Monthly Archives: February 2015

I’m Not Gonna Miss You

Gowns, tuxedos, the red carpet, and little golden men. Put them all together and what do you get? The 87th annual Academy Awards. This is the biggest night in Hollywood. You might be wondering “Yeah okay the Oscars are about movies…how does country music come into play?” Well, my friend, I have two words: Glen Campbell.

Campbell’s song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” was nominated for Best Original Song. The song, written by Campbell as well as Julian Raymond, was featured at the end of his documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. They took home a Grammy for the song just a few weeks ago.

147391In 2011, the country-pop icon announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He is now 78 and suffering through the late stages of the disease. The song was written as a love letter to his family. It details how he won’t understand the pain they feel when his memory is lost to the disease. Raymond commented on the situation saying that Campbell unfortunately could not comprehend what the Oscar nomination meant because of this condition.

Due to his health circumstances, Campbell was unable to travel to the Academy Awards to perform his song. His family personally asked fellow country music artist Tim McGraw to perform the song in his place. McGraw and wife Faith Hill attended the awards last night, as well as Campbell’s wife and daughter.

B-fVwW5CAAA0avDSeated on a stool set on center stage, McGraw gave a performance that definitely tugged at some heartstrings. With nothing to distract from solely listening to the lyrics, Campbell’s song was absorbed by those who heard it. Anyone who has or knows someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can feel the heartbreak of the song. It is the person(s) the song is directed towards rather than the person singing the lyrics who is the one suffering emotional pain.

His song did not take home the Oscar, but I know his family took home something from the performance. It was a very heartfelt tribute to a great artist. I listened to Campbell himself perform the song and it is hauntingly beautiful. McGraw executed the performance with grace.

The music video for his song shows clips of Campbell through the years. With and without the disease, his love for his family shows through. “You’re the last person I will love/You’re the last face I will recall/And best of all, I’m not gonna miss you.”


Filed under Awards, Countrypolitan, Live Music, Song Analysis

1990s: New Country vs. Country Pop

After reading “The Commercial Country Explosion” chapter from Jocelyn R. Neal’s book, Country Music (2012), I really began to think about the differences between “New Country” and “Country Pop” from the 1990s. I grew up listening to both of these country genres and never realized the distinction until now.

The ‘90s made way for a fresh batch of country music artists who wanted to make a new sound for themselves. On one end you had new country, a simple song form (verse-chorus) that involved two-step, waltz and Cajun two beat rhythms, while country-pop contains pop riffs and the short memorable hooks. The country pop sound really evolved with the changes in technology and began to feature sound effects, a full harmony backup and dense musical textures. New country on the other hand highlighted the fiddle, steel guitar, and a sharper drum sound. These genres also introduced the distorted electric guitar solos that today audience loves so much.

The instrumentals weren’t the only thing that distinguished these two genres. The artist’s voices were inherently different as well. New country included male artists like Garth Brooks and Tim Mcgraw, whose baritone voices began to smooth out the honky-tonk twang. New country’s female artists, like Trisha Yearwood and Martina McBride, became known for their open throated ballad singing. Country pop featured auto-tune and took on younger and sexier sounds with artists like Shania Twain and Keith Urban.

The themes that these two genres tackled were also inherently different. Country pop was very optimistic and included concepts of personal fulfillment and independence (“Any Man of Mine” by Shania Twain). New country featured songs about societal problems, feminist concerns, and working class values (“Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks). Both themes really helped push society and country music into the 21st century.

I personally love both genres because my mother used to play both around the house while I was growing up. There are so many differences between the two genres that I could never pick a favorite. I have included some of my favorite songs from both genres below so that you can see the differences for yourself. The 90s amazing time for country music because the artists began to put on stadium concerts and really connect with their fans on a whole new level. Country music wouldn’t be what it is today without both country pop and new country.


