s charts are always my favorite ones to listen to and rank. Sure, it’s not perfect, but nothing really is. These charts are always highly enjoyable and bring tons of great songs that are a better representation of country music than a lot of the stuff we have today.

The Hodgepodge: Five Ways I Would Fix Country Radio

Alan Jackson

I don’t think it’s much of a secret how I feel about country radio. Anyone who has followed Country Perspective and The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music in particular know my distaste and at times outright anger towards country radio. At times they can get it right, only to screw up again. But one thing I have come to accept compared to when I first started to track country airplay charts is that I don’t entirely represent their target audience. As much as I want to hear Jon Pardi, Maddie & Tae and Eric Church get played on country radio, the person down the street simply prefers Luke Bryan and Sam Hunt. We all have different tastes and country radio doesn’t always deliberately play the worst music being released. Some people choose to listen to this music and I respect this choice, even if don’t understand it or agree with it.

But I think something all country fans can agree on, especially in light of what has happened so far in 2016, is there’s a clear lack of direction at radio and several other problems accompanying it. There’s a lack of traditional country music still, even if there has been some notable accomplishments by traditional artists on the airwaves this year. Most female artists continue to be ignored and older artists are still shunted aside. Not to mention there seems to be this never-ending chart clog, as every label desperately tries to push their new act so they can become established. That’s a lot of issues and it got me thinking of how exactly I would go about fixing this issues. And by fixing that doesn’t mean removing every artist from the airwaves I don’t like, as much as I would love to ban Sam Hunt from country radio. So after doing some thinking, I came up with what I believe to be five sensible solutions that would go a long way in helping fix country radio and turning it into something that can appeal to both traditional and modern fans.

  • Ban the On The Verge Program

iHeart’s On The Verge program looked like it could be a useful program at first for country radio. It seemed to promise to help up and coming, new artists at radio and give them a chance to make a successful career. Well after a couple of years of observing this program, I would call it an absolute failure. The only two acts to actually benefit from it and help them launch successful careers is Sam Hunt and Old Dominion. The rest of the artists chosen for the program haven’t really done much since being chosen. Even a quality artist like Cam has failed to produce a hit since “Burning House” was chosen for the program. Maren Morris is struggling right now at radio with “80s Mercedes” after “My Church” was chosen for On The Verge and she’s probably been one of the biggest breakouts recently in country music. It reminds me similarly of A Thousand Horses with “(This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” stalling out after “Smoke” landed them a #1 hit. The latest On The Verge pick though has really exposed this sham of a program, Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled.” She isn’t a new artist by any stretch and has had plenty of time to establish a career. Alaina is undoubtedly a talented artist, but this is not the way you build her career up because I don’t see the followup to this netting her another hit and establishing her as a star.

The whole situation with On The Verge is very forced and inorganic. It represents a problem that has been plaguing country radio, which is why I would end it effective immediately. It’s not creating stars and it no longer serves a purpose. Why continue to run something that is ineffective and only strokes the egos of label executives? It’s just causing problems and getting the hopes of young artists and their fans. You can’t force radio and people to like a song, no matter how hard you push it down their throats. Speaking of which…

  • A Song Can Only Be On The Airplay Charts for 25 Weeks at Max

This solution is 100% directed at labels pushing the likes of Chase Bryant and Canaan Smith down our throats when nobody cares about them and their music. Just look at the chart right now and you can find songs that have been on it for over 30 weeks. As glad as I was to see Jon Pardi hit #1 with “Head Over Boots,” I cringe when I see it took over 45 weeks to reach this achievement (ironically it took exactly 11 months). Chase Rice infamously pushed a song for over a year to reach the top ten. This kind of gerrymandering bullshit needs to end and that’s why I would cap the limit for charting at 25 weeks. This gives labels just over six months to push their single at radio. After 25 weeks it must leave the chart and go recurrent. I think this is a good balance between giving labels enough time to push songs, as well as account for slower growing songs. It’s more than enough time to determine the true peak of the song. If this type of rule were to ever be implemented I could just see labels crying this is unfair because they can’t push their newest project for 40 weeks. And to them I say this: Perhaps this demonstrates how you shouldn’t waste time and money on artists that simply don’t connect (looking at you Curb Records).

