Country artists are rockin’ the juke box instead of playing country music

I have been reminded, yet again, why I don’t listen to today’s country music—because it isn’t country music.

What passes for country music today is…oh, hell, I don’t know what it is.

Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.

The Country Music Association Awards singalong has become a total misnomer. More accurate would be a title something along these lines: The Anti-Merle, Anti-Waylon, Anti-Willie, Anti-Patsy, Anti-Dolly, Anti-Emmylou Show.

I mean, what I watched from Nashville on Wednesday night was country like Faith Hill’s right leg is short and stubby. (If you observed Faith’s right stem while she sang a duet with hubby Tim McGraw you’ll know what I mean. If not, be advised that Faith’s stems are noticeably unshort and unstubby.)

George Strait and Alan Jackson had it right when they sang Death On Music Row at the CMAs at the back end of the 20th century: Someone killed country music/cut out its heart and soul/they got away with murder/down on Music Row.

The chorus of that Larry Cordle/Larry Shell-written song goes like this:

For the steel guitars no longer cry and the fiddles barely play
But drums and rock ‘n’ roll guitars are mixed up in your face
Old Hank wouldn’t have a chance on today’s radio
Since they committed murder down on Music Row.

Once upon a time, country music was three chords and the truth. It was about the song. Now it’s…again, I don’t know what the hell it is, but apparently few folks can sing these days without distracting, blinding strobe lights, smoke and the volume cranked up so high that you can’t hear, or understand, the lyrics.

A lot of them look country, but they don’t do country.

Miranda Lambert looks country. Does it, too. Chris Stapleton looks country. Does it, too. Any coincidence that they were saluted as female and male vocalists of the year?

Miranda Lambert: A girl and her guitar.

I like Lambert. A lot. She can get after it like a hell-ya girl, but she doesn’t need gizmos and gadgets. She can stand on stage with nothing more than her acoustic guitar, her voice and her pain and deliver pure country music. She did the girl-and-her-guitar thing earlier this year with Tin Man at the Academy of Country Music awards. She was spellbinding. On Wednesday in Nashville, she genuflected in the direction of traditional country music with To Learn Her. This time she had a backing band and the performance included—wait for it—a pedal steel solo. The only one I heard in three hours. Imagine that. Pedal steel in a country song. What a concept. Miranda was Patsy, Loretta, Dolly, Emmylou, Tammy and Reba in a petite, powerful package.

What Miranda Lambert did is what country music is supposed to look and sound like.

It’s supposed to look and sound like what Little Big Town (with Jimmy Webb on keyboards) did with the Glen Campbell classic Wichita Lineman. Beautiful, four-part harmonies. It’s supposed to be what the Brothers Osborne did with Tulsa Time (a tribute to the late troubadour Don Williams). It’s supposed to look and sound like what newly minted Hall of Famer Alan Jackson did with Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow.

Instead, we get too many like Luke Bryan, a terrible singer singing a terrible song (Light It Up).

I thought it fitting that Jackson closed the show with Don’t Rock the Jukebox, because that tune pretty much sums up my sentiments about today’s country music:

Don’t rock the jukebox
I wanna hear George Jones
My heart ain’t ready
for the Rolling Stones
I don’t feel like rockin’
Since my baby’s gone
So don’t rock the jukebox
Play me a country song.

Sadly, too many of today’s performers can’t, or won’t, play country music.

Things that are on my mind this morning…

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Random thoughts in the wee hours before dawn’s early light…

I keep reading about the United States being the “land of the free?” What makes the United States the “land of the free?” What freedoms do Americans have that we don’t enjoy in Canada? Oh, that’s right, they get to play with guns and we don’t. How’s that working out for them?

I no longer use the phrase “You know you’re getting old when…” I now say, “Now that I’m old…”

As the day when there are 66 candles on my birthday cake approaches, I surrender to the reality that time is running short for me to take my first selfie. That is not, however, on my bucket list, so I shall be ashes in an urn before I engage in that self-serving ritual. I’ll continue to talk about myself, write about myself and look at myself in the mirror, but snapping a selfie is a non-starter.

I really like my dentist, but why does it cost so much to have her peer into my mouth? How do we know dentists aren’t ripping us off?

I find it interesting, also odd, that I can fly clear across an ocean to England for less money than it costs me to fly most places in Canada.

Someone told me that Americans would never be so dumb as to elect Donald Trump president. No? Then explain the voters in Minnesota electing a professional wrestler as governor and the voters in California doing the same with a body builder.

The Spice Girls: Did I miss anything?
The Spice Girls: Did I miss anything?

While watching Mel B on one of the late-night gab shows recently, it occurred to me that I could not name one Spice Girls song. So you tell me, have I missed something?