Filed under Country Pop, Country Subgenres, Live Music, New Country, Reflection

Religion in Country Music

Carrie Underwood recently won a Grammy for her song about baptism and keeping the faith, “Something in the Water”, solidifying country music’s relationship with Christianity even more. Underwood often sings about her faith: her debut single was “Jesus Take the Wheel”, which was another huge hit with audiences. She is a prime example of a country music star that rose from humble beginnings to fame, albeit through American Idol, but has kept her morals about her. She often cites her religion and devotion to God in her interviews and songs.

Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood

But why are country music and Christianity so tied together? I think it is because of the genre’s connection to the South, which is the Bible Belt of America: an area where religion is deeply engrained in many aspects of life. Country music markets itself as being the music of the people, and most Americans, particularly in the South, are religious, so this music speaks to them. Another reason is that country artists are usually normal people who are authentic, and fame doesn’t really change them a lot. So if they were just southern religious people before having hit songs, then they still will be once they are famous. Unlike artists like Katy Perry, who were raised religious but shed that part of her life in her songs, artists like Carrie Underwood continue to integrate her faith into her multiplatinum songs to show her fans she is still the same Oklahoma girl that won American Idol.

Some country songs deal with faith directly, while others sing about faith in more subtle ways. They sing about the values of Christianity, like when The Band Perry sings in “Better Dig Two” about a girl fully committing herself to her husband by saying she’ll only wear white on her wedding day to him. Other artists sing about their wives of many years, like Brad Paisley’s “Then” exemplifying a healthy marriage, songs that are a far cry from other genres, which have songs about promiscuity and adultery. This way of putting religion in songs is definitely more common because sometimes audiences don’t like songs with strong religious references, to which Carrie responds “if you don’t like it, change the channel.”

Country music is by no means gospel or even music that would fit in the Christian genre of music, but in many songs there are religious themes due to the close spiritual ties between the genre and the church. Many artists glorify God overtly in their songs, such as Rascal Flatts with “Bless the Broken Road” and Big & Rich with “That’s Why I Pray”, while others sing about exemplifying His teachings in songs. Due to country’s roots in the south, it and religion are definitely linked.


Filed under Reflection, USA, Women

Hunter Hayes Overshadowed by Authenticty

Hunter Hayesanans may win over seventeen-year-old girls with his undersized shirts and oversized concert experience, but not me. Over the weekend, I headed south on I-35 to the San Antonio Rodeo. Friday night, the PRCA Rodeo was followed by a performance from Hunter Hayes. I knew I was going to write about this experience for my post, I just didn’t know exactly how. Would I compare his performing style to that of Elvis? Would I try to explain why his songs do not strike me as country? Thankfully, I found my answer hours before Hunter Hayes even took the stage in the form of the John Christopher Way Band.

Before the doors to the AT&T Center opened for the main event, I was walking through the fair grounds taking in the atmosphere of fried foods and carnival rides. No offense to anyone from the San Antonio area, but as a Dallas native, I was naturally comparing the scene to the State Fair of Texas in my hometown, and I was somewhat disappointed by the undersized rides and pop-up carnival feel. As I walked past a covered tent, however, the sound of live music in the form of Randy Rogers Bands’ “In My Arms Instead” filled the air and piqued my interest.

Even though I knew Randy Rogers Band was too big of a name to be playing on a small stage under a tent in the fair grounds, the sound was still plenty good enough for me to want to check it out. As I sat at the picnic tables right in front of the stage, I quickly learned that I was listening to a small band named the John Christopher Way Band. While their sound was not the best, as they transitioned from cover songs to their own originals, their performance was as authentic as the couples two-stepping in front of the stage. The traditional steel guitar was accompanied by lyrics that sang of mud, second chances, and a girl that got away.FullSizeRender

After listening for about an hour, it was time to head into the arena for the main event. The actual rodeo was great entertainment full of bucking broncos and comical rodeo clowns, but once Hunter Hayes took the stage, things went downhill. As much as I tried to listen to the actual lyrical performance, the over-powering band and deafening screams of high school girls made the experience far from enjoyable. While sitting there surrounded by my 10,000 closest friends, I found a new clarity for why I love “Texas Country.”

