The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [April 1989]

keith-whitley

This is the Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country  Airplay Chart 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 30 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 pulse 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 Country Airplay Chart from April 8, 1989. Since this chart came before 1990, I only have access to the top 25 songs. This means that the highest possible score for this week is a +125 and the lowest possible score is a -125. Once again, I am still wading through a ton of chart requests so this week’s chart is dedicated to reader Scotty J!

  1. Keith Whitley – “I’m No Stranger To The Rain” +4 [Best Song]
  2. George Strait – “Baby’s Gotten Good At Goodbye” +3
  3. Vern Gosdin – “Who You Gonna Blame It On This Time” +3
  4. Shenandoah – “The Church on Cumberland Road” +3
  5. Don Williams – “Old Coyote Town” +4
  6. Billy Joe Royal – “Tell It Like It Is” -1 [Worst Song] (His voice and the overall feel of this just don’t work for me)
  7. Hank Williams Jr. & Sr. – “There’s A Tear In My Beer” +4 (As an actual song it’s a +3, but considering the magic that went into this I have to give it its due.)
  8. K.T. Oslin – “Hey Bobby” 0 (Sorry, way too sleepy in the production and that “do you want to huh, huh” line just annoyed the crap out of me)
  9. Foster – “Fairshake” +2
  10. Roy Orbison – “You Got It” 0 (+2 for Pop though)
  11. Michael Martin Murphey – “From The Word Go” +3
  12. Patty Loveless – “Don’t Toss Us Away” +3 (Interesting production on this track)
  13. Lacy J. Dalton – “The Heart” +3
  14. Highway 101 – “Setting Me Up” +2
  15. The Judds – “Young Love (Strong Love)” +2
  16. Lee Greenwood – “I’ll Be Lovin’ You” +1 (Holy crap! A Lee Greenwood song that isn’t “God Bless The U.S.A!”)
  17. Baillie and the Boys – “She Deserves You” +3
  18. Randy Travis – “Is It Still Over?”+3
  19. Restless Heart – “Big Dreams In A Small Town” +2 (I wish the accordion was a little more prominent in the mix but still solid)
  20. Rodney Crowell – “After All This Time” +3
  21. Alabama – “If I Had You” +1
  22. The Bellamy Brothers – “Big Love” +1
  23. Barbara Mandrell – “My Train Of Thought” +3
  24. Reba McEntire – “New Fool At An Old Game” +2
  25. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – “Down That Road Tonight” +2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +56

This is certainly a good week, but I have to be honest that there’s more generic songs here compared to other past weeks. Nothing inherently bad mind you, just not really all that special. Of course, Keith Whitley was riding the top of the charts so what can I say?

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

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The Hodgepodge: What Song Defines Country Music to You?

willie-merle

It made it’s debut a few weeks back and now it’s back again. That right, this is an Ask The Readers Hodgepodge. It’s quite simple: I pose a question to you the readers and in the comments below we will discuss what our answers would be to the question. Sometimes it will be a yes or no question, but most times it’ll be something a little more detailed. This second Ask The Readers Hodgepodge will be quite subjective and should have a variety of answers.

If you had to choose one song, what song defines country music to you?

Guidelines:

  • This song can be from any era at anytime. Just be prepared of course to defend your choice, as someone will always be naturally curious as to why you chose a song.
  • There are no wrong answers, just like the previous Ask the Hodgepodge.
  • And of course feel free to pick songs for other genres if you feel like it, as we’re all music fans first.

 

As far as my answer for this question, the song I would pick that I feel defines country music is Townes van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty.” There have been many versions of this song, but I would have to pick Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s version as my favorite. The reason I would choose this song is it just has everything that a perfect country song should have. It was written by one of music’s greatest songwriters of all-time and performed by two of the best artists in the genre’s history. The song explores death, sadness and grief with some of the best storytelling you’ll ever hear in music. The instrumentation perfectly conveys the melancholy nature expressed by the lyricism in the song. To my ears it’s the perfect country song, defining the rich tapestry of the genre.

