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{Brad's Corner} March 2014: Primary Endorsements

{Brad�s Corner}

The most recent Texas Primary Election was held yesterday.  Hotly contested races all over the state were being decided at the polls.  The winners of those contests will move on to face candidates from their diametrically opposed party in the fall General Election.  On this busy election week, I was inundated by two things.

1. Terribly produced political ads from all across the spectrum that seemed as if they were written and produced for SNL, Chappelle’s Show, Key and Peele or The Daily Show.

2. Social media endorsements for Kevin Fowler’s new record How Country Are Ya?

In the midst of the first inundation, the ads were peppered with endorsements from various public figures, PAC’s, boards, entities etc.  These endorsements don’t come cheap and they usually have some sort of quid pro quo attached. They are also usually easily identifiable as valid  or laughable.   Whatever the case may be, somebody has done something for them.  Money has changed hands and/or promises have been made.

When it comes to the second onslaught of inundation; Fowler’s record getting so much push from his peers despite it being rather dreadful, can simply be chalked up to Fowler being a generally nice, hard-working guy with a track record of helping other artists. It’s the way of this music scene right, wrong or indiferent to blindly support things even when it doesn’t make good sense to do so.

Being a good guy with longevity in the scene should not make Fowler immune to criticism or induce automatic support…but it does for some reason.  And that’s become one of the biggest problems in this scene.  It should be okay to admit when something is bad and not catch heat for it.

Not every album, track, show, merch idea or tour is going to be the best of all time.  We should be able to admit that. We should be able to put down the Kool-Aid of the moment, step away from it and realize that if it smells bad now, the glass that person served us a couple years ago was what brought us into the kitchen…and they may concoct something equally tasty down the road.

Saying one piece of a career sucks or isn’t up to par does not take away from the whole.  

Blind support is just naive.  The tight-knit bonds that hold this scene together among artists and fans are special and should not be taken for granted.  

I love that when some carpet-bagging, clueless journalist, blog or artist trashes one of our favorites we rally around them like Al Sharpton in front of a TV camera. It’s inspiring and part of what makes this whole thing so special. But, we should also be able to turn that passionate mirror on ourselves and call a spade a spade when need be.

This article from our friends at New Slang LBK ruffled a few feathers yesterday, but it has some very valid points.  At a certain point artists transition into caricature if they aren’t careful.  We all know what Fowler has done over his career.  He’s never striven to be Guy Clark, and that’s okay…it’s his shtick.  It’s astonishing and admirable,but his winning, genial past can’t fight an aimless present.  Many of the songs on this record sound as if they were co-written with Earl Dibbles, Jr.   Maybe if the songs had come out sounding more like Granger Smith was the co-writer, things would be a little more palatable, but I’m not certain.

It doesn’t matter that this new record is the equivalent of a cowboy cool Natty Light resting in a Duck Commander koozie from Walmart, Fowler will still sell out every venue he plays, be heard on the radio from Dalhart to Del Rio and continue to be one of the nicest guys with one of the strongest work ethics in the Texas scene.

The backdrop of all this controversy is the current state of music in Texas.

There’s been an uneasy and growing divide between the “Texas Country” facet of this scene and everyone else for quite some time.  While the majority of artists have continued to drift more towards folk, roots-rock, soul and Americana, the country part of the spectrum continues to fall into the same Nashville lyrical traps we once rallied against.  Beer, bait and ammo. Trucks, girls, backroads and yes, beer.  Usually backed with cheesy vanilla musical tracks that are so indistinguishable from the latest stylings of the mainstream dimestore cowboys that I can’t often tell the difference between them when I am cruising the radio dial.

For years, we and others have tried to be a filter for the fans.  For the fans, by the fans.  Giving them a forum to voice their opinions and point out fresh new bands and BS along the way.  Perhaps, as NewSlang LBK suggests, it’s time the artists did that among themselves too.  No tweets of support just because a guy is your friend.  Actually listen to the record and if you dig it, tell us why.  We want to trust your opinion.  When everyone says how awesome they think something that obviously isn’t great is, it dilutes the trust.

One of the standards that has always propped this scene of music up against its mainstream antithesis has been the grunge-like credibility of dudes getting up and singing songs about seemingly real life as opposed to some cubicle country daydream.  Somewhere along the way with the aid of $500 blue jeans and radio promoters the lines have gotten blurred for some artists.

Becoming a big fish in a small pond has a way of reshaping your reality.

Writing and performing songs that pander to a redneck fantasyland makes you no better artistically than the Luke Bryans and Jason Aldeans many of your fans protest.  But it just might make you tons of money.  If you’re able to reconcile the artistic bankruptcy with the financial windfall then good on you.

To bring it full circle, there is a distinct political-musical analogy.

You wouldn’t vote for or endorse a buddy in a political contest if you did not agree with their platform.  You would most likely know where they stood on certain issues; and even if you loved them like a brother and respected them immensely…if their viewpoints did not align with your own, an endorsement would not be and should not be forthcoming.  You shouldn’t blindly endorse someone based on their prior work.  You need to know what have they done for you lately, as well as what they plan to do in the future.  If you fail in this vetting process, the public will lose faith in you.  The weight and importance of your endorsement will fade quickly and you’ll be on the chopping block when your number is called.