hunterhayesThe entire time Hunter Hayes was on stage, I couldn’t help but wish I were back in that carnival tent listening to The John Christopher Way Band or any other authentic country group. I realized that it wasn’t the incredible vocal skills, the breath taking performance, or the bright lights that attracted me to a performance. While all of these are great, I decided that the authenticity of the artists, lyrics, and venue were what drew me in. Hunter Hayes might sound great on the radio, but for me, I would choose watching couples two-step to the sound of a small country band over watching a big name artist jump on stage from afar to the screams of thousands of people. I used to think it was the sappy lyrics, Hollywood looks, and pop sound of the new country sub-genre that drove me away, and while I still think these are factors, the John Christopher Way Band/Hunter Hayes experience proved to me that it is about the authentic live experience as much as any of these.


Filed under Country Pop, Live Music, Texas

Garth Needs Country Music, and it Needs Him

Garth Brooks kicked off his 2014-2015 World Tour with Trisha Yearwood, marking the first time in 17 years he has been on the road. He admirably took a break from touring to be with his family, however now that the youngest of his four daughters has graduated high school, he is ready to take the stage by storm once again. He needs this tour as much as country music needs him.

Garth Brooks During his 2014 Tour

Garth Brooks During his 2014 Tour

While this will be his first time touring in almost two decades, he has not been idle. Brooks came out of his official retirement in 2009 when he worked a deal with Steve Wynn of Wynn Las Vegas, scheduling performances in Las Vegas for several years leading up to this world tour announcement. Garth Brooks’ comeback announcement has created a huge buzz in the country music industry, bringing forth many questions while doing so. What will the new Garth sound like? Will he be able to step back in the swing of things after taking such a long leave? And finally, what does this mean for country music?

The open-ended nature of these questions creates excitement along with some anxiety. I am incredibly excited for the comeback of Garth Brooks, as he is one of my favorite country artists. At the same time, I have some nervousness because I want the Garth Brooks I know and love from the 1990s to bring that uniqueness to 2015. The last thing I want to hear is his music becoming too modern, and sounding like the stereotypical pop country of Keith Urban or Jason Aldean. Personally, I believe country music has started to move too far away from its roots, and I feel that today’s country music needs to move closer to its roots. A shift closer to Brooks’ early music is essential to the longevity of the country music industry.

Basically, I hope Garth’s comeback is defined by him continuing to be the same man that everyone loved in the 1990’s, making music that is authentic to him and not what is popular in the country music industry today. I genuinely believe, and I know I am making an incredibly bold statement, that Garth Brooks can change the way the country music industry is moving. If Garth Brooks can come back making music like what he did in his earlier years, he may change what is considered “popular” country music today. His recent album “Man against the Machine” had songs similar to his old music, as well as songs with a more modern sound. Unfortunately, the album did not have any real hits. This may lead some to believe that he is done, however I do not think this the case. He needs to stay committed and only produce HIS music.

As much as I believe country music can benefit from Garth Brooks, the industry can help him, maybe more than he can help the industry. Recently in an interview, he admitted that he felt “lost” sometimes without touring. He said he missed the people, that industry, and mostly, his self-worth, saying he has a lot to say and share with people. He acknowledged that his new music may not set records but he also communicated that if a few folks receive his message, this new tour is worth it.

It will be exciting to see whether Garth Brooks can make a historic comeback after taking such a long break from the music industry. Hopefully, he can get back to making music similar to “Friends in Low Places” and “Unanswered Prayers”. Only time will tell if his comeback can actually change the direction country music is headed, and while it is an uphill battle, I have faith in Garth Brooks. A few things are certain… there will be significance to Garth’s music and it will be an interesting storyline to follow.

Garth Brooks at the 1992 CMA’s


Filed under New Country, News, Reflection