I would also highly recommend Jason Isbell and Elizabeth Cook’s version of the song, which is quite excellent too.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow William Michael Morgan will release his highly anticipated debut album Vinyl.
  • Also tomorrow the legendary John Prine will release his new duets album For Better, or Worse.
  • Aubrie Sellers new album New City Blues will be re-released through Warner Bros. Nashville tomorrow. “Sit Here and Cry” is going for adds at country radio on October 17.
  • Strap yourself in for October because it’s going to be a very busy month of releases, starting next Friday when the following albums are released:
    • Shovels & RopeLittle Seeds
    • Mo PitneyBehind This Guitar
    • Brent CobbSolving Problems
    • Matt WoodsHow To Survive 
  • Josh Abbott Band’s new single is “Amnesia” and it’s going for adds at country radio on October 17.
  • The Last Bandoleros released a self-titled, six song EP via digital services last week.

Throwback Thursday Song

Gary Stewart – “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” – I feel like a lot of week’s I’m picking too many well-known acts and songs so this week I wanted to find a deeper cut from the past. Stewart is sort of unsung when discussing the best country artists of the 70s, but he shouldn’t because his music is excellent. This is his biggest hit and one of my personal favorites.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial – So this is an album and group I’ve been hearing a lot about from fellow music fans and critics. It’s received widespread praise and finally I got around to checking it out. Well now I know why it’s getting so much praise. I’m not usually a big fan of emo indie rock, but the songwriting on display on this album is impeccable. Turns out Teens of Denial is the 10th studio album and 13th overall album by Car Seat Headrest and they’ve only been a band for six years. That’s insane! Check these guys out.

Tweet of the Week

The picture he’s referring to is John Prine hugging Isbell after he won Americana Song of the Year for “Something More Than Free” at the Americana Awards last week. I would be pretty damn happy to get a hug from a legend too.

A Spot-on Review of Luke Bryan’s New EP

luke-bryan-rehashed-bullshit

Luke Bryan released a new EP for his annual farm tour and predictably it’s not good. The only difference between it and his usual studio albums is here he thinks he can pander to farmers and the working people of America because I’m sure they see the millionaire artist who now sings about the clubs and dresses like a Nordstrom model as someone they can relate to (wanking motion). This listener above wasn’t fooled though and rightly calls him out.

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [Sept. 26]

Justin Moore You Look Like I Need A Drink

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

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -19

The pulse improves six spots this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4
  • Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice – “A Little More Love” -3

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”
    • Apparently Billboard screwed up last week and mistakenly took it off the chart. So now it’s back. I had thought EMI Nashville gave up and decided to just put more push behind David Nail’s new single with the Brothers Osborne, “Good at Tonight.” I’m not complaining, as this song deserves to fight for another day. I previously covered this song both hear and in the album review, so check those out if you want to see my thoughts on it.
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word”
    • Rhiannon Giddens is in the top 30 airplay chart for country radio! What a world. Nobody has been churning out better singles in 2016 than Eric Church and it continues once again with “Kill A Word.” As Church said in recent interviews, releasing this as a single at this time was just too perfect. With the amount of racial and sex-based tension and incidents that have happened in the United States over the past year combined with the always contentious Presidential election taking place, this country needs this song more than ever. It’s a reminder in this crazy world we currently live in that we need to put our hate aside and strive for something we all want and that’s peace. And unlike Garth Brook’s cheesy single he released last year, “People Loving People,” this song has a lot of heart and clever songwriting. In the radio edit of this song, Giddens also gets to sing a line solo and of course sounds fantastic. This is not only one of the best singles of 2016, but one of the best songs you’ll hear. 9/10

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” (Warner has officially announced they’re going for max spins this week and Currington’s label Mercury appears willing to play nice and wait to push for #1 next week)

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” – Up 4 from #7 to #3
  • Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need a Drink” – Up 3 from #4 to #1
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” – Up 3 from #31 to #28

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” – Down 10 from #11 to #21
  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” – Down 7 from #2 to #9
  • Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice – “A Little More Love” – Out of the Top 30 (to #31)
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” – Out of the Top 30 (to #32)

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

  • Blake Shelton – “She’s Got a Way With Words”
  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan”

On The Hot Seat:

  • None

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Jerrod Niemann & Lee Brice – “A Little More Love”
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  • Artists of Then, Now & Forever – “Forever Country”
  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red”

 