The parallels don’t end there.  Just as in the political quid pro quo process…there’s always the pay to play route in the music industry too.  Support can be bought, bartered and delivered for the right price.  But be careful the price you pay…it just may cost you your credibility.

The most important question in this entire situation is not how country are ya? But, rather…how credible are ya?  Only the artists themselves know the answer deep down, but don’t expect fans to not have doubts.

MINOR CHORDS:

-The latest round of Lone Star Music Award voting is underway.  Greenfest was chosen as a nominee for Festival of the Year again.  We are flattered, humbled and appreciative.  We truly try to take a house concert concept and amplify it to 11 with full bands and 2 days of fun, family and fellowship.  It truly is a special weekend.

-A recent tweet I made about how Twitter shouldn’t be connected to Facebook received a lot of traction and support.  The best analogy I can come up with is that Twitter is like texting and Facebook is like email.  If it’s short and witty, tweet it.  If it’s long and involved, Facebook it.  The Internet will appreciate it.

-Playing in several golf scrambles in anticipation of another fun round at the Bowen Classic in June.  I feel that Ike Turner Ballou and I will be reckoned with this year.

-The radio industry is the only one I’m aware of that is almost as screwed up as the music industry.  I guess that’s why they’re cousins. A handful of moves in our radio world have made waves recently.  ShooterFM dropping Chris Austin is puzzling, as is Adam Drake losing his role in College Station.  Hopefully these guys land on their feet soon in new, better situations for them.  On the flip side of that, there is the jubilation of finding out that Justin Frazell and Shayne Hollinger are now running the show at 95.9 The Ranch.  You won’t find two guys more dedicated, passionate or knowledgeable about this type of music on the air anywhere.  Best of luck fellas!

-I bet Ian Kinsler will have at least 162 pop-ups this year with runners in scoring position.

-We should develop a WAR stat for musicians.

-Can you tell baseball is on the brain?

-We unveil our 6th Annual Ultimate LJT Contest next week!

-I, like so many of you, am absolutely sick of this cold weather.  Bring on the triple digits any day compared to this.  This is the craziest winter I can remember and I’m not a fan.

-I can’t recall an athlete more fascinating than Johnny Football.  I also can’t recall an athlete with as wide a path in front of him or her.  He’s almost in, as Bill Simmons coined, the Tyson Zone.  Meaning I’d believe just about any story I hear about him.  Partying with Vanilla Ice at a home remodel? Yes.  Racing zebras at Lone Star Park with Drake and LeBron? Yes.  Being the first pick in the draft and rescuing the Texans franchise? Sure.  Being a professional trainwreck of Ryan Leaf 2.0 proportions?  Hmm.

-This month’s recommended album:  Jeff Whitehead – Bloodhound Heart. I’m still early in the listening of this, but it is fresh.  It reminds me of when I first heard K Phillips a couple years ago.  This record has a pleasing mix of styles and Whitehead’s whiskey-soaked rasp cradles each lyric with just enough care to make each line believable. Heartfelt, soulful, folksy, and hard-hitting…a must-have.

-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain

19 Responses to “{Brad's Corner} March 2014: Primary Endorsements”

  1. Great read and I agree with you 100%.


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  2. Brandon March 5, 2014

    Big. Steel. Balls. Well done sir.


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  3. I can’t figure out a passage from the above that I want to quote the most when I share this. I’ve pretty much given up on this scene for many reasons including this.

    I saw the Lone Star Music Award nominees and thought – Guy Clark is probably not going to win an award and it just disgusts me to a point I have a hard time getting over. I did vote for Greenfest and can’t wait till next July!

    Good job Brad.


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  4. Danielle March 5, 2014

    Yep, yep and yep. Well said.


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  5. I find Kevin Fowler’s music amusing in small doses because there’s a sense of humor to it. As a whole, I’ve always found it about as deep as a puddle and have never had the urge to rush out to see one of his shows or to buy a CD.

    With that said, I don’t equate him with people like Bryan or Aldean because while Fowler’s music isn’t deep, it doesn’t seem to me to be presented as anything other than what it is… country party music. As opposed to the other tools who are promoted as country music outlaws (*cough* *bullshit* *cough*) who are changing country music. Which they are… destroying is kind of like changing, right?


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  6. Another great article, Brad and I’m not just saying that cuz other people said it either. LOL


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  7. Outstanding, sir. On all points.


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  8. Great read Brad…as usual. I personally find myself a little torn on my feelings though. Kevin has always had a cheeky side to his music, and doesn’t hide it. So I don’t necessarily feel that this record is any different.

    He isn’t trying to pass it off as if he is changing the world, or that it is all that serious. He doesn’t try to put it out there as if it is something other than what it is.

    But the bigger question to me is the one about other artists promoting it. My feelings on that have changed over the years as my responsibilities and career have changed. I have always been one to support and promote people who have been loyal and supportive to me or my projects. I support people all the time when I may not necessarily love what they are doing at that specific moment. I still support that PERSON.

