The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [Dec. 6]

Every week I take a look at the current top ten country songs on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and give each song either a +1, a -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top ten country songs, with the highest possible score being a +10 and the lowest possible score being a -10. The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. To see the full list of hot country songs for this week, click here. Let’s take a look at this week’s top ten.

  1. Carrie Underwood – “Something In The Water” +1
  2. Tim McGraw – “Shotgun Rider” +1
  3. Keith Urban – “Somewhere In My Car” -1
  4. Sam Hunt – “Leave The Night On” -1
  5. Maddie & Tae – “Girl In A Country Song” +1
  6. Little Big Town – “Day Drinking” -1
  7. Brad Paisley – “Perfect Storm” +1
  8. Blake Shelton – “Neon Light” 0
  9. Frankie Ballard – “Sunshine & Whiskey” -1
  10. Jason Aldean – “Burnin’ It Down” -1

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -1

The pulse once again remains at -1. The top ten however has finally changed after three straight weeks of the same songs. Florida Georgia Line’s “Dirt” fell out as expected and is replaced by Brad Paisley’s “Perfect Storm.” This was a song after further thinking that I realized I was too tough on in my original review of it. And I’ll take Paisley over Florida Georgia Line any day, even the newer Paisley music. With it being Black Friday and Christmas shopping season, the top ten rankings should continue to fluctuate through the rest of 2014.

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Country Music Video Roundup: Bowen, First Aid Kit, LaRue & Paslay

Wade Bowen – “When I Woke Up Today”

One of the many solid songs from Wade Bowen’s new, great self-titled album. Bowen’s music videos always do a great job of telling a story for the song and this one is no different.

Click here to read review of Wade Bowen’s self-titled album. 

First Aid Kit – “America” (Cover)

Is there anything this Swedish duo can’t sing? This is a cover of Paul Simon’s iconic “America” and of course they hit a home run with it. Just like Bowen, these two always do a great job with their music videos too. If you haven’t listened to their album Stay Gold released back in June (a candidate for Country Perspective’s Best Country Album of 2014), go listen to it as soon as possible.

Click here to read review of First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold album. 

Stoney LaRue – “Aviator” 

The Texas Country/Red Dirt artist has landed on a major label for his new album and has received high praise from country music critics, including Country Perspective’s own Derek Hudgin in his review of the album. Here’s the album’s title track from LaRue’s great new album.

Click here to read review of Stoney LaRue’s Aviator album. 

Eric Paslay – “She Don’t Love You” (Acoustic Performance & Interview)

I gave Eric Paslay’s self-titled debut album a solid grade and he blew me away even more when I saw him perform in person. And the video below enforces once again why I consider Paslay one of the better artists in mainstream country music. He talks about how the song came about and the effect it has on crowds when he plays it. This will be one of my candidates for Country Perspective’s Best Country Song of 2014.

 

Click here to read review of Eric Paslay’s self-titled album. 

 

If there are any other recent music videos from country artists you recommend checking out, be sure to link them in the comments below. 

Wade Bowen Concert Recap/Review

 

Wade Bowen
Wade Bowen

On November 21st, I had the great pleasure to finally see a Wade Bowen concert.  My first exposure to Bowen was hearing him sing alongside Will Hoge on “Another Song Nobody Will Hear.” After that I quickly got my hands on Wade’s catalog and I’ve been a huge fan since. So imagine my excitement to learn that Wade Bowen would be in downtown Oklahoma City that Friday night, just a mere 20 minute drive from my place. The show kicked off at 9:30 pm with about a 50 minute opening set from Chance Anderson, a Oklahoma singer/songwriter. Anderson did a great job setting the mood for the night and put on an enjoyable show. After a 45 minute break to reset the stage, enter Wade Bowen.

Chance Anderson
Chance Anderson

Bowen kicked off the show with his brand new single, “When I Woke Up Today.” Until that night, my only exposure to Wade Bowen’s live music were two live albums, but experiencing live music in person is much better, especially Bowen’s music. His voice is nearly identical to what you hear on his studio recordings; the man can flat-out sing. After playing “Trouble,” Bowen welcomed the crowd and explained that they had a full set list to play, including over half of his great new album. But this first talk with the crowd ended with him exclaiming let’s enjoy “some country music tonight” heading straight into his great protest song “Songs About Trucks.”

