Lonesome Onry and Mean didn't vote in Houston Press ex-sister paper Nashville Scene's annual Best of Country Music poll, but that doesn't mean we won't comment on the results.
This year's poll essentially boils down to the Big Four: Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson. Compiler Geoffrey Himes, noted former music columnist for the Washington Post, No Depression magazine, and a contributor to numerous publications, rationalizes this year's voting by saying that Paisley and Lambert deserve all the kudos for best album, best song, etc. because they took chances with their careers rather than following their already successful formulae.
Read closely, though, and you will also note Himes didn't vote for the winners. According to Himes, Nashville has two models for performers who have amassed considerable influence by moving a lot of product:
"There's the Garth Brooks model, where you use that influence to get a better financial deal and new marketing platforms but leave your hit-making formula alone. And there's the Willie Nelson model, where you use that influence to pursue every artistic dream you've ever had, whether it's singing jazz standards or cooking up concept albums.
"The big news in this year's Country Music Critics Poll was not that Rosanne Cash and Buddy & Julie Miller released superb alt-country albums - though they did - nor that George Strait made yet another brilliant George Strait record - though he did. The big news was that Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert, famous enough to follow the Garth Brooks Model, followed the Willie Nelson Model instead. They bet their reputations on edgier songwriting and edgier performances, trying to fix something that wasn't even broken. They gambled and won."
Himes follows with a long and not entirely torturous justification of Paisley's win that claims Paisley deserves the accolades because he took chances with his audience and his career by doing songs that touch on feminism, racism, charity, etc. LOM sent out an email to quite a few of his honky tonkin' alt-country type musician acquaintances, and one of them said of Himes' Paisley remarks, "I ain't feelin' it."
Well, LOM isn't feeling it for Paisley (who plays RodeoHouston March 17) either. Admittedly one of the hugest talents in Nashville, we have to wonder why Paisley waited until he was a zillionaire hit-making machine before daring to take his considerable talents just slightly in any direction but the country music aisle at Walmart. It's great that Paisley has moved slightly away from his usual cheese, but to LOM, what he's done hardly qualifies as some major against-the-Music-Row-grain career move. We'd bet half the people who bought Paisley's albums barely know what the lyrics are.
Yet our old compadre Webb Wilder, as alt-Nashville as it gets, disagreed:
"I liked 'Welcome to the Future' and 'Online' from Brad. Both are smart but simple songs and records. 'Online' kind of reminded me of Bob McDill's writing, which was always smart, simple and successful. 'Welcome to the Future' is anthemic and uplifting in a kind of Tom Petty meets mainstream country kind of way that miraculously works without being a ripoff in the process."
So let the games begin. Check back here over the next few days as we sample opinion out in the honky-tonk hinterlands. You're really going to like what they have to say about Jamey Johnson.
Read the entire Nashville Scene article here.
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