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The Current State of Country Music

Posted by Greg on Mar 30, 2011 in Music

NOTE: This was written in summer 2010, much like the previous two entries, but I’ve been sitting on them and decided why the heck, why not post them now. So here goes.

Everyone knows of my undying love for country music. I grew up listening to it, listened to it relentlessly in college, listened casually since moving back to Long Island, and since summer 2010 have embraced it full-time. But as much as I love it, one can’t help but notice what’s passing for country music these days? The entire genre has been gearing towards pop for the last decade or so, and crossover stars like Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Carrie Underwood, Martina McBride, Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney to name a few, don’t help the cause. All that being written, the current state of the genre has hit an all-time low.

On the charts currently are the piano-pop song “Pray For You,” by Jaron and the Long Road to Love; the Ke$ha inspired “Boys in the Summer,” by Jessie James; the hard-rock leaning “Lately,” by supergroup Brother Clyde featuring King Phaze; the folk song “Sunshine,” by Steve Azar; the coffeehouse jam “Lover Lover,” by Jerrod Niemann; “Smile,” by former bad-boy Uncle Kracker; and a country remix of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister.”

So, the question is, has country music become the new adult contemporary? Are record executives and singer-songwriters looking to country stations to play the songs that won’t pass the buck on Top 40 stations? Has country become a haven for rock music’s castoffs? The verdict on that remains to be seen, but if this current trend continues, one would be hard pressed to find reason against said argument.

 
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In Praise of the Peach and the Tarheel

Posted by Greg on Mar 30, 2011 in Music

Are Georgia and North Carolina the new Nashville? Currently Luke Bryan, Billy Currington, Jason Aldean, Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson, to name a few, are on the country charts. All of them hail from Georgia. Two-hundred miles north Kellie Pickler, Bucky Covington, Eric Church and Jimmy Wayne have all made a dent as well. Their commonality? Calling North Carolina home. Now its no secret, country music is widely popular and borne of the South, but that so much talent comes from just two states is worth noticing. Which leads one to wonder…….why is South Carolina slacking? Darius Rucker alone can’t make all the noise.

 
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Steven Page……is Country?

Posted by Greg on Mar 30, 2011 in Music

Former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page has landed on country radio. Is he country? Not exactly. So why is he on the charts? The same reason Jaron and the Long Road to Love, Jessie James, Jewel and Uncle Kracker are on country radio. They can’t find placement anywhere else. Anyone that has listened to BNL, knows that Page’s vocals were the band’s anchor. Certainly his coke charges have tainted his reputation for the long haul, but everyone deserves a second chance and lead single “indecision,” is a positive step forward. Is it “The Old Apartment?” Not quite. Is it “Shoebox,” not really, but it is certainly more akin to those two than say, “One Week.” Head on over to his Web site for more listens. Cheers!

 
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Country Songs Worth a Laugh

Posted by Greg on Mar 30, 2011 in Music

I like country songs that don’t take themselves too seriously. Some that spring to mind are “Chillin,” by Blaine Larsen, “Pontoon Boat,” by Sonny Ledford, “Redneck Yacht Club,” by Craig Morgan; “Pound Sign,” by Kevin Fowler; “Pants” by Walker Hays, and “It Happens,” by Sugarland. I’m not sure why but as a whole, the genre of country music seems to understand that humor and levity are essential to the human experience. These days mainstream radio just takes itself too seriously.

 
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Running With Scissors: Not a Trainwreck Film

Posted by Greg on Mar 4, 2011 in Movies

Last week I watched the Ryan Murphy-directed film Running With Scissors, loosely based on the Augusten Burroughs memoir of the same name. Though it was critically panned and a box office bomb, there’s a certain charm and quirkiness at work in the film that’s quite charismatic. Veritable newcomer Joseph Cross as Augusten has a wide-eyed optimism and a teenage whimsy that’s easily relatable and even easier to root for.

Brian Cox as the oddball therapist that adopts Burroughs is certainly at his best, even if he is a bit over-the-top. Gwyneth Paltrow and Evan Rachel Wood as Cox’s daughters are decent, with the younger Wood overshadowing her elder. Paltrow, who goes opposite her usual role, certainly feels a bit forced. But whether that is the screenwriter’s fault or just Paltrow trying too hard is anyone’’s guess. Either way her placement in the film is a bit askance.

The true standout though is Annette Benning, who gives a near flawless performance as a delusional mother whose mental instability suffocates her marriage and limits her abilities as a mother. While Murphy often chases down the absurd, there are certainly enough scenes of value and merit to help Running With Scissors from collapsing on top of itself. Equal parts Hotel New Hampshire and The Royal Tennenbaums, it’s a winning film, if not an under-appreciated charmer.

Post-script: Murphy is now a media darling given the rampant success of Glee. But one has to wonder if Running With Scissors was released this month, would it still get ripped apart? Methinks it wouldn’t, but what do I know?

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