Wade Solo 2From there, Bowen and the band treated this crowd to some wonderful live music. He sang the definite standouts from the new album like “West Texas Rain”, “Watch Her Drive” and “Long Enough to Be a Memory” along with fan favorites like “Resurrection”, “Mood Ring” (which also had a brief “Ain’t No Sunshine” interlude) and the love song every Wade Bowen fan knows in “Who I Am.” He encouraged the crowd to get pumped up with songs like “Saturday Night”, “Patch of Bad Weather” and “When It’s Reckless.” He also captivated the crowd with heartfelt performances of his slower songs like “Walkin’ Along the Fenceline” and “My California.” Before singing “Hungover” Wade Bowen treated the fans to a short acoustic guitar solo. And as the main set closed out with “Beat Me Down” each member of the band got some spotlight time for solos, including a great drum solo!

In the encore set, Wade Bowen talked about how proud he was to have been able to play in the mother church of country music, the Ryman Auditorium, a few weeks ago. This led to an a-capella opening of the chorus of “If We Ever Make It Home” before playing that song in full. After that this Oklahoma honky-tonk bar enjoyed hearing Bowen’s new song, “Honky Tonk Road.” Here I thought the show was over, but the band had one more song up their sleeve: a cover of The Rolling Stone’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”! I really enjoyed watch Wade Bowen strut across the stage, doing his best Mick Jagger impression.

WB Guitar Pick
One of his guitar picks we got as he flicked them into the crowd.

Overall, it was a great show with some of the best modern country music you’ll find today. Wade Bowen is a great singer, and if you’re a fan of his music, then you couldn’t ask for more than to hear him sing his hit songs for about two hours. Maybe it was the venue’s acoustics or the audio mixing, but there were times it was tough to hear a line or two during some songs, but it didn’t take away from the show much. The stage was small, and at times seemed a little crowded with Wade and his three guitarist (2 electric, 1 bassist) standing, but the four men weaved around each other seamlessly throughout the night. As a singer, you can tell Wade Bowen appreciates his band and was more than happy to give them the spotlight during solos. For the most part the crowd was pleasant and not all that rowdy. In fact, there was an old guy with a long white beard front and center who, I bet, danced more than anyone else in the crowd. He was quite an entertaining sideshow. That guy had the time of his life, and the younger women around him even danced with him at times. This is how concerts should be enjoyed, in my opinion. If you enjoy Wade Bowen’s music, I think it’s worth catching a show of his at least once. Thanks to Wade Bowen and company for a great show!

Wade Full Band 1

Ranking Mainstream Country Music Artists: Grade B

After taking a look last week at the very best of mainstream country music, it’s now time to look at the artist I view as good, but not quite worthy of an A at the moment. If you missed part one, click here.

Keep in mind these rankings were entirely compiled by yours truly. It’s only my opinion. The only artists I’m considering in these rankings is mainstream country artists that are on major labels and/or still get radio time. I’m also including legends and acts that are too big to be considered independent artists. The way I determine these rankings is by looking at the overall body of work of the artist, as well as taking into account the most recent offerings from them. So bro country artists that have been churning out hit after hit will be lower on the list. If an artist made bad music in the past, but is now putting out better music lately that will help them. But that bad music won’t be forgotten either. One more thing: attitude and respect for the genre will be considered. The rankings will be determined by grade. Now I’ll take a look at part two of this series, the artists I feel are worthy of a B grade.

Grade B

These are artists that I feel are doing mostly good things for the genre, but it’s certainly a mix of different ways they land here. Some of these artists are new and could move up to an A grade if their next album is great. Some of these artists may have once made great music, but have taken a step back lately. Each one is different.

Eric Paslay 2

Eric Paslay – The self-titled debut album from the singer-songwriter earlier this year is pretty solid, including a Song of the Year candidate in “She Don’t Love You.” Paslay also impressed me when I saw him live in concert back in August. He has proven that he can write and perform great songs. Unfortunately he also wrote a few clunkers and not just his own songs. His two debut singles on his album, “Friday Night” and “Song About a Girl” are the two weakest songs on the album. He also wrote “Rewind” for Rascal Flatts and “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” for Jake Owen. If he can stay away from writing bad pop country and deliver a great second album, he can move up in the rankings.

Jon Pardi –  Just like Paslay, Pardi has been hurt by being associated with the wrong crowd at times. His debut single and introduction to the country music world was “Up All Night,” a terrible bro country song. He was playing songs right beside the worst of bro country. This tends to paint an artist in a negative light in my eyes. Luckily his next single, “What I Can’t Put Down,” proved he’s a talented artist worth paying attention to. His debut album is mostly solid and features some hidden gems that can surprise you. At best he can be Dwight Yoakam with his Californian accent and Bakersfield style music that will remind you of the 90s country superstar. I’m worried the industry will corrupt him, but I’m hoping Alan Jackson picking him to open for him on his 25th Anniversary Tour will remind Pardi that he’s more talented than those bro country hacks and shouldn’t stoop to their level ever again.

