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Friday, November 30, 2012

Quick Reviews - Seeing Red

I had a three hour drive today and that means I have three quick album mini-reviews. 1) Toby Keith "Hope On the Rocks" -- when Toby stays away from his bombastic jingoism, he can be really clever and good. This album is really clever and good. Really a strong effort from Toby. 2) Lady Antebellum "On This Winter's Night" -- if elevator music gets your blood pumping, then this one's for you. Somehow Lady A makes Christmas uninspiring. 3) Taylor Swift "Red" -- this is what you'd expect from Taylor; good production and strong writing. In 16 songs Taylor gets dumped and/or breaks up 15 times, with the final song having her on the rebound (after, assumingly, getting dumped and/or breaking up). (Hey, Taylor, maybe -- ummmmm -- the problem is *you*???) The album is heavy pop production that is marketed as country but makes Adele sound like Tammy Wynette. Some of the stuff is unpoppish enough to be considered kinda country (if you squint your ears enough); it's not a bad album, just not a country album. How does something like this get marketed as country? Oh, yeah, her label is Big Machine, run by the country music antichrist, Scott Borchetta.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

EDIT: NOT THE End of An Era

UPDATES: See updates below....

For about eight years I have been hosting the Goodtime Country Radio Show on HomeGrownRadioNJ.com, and for three or four years before that the show was on over-the-air WNTI out of Hackettstown, N.J. It is with a lot of sadness that I must report the Goodtime Country Radio Show will be leaving the air after the show on October 31.

HomeGrownRadioNJ is growing and reaching out, and part of that growth is moving from the quaint studio in Marksboro, N.J. (a mere nine miles from my house on local roads) to Boonton, N.J. Boonton is about 35 miles away and requires a drive on I-80 to get there -- a not pleasant prospect during the morning rush hour. Given the distance, the added costs in gas and the strain it will put on my real job to be out an extra hour each day I do a show, the time has come to wish HGRNJ the best, and to part ways. Good luck to founder Todd Mills and the rest of the gang as they enter a new chapter.

UPDATE: The outpouring of support for the show has been overwhelming. I have proposed to HGRNJ to keep it on the air as a twice-a-month show, probably on a different day. Stay tuned.

UPDATE #2: We will be moving with HGRNJ to the new studio, with a few changes. First, we're moving to Thursday afternoon, 1:00-4:00 p.m. ET. Second, we'll be scheduled for the 1st, 3rd and 4th Thursdays only; Jeff Saltzman will be "Sittin' In" with his show on the 2nd and 5th (when there is one) Thursdays, and filling in when required. Thanks for your support!

Meanwhile, the Goodtime Country Radio Show inspired me to start Goodtime Country Radio, a Live365 station broadcasting over the internet. GCR has been little more than a jukebox of my favorite songs broadcasting to the world, but now I'm putting some serious effort into making it a more real station. Over the past week I've added a scheduler, scheduled themed shows and more. If you like the music mix I had on the Goodtime Country Radio Show, then you'll probably enjoy Goodtime Country Radio.

So far on Goodtime Country Radio I've added shows that showcase recent Americana artists, Red Dirt artists, a show devoted exclusively to members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, gospel songs for Sunday and a classic country show for Saturday night. Still to come will be a weekly hour of train songs, sets of tunes from the Highwaymen (Willie, Waylon, Cash and Kris) every few hours, and live tracks every few hours. Of course, almost every hour leads off with a Johnny Cash song. Somewhere down the road I may do a live show just like I did for HGRNJ a couple of times a week on GCR.

I hope you tune in to the improved Goodtime Country Radio. You can use the link in the player at the above right. And you can check out the last ten songs that have played on the station by clicking on the tab in the menu bar at the top of the page. As always, your input is welcomed!

