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Watching The Ranch Wall Come Tumbling Down

by: Cody Starr

Brad did an excellent job of explaining why we should trust Shayne Hollinger, Justin Frazell and the rest of The Ranch crew with our precious Texas/Red Dirt Music lives. As a regular Ranch listener who lives in DFW, I’m usually lurking on The Ranch “Wall” (the station’s online chat room) during the week. I don’t chat all that much but I’m there listening and watching the happenings as the DJs interact with the “Wallbangers” throughout the day (which in and of itself is pretty cool).

As Friday afternoon rolled around I did notice a few more curveballs being thrown into The Ranch playlist – Gary Allan, Dierks Bentley, The Eagles, etc. I didn’t think much of it, because the station has always rolled its own and it actually takes requests from it’s listeners, especially on Thursdays and Fridays so hearing a Ronnie Milsap song followed by Turnpike isn’t all that strange.

By late Friday, social media caught fire claiming that The Ranch had “sold out” to “mainstream country” and “Nashville crap.” The Wall was in full meltdown mode, like a 2-year old who just had Teletubbies turned off. As the anger flowed throughout the weekend, I kept listening, checking the playlist, watching the mass exodus by it’s “loyal” listeners, trying to make sense of it all.

Compared to the rest of the country, I’ve always thought Texans had a high musical IQ and a true appreciation for music history. But as I watched The Ranch staff take it in the shorts all weekend, I realized I was wrong. Here are a few observations from the weekend that I thought were worth highlighting.

Concerning the format change. It really isn’t all that different. As others have statistically shown, it’s still mostly TXRD. And the majority of those “mainstream” additions to The Ranch playlist feature artists that either have a direct Texas connection or are pretty darn influential to TXRD music. Examples:

Dierks Bentley – Cody Canada must like him, seeing as he named his oldest son Dierks. His other son’s middle name is Vedder, hmm…wonder who that is after.

Brad Paisley – He’s got credits for playing guitar on both Pat Green and Asleep at the Wheel albums. Personally, I like Dalton Domino’s supportive poetry.

Garth Brooks – He’s from Oklahoma and used to jam in Stillwater with the rest of them Red Dirt boys you love.

The Allman Brothers – Ryan Bingham covered “Whipping Post” at Billy Bobs last month.

Gary Allan – Better tell Shane Smith and The Saints that Gary ain’t Texas enough for them to open for him at Floore’s in May.

Bruce Springsteen – Seriously, look out that window. You’d be hard pressed to find a TXRD act that doesn’t think The Boss is the boss. Rich O’Toole will tell you straight up that his new album “American Kid” is primarily driven by his love for Springsteen.

Eric Church – Church and Ray Wylie Hubbard are pretty good buds now.

The Eagles – Don Henley being from/living in Texas isn’t enough? The scene mourned with everyone when Glen Frey passed last year yet we get mad when “Take It Easy” got played.

Merle Haggard – Yes, people were even pissed they were playing The Hag. Guess they forgot when he passed away last year how the whole Texas music community spent the next view weeks doing Hag tribute shows.

Ryan Adams – To many this guy is arguably is the most influential songwriter to Texas Music right now and the dude isn’t even from Texas. Don’t get Bobby Duncan started or bother to ask Randy Rogers who leads the spin count on his phone.

A couple of other Wall head scratching moments from the weekend:

– Somebody threw a fit when The Ranch would spin any kind of rock music (e.g. Lynyrd Skynyrd) then turn around and request Ragweed or Koe Wetzel. Are you kidding me? Have you listened to “Noise Complaint”?

-The premise that was firmly established by the Wall lynch mob was that everything out of Nashville is either “Nashtrash”, “Nashpoop” or some other other fecal derivative.

So I wonder:

Why does King George get a pass by these folks? Nashville folks produced him, wrote for him, help make him. Practically everyone of his albums was on a big corporate Nash label. Oh yeah, he’s Texan so I guess that trumps Nashtrash.

Pat Green once told us that “Old Walt Wilkins lives out in Nashville,” hmm…

Guy Clark made his final home in Nashville, did it taint him?

Many a favorite Texas acts collaborate, write with or are produced by Nashville folks. Does that make them all look like poo-poo?

Look, I get it. Nobody wants to hear FGL, Sam Hunt, or Jason Aldean and the fear is that The Ranch will eventually cave to the mighty dollar. I have faith that isn’t going to happen. Even with the format tweak, The Ranch is far from the Top 40 country stations further down the dial.

Some final common sense thoughts:

Shayne Hollinger has always looked out for the independent artist. I’ve listened to him long enough to know how much he cares about these folks. People don’t flip their core beliefs over the weekend.

Justin Frazell said something to the effect of “Everything I have I owe to TXRD, you think I’m just going throw that all away?” – No Justin, I don’t.

Ranch naysayers would argue up and down that making room for “mainstream” artists would squeeze the “little guy” from getting spins. Yet if you checked social media this weekend it was the “little guy” standing up for Justin, Shayne and the rest of The Ranch crew. All those artists putting their trust in these people says a lot.

I will sympathize with those who don’t like the explicit rebranding of The Ranch to “Alternative Country.” I’m not too hot on it either, not because it isn’t true but because the messaging was over the top in that FM wacky way. The marketing department was trying a little too hard, the punk rocker doesn’t need to tell everybody he’s a punk rocker. But it’s a nit and it’s something that can be tweaked.