  • The Top 30 on Both Mediabase & Billboard Airplay Charts Must Contain At Least 10 Songs with Female Artists

Now this solution and the next one are bound to be controversial, especially since I just said that you shouldn’t force music on the charts. But hear me out. Tomato Gate did absolutely nothing to improve the standing of women being played on country radio. A bunch of words and think-pieces have been churned out, yet no viable solution has been put on the table. Having the same three female artists in the top 30 is not enough progress. So in my opinion the only way you reverse the discrimination of country radio against women is to implement a rule like this one. Radio programmers aren’t going to willingly change their ways, so you have to force feed it down their throats so they will comply. Women deserve a fair chance and this is the only way I can think of them getting it. Notice I say it doesn’t have to be songs by solo female acts, but it simply must have a female artist on the song. The reason I word it like this is because major labels aren’t equipped at the moment to have ten female solo artists on the radio. They simply aren’t enough to be pushed, but by implementing this rule it would force them to sign more female talent and more importantly push them to radio when they’re guaranteed to have a chance. Now I realize not all of these pushed female acts would connect with audiences and if they don’t, they simply fall out of the top 30 in favor of a new one. Nothing would be forced.

  • The Top 30 on Both Mediabase & Billboard Airplay Charts Must Contain At Least 2 Songs by Artists 45+ Years Old

While women have been the victims of sexism and misogyny at country radio, the other big problem country radio has always had is ageism. As soon as an artist gets older, they casted aside and ignored by country radio. This is bullshit. Alan Jackson, Reba and George Strait are all still making music and want to be played on country radio. There’s plenty of people who still want to hear them on country radio. I say they should still be getting played and this rule would force radio to continue to consider these senior acts. Why should Chris Lane be getting played over George Strait when Strait can outsell and outperform him in his sleep?

  • The Implementation of a Quality Assurance Panel

This last one is pretty self-explanatory, but might also be the most important. I would establish a Quality Assurance Panel for country radio. It would consist of ten people whose job would be to vote on whether or not a single should qualify for country radio. In other words, is the single country enough for country radio? This would eliminate pop carpetbagging and outsiders hijacking the format. It would also still allow for pop country songs, which many people enjoy and wouldn’t be taken off the airwaves. A strict checklist would have to be met for the song to get passed by the panel (instrumentation, lyrics, etc.). So while I’m not banning Sam Hunt off the airwaves, a quality panel would force him to either start making country leaning songs or get the hell out and go to pop radio. Kelsea Ballerini would be forced to incorporate more country elements into her music too if she wants to stay on country radio.

For the fun of it, I decided to apply my hypothetical solutions to the current chart. Here’s what the top 30 would look like after removing all songs that would fail to be on the current chart and applying my rules:

  1. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls”
  2. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory”
  3. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime”
  4. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway”
  5. Miranda Lambert – “Vice”
  6. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be”
  7. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time”
  8. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All”
  9. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song”
  10. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute”
  11. Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice – “A Little More Love”
  12. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night”
  13. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry”
  14. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  15. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl”
  16. Michael Ray – “Think A Little Less”
  17. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”
  18. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  19. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill a Word”
  20. Eli Young Band – “Saltwater Gospel”
  21. Runaway June – “Lipstick”
  22. Mickey Guyton – “Why Baby Why” (“Heartbreak Song” is not country)
  23. Easton Corbin – “Are You With Me”
  24. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”
  25. RaeLynn – “Love Triangle”
  26. Ashley Monroe – “Dixie”
  27. Toby Keith – “A Few More Cowboys”
  28. George Strait – “Goin’ Goin’ Gone”
  29. Maddie & Tae – “Sierra”
  30. Margo Price – “Hurtin’ On The Bottle”

Let me know in the comments what you think. These are all hypothetical solutions and are closer to fantasy than reality. If you have any ideas you would like to add I would be glad to hear them.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow the following albums will be released:
    • Dwight YoakamSwimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
    • Reckless KellySunset Motel
  • Next week the legendary John Prine will release his duets album For Better, or Worse
  • William Michael Morgan will release his debut album Vinyl next week too
  • Wayne Hancock will be releasing a new album titled Slingin’ Rhythm on October 28

In Memory of Windmills Country

Country writer Grady Smith brought to us the unfortunate news this past week that beloved country writer, chart analyst and all-around wonderful person Windmills Country (real name Devarati Ghosh) has passed away. Her loss will be greatly felt throughout the country music insider community, as her kindness and insight was second to none. I know she influenced several of my best posts on this blog and inspired me to take on many challenging topics. While I never met her in real life, her advice and presence will be forever felt. May she rest in peace.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Born on the Bayou” – I’ve been digging into CCR’s catalog lately and they’re probably one of the most unsung acts of the 60s and 70s in my book. The way they blend soul, R&B and that swampy rock sound is infectious and memorable. You really can’t go wrong with any of their music.

