Songwriters: Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip
With Dallas Davidson out for the day, the other two-thirds of The Peach Pickers were apparently forced to resort to a Mad Libs chorus generator. To wit:
You be my ________, I’ll be your _______
You be my ________, I’ll be your _______
You be my ________, I’ll be your _______
You be my ________, I’ll be your _______
Go ahead and fill those blanks in however you’d like. Whatever you come up with cannot possibly be any cornier than the titular solution by Akins and Hayslip, “You be my honeysuckle, I’ll be your honey bee.” Which means what, exactly? He wants to extract her life force? Pollinate her? Experience only the sweetness, none of the stem? Either way, she’s stuck in place while he flies free. And have you ever known a honey bee to visit just one honeysuckle?
The power dynamics would seem to be more equal in one of the Mad Lib’s other pairings: “You be my little Loretta, I’ll be your Conway Twitty.” Here, at least, both parties are cast as human. But since the practice of referring to all women–even those with personalities as outsized as Lynn’s–as ‘little’ begin falling out of favor around the time that women got the vote, this isn’t much of an improvement. Twitty, meanwhile, gets the respect conferred by a full (stage) name. Hardly equal footing from which to launch a lasting relationship.
Of course, Conway and Loretta were personal friends and professional duet partners, not a couple. So it’s possible Shelton just wants to sing with this little darlin’ while wearing a pastel leisure suit, not pollinate her.
The other pairings are innocuous enough–soft and sweet/strong and steady, glass of wine/shot of whiskey, sunny day/shade tree–but never sufficiently interesting to overcome the repetitive fill-in-the-blank structure of the chorus. When you’re working from what basically amounts to a template, it behooves you to fill in some details that actually mean something rather than just, you know, sounding kinda cool.
In terms of unleashing the potential pent up in that voice of his, discovering The Peach Pickers was the worst thing that ever happened to Blake Shelton. As long as he settles for ear-catching but substantively bankrupt country boy hokum like this, there’s little hope of him fulfilling the promise evident in ambitious early career highlights such as “Ol’ Red” and “Goodbye Time.” And as long as radio keeps rewarding him for efforts like “Honey Bee,” there isn’t much incentive for him to change anything.
Listen: Blake Shelton – “Honey Bee”
Country music is known for its tear-jerkers, a fact not lost on the Vidalia Onion Committee.
[Insert your own Sammy Kershaw joke here.]
The industry association is set to launch a campaign featuring country artists Vince Gill, Billy Currington, Gary Allan and Ashton Shepherd. The promotion is in conjunction with Universal Music Group Nashville and will include on-bag images, advertisements in Country Weekly, radio support and more.
Trade publication The Packer has more details:
To spark consumer interest, the industry is sponsoring its first Vidalia onion jingle contest.Brannen said the industry has long wanted to sponsor such a contest. She said having consumers write and perform songs about Vidalia onions should keep the industry’s promotions fresh and in line with what other large corporations have done in recent years in interacting with and offering consumers opportunities to become creative through the Internet.
The consumer jingle contest will also award a Nashville, Tenn., trip that will include recording session time and backstage passes providing special privileges to the city’s top destinations.
The campaign attempts to link the onions’ Deep South heritage with growing consumer interest in music.
Product placements and promotions are nothing new in the music and entertainment businesses, and have been used to target country fans by companies such as Wrangler.
As a country fan, would having a country musician on a product you were buying cause you to change your purchase habits?
Songwriters: Kip Moore, Scott Stepakoff and Dan Couch
Country music has featured a wide range of female names in songs, using specific women such as Vince Gill’s “Liza Jane” to address the universal highs and lows of love.
This category includes songs that play off city names – Blake Shelton’s “Austin” and Alan Jackson’s “Dallas” come to mind, although Keith Whitley rules supreme with “Miami, My Amy” and “Charlotte’s in North Carolina.” Others span from silly (Diamond Rio’s “Norma Jean Riley”) to nostalgic (Phil Vassar’s “Carlene”), with classics such as Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Kenny Rogers’ “Lucille” in the mix as well.
Newcomer Kip Moore makes his way into this club with his debut single “Mary Was the Marrying Kind,” a retrospective character study of the women of his past and, most importantly, the one who isn’t a part of his present. The song is an adventurous first go at country radio that demands attention, both for its string of intertwined stories and for Moore’s insistent delivery.
For anyone expecting a baby girl in the coming months, the song should help to sort through possible female monikers quicker than any baby name book – Moore describes Virginia, and Tammy, and Jenny, and Becky, and a few others before focusing on Mary. He paints vivid pictures with unique details about a believable range of women, before honing in on the one that got away. In addition to the obvious play off Mary and marry, the virginal, special connotations that come along with the name isn’t lost on Moore or listeners.
However, the range present in the lyrics is missing from Moore’s performance. The regret that comes with the realization of love lost is palpable in his husky delivery, but he blows out every corner of the song’s chorus with an intensity that, when coupled with its heavy-handed production, feels sloppy and reaching compared to its effortless, stream-of-consciousness verses.