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

Video – Jon Pardi Covers Randy Travis’ “Forever and Ever Amen”

jon-pardi-guitar

The CMA Awards are pulling out all of the stops in promoting and building attention for the 50th anniversary of the show. First they released the near-universally beloved “Forever Country,” which is lighting up the digital sales charts, debuting at #1 on the Billboard Hot Country songs chart. Now they’ve announced the Forever Country Covers series, where artists of today cover some of the most iconic and beloved songs that have won CMA awards over it’s 50 years. The first to kick if off is new traditionalist Jon Pardi covering the legendary Randy Travis’ classic hit “Forever and Ever Amen.” It won the Single and Song of the Year awards at the 1987 CMA Awards. Picking Pardi to cover this song was absolutely perfect, as he fits the song like a glove and certainly does Travis justice. Give it a listen and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Review – Jake Owen’s “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” (feat. Chris Stapleton)

jake-owen-if-he-aint-gonna-love-you

Jake Owen is probably frustrates me the most amongst major label country artists. Here’s an artist who I believe is quite talented and is capable of producing great music. It looked like he was having a breakthrough in this regard a couple of years back when he released “What We Ain’t Got” as a single, one of the best singles of 2014. Unfortunately that underperformed for his label’s expectations and Owen has been back releasing mediocrity. Nothing angers me more than an artist who willfully puts out bad music when they’re fully aware they’re capable of more. I know this is a business and if you’re on a major label, you’re essentially their property. But it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow knowing this fact. So once Owen’s previous single “American Country Love Song” ended at radio, I was curious to see what the follow-up would be. I have listened to his new album American Love and hope to review it at a later date. When listening to it there was some clear-cut songs I saw as singles and a few I really hope to see released as singles (“LAX” in particular). Well Owen chose one of the clear-cut choices as his new single, “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You.”

What immediately stands out about this single is its catchy grooves and sounds. Most specifically the slide guitar work in this song is very easy to fall for and enjoy. Combining this with the slow-jam, R&B-like sound this song encapsulates, I knew immediately that there was a good chance of this being a single for Owen. But Owen just doesn’t appeal to modern country fans with this song. No, he pulls out something he knows traditionalists will undoubtedly pay attention to and that’s Chris Stapleton. He not only helps co-write this song, but is heard quite prominently in the chorus of this song harmonizing with Owen. You just can’t miss a voice like Stapleton’s. The lyrics are quite catchy too upon your very first listens. All of this together makes for quite a good song, even if it’s not really that country, right?

Well when you start actually paying attention to the lyrics, things kind of take a turn. Once you hear them, it’s pretty clearly what this song is about: a guy hitting on and trying to pick up a girl at the bar, who happens to be in a committed relationship. She’s there alone and the guy knows damn well what her situation is, but he’s inferring since she’s there alone that something could be up and this is his chance to steal her heart. Depending on your interpretation, the song paints the guy at best as opportunistic and at worst a slimy douche. The girl’s reaction to all of this is very ambiguous and her viewpoint really isn’t delved into, which is a shame because it could have really helped establish the narrative of this song. As Mark Chesnutt showed with “Is It Still Cheating” on his new album and even Tim McGraw with “Don’t Make Me Feel at Home,” a pro cheating song can work if the situation is pretty clearly explained. This song fails to make a clear explanation, so I’m left kind of feeling confused about it all because it would feel presumptuous to immediately label this guy a creep, but also not to feel like something is wrong with this picture.

So overall “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” is just a weird song. It has the elements of a good song in spots, while in other spots it’s debatably douchetastic. I will say this is a step up from “American Country Love Song” in that this song doesn’t at least put me asleep and has some energy about it. Really I feel like Chris Stapleton is a big part of why I don’t hate this song because he carries the catchy chorus of this song with his bluesy vocals, while Owen just gets out of the way. The best I can say about Owen’s vocal performance is at least he didn’t do his terrible spoken word he seems to jam into a lot of his music. So basically I think if you gave this song to Stapleton and had Dave Cobb produce it, it would at least be above average. But regardless of who is singing or producing this song, you just can’t get past the mediocre writing that ultimately drags down “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You.”

Grade: 4/10

Written by Chris Stapleton, Shane McAnally & Luke Laird