Tweet of the Week

Yep! Also ties into last week’s Hodgepodge.

A Spot-On Review of the New Jason Aldean Album

all-of-aldeans-songs-sound-the-same

I’m still unable to listen to the new Aldean album, but I don’t have any plans to do so when I can anyway. According to people I trust on country music opinions, they all echo this above review: every song sounds the same. Based on what I’ve heard on the previews and Aldean’s track record, I’m not surprised. After all you don’t want to get too “songwriter-y.” Aldean is such a meat head.

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [Sept. 19]

the-honeymooners
A picture from the era that inspired this week’s #1 song. (Side note: Jackie Gleason is a great actor)

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls” -3 (Up 1)
  2. Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” -1 (Down 1)
  3. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” +2 (Up 5)
  4. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink” +2 
  5. Kenny Chesney & Pink – “Setting The World On Fire” -2 (Up 1)
  6. Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” -3 (Up 3)
  7. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” +3 
  8. LoCash – “I Know Somebody” -5 (Up 2) [Worst Song]
  9. Luke Bryan – “Move” -4 (Up 2)
  10. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” -2 (Up 3)
  11. Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” -3 (Up 1)
  12. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” (Up 3)
  13. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -2 (Up 1)
  14. Miranda Lambert – “Vice” +3 (Up 3) 
  15. Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be” +3 (Up 4)
  16. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” +2 (Up 2)
  17. Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream” +1 (Up 3)
  18. Old Dominion – “Song For Another Time” -3 (Up 3)
  19. Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) – “May We All” (Up 4)
  20. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes” -1 (Up 2)
  21. Keith Urban – “Blue Ain’t Your Color” -4 (Up 4)
  22. Granger Dibbles Jr. – “If The Boots Fits” -4 (Up 2)
  23. Brett Eldredge – “Wanna Be That Song” (Up 3)
  24. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -3 (Up 3)
  25. Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” 0 (New to Top 30)
  26. Chris Stapleton – “Parachute” +3 (Up 3)
  27. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (New to Top 30)
  28. Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice – “A Little More Love” -3 (Up 2)
  29. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (New to Top 30) [Best Song]
  30. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -25

The pulse improves six spots this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” -2
  • Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” -4
  • Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” +1
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer” +2

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry”
    • Really Carrie? Another song about murdering a guy? Your blood lust apparently can’t be quenched. You’d think after releasing “Church Bells” Underwood would want to switch up the theme for this new single (or you know release “Choctaw County Affair” as a single, the most interesting murder song on the album). But this is essentially the same song as “Church Bells.” The only difference is instead of the husband being an alcoholic asshole who beats women and asked to be murder, the guy in this song has laundry that smells like cheap perfume and red wine. So naturally the wife jumps to conclusions of infidelity and murders him in revenge. Sure, that’s a perfectly reasonable reaction instead of you know just confronting him. This isn’t a bad song, it’s just been done so many times by Underwood already that I’m just bored of this theme coming from her. She’s done this song better multiple times and releasing “Dirty Laundry” as a single is essentially beating a dead horse (which Underwood probably murdered in her song after smelling booze on it). 5/10
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine”
    • The music video for this song was released in January 2015. What the hell? Just thought I would share this tidbit with you. As for High Valley, if you don’t know who they are I don’t blame you. They’re a relatively new duo from Canada signed to Warner Bros. Records and this is essentially their introduction to American audiences. For those who follow Canadian country radio, you’re probably familiar with them. The shortest way I would describe them is Dan + Shay + some token banjos. At least that’s the impression I get from “Make You Mine.” The second comparison is Mumford & Sons, as this sounds like a cheap knockoff of their hit “I Will Wait.” Seriously go play these two songs side-by-side and everything sounds the same. The Walmart-brand folk production, the cliché love lyrics and sanctimonious harmonies all match. Two things this song does get right though are the uplifting, soaring nature that will undoubtedly hook some listeners and the palpable enthusiasm and energy conveyed. In other words, High Valley doesn’t take the song too seriously, which both hurts and benefits it. 3/10
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
    • How great is it to see this song in the top 30? I already gave this a full review, so if you missed it here’s the main gist: This song hooks me from the very beginning with its earthy, acoustic guitar play before giving away to some steel guitar. “Holdin’ Her” tells the story of how Janson grew up from his early days, fell in love and became the man he is now. Janson recalls in his younger days how he used to party and wake up in places with strangers he didn’t know and wondered how he even got there. He goes onto meet the woman he would one day call his wife in an underground pool hall and from that day on his life changed.The lyrics, which were written by Janson and James Otto, are personal, touching and honest. This is the type of country music the world needs. Not to mention the pedal steel guitar is present throughout. It has everything you want in a country song and it’s one of the best singles you’ll hear in 2016. 9/10
  • Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night”
    • The best word to describe Chris Young’s latest album would be interchangeable. That’s because every song on the album plays it really safe and doesn’t take any risks. It’s perhaps one of the safest albums I’ve ever heard, as Young comes off as absolutely petrified to go outside the box and try anything. The good side to this is you can’t really piss anyone off with this type of music. But I have to say I’m glad he chose the interchangeable song with Vince Gill on it as a single because I’ll take Gill in any capacity on country radio. Unfortunately we don’t get to hear Gill’s great pipes (at least outside of harmonies), but we do get to hear his equally great guitar play. The song itself is your standard love ballad about a guy staying sober on Saturday night instead of drinking his pain away. Young delivers his standard performance. There is some nice steel guitar though. Along with Gill, these two aspects raise this song just above average. 6/10

