CMT Music Awards Review – Still Blows

So I finally held my nose and watched my recording of the suck fest that is the Country Music Television Awards show (you can tell right there how objective this is going to be) and it as predictable and unpleasant as July heat in Dallas.

A Dixie Chicks and Stonewall Jackson slam already. Nice Foxworthy. You’re an ass.

There was a new category, the Wide open Country Video of the Year. It seems like it was a stab at irreverence. But with Jimmy Buffet and Sheryl Crow and Sting as nominees it was more like “Let’s see what we can get by with.” The Johnny Cash video for “God Going To Cut You Down.” Jack Ingram won. Not a great start for the new category.

Everyone that won robotically thanks CMT in their speeches. I mean what are the odds that every winning artist felt truly compelled to thank a network? Tools…

There was a moment of true grace and emotion on the program, but it had nothing to do with the three-ring pyrotechnic circus of bland performances by Toby Keith and Rascal Flatts. It was when Rosanne Cash presented Kris Kristofferson the Johnny Cash Visionary Award. Kritofferson was visibly moved, gracious and his amazing life and legacy was briefly detailed before he accepted. It was a brief moment of sincerity in an otherwise facile showcase of mediocrity.

Rascal Flatts stacks the deck on the Group Video of the Year with two nominations and beats out the crowd favorite The Dixie Chicks. Just joshin.

Foxwothy is giving the last 25% of morons that don’t see Iraq as a fiasco and people who worship a sky god a sloppy one. He’s like the reverse Natalie Maines with less talent.

There, that’s all I can stand. Another year, a lot of make-up and $200 denim and precious little country music.

Oh and Kenny Chesney is a girl.

Indie Labels In Nashville

The good folks at The 9513 pointed me to this interesting article on the indie labels growing influence in Nashville.

I like the idea of country superstars starting thier own boutique labels to allow them to stretch thier wings, but I would have liked to read about indie labels, Bloodshot, Compadre – that have cultivated and nurtured indie artists all along. Artists that would have never had a phone call returned by the major labels (and probably the superstar boutiques as well.) And what about the legends that had to turn to indies in the later years because the majors saw them as washed up – Cash with American, Charlie Louvin and Tompkins Square, Porter Wagner and Anti/Epigraph. These labels saw these legends and thier legacy and allowed them to release work to regain their musical spirit with dignity.

Let’s hear the whole story on indies.

Country Music Is Not Dead

CMT, the channel that doesn’t entirely suck, gives me another reason to think so by featuring Chet Flippo and his always thoughtful and enlightening commentary on The Nashville Skyline section on their web site.
Chet has a nice recent commentary about rescuing a frightened turtle of a feeder road off Highway 100 west of Nashville and sees this terrified reptile as a symbol of the recording industry in the twenty-first century, the myopic economics of radio programming the strong-arm tactics of Wal-Mart and, alas, the inevitable death of the CD.

“But what does country music really have to offer these days? I think it offers more than the exploiters see on the surface. I think the many layers of talent in country have never been fully presented commercially, and, of course, if I knew how to do that, I would be a rich man today. And country has a steady stream of fresh new talent, most of whom will likely not ever get a chance to gain wide exposure because of the changing nature of the marketplace. Already, a number of new artists are having their debut releases postponed because of the market.”

Though I take exception to Chet’s argument that Nashville needs another mega-star like Garth or Shania (I think the mindless pursuit of cash cows is part of the recipe for crap), I do agree with his fundamental point that county music needs to take chances and risk alienation of some fans in order to survive. And I hope indy labels, local bars, the internet and blogs like this one and my other twangy-blog buddies can help usher in a new dawning of country music.

If not, we’ll have a damn fine time trying.

By way of The 9513.

The Dixie Chicks – Shut Up and Sing

“Freedom of speech is fine as long as you don’t do it in public.” From Shut Up and Sing.

Come with us back to a 2003 when the US was ramping up to a war that turned out to be unecessary wasted many young peoples lives, billions of dollars and trashed the reputation of this great nation for years to come.

Most celebrities played it safe and said nothing, just did goofy celebrity shit, you know..wearing silly clothes, getting divorced and starving themselves. But not Natalie Maines.

From a London stage lead Chicks singer Maines offhandedly said “Just so ya’ll know, we’re ashamed that President George W. Bush was from Texas. Funny, when I read that on a news web site I thought to myself, “Yeah, me too.”

After the statement the News show and web sites fanned the flames like they do everything else to get eyeballs to sell to their corporate masters, the rabid Right-Wing blogs picked it up because, we’ll they’re thin skinned and hate our freedoms
(especially that whole freedom of speech nonsense.)

This documentary follows the Chicks in performance around the U.S. and London between the years 2003 and 2006. And show the events leading up to the war and the personally, political and, yeas, professional ramifications of that statement heard round the world.

Filmmaker Barbara Kopple brings a real behind the scenes view of Maines and sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire in
dressing rooms, on stage, and in recording studios, and hanging with Chad Smith, Red Hot Chili Pepper drummer who played on the Chicks latest “Taking The Long Way”, and a very guru looking Rick Rubin (complete with prayer beads), who produced the album.

Recently the Chicks played at the Grammy’s and walked away with 5 Grammys for their efforts. Was it worth it? The worry, the heartache, The death threats? Only the girls can know. But it must feel nice to know your not alone and that not all country fans are Right-Wing zombies programmed to wave a flag at the strain of the Star Spangled Banner. Some of us actually remember what that flag preresents and can think past simple-minded slogans.

In the end Natalie turned put to be right and 70% of the  American public are finally comfortable enough to agree with her publically. Excpet when Natalie did it when it was not comfortable to do so, it was unpopular, it was unwise for their career and it was dangerous.