Maddie & Tae – The teenaged-duo burst onto the scene with their incendiary “Girl in a Country Song” and immediately captured everyone’s attention. They have followed this up with a four song EP that showed they’re capable of good country music that respects the integrity of the genre and yet still sounds fresh. If they can release a great country album next year, then they can move up to an A grade possibly.

Tim McGraw – The country music veteran dabbled with bro country and auto tune for a while, but finally realized how stupid this decision was. He went back to his old sound with his new album this year and we all hope he never releases another abomination like “Lookin’ For That Girl” ever again. A year ago I might have ranked McGraw at a D grade level, but he’s made up for it with a solid album and a solid single in “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.”

Ronnie Dunn – The former half of super duo Brooks & Dunn has been a solo artist in the last few years and has released some great songs. He’s also had some terrible album cuts. Just look at his last album. It was all over the place and even Dunn admitted to this in a Facebook post. Although it hasn’t been officially announced, Dunn confirmed the rumor via social media that he is signing with NASH Icons. So don’t be surprised if we get a new album from him sooner rather than later. Let’s hope he finds redemption on his next one.

Brothers Osborne – The duo’s summer hit “Rum” may have been viewed as lazy from some, but I thought it featured great instrumentation and the lyrics weren’t terrible. Their new EP proved to their doubters that they can make solid music and we’re still waiting on a full album from them, which is expected in early 2015. That album will determine if they move up or down in my next rankings.

Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley – A year ago Paisley would have been easily ranked at grade A. His 2013 album Wheelhouse was different, fresh and to me one of the best offerings from mainstream country music. Then 2014 happened. Paisley has done a lot of harm to his overall respect over the course of this year. First he released the mediocre at best “River Bank.” Then he announced he was experimenting with EDM on his new album, which outraged me. The missteps continued when he initiated one of the dumbest social media campaigns I’ve ever witnessed where he engaged in a faux battle with his record label over the release of his music. What was even sadder was most media outlets believed it and ate it right up. And then at last his album Moonshine in the Trunk, which I criticized more than any other publication. I’ll admit I was maybe too harsh on the album, but it was such a huge disappointment from an artist I had come to respect greatly over the years. I hope he learned his lesson, but who knows. We’ll have to wait and see.

Carrie Underwood – The pop country superstar is one of only two female artists in the genre to get a lot of exposure. Even so she still struggles at times to compete with the bros of the genre. Despite some bad pop country over the last few years, Underwood has always undeniably had a fantastic voice. Arguably her voice is the best in mainstream country music. Her best work came with her first two albums, but her newest single “Something in the Water” was pretty solid and reminded me she is a great artist.

Martina McBride & Sara Evans – Two veteran female artists that have been forgotten by radio and mainstream country music. Why else do you think Martina made an R&B tribute album here recently? The genre treats the ladies like crap and something needs to change. Another thing Martina gets credit for is inspiring the creation of the fantastic parody account, Fake Martina McBride.

David Nail – Nail’s music has never blown me away and yet has never offended me either. I’ve heard good things about his album I’m a Fire, but I haven’t got a chance to listen to it and review it yet.

Mickey Guyton – The young, up and coming country artist blew me away with her new single, “Better Than You Left Me.” She hasn’t released an album yet, so I can’t put her at grade A based on such a small sample and pure potential. If the first album she releases lives up to her potential, she will easily move up to the top.

That’s it for part two. Part three will be coming soon!

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [Nov. 29]

Every week I take a look at the current top ten country songs on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and give each song either a +1, a -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top ten country songs, with the highest possible score being a +10 and the lowest possible score being a -10. The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. To see the full list of hot country songs for this week, click here. Let’s take a look at this week’s top ten.

  1. Carrie Underwood – “Something In The Water” +1
  2. Sam Hunt – “Leave The Night On” -1
  3. Keith Urban – “Somewhere In My Car” -1
  4. Tim McGraw – “Shotgun Rider” +1
  5. Little Big Town – “Day Drinking” -1
  6. Maddie & Tae – “Girl In A Country Song” +1
  7. Blake Shelton – “Neon Light” 0
  8. Frankie Ballard – “Sunshine & Whiskey” -1
  9. Jason Aldean – “Burnin’ It Down” -1
  10. Florida Georgia Line – “Dirt” +1

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -1

The pulse remains the same once again. For the third straight week the same songs remained in the top ten and just a bunch of shuffling occurred. Carrie Underwood remains at #1 and Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down” fell seven spots in the chart to #9. Both pieces of news bring a smile to my face. More good news: Florida Georgia Line is almost out of the top ten. There are several songs rising fast from 11-20, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we finally get some new songs in the top ten.