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Carrie Underwood – “Dirty Laundry” – Up 9 from #34 to #25
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” – Up 7 from #36 to #29
  • Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” – Up 5 from #8 to #3

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” – Out of the Top 30 (& Done)
  • Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” – Out of the Top 30 (& Done)
  • Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” – Out of the Top 30 (& Done)
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer” – Out of the Top 30 (& Done)

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Blake Shelton – “She’s Got a Way With Words”
  • Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice” (I think her label will fight until it reaches top ten and then let it fall. Consider it lucky to reach top ten, as radio programmers predictably don’t care for this song.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word”
  • LANco – “Long Live Tonight”
  • Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl”
  • Michael Ray – “Think A Little Less”

 

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s Pulse in the comments below. 

Review – Artists of Then, Now & Forever’s “Forever Country”

forever-country

So I’m just going to state right up front this isn’t going to be your ordinary, standard review. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever reviewed on the site and contemplated not even reviewing it due to its uniqueness. But I’ve been asked for my thoughts and it’s gotten a fair amount of attention at radio and in sales. Plus I love a challenge. So I decided to tackle “Forever Country.” To give background on the song, it’s been slowly hyped up by the numerous artists apart of it in the build up to its release. If you follow one of these artists on social media, chances are you’ve heard a clip of them singing on the song to give their fans a taste of their participation. This is all for promoting and honoring the 50th anniversary of the CMA Awards coming up on November 2. And it’s impressive the amount of artists that are on-board with this song. In the order they appear on the song, here are the 29 artists who take part in “Forever Country”:

  • Brad Paisley
  • Keith Urban
  • Tim McGraw
  • Faith Hill
  • Little Big Town
  • Luke Bryan
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Blake Shelton
  • George Strait
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Eric Church
  • Ronnie Milsap
  • Charley Pride
  • Dierks Bentley
  • Trisha Yearwood
  • Lady Antebellum
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Martina McBride
  • Darius Rucker
  • Jason Aldean
  • Rascal Flatts
  • Willie Nelson
  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Alabama
  • Brett Eldredge
  • Reba
  • Alan Jackson
  • Vince Gill
  • Dolly Parton

For the most part that’s a pretty impressive lineup and it does a great job of showcasing various eras of country music, although I would say it’s noticeably missing Garth Brooks (he most likely isn’t a part of this because the song is available on services he’s against such as iTunes, Spotify and YouTube, which has also kept him from being apart of other collaborations too). The song itself is a medley mashup of three iconic songs: John Denver’s “Country Roads,” Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” I really can’t argue with these choices, as they’re all classics in my book. Some might take offense to a pop country artist like John Denver being one of the three artists highlighted here (somewhere the ghost of Charlie Rich is surely pissed), but he’s arguably one of the best pop country artists in the genre’s history. “Country Roads” seems to get the most time in the song upon the first listens, but after further listens and paying close attention I found all three songs got pretty equal time.