    I promote Galleywinter blog posts for example, even if I don’t agree with it 100%. I feel that it is very important for me to support businesses and people I respect within the industry. Not to mention I feel a certain loyalty to people who have been an integral part of the industry since day 1.

    Maybe that isn’t the right way to go about it? It is a gray area to me personally. Kevin has been more than helpful and accommodating to our show for example. He has gone above and beyond at times for us. Well above what some others might ever do. So have many others who may/may not have an album that I don’t personally love. But in that respect, it still seems prudent for me to want to see them and their projects succeed. They succeed, we succeed.

    I also feel very strongly about the need for a “filter” in the scene.

    Bottom line: It is an intriguing circumstance, but I am not sure the answer is really all that simple. In particular where the music being presented isn’t pretending to be something it isn’t.
    In fact, that may be the crux of my position on much of the music out there. Just don’t pretend it is something it isn’t, and I am generally cool with it…even if it isn’t my cup of tea.

    TP


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  9. Shannon March 5, 2014

    Cody and I supported the release of Kevin’s record without ever hearing it. Why would we do that? We’re supporting our friend because that’s what friends do. We also support Dierks B in all his releases. Do we dig em all? Nope. Do we tell him that? Yup. Do we need to tell EVERYONE that? Of course not.


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  10. Thanks for all the comments on this month’s article. My main goal was to get people thinking and I think it’s safe to say that has happened.

    I’d also add that anyone hung up on solely the Fowler part of the article is missing the larger point…that we should all be more discriminate when lending our support to things.

    It’s hard for me to tell friends when something they’re passionate about isn’t up to snuff, but I still do with love, support and respect. It’s okay to separate the art from the artist.

    If we all agreed on everything life would be boring. I respect everyone’s take on this and am just glad it has spurred conversations.

    Much love and Viva La Texas Music, Fowler, Galleywinter and everyone else.


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  11. Great article. I, like Shannon, support my friend’s stuff no matter what. If they ask me my TRUE opinion, I’ll tell them without ripping their soul from their chest.

    If someone ELSE rips my friend’s music (and I agree with them) I may say something along the lines of “Yeah, it isn’t for everybody”. It’s a slippery slope, but it is what it is. I guess this is why people need to police each other?

    PS: That new Little Brave song “I Chose You” is stuck in my head like it’s on a top-40 radio station, but I’m almost positive it will get a fraction of the attention that a Fowler B-side track gets. That’s just how he is. He chose a lucrative business model, she chose her art.


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  12. Not 100% related, but I was pleasantly surprised to see Galleywinter giving high praises to the new RRB single.


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  13. I 100% agree with Brad here, and commend him for saying this, and saying it with such class, respect, insightfulness, and wisdom. I don’t think I could be as cool-headed in saying these same things.

    The free flow of opinions and criticism contributes to a healthy “scene” (though I personally hate that word), and any artist that runs from good criticism, or fan that reacts negatively to it, is doing themselves a disservice. The back scratching of a scene is where the important support for artists can come from, especially up-and-coming artists, but it can also be what enacts a glass ceiling above a given artist. If you’re too immersed in paying people back and are afraid to change or grow because you might step on toes or let the “scene” down, it causes stagnation. So does the quid pro quo system of people paying someone back by looking the other way at bad music. In the end, this is the music business, and the best music must rise to the top, regardless of friendships, or how nice someone is on a personal level.

    The Texas scene is very unique in most all of music, because it is big enough to sustain a fair amount of artists at a livable level where they can have families, while giving them the freedom somewhere like Nashville can’t. It can launch artists and does so regularly, and has created a viable alternative to Nashville. But of course the common criticism is that it’s becoming Nashville, just with not as big of infrastructure.

    The strength of the Texas scene is in its ability to offer an alternative. For it both to sustain and grow, it is imperative in my opinion that the Texas Scene keep its sonic distinctions. If it doesn’t, it could become the “other” alternative, instead of the “better” alternative.


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  14. I think what upsets me the most is that Paul Eason is no longer a frontman, and plays guitar behind a man singing silly songs. A true story teller he was!! He deserved way more credit than what he ever got. With that being said, when I dont feel like thinking and I am drinking some beers, I will probably NOT skip Fowlers old stuff on Pandora…but as soon as I hear the words “pound sign…,” I might explode.


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  15. BAM, SNAP and WHHHHHAAAAAAMMY!!
    Preach it, Brother B.


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  16. I for one have never knowingly endorsed music by saying someone is my friend in the same sentence. At least not in the last few years. I believe music should stand on it’s own outside of my friendship and if something is good then I endorse it and tell everyone to buy it. I have more respect for myself than to just blindly endorse bullshit. Nobody gives two shits who I’m friends with anyway.


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  17. Thank you for your insights… This is by far the best ‘read’ that captures me every month. I may not live in Texas, but I love the music that is created by certain artists from Texas and other states…you know who you are..

    Again, Thank you for your honest opinion and oversight, it is truly valued.


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