Monthly Archives: February 2015

Unpopular Opinion: Jason Aldean Isn’t Killing Country Music

I would like to express an unpopular opinion, so hear me out before you tear me down please.

FullSizeRenderTwo weekends ago I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Charleston, South Carolina to meet up with my twin brother who goes to West Point and had a long weekend. He had three requirements for where we would meet: it had to be warm, it had to be easy to access from New York and it had to have a country music concert. As it turned out, that weekend was a pretty slow weekend country music wise and our options were Philadelphia, Boston, and Charleston. Since Philly and Boston were both blanketed in snow, it was off to South Carolina for us. The only drawback? We were going to see the endlessly-maligned (at least by our class) Jason Aldean.

Naturally, going into the concert I was skeptical, especially after everything we’ve said in class about how he’s “not really country” or is a representation of what’s wrong with country music these days. But I was moderately excited for the two opening acts, Tyler Farr and Cole Swindell, since I’d never seen them live before and had only heard them on the radio.

Admittedly Tyler Farr left something to be desired after his performance. While he has a few big hits and a decent voice, he isn’t the performer that I expected on such a big tour. I think he has a long way to go performance wise before he has any chance of making it big in country music.

However, Cole Swindell made up in a big way for Farr’s shortcomings. Swindell came on to the country music scene originally as a songwriter. He’s written hits for several big stars like Luke Bryan with hits like “Roller Coaster” and Florida Georgia Line’s “This is How We Roll.” However, last year Swindell recorded his debut album which included radio-friendly “Chillin’ It,” “You Ain’t Worth the Whiskey” and “Hope You Get Lonely Tonight.” Not only is his sound complimentary to Jason Aldean’s “bro-country,” but his stage presence is also closer to that of a real performer. He played his big songs, including those he wrote but that were recorded by Luke Bryan, and it seemed like he was much more in tune with what the crowd wanted.

After Swindell left the stage, I anxiously awaited Jason Aldean. I wondered if I was going to be totally repulsed by his music as it seems so many die-hard country fans are these days. The lights went down, his band began to play, and the strangest thing happened—I didn’t hate it. As a matter of fact, I actually rather enjoyed it. He may have come out to a back drop of flames and electric guitar, but I think a lot of people only see that side of Aldean and forget where he came from. They forget songs like “Amarillo Sky,” “Laughed Until We Cried,” and “Big Green Tractor,” just to name a few. He’s got tons of hits that have endlessly topped charts and, if you listen to the lyrics, hold very closely to traditional country values.

So yeah, I can’t hate Jason Aldean because his music goes beyond what it seems on the surface. I actually rather like his music. AND I sang along. So sorry if that offends you.


Filed under Live Music, Reflection, USA

Keeping Traditional Country Music Alive

This weekend I was able to go home to San Angelo with some friends and visit for a couple days, which is always refreshing and serves as a way to get away from school for a little bit. It was the last weekend of the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo, and we didn’t want to miss out on all the fun.

CaseUnfortunately, since tickets sell out several weeks in advance, I wasn’t able to attend the actual rodeo performance. As disappointing as that was, at least I was still able to take part in something rodeo-related. One of my best friends, Case Hardin, started a country music band after we graduated high school, and since then he has made a name for himself, playing shows at dance halls all over the state. The past two years he has played shows during rodeo season in what is collectively known as “the beer barn”. Located directly next to the coliseum where the rodeo is held, the beer barn is where people go to, well, drink beer before and after the rodeo. It’s a non-insulated wooden building, includes a stage and a dance floor, and it has no seats or tables. Instead, everyone packs in as tightly as possible and those remaining gather outside.

While it may sound like an unpleasant place, what makes it awesome is the music. What is usually a run-of-the-mill shack basically in the middle of nowhere comes to life as an authentic dance hall. Case played for three hours to an audience of hundreds of rodeo-goers, and the dance floor was filled during every song. Case, a bona fide fan of traditional/neotraditional country music, performed covers of singers like George Strait, Tracy Byrd, and Conway Twitty, and he mixed in some western swing with songs from Bob Wills. Backed by his band, which simply includes a guitar, bass guitar, steel guitar, and drums, Case keeps the spirit of traditional country music alive with his twang and his salutes to legends past. I knew when I saw him sing George Strait’s “Heartland” in the 4th grade talent show that Case was destined to be a country music performer. Case’s next show is March 14th at the London Dance Hall in London, Texas, which is considered to be the oldest dance hall in Texas. It’s awesome to see one of my good friends experience some success, and it was great to be able to catch one of his shows.


Filed under Dancing, Honky Tonk, Live Music, New Traditionalism, Texas, Western Swing

Two Steppin’

This past weekend I had the chance to visit Austin’s very own Midnight Rodeo. Not sticking to only traditional country music, Midnight Rodeo would switch up their two stepping to the wobble. While it was predominately country music so that I could practice my two stepping skills, I was able to take a break and get out on the dance floor with my gals and drop it like its hot because boy was it hot in there.

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I got the privilege to go with a large group of my gal pals, which supported the old saying “the more the merrier.” While as a group we had the most fun at the breaks when songs like “Uptown Funk” came on, individually we enjoyed the country songs better because, honestly, where else can you find that kind of entertainment? Either grabbing a free guy or one of our friends we danced in circles around the dance floor to every country song that played. Being such a social event, country dancing is hard not to enjoy even if you are sitting that song out and just watching.