“Country Roads” does lead off and appropriately the West Virginia-born Brad Paisley is the one who leads the song. We also get a lot of pedal steel guitar up front and throughout the song, which kudos to the organizers of this song for doing the right thing. One interesting moment that catches my eye is how close Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton are to each other in the song. Luke Bryan separates each of their solo lines and I’m sure the proximity of the ex couple was merely coincidence, but nevertheless I had to point it out. Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church and George Strait all sing near each other, which put a smile on my face. Willie Nelson getting a prominent spot in the middle was definitely the right call. I thought Brett Eldredge sounded really good when he sang his parts and made me wish he would go in a more traditional direction, as his rich voice can really shine when paired with a good song. Brooks & Dunn and Alabama, two of the most prominent groups in country music history, singing together is a special moment. Reba gets the honor of leading off the main part of “I Will Always Love You” and nails it of course. Then Alan Jackson and Vince Gill following makes it one of my favorite moments in the song. Carrie Underwood leading the chorus is the perfect choice, as she can belt that line like both Dolly and Whitney Houston have done it. Then various artists layer all three songs together to create a crescendo until the finish where the queen of country music, Dolly Parton caps it off perfectly. Whoever made the choice to have Dolly close the song is genius.

I think “Forever Country” is a special moment that perfectly honors country music. And unlike other massive collaborations like “We Are The World,” this song isn’t cheesy and sanctimonious. I think a lot of credit is owed to the producer of the song, Shane McAnally. It’s not easy task melding these songs and these performers together, but he managed to really pull it off well. Everyone involved with this should be proud of their efforts and I hope to see a live performance of this at the CMA Awards because it would certainly be a memorable moment. I’m not sure this song will be remembered years from now, but in the moment it’s a really enjoyable collaboration. It’s hard not to get emotional as a country fan listening to this and as a result makes it impossible for me to really nitpick or dislike.

Grade: Two Thumbs Up 

Video is here now and it is amazing! Check it out:

Review – Josh Turner’s “Hometown Girl”

josh-turner-hometown-girl

I think one of the biggest things missing from country radio nowadays is depth. And when I say depth, I mean depth in terms of star power. Country radio always used to have established A-listers, as well as solid B-level artists who you could always depend on to give you solid singles. This was the case as recent as the 2000s even and one of those solid B-level artists you could always depend on was Josh Turner. His music would never blow you away lyrically and were kept pretty simple, but most importantly listeners could easily connect with it. His strong vocals and the always leaning traditional instrumentation combined with this really made him a fan favorite of traditional crowds. Unfortunately with the rise of bro country and now Nashville pop, Turner was one of the artists that got cast aside in favor of the new flavors of the month. It’s now been four years since his last new studio album and his upcoming sixth studio album has yet to be announced. The first single off of it, “Lay Low,” was released two years ago and barely cracked the top 30. Now he’s back with the unnamed album’s second single, “Hometown Girl.”

Just by looking at the title I had a bad feeling Turner compromised with his label MCA Nashville. After all we’ve seen the same thing happen to Gary Allan’s latest singles, which are also off an album that has yet to be announced. David Nail and his label had to push like crazy to make “Night’s On Fire” a hit so he could release his new album Fighter. Unfortunately my suspicions of “Hometown Girl” being a compromise are confirmed. But fortunately it isn’t to the point of you can’t identify Turner (unlike Eric Paslay’s “High Class”). The instrumentation and production are a mix of modern and the usual Turner sound. In other words, it’s a very safe pop country sound. The song is about a boy looking for a “pretty little homegrown, hometown girl.” That’s it. Even by Turner’s standards, this is pretty lightweight stuff. Sure it goes into more details about the girl he wants, but it’s nothing ground breaking. It’s kind of annoying how most of the details he wants out of the hometown girl revolve around looks, but it isn’t anything misogynistic. Turner’s vocals sound pretty good as always and is probably the most interesting aspect about the song.

“Hometown Girl” is definitely not amongst Turner’s best singles. It’s nowhere close to great, but it isn’t terrible either. It’s just a boring, almost barebones song that plays it safe in all aspects. MCA Nashville will push the hell out of this song to make it a hit and at the rate it’s been rising on the airplay charts recently, it appears it should do better than the previous single “Lay Low” (which is a shame). It’s hard not to be disappointed about this song if you’re a Turner fan, but at the same time this is the (stupid) game he has to play if he wants to release his album. Hopefully it’s enough to appease his label and the album is a home run because I probably won’t remember “Hometown Girl” when looking back on the career of Josh Turner.

Grade: 5/10

Written by Marc Beeson and Daniel Tashian