Sturgill Simpson is not known for pulling punches. Though he’s been absent or toned down on social media in recent times when he was active there were plenty of criticisms on the music industry.
So the recent dust up should not be a surprise. Except it’s surprising that there’s anyone in the media spotlight that still gives a damn for country music.
Though he names Nashville, I don’t believe ire is not with the Athens of the South. Nashville is not the city Merle and Willie left behind. And, though it’s more than to market it, the city is not the mainstream music industry. These days you’re just as likely to catch your favorite Americana act at the 5 Stop than the hat acts whooping the tourists at Tootsie’s.
Music Row, the self-appointed monopoly of Country Music™ has been exploiting, but not reflecting, the legacy of passing legends, many of which wouldn’t receive a return phone call from the executives when they were alive, for decades.
Not enough units in it, don’t you know.
From Buck to Waylon to Cash hollow post-mortem accolades has been a reality for years. the crass, commercial canonization will continue when the next wave of greying Outlaws head off to the great honky-tonk in the sky. This is be expected for an institution bereft of even the thinnest reverence for the legacy they’ve built their sprawling Central Tennessee ranches on. An industry so risk intolerant and money focused (i.e greedy) that they graft whatever popular trend onto what’s left of the country music corpse just to wring out a few more hard-earned dollars from their audience.
If anyone mainstream deserves an award named after Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert would be one of a select few. Tabloid drama aside her music has trended toward the gritty, sassy and independent side is the country music tracks her entire career.
But part of me thinks that of Lambert, or anyone else deserving of an award bearing The Hag’s name, would just tell the American Country Music Association thanks but no thanks.
I’d bet Merle would approve.
Whether you agree with him or not Simpson did something that Music Row has never done. Put the legacy of country music above personal commercial interest. He writes offhandedly in his post that he will be “blackballed” from that side of the industry. Unless he was willing to change everything about his songwriting and suddenly became enamored with celebrity, I’m not sure there was the risk of his name being included on that list. As I’ve said Music Row has a reluctance toward artist bent on self-determination.
Sturgill spoke out because he felt a mentor, a friend’s, legacy was being exploited in a cynical way. This bothered him personally and he took time from his current successful tour to express that sentiment at length. This doesn’t have the markings of a PR stunt (though the media has since run with it) and is very much in line with the Sturgill I’ve spent time with on a number of occasions. Warm, thoughtful, direct and fiercely loyal to his ideals.
The new rank of outlaws, and I use that term in the way established by Willie and Waylon – artists that take their own road to establishing their carriers – are here to bear witness to the Giants that came before and the profound debt owed. By them, by us, and by an industry that helped create.
Luckily Music Row isn’t the only game in town.
Americana and the thriving roots music movement where Simpson’s early career thrived has provided a creative vehicle for the new as well as the old guard that couldn’t, nor would want to, get a meeting on music row.
Screw ’em. There’s a force of artists and fans hungry to create, and financially support those taking an independent road.
Read the original post here.