Friday, September 28, 2012

New Old Home For the Blog

We're transiting from a Wordpress blog to Blogger.com. We had an old Blogger account from 2009 already set up, so we're dusting that off. New content will be on the way soon!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Son of A Preacher Man -- John Rich

Ever hear a really good song and rush out to buy the album, only to discover that the one really good song sounds nothing like the rest of the album? Welcome to Son of a Preacher Man by half of Big & Rich, namely John Rich.

Shuttin’ Detroit Down is perhaps the best song to come out so far in 2009 and it kicks off this set of tunes, some topical of today’s times. One fear you have with Rich is that he’ll slide into the buffoonery that marred the Big & Rich collaborations. He avoids that for the most part, and in the process might play it a little too safe. Anyhow, the first track on this album is a more-than-solid great country tune.

Sadly, the album rapidly slides downhill from there. Trucker Man has the in-your-face guitars that marked Big & Rich, but really doesn’t do a whole lot other than make noise. Good Lord and the Man is a song about World War II and patriotism. Not quite Toby Keith, and not bad. Another You is a power ballad that Rich’s voice can’t pull off.

The album almost regains traction with Preacher Man, but the bluesy sound at the beginning degenerates into an over-produced ending. I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love is typical 1980s pop — perhaps Rod Stewart could have done better with this song. Once again, we get an over-produced finale. John escapes the ballads with Everybody Wants To Be Me, a rocker of the first order. Not a good rocker, but a rocker nonetheless. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Huey Lewis’s The Heart of Rock And Roll. Vaguely.

You can’t have John Rich without a neo-hillbilly white trash ode, and If You Want To Turn a Country Boy On fills the bill here. This kind of stuff was interesting back when Hank Jr. was first doing it, but in the ensuing three decades it’s gotten pretty predictable. The album bottoms out with Why Does Somebody Always Have To Die. This one is difficult to describe. Blues? Bad? I’ll go with bad blues. After Why Does … the bland predictability of I Thought You’d Never Ask is a breath of not really fresh air. Steve Wariner does this kind of material soooo much better. This one has radio-ready written all over it.

Just about the time you think the album has completely clunked out, along comes Drive Myself To Drink. This is a 1940s swing arrangement with country-drinkin’ lyrics. The juxtaposition of the conflicting styles is really a hoot. Great, great tune. Great, great idea. Think Sinatra singing lyrics written by Harlan Howard.

Songs added to Goodtime Country Radio’s rotation: Shuttin’ Detroit Down; Good Lord and the Man (barely); Drive Myself To Drink.

Overall this album would probably rate only two stars out of five for its long stretch of blandness in the middle. But the bookend songs of Shuttin’ Detroit Down and Drive Myself To Drink pull the rest of the material up a notch. Let’s give John Rich three stars out of five. ***

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What's this about "no boundaries?"

What is it with country music? Especially country radio? Everyone tries to fragment the music into sub-genres, when the beauty of country music is the combination of sound and history.

Turn on your radio and you'll hear "hot country" -- Toby Keith, Sugarland, Keith Urban and the rest. But no Clint Black or Randy Travis, never mind Hank Williams. You might catch a passing reference to Johnny Cash, and a token playing of "I Walk the Line" every now and then.

If you're lucky, you might have a "classic country" station, but even these seem to fragment the music. Some consider "classic" to be post-outlaw -- Waylon, Willie, the Oak Ridge Boys, Barbara Mandrell. Others consider "classic" to be pre-outlaw -- Hank and Lefty, Bill Anderson, Buck Owens (but not Jimmie Rodgers or Floyd Tillman). There's very little cross-over between the two versions of "classic."

So I'll ask again -- What is it with country music? Country music is a tapestry, not a few random threads. It's Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams and Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings and Garth Brooks and -- gulp -- even Carrie Underwood. And if you follow the branches of country music away from the main trunk, you'll find the Eagles and the Byrds and -- continuing further out -- Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen.

That's the purpose of Goodtime Country Radio -- to present the full tapestry. We like Lucinda Williams and Hank Thompson and Bob Dylan and George Strait. We'll explore more of this in the days and weeks to come. Listen -- it's all country!

Goodtime Country Radio