The CD Should Come with a Minivan

Beth sent me a link to this article, because she thought it was relevant, at least tangentially, to our ongoing discussions about list songs and authenticity. The whole post is good, but I’ve been mulling over this:

But it’s wrapped up in so much ass-kissing right wing family values bullshit that there’s a wall through which the music doesn’t penetrate, it lives in its own ghetto, happy as a pig in shit, but it could be so much more.

And this nags at me. Not because I think it’s wrong, but because it’s right except for the “happy as a pig in shit” part. Now, obviously, I’m not in the music industry, but I live here and I know folks and one of the things that strikes me is that a lot of folks in it have at least a little chip on their shoulder. I know it happened years ago, but I just keep thinking of that Raul Malo show over at BMI and standing there in a room full of industry bigwigs, some industry bigwig introducing Malo, going on about how here was real country music, music they won’t let folks listen to any more or some such posturing bullshit. And everyone clapped and cheered, as if they were the horse and not the people holding the reigns.

I believe country music culture is more conservative than most of American culture, sure. But so much more conservative? No.

The weird thing is that a lot of folks in the music industry walk around imagining the most fuckerly yahoo there could be and then trying to pander to him, while at the same time keeping the attention of the women-folk. I think that’s one of the reasons Toby Keith, Trace Adkins, and John Rich have the success they’ve had. They are fuckerly yahoos. They’re not imagining some made-up listener. They’re performing songs that appeal to themselves. And so their music, in a sea of songs that only imagine the fuckerly yahoo as its primary market, sounds authentic.

Ha, lord knows Toby Keith makes me shake my head about every other day, but I’m suddenly struck by the idea that country music could be improved 100% if everyone in the music industry asked two questions–“Would Toby Keith like this?” and “Would we worry about leaving this artist at a bar next to Toby Keith for fear Keith would beat him up after a few beers?”

I don’t think every song needs to be a song Toby Keith might like, but, if Keith would like it, it is important that Keith not want to punch the singer. And, I must say, I don’t think many of these list kids could pass the second test.

Note, also, that you couldn’t use Adkins for this because dude has such terrible luck that he’d probably fall under a tractor trying to punch the kid. And then we’d all be like “How did that tractor get into this bar anyway?” but it would be too late, because Adkins would be under it. And Rich? Who the hell hasn’t he punched? Or thought about punching? He’s too quick on the punching draw to be useful.

I think we have to imagine a world where Hank Williams Jr. and Toby Keith go around saving country music from itself. Miranda Lambert could be Batgirl.

10 thoughts on “The CD Should Come with a Minivan

  1. The minivan quote was just brilliant. I almost fell out of my chair laughing b/c as of late my FB feed has been a couple of people quoting the backroad / dirtroad songs as status updates – these are women doing this.

    Anyway, yes – the Lefsetz column – quite a few great quotes in there – on the 4th read this resonated:

    That’s how we’ve been selling albums for the last decade or two. By bait and switch. We load ‘em up with singles and you find out there’s nothing holding them together, they’re like swiss cheese, full of holes.

    It just seems to me that a lot of country music (hell, music in general – looking at you Katy Perry!) as of late is a bunch of suits selling a product they wouldn’t purchase or use themselves. Or like a tobacco executive that doesn’t smoke urging the rest of us to do so. They know their product isn’t a good thing, but they push it anyway.

  2. Preach, sister, preach. “County” music is nothing more than pop for suburban white people who get the piss scared out of them by hip-hop. REAL Country music gets to the heart of the matter, one reason why Johnny Cash is viewed by many as the original gangsta, and rightly so.

    The only way to hear real country music in Nashville is to listen to WSM on Friday and Saturday nights.

  3. The weird thing is that a lot of folks in the music industry walk around imagining the most fuckerly yahoo there could be and then trying to pander to him, while at the same time keeping the attention of the women-folk.

    Labels are failing everywhere. They’ve always had a push-and-pull thing with radio and the video channels on TV, but now those are failing everywhere, too. No one knows what to do, or what the genre labels mean, or who the audience is (or they know, but they won’t accept it because then they have been doing things wrong and will be out of a job once that gets noticed). So they are scared, and all they can think of most days is trying to imitate what has worked. So if someone had a hit with a list song then, by heaven, everyone is going to have to put out a list song. And they get more and more threadbare because all the images have been used. (This might be the time to mention Red Beet Records’ redo of Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow with a bunch of East Nashville and Americana musicians, because Patty Griffin does a great version of “I Love” on it, and that’s a list song that worked.) They’re not looking for fuckerly yahoos, because they don’t know whether it’s fuckerly yahoos who like the list songs. They’re just flailing.

    It’s like when suddenly everyone had to wear hats, or have massive stage shows, only now with more urgency.

    I agree with Lefsetz about the Pistol Annies, btw.

  4. Steve Steffens, there’s plenty of real country music out there. Right now. Big labels put it out, radio stations play it. There’s also a lot of crap out there. There was a lot of crap out there when Cash was having hits, too.

  5. The author is a repeat offender loud mouth self-aggrandizer whose hold over some in the music business remains a mystery. So he thinks “babies’ and “religion” are “the lowest common denominator.” Well–good for him. Jeesh. Now he’s clarified that for us. He’s a pure dinosaur rockiest for whom the question “How is ROCK an aging limited ghetto of its own ?” has never crossed his mind. Of course, a along as country promotes things like “Country’s Night to Rock,” he’s got a lot of people helping. (None of which is to say the Pistol Annies record isn’t pretty terrific–which it is. But God ferbid it’s “Just country!”)

  6. This is why I avoid most discussions like this, articles like the linked one…

    Music to me is really personal, really visceral. No, I’m not minding that people make money from it, because if you’re talented you’ve got every right to try to feed and clothe yourself via your skill whether that skill be masonry or musicianship.

    But it’s this whole “I’m cooler than you” crap that comes up whenever people start tribalising their relationship to music that grates on my skin. The best music is that which reaches a person’s soul, I think. So if something is reaching someone’s soul and you’re just writing it off because it isn’t Country Enough or Really Rock and Roll or East Coast or West Coast or Too Commercial you’re making roundabout judgements on the people who find themselves in communication with that music.

    If the music isn’t good, then say that. But when you start criticising music not on its own merits but on the basis of those to whom it is most appealing I think a dangerous line gets crossed.

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  8. ok, I love your comments about Toby Keith, Trace Adkins and John Rich and I am a big fan of all three for the very reason you mention. They make music they like and it’s different. These three are the tops in my opinion. One thing though, ya gotta give JR more credit about the punching issues. He’;s improved dramitically and hasn’t punched anyone since 2008. he may have wnated to punch alot of A__holes, but he didn’t. Soyou have to consider him to play the Toby Keith role. Thanks for a great blog. LMAO

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