Quotable Country – 05/31/09 Edition

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As a Texan and a country music fan … I didn’t learn George Strait songs. I knew them the same way I know English. That’s how it goes. When you get your first car at 16 or 17 years old, it comes standard with a George Strait Greatest Hits along with brakes and A/C.
– – Jack Ingram on the ubiquitous Strait influence in Texas.

He’s got so many killer, unbelievable songs. Listening to his albums over and over and over, it’s helped us pick songs to go on our albums. You can always go, ‘Do you think George Strait would sing something like this?’ I think it’s helped us a lot, and how many people he’s influenced is unbelievable.
– – Eddie Montgomery makes a rather unconvincing argument for Strait’s influence. How did “What Do You Think About That” or most of Montgomery Gentry’s other songs get through the ‘would Strait sing it’ filter?

Strait is neither a masterful vocal interpreter on a par with George Jones or Emmylou Harris, nor a writer to join the ranks of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard.
He does, however, keep the wheels of the country music machine turning by recording songs that give country radio stations hits they can rely on year in and year out, and that spread the wealth among a broad spectrum of writers, music publishers and concert promoters.
– – The L.A. Times’ Randy Lewis has no effusive praise for George Strait.

That’s the best feeling at the end of the night. I remember working for six and seven bucks an hour, and if you’re going to go pay 20 bucks to get into a concert, you know some of these guys are having to work five and six hours just to be able to come see us by themselves. And if they’re gonna bring a date, they’ve got to work two or three days. I don’t forget that.
– – Still trying to figure out Jamey Johnson’s math here. There are people earning $20 for six hours of work? Sounds illegal. Although I guess it’s thoughtful of him to be catering to undocumented workers…

I loved the title alone. It’s so true because we are all crazy in our own ways. When I first saw the title of the song, it made me smile. I just couldn’t wait to hear it.
– – Billy Currington wanted to record “People Are Crazy” because, well, people are crazy.

That’s probably the next big milestone Eddie and I would like to accomplish is to become members of the Grand Ole Opry. Eddie’s had a lot of history there with his father growing up. His dad was a big dreamer of playing the Opry and making it big in the business, so Eddie’s really hoping to accomplish that, being a member.
– – Those who read this Quotable Country back in February should have seen the Montgomery Gentry Opry invitation coming. Because apparently all you have to do these days is mention that you’re interested and Pete Fisher will come knocking in a matter of months. (I’m interested, Pete.)

“The Grand Ole Opry, bay-bee!” Eddie yelled as the two launched into “One In Every Crowd.”
– – Just had to include this because it sounded like something Trailer would write in Fake News.

I kind of tend to duplicate what we do on the record as close as possible. You’re not going to get it exact, but we try to make it sound the way it did when it first attracted the fans. From my own perspective as a fan, I won’t mention any names, but I’ve gone to a couple of shows where they changed the songs all up and didn’t sing the same words, and I came to hear what I liked on the radio. So I don’t do that to the fans that come to see me.
– – Joe Diffie tries to make his live shows sound like the records people know and love… or at least like the radio singles they sort of remember, because really, who buys Joe Diffie records?

When I get off stage, I try to be normal Kenny, but that’s become more difficult because people see me and they don’t want me to be normal Kenny. They want me to be that Kenny, you know what I mean, and sometimes I don’t want to be that Kenny.
– – I think Mr. Chesney should be the Kenny who used to not be obsessed with the islands. Is there still a Kenny like that tucked away somewhere?

He tells me there’s another reason they [Little Texas] can’t necessarily play in Texas – their music is too polished. I didn’t know this either, but apparently there is a certain ‘Texas’ sound, which is quite un-polished (poorly recorded both vocally and musically) that local radio in Texas is willing to play if you’re on the Texas circuit. And then there’s the polished sound of good vocals and fine musicianship that Nashville is known for – which if you come from Texas, and leave Texas to do, they won’t play.
– – The Most Respected Music and Entertainment Blog in Nashville is surprised to find that Texas music is not all about Little Texas (in an interview with bassist Duane Propes).

3. Americana by Jimmie Driftwood. In country music, for some reason, you can’t go too wrong with guys named Hank and Jimmie (make sure of the “ie” spelling though). This is the Jimmie that wrote “Tennessee Stud,” “The Battle of New Orleans,” and many many others, all of them verbally lush and diligently rhymed. He throws his husky voice into his lyrics with a showbizzy, top-of-the-beat zest that sometimes sounds a little retarded (which I mean in the kindest way).
– – Music recommendations from the always-entertaining Robbie Fulks.

What’s the worse sin: Burning down Johnny Cash’s house or recording this song? Not sure.
– – Juli Thanki on Barry Gibb’s “Drown on the River.”

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  1. says

    Wow. Somebody hasn’t listened to any Texas/Red Dirt music lately. I’m not an audiophile, but I can’t hear much difference in the production. Sure Little Texas can’t go back because they “sold out” years ago. But mostly they can’t go back because they’re irrelevant.

  2. idlewildsouth says

    On the “would George Strait record this” process, maybe a “no” is part of the decision factor.

  3. Mike M. says

    Wow, I never knew Barry Gibb recorded a country song a couple years ago. Maybe that leaves out hope for a bluegrass cover of “Night Fever.”

