As much as we think most things are all about us, occasionally we like to hear from you.

Could you please just not sound so happy?

As the owner-operator of a reasonably widely-read music blog, I end up fielding some interesting questions via email from time to time. One recent inquiry, from an up-and-coming singer-songwriter on the regional scene here in Northern California, struck me as especially deserving of wider consideration: It seems to me that positive music is more likely to be panned by critics than material of a darker nature. Do you find that to be the case? If so, why? It is particularly relevant in my … [Read more...]

Summer Olympics Shuffle

table tennis (Custom)

Not Olympics-themed, per se, but delayed by 7 hours and featuring nearly as many questionable hairstyles. Set your media player of choice shuffling and share your results below. Feel free to award gold, silver, and bronze medals to your three best songs. 1. Merle Haggard - Natural High (live) 2. Patty Loveless - I'm That Kind of Girl 3. Hank Snow - Confused with the Blues 4. Dallas Davidson - Keepers 5. Dwight Yoakam - Together Again (BRONZE) 6. Devil Makes Three - Cheap Reward 7. … [Read more...]

Let’s Shuffle, Shall We?

shuffle doc

Bad news: You're overdue for your seasonal music check-up. Don't worry, though. We'll make this as quick and painless as possible. Simply grab your media player of choice, turn your head to the left, shuffle 20 times, and you'll be out of here before you can say "Are you sure my insurance will cover this?" Be sure not to disguise any embarrassing results. We have to see the good and the bad to make an accurate diagnosis. Just to show I'm a sport, I'll go first: 1. Terri Clark - … [Read more...]

Challenge: Compliments for Brantley Gilbert

Brantley Gilbert

People a lot more business-minded than me will tell you that the one thing you don't want to do is challenge your audience. Marketing wisdom says: Find a niche that works for you, then stay in it. Play nice with everybody all the time and don't say anything that might limit your appeal. Keep paragraphs short and easily scannable, since nobody has time to read blocks of text in the age of the internet. Come to think of it, this is the same basic approach that defines (and defiles) much of … [Read more...]

Should Music Be Given Away?

dirt drifters

The Dirt Drifters believe so strongly in the music on their debut album, This Is My Blood, that they are literally giving it away. During their "Give Blood" promotion, every fan attending one of their concerts receives not one but TWO complimentary copies of the CD: one to keep, one to pass along to a friend. They'll keep going until they've given away 30,000 CDs. It's a surprisingly grassroots fan-building strategy for an act signed to a major label like Warner Bros. Nashville. After all, it … [Read more...]

Best of 2011 Checkpoint: Looking Back (and Ahead)

guy clark tribute

Since we're just past the halfway point of 2011, this seems like a pretty good time to reflect on some of the best stuff we've heard so far this year and take a look at how the rest of the year is shaping up musically. First, favorite albums so far. What new releases have you been enjoying the most? If you had to recommend one recent release to a friend, what would it be? While these things are always wildly in flux with me, I've managed to throw together an unranked Top 10 that looks … [Read more...]

Shuffle ‘Em Up, Summer Shut-In Style

summer mix

Here at Country California headquarters, we're welcoming summer in the customary manner: by catching some rays and firing up the grill hiding indoors from the 100-plus degree heat, praying the air conditioner doesn't quit. It'll be safe to step outside again sometime in September. Until then, we have lots and lots of good music to keep us occupied. Ancient iTunes folklore suggests that the first 20 randomly-selected songs of the season set the tone for the months ahead. I don't know if that's … [Read more...]