The Dixie Chicks embodied the American spirit at that moment, and that’s what being an outlaw is all about.

Willie Nelson to Work with Michael Jackson

Today there are reports that Willie Nelson will collaborate with Michael Jackson to release a CD tentatively titled “Jacko and Lefty.”

The session will be recorded in Jackson’s new home in Bahrain, a borderless island country in the Persian Gulf and the smallest Arab nation, and is known for it’s beautiful golf courses and lax marijuana laws as well as an abundance of grade schools with easy access.

The embattled ‘king of pop” has said he”s “Ready for a comeback, outlaw style.” and that he will be selling his 2,800 acre Neverland Ranch, located in Los Olivos, CA, to buy a ranch near San Saba, TX. Jackson’s new neighbor the actor Tommy Lee Jones says “I’ll have him over for some brisket and Lone Star beer. I bet he has some stories to tell.”

Other artists slated to make appearances on the album are Beyoncé, Ludicris, Ryan Adams, Bryan Adams (no relation), guitar whiz Buckethead and Elizabeth Taylor sitting in on backing harmony and pedal steel.

Willie has said of the session “I like Michael’s work, I think Superfreak is a great song and I hope we are redoing in on this album.”

CMT – Sucks Mostly, But Not Completely

I got an email out of the blue today from CMT. Some nice person by the name of “Jen” emailed to implore me to alert you, loyal Twanger, that “There is a chance that Comcast may switch CMT from its current home on the basic cable package to a digital package.” Apparently if this unspeakable act comes to pass then several markets will lose access to CMT and it will cost them more bank to get it back. Truth be told, 99% of the time CMT, and their parade of crap – The CMT Music Awards, is a arid wasteland and serves as a sterling example of what’s wrong with Nashville and hollow spectacle that contemporary country music has come to be. But they do have the Crossroads series, which is not half bad and actually on one occasion – Roseanne Cash and Steve Earle – was brilliant. And Studio 330 highlights some truly great talent at their live best. So for that 1%, I am posting this notice. If you have Comcast, and like CMT, especially you folks in Baltimore, apparently in your market the end is nigh – then call or email Comcast and give ’em hell. Or go to a “fan created site” (uh huh) commiserate with others in these dark times.

Note To Willie – Just Say No!

Willie Nelson is a friend of mine. Truth be told he’s a friend of may dads from their drinking and tom-catting days in the 70’s. The man is an icon. A legend. And yes, a serial collaborator. For every brilliant collaboration – Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Emmylou Harris, Ray Charles – there are the WTF ones – Julio Iglesias, Toby Kieth, his upcoming producer Kenny Chesney, and now this- Mariah Carey has enlisted Willie Nelson to co-write a song for her upcoming movie role, a waitress and aspiring songwriter. Not only does Mariah Carry not deserve to kiss Willie’s Luccheses, after “Glitter” she should never be allowed to do another movie again that does not involve her removing the little amount of clothing she hasn’t removed so far.

Twang Nation – Acting Naturally

The fine folks at The 9513 have some good taste in country music blogs but somehow they’re also reading mine and for that I’m much obliged. They’ve put together a nice collection of blogs they read and assigned each a country hero personality. They’ve chosen some great site and assigned some true country pioneers so it’s hard to squabble with
Twang Nation being associated with Bakersfield hillbilly rocker  Buck Owens. It’s all just so…damn…give me a moment here folks.

Sites represented:

Big Rock Candy Mountain
Search for the Last of the Hard-core Troubadours
City Girl, Country Girl

Go show ’em some love!

Dixie Chicks – The Wrong Way

Anybody that has read this blog for more than a half-hour knows I represent when it comes to my home-girls the Dixie Chicks. Since sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire formed the group in 1989 in Dallas they survived roster changes and playing little shitty dives from Texas to Nashville. These gals payed their dues.

Natalie Maines joined and a more mainstream sound struck gold and the rest is history. And then Bush decided to start an illegal war and Maines was tactless enough to call it like it is back before the tide had turned (as of this writing 31% support the war in Iraq, and these people work for Halliburton or are retarded.)

The Chicks made music history at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday, February 11, when they became the first female group ever to take home the big top Grammy honors: Song Of The Year (for “Not Ready To Make Nice”), Record Of The Year (for “Not Ready To Make Nice”) and Album Of The Year (for Taking The Long Way).

But the girls weren’t done, they then snagged another Grammy when Taking The Long Way became the first Best Country Album ever to also win the coveted Album Of The Year trophy.

Now as much as I love the Chicks I have to admit, I don’t care for most of Taking The Long Way. I find the rock to light and the country, well, hardly there at all.

Maybe the Grammy judges wanted to put a stick in the eye of the Bushes and show support to the Chicks for all the crap they had to put up with when they spoke their mind (check out the excellentdocumentary “Shit Up and Sing” for all the sickening details) and I’m all for it. Give the girls song of the year for “Not Ready To Make Nice” (thes best soft rock punk song ever written) and let that be that. But Album Of The Year and Best Country Album? With all the great music (Dylan, Van Morrison, Solomon Burke, etc.) there were plenty of better records and the ladies themselves said that Taking The Long Way isn’t a country album. And they were right.

It’s a slap in the face to all the artists nominated (Alan Jackson, Willie Nelson) and those that should have been nominated (Hank Williams III, Vince Gill, Roseanne Cash) and show that the Grammy judges are willing to use a category to send a political message instead of rewarding the best music. It’s insulting and further discredits an already laughable award show.

The Chicks are still tops with me and I give them props for stretching their wings. But not all country fans turned their backs on them and they’re at their best doing country music. 4 undeserved Grammys sends all the wrong messages not least of all that now we might have to sit through Taking The Long Way 2.