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Now please don’t think that because we all own a pair of cowboy boots and live in Texas we are automatically great country dancers. My group and the dance floor ranged from first time dancers that had never laid a foot in a dance hall to pros who incorporated flips into their two-step. It truly was amazing to watch the expert dancers who made it look effortless. I fell right in the middle of those two being able to do the steps and a couple simple turns. I think we all enjoyed ourselves just the same no matter the skill level we were at. You could feel the energy and heat coming off of the dance floor from the people that were there to have a good time.

Now I challenge you to go and try it! This tutorial, excuse the woman’s outfit, shows you the very simple basics of two stepping. However, I believe getting out there and doing it is the best way to learn! Starting with a slower paced song will help you get your footing and eventually you will be able to keep up with a faster paced beat!

Tim McGraw’s “Just to See You Smile” is one of my favorite two stepping songs that you can try out at home with your cat, dog, cow or what ever else you have running around the house. I hope you try out you closest country dance hall and enjoy the experience as much as I did!


Filed under Austin, Dancing, Texas

“Country Chameleon”

Tim McGraw’s recent performance at The Oscars on Sunday night reminded me of an article I read recently for my Country Sub-Genre project. A country blog titled The Boot did a feature article last week called “Country Chameleon: The Ever-Changing Music of Tim McGraw.”

The article provides arguments from both critics and supporters of McGraw’s changing style. Critics believe that Tim McGraw’s newer songs are too automated and are not happy with the electronic sounds of his music. For example one of the critics stated, “LEAVE THE AUTOMATED STUFF TO POP AND HIPHOP!!! I can’t be the only one that missed acoustic guitars and unautotuned voice.” It is noted that Tim McGraw, at age 46, has gotten to the point when artists start to wash out; McGraw, however, is actively keeping his music, sound, and image current to fit with the time. “[Tim McGraw] has always been among the first big-name artists to embrace new changes. That keeps his music sounding fresh and new – even if it risks alienating some of his more traditional-minded listeners,” states the author.

For these reasons I think Tim McGraw was the perfect person to perform the tribute to Glen Campbell. McGraw was able reach two different audiences thanks to his smart business tactics: those who like Glen Campbell and McGraw’s older style of music, and his current fans who appreciate his modern sound.

Although critics of Tim McGraw tend to be harsh, one has to appreciate the barriers he’s broken down to get to where he is now.  McGraw has managed to stay a threat and country music power figure even with his growing age.  This is especially difficult considering he has done all of this as a member of the country-pop sub-genre.  Older fans criticize McGraw’s changing sound and believe he has abandoned his roots, but as an artist if he’s happy with his work and is successful at what he does then who are we to say that Tim McGraw isn’t being true to himself?  I’ve grown up listening to Tim McGraw and as a fan I think we should be commending him for keeping up with the fast-paced and always-changing modern music business, rather than tearing him down.

What do you think?  How was Tim’s performance on Sunday night?  Is Tim selling himself out for modern fame and fortune?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!


Filed under Awards, Country Pop, Countrypolitan, Live Music

Tim McGraw Performs at the Oscars

Tonight, on Sunday, February 23, 2015, Tim McGraw performed at the Oscars, cowboy hat and all. He didn’t belt out one of his classics, but instead performed an original song by Glen Campbell, from the movie, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 12.32.17 AMThe song, “I’m Not Going to Miss You” was sad and beautiful, describing the experience of getting Alzheimer’s and losing your family and the experience that country singer Glen Campbell is going through. And Tim McGraw, without much production, let his performance speak for itself.

I am a huge Oscars person. I love all awards shows in general, but as a movie fanatic, this one takes the cake. I am also a Tim McGraw fan. (I have seen him at the Houston rodeo a ridiculous amount of times.) I absolutely loved seeing him perform, staying true to his roots with his country style simplicity up on that stage.

Watching McGraw’s performance made me think about his evolution as a performer. Growing up in Houston where country music dominates half of the radio stations, I was very familiar with his dozens and dozens of chart topping hits, like “Live Like You Were Dying” or “Just to See You Smile.” But as I grew older, McGraw’s presence in popular culture continued to evolve and expand. He was no longer just known for his country twang, but instead for his acting chops. From Friday Night Lights to The Blindside, Tim McGraw was all of the sudden on my television more than on my radio.

What I found really interesting about this change in career path for McGraw is that he somehow still felt like the same country singer. While I do struggle to recognize him without his beard he sported for the better part of a decade, his personality and career decisions still line up with the Tim McGraw country star persona. He’s not starring in action flicks or comic book movies, but instead he is playing roles pretty similar to himself or related to the roots of country music. Whether it’s Sandra Bullock’s husband hanging out in his native Tennessee in The Blindside, or playing a guy in the country music world in Country Strong, there’s an element of Tim McGraw in every role he picks.

The song he performed tonight might not have been his own, but it certainly made me nostalgic for some McGraw hits and it also made me wonder what next movie he will be in. Hey, maybe next time he will be up on that stage accepting an Oscar! You never know!


Filed under Awards, Country Pop, Live Music, Uncategorized