Someone once said, “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be,” and I agree. Whereas certain of my childhood friends go on Facebook to reminisce about the good, old days, I sometimes wonder if I even had a childhood or good, old days. They drop names I don’t recognize. They write of events I don’t recall. For example, the other day someone posted a comment about walking to high school in a group that apparently included moi. I have no recollection of that. I remember almost always walking to and from school alone or with one of the Lowery girls.

I witnessed the rarest of sightings the other day: Two people sitting in a pub, talking to each other instead of playing with their smart phones or tablets. That was nice.

I was a 10-minute walk from the Royals on Saturday, so I had a choice: Make that 10-minute walk and watch Kate and Will deliver the Royal wave, or sit in the pub and order another pint. I’m pleased to report that that other pint tasted real good.

Why was security on highest alert when Kate and Will arrived in Victoria on Saturday? Were the motorcycle cops and those men in sun glasses and long, black limos afraid one of our homeless citizens would insult the Royals by asking for spare change?

If the cost of rent continues to soar in Victoria, I might soon be one of those homeless citizens begging the Royals for spare change.

I missed the Royal wave from Kate and Will.
I missed the Royal wave from Kate and Will.

I have nothing against the Royals. I have something against fawning over faux celebrities. Or any celebrities, for that matter.

I tried to watch The Voice last week, but I can’t get past Miley Cyrus. I’m not sure what it is about Billy Ray’s little girl, but she’s a most irritating bit of business. Her nails-on-chalkboard voice is grating and those teeth that look store-bought don’t seem to fit her mouth or face. She’s over the top with her rebel-with-a-cause schtick, too. I’ll pass on The Voice this year now that I know she’s a coach.

On the matter of The Voice, the adolescent bantering between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton became painfully tiresome about three seasons ago. How often do those two mooks have to call each other an “idiot” before the audience and producers decide the schtick is just childish and not funny?

I was a fan of country music in the 1980s, when I hitched my horse in Calgary. That was a wonderful decade for the genre, with the emergence of George Strait and Clint Black and Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson and Randy Travis and Reba and Alabama and Dwight Yoakam and Roseanne Cash and Ricky Van Shelton. So what happened? When did Nashville become a haven for the vocally challenged? I mean, you’re telling me that Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan are mega-stars? George Strait and Alan Jackson were right when they sang Murder on Music Row. It’s a crime what’s happened to country music.

I really like Renee Zellwegger. She makes me laugh.

Depression, golfers and gunslingers

Nobody is going to drive me around the bend, because I’m already there.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Yup. Depression.

The diagnosis arrived last week. How deep is my depression? Well, when I left my doctor’s office he handed me a coal miner’s hat. And a canary. So it’s bad.

Oddly enough, however, the knowledge that I’m officially depressed made me feel better.

Seriously. It did. And I actually went two complete days without crying.

Chronic weeping, understand, is what sent me in search of answers. It was imperative that I understand why I was crying every…single…day. Not just once a day. Not just twice a day. Sometimes the tears would flow more than half a dozen times. And I’m not talking misty-eyed sentiment. I’m talking full-blown blubbering. Or, as I like to call them, Patti-melts.

And what triggered my Patti-melts? Just about anything, everything, anyone and everyone.

Tiger Woods is just one of the many culprits who set off my waterworks. Yes, Tiger Woods. His Royal Randiness.

As it happened, I was lounging on my loveseat one Sunday afternoon when I stumbled upon a golf tournament on TV. It was the Bay Hill somethingorother event and Woods had matters well in hand as he approached the 18th green. This was to be his first PGA victory since his former bride, Elin, took a 7-iron to his head after she discovered he’d been sleeping with every bimbo/waitress/hostess on three continents.

And I started crying.

That’s when I knew I was sick.

I mean, Tiger Woods is foul-mouthed. He’s ill-tempered and ill-mannered. And he’s a male oinker. Yet there I was, bawling because His Royal Randiness was about to do something that had exactly zero impact or meaning on my life.

Good grief. What next? I cry because Sarah Palin won’t be President?

Spare me.

I suppose I should thank Tiger Woods, though.

The moment he made me cry, you see, I began to track my Patti-melts. I recorded the dates and noted the triggers that set me off. In a 31-day period, I cried 77 times. I had just six cry-free days. I cried when I watched Doc Adams pull a bullet out of Festus Haggen‘s back on Gunsmoke. I cried when I heard Alan Jackson singing Here in the Real World. I cried when I was telling my friend Cullen about coaching Peanuts baseball back in the 1970s. I cried five times while watching a movie about Jesse James, for goodness sakes.

You know you’re deep into depression when you’re weeping over golfers and gunslingers.

I just hope there’s a way out.

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