Despite those lapses, the winning one-two punch comes in the song’s bridge, when Moore receives confirmation of his titular assertion: “My best friend proved what I already knew/Mary was the marrying kind.” Just as Mary sticks with the singer, that line has staying power of its own.
Like Brad Paisley’s “Alcohol,” the sequence of “Mary Was the Marrying Kind” is best revealed on its very first listen. Subsequent plays aren’t as satisfying, but Moore’s talent as a songwriter and artist are no less impressive. Mary may be the marrying kind, but I look forward to more of Moore’s first album.
With a voice made for country music, a tendency to record catchy tunes like “Rain Is a Good Thing” and “All My Friends Say,” and a willingness to wear a leotard to garner ACM votes, Luke Bryan comes across as a likable guy who makes country music because he wants to, not because it’s advantageous to his career. He’s the kind of singer that country fans would root for, but when he records songs that sound like something Justin Moore would have passed on, he doesn’t make it easy.
As another entry in the “men like staring at women’s asses” sub-genre of country music, “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” is thoroughly unremarkable. Bryan, who co-wrote this song with Dallas Davidson, gains points for avoiding the word “badonkadonk,” but he loses points for advising the country girl in question to “shake it for the catfish swimming down deep in the creek.” Talk about an unappreciative audience.
“Country Girl” is shamelessly sexist, but it’s too ridiculous to cause offense and too dumbed-down to be edgy. The lyrics get the Steve Goodman “You Never Even Call Me by My Name” treatment, where anything that sounds remotely “country” gets included. As if using the word in the title wasn’t enough, Bryan also throws in references to Georgia mud, barns, trucks and tractors to leave no doubt that this is a country thing. City girls are invited to shake it in some other song.
Where “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” will work is as an opening song for Bryan’s live show. The pounding drums and the repetitive lyrics should get people out of their seat, cheering and fist-pumping. The fact that it will do what it was meant to do just proves that a song doesn’t have to be good in order to be successful.
After the tour is over, when Bryan has moved on to other – hopefully better – singles and women are tired of shaking it on the hood of his daddy’s tractor or shaking it for rockin’ rednecks, let us never speak of this song again.
The story of how Josh Turner wrote his breakout hit “Long Black Train” is a humdinger of a tale. You probably already know it, but just bear with me for a paragraph or so while I recount it one more time for the unacquainted (or skip ahead, no worries). OK, here we go: Turner was a student at Nashville’s Belmont University early in 1999, and one evening he availed himself of the multimedia offerings of the school’s library to get a dose of uncut country music. He sat down in a cubicle, put on a pair of headphones and drank long and deep from the bottomless well of inspiration that gushes from the Complete Hank Williams 10-disc box set. Young Josh immersed himself in the music so deeply, in fact, that he went into what might be described as a Hank-related fugue state.
Finally he left the library and began walking back to his apartment when … well, let’s let him tell it. “While I was walking, I had this vision of an open plain somewhere,” he recalled in 2003. “There was this luminescent glow about it, and there was a train track that went straight down the middle of that wide open space. I saw this long, black, beautiful, shiny train roaring down this track. I saw people standing beside the track, trying to decide whether or not to get on this train and ride it. Even though they know exactly where this train is headed: nowhere.” The train, he decided upon recovering his senses, was a symbol of temptation—and the devil himself was the driver. When Turner got home he picked up his guitar, sat on his bed and by the next day had written “Long Black Train.”
Now is that a story, or is that a story? A young musical artist immerses himself in the masterworks of a songwriting giant, is granted what he believes to be literally a vision from God and pours his newfound understanding into what is certainly one of the great country songs of the last 20 years (although why it came out sounding like a long-lost Johnny Cash number—I’ve fielded many a fan inquiry about who the original artist was from folks assuming it to be decades old—rather than anything remotely Hank-like a is a question for another day).
New Releases (April 5): Anna Wilson, The Bellamy Brothers and More; Harley Allen, Mel McDaniel and Jake Jenkins Remembered
- Andy Friedman – Laserbeams and Dreams
Anna Wilson – Countrypolitan Duets
The Bellamy Brothers – Greatest Hits Volume 1: Deluxe Edition
The Black Lillies – 100 Miles of Wreckage
Calafia – Calafia
Craig Campbell – Craig Campbell
Daniel Romano – Sleep Beneath the Willow
The Judds – I Will Stand By You: The Essential Collection
Michaela Anne – To Know Where
Susan Cattaneo – Heaven to Heartache
- On the passing of Harley Allen, Jon Weisberger writes:
Nashville’s a songwriting town, and Harley Allen was a world-class songwriter, so a lot will be written about that in days to come. But before — and while — he was writing the hits, Harley was a singer, one of nearly unparalleled beauty and sadness. By the time he was in his late teens and singing with his brothers in the hillbilly bars of Dayton, Ohio, he had a reedy, mournful tenor voice that seemed to always curl a phrase just a moment before you thought it might, or rise just a bit higher than you thought it could. And whichever of a dozen different ways he’d surprise you as a singer, it always turned out to be exactly the right one to make you feel the same longing, the same emptiness, the same self-mocking yet utterly serious sense of despair that seemed to be haunting him.
