by: Thomas D. Mooney
What kind of fucking question is that? Seriously. What does that even mean?
Exploitation Country. That’s what a massive chunk of Texas Country/Red Dirt/Nashville Country artists should be called. Short and simple.
Earlier today on Twitter, I noticed Texas Exploitation country repeat offender Kevin Fowler had a new album out called How Country Are Ya?–mainly by his contemporaries who all tweet about how **awesome** of a record it is and how we all should buy it. I usually just skim over this kind of shit, but after a lengthy conversation with Kevin Russell of Shinyribs last week about the subject of what’s good in “country” music, I opted to give it a listen.
Still, it’s going to sell more than others who released records today within the country community based primarily on two things: 1) name recognition, and 2) Because he used more buzz words than make large audiences think they’re more country than their friends. It’s cool to drink beer when you’re listening to someone talk about drinking beer and how they’re so good at drinking beer and why they need to drink beer because it somehow validates their countryness.
It’s really a stupid idea to believe in though.
I’d argue that 1) No body really gives a shit about how “country” you are, 2) if you somehow were legitimately “country,” you wouldn’t care if anyone else thought you were country, and 3) The things Fowler and his contemporaries are talking about being country aren’t very fucking country in the first place.
Last I checked, Billy Joe Shaver and Guy Clark were way more country than anyone else and doesn’t have to act like or sing about being a frat cowboy to do so.
wasted an hour listened to Kevin Fowler’s record for the last hour and it’s really unsettling to think that there’s literally no artistic value within the realms of that record. That version of Texas needs to really burn. The caricature is a caricature is a parody is a shameful lie and ultimately a horrible, crying joke.
Just look at the titles. How Country Are Ya? Guitars and Guns. Before Somebody Gets Hurt. The Weekend. If I Could Make a Livin’ Drinkin’. Panhandle Poorboy. Borracho Grande. Love Song. Habit I Can’t Break. The Girls I Go With. Beer Me. Mousturdonus. Whiskey and I. Chicken Wing.
If someone was making fun of country music, those are the titles they’d use to make a mockery out of it. They don’t have to though. The industry is already doing a well enough job.
And it’s not just Fowler. He’s just today’s shining, gilded example. Everyone likes to think that Texas has a better roster of “real country” singer–especially when compared to Nashville. But tell me, what’s really the difference between Kevin Fowler and Luke Bryan? Absolutely nothing. Nothing.
They both sing about how awesome it’d be to have sex in their trucks. If it’s on a dirt road and there’s a cooler of beer in the bed, bonus points. Can we go get some southern fried something or another after? More bonus points! Can I wear a dirty, old ball cap and talk about how awesome it was playing high school ball while doing it? More bonus points! Gun rack? You get the point. It’s all trivial and immature in nature.
In a way, I can’t even fault Fowler, Bryan, Casey Donahew, etc (Side Note: The fact that I don’t rattle off a laundry list of artists that are the same way and you know exactly who I’m talking about, just shows how massive and legitimate the problem is) for doing what they do either. They’re making money–albeit if your fanbase is dominated by tweens, teenagers, frat cowboys, and their sorority girlfriends, how are you actually enjoying that? (I guess it technically still does spend.)
I really don’t know how exactly this–or what really–“fixes the problem.” Or at least shifts the conversation towards genuine songwriting, but I feel it starts with accountability and integrity–journalists, readers/listeners/fans, and most importantly, musicians and the artists themselves.
Talent aside, I’m assuming one of the reasons Willie, Waylon, and the boys were able to create great country music at one time was because they’d call each other out on something that was bullshit.
I’m positive lots of musicians don’t want to blast their contemporaries because they don’t think it’s right to do so, but you can’t think of it that way. When you don’t call them out, you’re just giving them validation and a green light to shit on country music’s legacy. You really should be offended by the mess of it all.
It wasn’t but a couple of weeks back that singer-songwriter Chris Knight said in an interview with the Dallas Observer that he felt women singer-songwriters were more talented than the men. He said he didn’t know why that was, but I think I know why: It’s because female songwriters have to work harder than men to be heard. Men get a pass on being lazy songwriters where women don’t. Women don’t have the luxury of being able to sing an hour set about how they put a good dip in and drank away their sorrows and why they were so much more country than everyone else.
Basically, we need more Chris Knights and Shinyribs. You know, maybe just maybe, give a shit.
To knowingly take this William L. Garrison quote out of context (He was talking about slavery, I’m talking music) I’ll say “I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation… am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard.”
UPDATE: Here are a couple of columns that were [semi]-sparked by this column. They’re an important and vital part of the conversation that’s happening.