    As for the Lewis article, it almost seems like a shock when anyone says anything remotely derogatory about Strait (the Lewis quote above feels like a backhanded compliment, if you can even call that). I’m kind of the stuck in the middle on this topic. When you look at the span of George Strait’s career, it’s certainly evident that he’s recorded some great material. He used to have an ear for finding the right song, and I’ve always compared him to Conway Twitty in that regard. However, in the past two or three years, I think he’s become almost too conservative and safe with the music that he has released as singles (It Just Comes Natural, She Let Herself Go, River of Love, etc). He still wins the awards, and gets the respect, because he is a traditionalist and has a steller reputation based on his past. But, a lot of his stuff lately just doesn’t stand out on radio to me, not even amongst some of the lame tunes of many mainstream country acts. I think the main reason that he got “artist of the decade” was as a lifetime achievement award, mainly because the voters on the committee respect him and there really wasn’t any other alternative. They weren’t going to give it to Chesney, and most of the more talented artists of the genre (Jackson, Paisley, Urban) weren’t hot or consistent throughout the entire decade. Truthfully, I agree with Lewis that Krauss would be a perfect choice, because she helped represent the genre well through outside projects, and still kept her creativity spirit and artistry alive while doing so.

    With that said, I still think Levine goes a bit too far on his assessment. Granted, he’s right that Strait isn’t Jones, Haggard, or Hank as an artist. But, I think what people have to remember is that Strait broke through the industry in a time when the “Urban Cowboy” movement was at its peak. He helped keep the traditional style of country music alive for artists like Dwight Yoakam, Ricky Skaggs, and Alan Jackson, and for that reason alone, I think he’s very important to the genre of country music. Furthermore, when he gets a good song, like a “You’ll Be There” or a “Troubador” (or his recent single), he still sings it well. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Strait’s approach to country music over the past 30 years. However, because he doesn’t write much of his own material, his success and the “legend status” are based off the songs that he records…nothing more, nothing less.

  4. Mike K says

    Joe Diffie is still out there performing and I’m glad to hear it. He possessed one of the best styled-hair/mustache combinations of the past few decades. Best Good-Bad Joe Diffie song, “Junior’s in Love.”

    I guess that part of the “High Cost of Living” is being swindled by store clerks due to poor arithmetic.

    Fortunately, Kenny is pocket-sized so you can carry Island Kenny, Sexy Tractor Kenny, and Refer to Myself in the Third Person Kenny with you and always be ready to party.

  5. says

    apparently there is a certain ‘Texas’ sound, which is quite un-polished (poorly recorded both vocally and musically

    PLEASE tell me this was a joke, tongue-in-cheek, whatever. Surely no one in Music City is THAT clueless about Texas music.

    • 18andLife says

      Somehow I doubt that was a joke. Unpolished is one thing, but poorly recorded musically and vocally? That’s an hysterical thing to say, but not funny. It is true though, that Texas doesn’t produce many Carrie Underwood’s (and keep them anyway).

    • Ben Milam says

      i gave up on the texas music label years ago. it does a disservice to so many musicians. is scarface texas muisc? yes, houston, texas. the sisters morales? of course, san antonio, texas. the scabs. ok scratch that one, but they are based in austin, texas. blue october? san marcos, texas. pantera? dallas, texas. there’s just too much going on in our state musically to paint everything with that brush. but the thing about it is that nashville doesn’t get that it’s not one thing (production values for instance) that make something “texas music”. maybe it’s none of these things. maybe all of these things. i bet steve earle knows. i bet guy clark told ’em.

  6. Rick says

    I’m not one to agree with the L.A. Times very often, but Randy Lewis must have read my mind when it comes to George Strait. George consistently puts out top shelf “product”, but apart from “Amarillo By Morning” emotional punch and pizazz is usually lacking. Glad to know I’m not alone in feeling this way….

    Did Billy Currington say “It’s so true because we are all crazy in our own ways.” before or after his emotional breakdown awhile back when he quit touring to go deal emotionally with “unresolved issues from his childhood”? Yes Billy, we are all crazy in our own little ways, but some people are a whole lot more crazy than others…

    As far as Jamey Johnson’s math, he’s including the “transportation cost” of gasoline for the 1980’s Ford pick-up with a 460 c.i. V-8 that Bubba drives that only gets 5 miles per gallon. And don’t forget that attending a concert also requires a lot of money to spend on beer! And sometimes they need to budget for bail as well…

  7. says

    Believe it or not I’d sort of agree with you on Strait, Mike M. I think as of late Strait’s recordings have been hit-and-miss, although I did think It Just Comes Natural was the best thing he’s done in at least a decade, ranking right up there with Blue Clear Sky and Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind in the group of truly great Strait records. (“River of Love”? Really, George? Come on, I know your ear’s better than that..)
    Still, though, I thought Lewis’ commentary was a bit harsh, as it made Strait sound like little more than a cog in the Nashville machine. I know I’m a fan (seen him 14 times, with No. 15 coming up on Aug. 8 in Houston) with all the biases that come with that, but I can’t apologize for thinking that to label what Strait has done in his career as “songs that give country radio stations hits they can rely on year in and year out, and that spread the wealth among a broad spectrum of writers, music publishers and concert promoters” is a huge insult to him and his contributions to the genre.


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