- More on Allen from Peter Cooper.
- Country California: Quotable Country – 04/03/11 Edition
- Cia Cherryholmes plans to embark on a solo career.
- Miss Leslie honored her friend and songwriter Jake Jenkins, who was killed recently in a plane crash, in a series of posts: I’ll Be Gone Tonight By Jake Jenkins, Honky Tonk No More by Jake Jenkins, Stranger in Your Mind by Jake Jenkins, Honky Tonk Gal by Jake Jenkins.
- Blake Shelton‘s new single “Honey Bee” — performed at the ACM Awards on Sunday night — is available on iTunes.
- Craig Morgan signed a new deal with Black River Entertainment.
- Peter Cooper also wrote an obituary for Opry member Mel McDaniel, whose hits included “Louisiana Saturday Night” and “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On.”
- Listen to the new Alison Krauss and Union Station album Paper Airplane in its entirety.
- Andy Friedman – Laserbeams and Dreams
If one’s level of fame was proportional to one’s talent and hard work, Heather Myles would be one of the biggest stars in country music. She’s spent the past two decades playing dusty honky tonks and releasing excellent, Bakersfield-influenced albums that, for the most part, have flown under the radar. She’s still persevering, though, and her newest single is classic Myles: catchy, country, well-written, and solidly performed.
“Pretty Poison,” from 2010 album In the Wind, is allegedly inspired by the Jennifer Aniston-Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie triangle/tabloid fodder of a few years ago. In the song, Myles places herself in the Aniston role, mournfully describing the woman with “luscious lips and hair of fire” who has so enchanted her man. Thanks to those vivid descriptions of the other woman, the song is somewhat reminiscent of “Jolene,” although Myles’ vocals lack much of Parton’s pleading and vulnerability. Instead, there’s a weary resignation as she sings the chorus: “Pretty poison went walking by/Pretty poison tells the sweetest lies/Now there’s nothing I can do/To break the spell she has on you.”
Myles has always had the ability to write a fantastic hook, and “Pretty Poison” is no different from any of her earlier work in that regard. That, combined with her full-bodied voice and the song’s deliciously twangy arrangement, makes the song an enjoyable, toe-tapping listen. Mainstream country radio has never taken to Myles (her lone single to chart topped out at #75 in 1999), or women over 45 not named Reba. But if they ever change their collective mind, thanks in part to the neo-neo-traditional movement spurred on in part by the recent successes of Chris Young and Easton Corbin and others, “Pretty Poison” would be a fine addition to the playlist.
Listen on Tru Country Music: Heather Myles – “Pretty Poison”
Alison Krauss wasn’t present at last weekend’s ACM Awards in Las Vegas. Presumably she was busy polishing her obscene Grammy collection (27 and counting) and resting before the release of Paper Airplane, her first album with Union Station since 2004′s Lonely Runs Both Ways.
Krauss would be an odd fit at the festivities anyway: she’s rarely been favored by country radio, and her four career Top Ten appearances are mostly duet projects with other high-profile artists. But her indelible mark on the genre is deepened with her new album’s first single and title track. “Paper Airplane” projects a glass half empty approach to matters of the heart. With a wistful sigh, she again acknowledges that love is a fickle, fragile thing: “People come together/People go their own way/Love conquers few.”
It’s a message backed up here by stellar musicianship. Union Station is no mere supporting cast; the group works in tandem with Krauss to create a harrowing arrangement to match her mood. Dan Tyminski’s mandolin and Jerry Douglas’ dobro offer a sweet-and-sour duet of their own. As Tyminski chimes in with his hopeful notes, Douglas grounds the music with a sense of fear and mystery. It’s a pairing that would be worthy of an instrumental version even without Krauss’ ethereal voice.
But what a voice it is, as full of hope as it is of heartache. Few singers have the grace and vocal gifts to make a living from melancholy like Krauss does. Even in the late hours of night, as she fights the sorrow of unrequited love, there’s a dark beauty in her hard-won lesson: “Love is like a paper airplane/Flyin’ in the folded dent/Ridin’ high, dippin’ low.”
“Paper Airplane” doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, but it further defines Krauss’ elegant, timeless style. An understated gem like this is always a welcome breath of fresh air.
Tonight the Academy of Country Music Awards airs on CBS starting at 8 ET/7 CT. For the eighth consecutive year, the ceremony will be held at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas, stays a hot topic in internet forums for at least a month after the awards are presented.
Reba McEntire and Blake Shelton, nominees in their respective vocalist categories, co-host this year’s festivities. The telecast will feature performances by McEntire, Shelton, Alabama, Dierks Bentley, Ronnie Dunn, Sara Evans, Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood and entertainer of the year nominees Jason Aldean, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban.
The most heated races are in the Entertainer and Album categories. With fan voting playing a still-undetermined role in the decision, Taylor Swift has a slight edge in her bid for a first Entertainer win from the Academy of Country Music. She has stiff competition for Album of the Year, with the commercial power of Lady Antebellum (Need You Now) and the critical acclaim of Jamey Johnson (The Guitar Song) offering resistance for the 21-year-old superstar.
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