So, let’s give the folks at The Ranch the benefit of the doubt, give this thing some time and be thankful we still have a great country station in DFW.

Ranch Round-Up

As Charlie Stout pointed out in a recent tweet, it was just a mere two weeks ago that we were lamenting the fact that there hadn’t been much buzz or newsworthy trends in our scene for quite a while.  Thanks to a few songs on the de facto flagship airwaves of OKOM all hell broke loose on Friday. Immediately, our Twitter mentions filled with folks asking what was happening on the Ranch?  They said they’d heard Brad Paisley and Eric Church.  Knowing it was too early for an April Fool’s stunt, we naively asked on Twitter what was happening?  The floodgates soon opened.  Ranch haters went to battle with Ranch apologists.

This firestorm led to deeper investigation. First by Saving Country Music and anectdotally by countless others. For as long as I’ve known him, Shayne Hollinger has had an impeccable ear for music. Of all kinds. If it’s good, he plays it. Labels be damned.  As it should be.  His Mandatory FM station was revelatory and legendary.  He’s as likely to play a song wrapped in a cardboard cassette holder as he is one that arrives with a blustery, overdone PR kit. Shayne has been the first person to play many of your favorite artists on the radio.  If the tune is good, it will be played.  His heart is in the right place too.  One night at LJT 2008, he quite literally saved my life when tornadoes ripped through Melody Mountain.  I also once saw him punch a dude in the throat that was being loud during a listening room show. Warnings need to be heeded when you’re around serious music fans.  He takes that seriousness to his programming.

Justin Frazzell and I hit this scene around the same time…the late 90’s.  He had a front porch, I had a front row seat. He had a microphone, I had a keyboard. His old Sunday shows on the Wolf provided a fertile proving ground and outlet to a burgeoning scene that needed a voice. You will not find a better guy involved in this crazy business.  His heart is as good as gold and the works he does raising money for Cook’s Childrens Hospital are a showcase of his passion.  One of the most proud moments of my crazy experience over the past two decades was the time I got to sit in on Justin’s first show back on the airwaves. His first Front Porch show on the Ranch after his exile from radio. I’ve always cherished that.  I knew he was going to be successful because he finally found the right home.

I give all that background to say this.

There are not two guys I trust more with music decisions for this scene.  There are several I trust as much, but none more.  A few  years back, once both gentleman arrived on the Ranch team, I knew they’d take it to new heights and new places.  In an age of dwindling listeners and streaming services, local radio provides personality and an experience you can’t find elsewhere.  Just as you all don’t exclusively listen to Texas/Red Dirt constantly on your Spotify or Pandora…neither do these guys.  Shayne took over musical direction of the station and started slowly incorporating new elements. Stevie Ray Vaughan. Leon Bridges. Miranda Lambert. Each as Texan as Randy Rogers Band, Wade Bowen and Pat Green.  Just a different shade.  Unencumbered, this inspired Shayne to push further. Back to his old mandatory motto…if it was good, it would go on air. Place of creation be damned. Whether it came from Weatherford or Chattanooga, if he dug it, he’d put it on your radio and let you hear it. That’s a bold choice. And the right one.

The passion his inclusion of more mainstream acts has inspired has been awesome. In a scene that many of us had figured was devoid of inspiring that type of blowback anymore, it’s been fun to see people get so worked up about something. It means they care.  They care about the music.  They care about this scene.  They care about local radio. And most importantly, with regard to this situation…they care about the Ranch. They’re not going anywhere…because there is nowhere else to go.

If we have to sit through a pretty good Eric Church song to hear the latest from Koe Wetzel, there’s no harm there.  If a Kacey Musgraves B-side plays alongside Jackie Darlene…that’s good.  And guess what…they’re still spinning all the William Clark Green, Turnpike Troubadours and Parker McCollum you can handle.  Your time spent listening may be different, but it’s not going to be less.  Some listeners may jump ship, but the net gain will be minimal and unnoticeable.  To those folks that are pissed off about this change…I understand your frustration.  I live in Waco.  We have ShooterFM.  Which from its inception has been good, but not perfect.  It plays Jason Aldean right after Cody Jinks.  It’s odd.  But it sure beats the alternatives and Cody Jinks has sold out his last couple shows here…because people heard him on the radio.  The same will be true for the Ranch.  New artists will continue to shine.  The slicker, new stuff just may rope in new listeners. And we’ll all live to sing along on Friday nights.  Shayne will continue to play what he thinks is cool.  Justin will continue to be the jovial host that brings it all to us on Sundays and each morning.

I’m just glad to see people still give a shit.

Bingham Bob’s

I’ve been backlogged with life lately but got to see Ryan Bingham earlier this month as he played back to back nights at Billy Bob’s. I don’t have any mind blowing revelations, I just wanted to share some images and video from that night.

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{Brad's Corner} February 2017: All Stars

{Brad�s Corner}

I just got back from a rowdy trip to New Orleans.  The NBA All-Star game is arriving there very soon, and all over town they were preparing for it.  Posters of LeBron were as common in the French Quarter as overzealous and pushy shot girls.… Read the rest

Red River Songs Reviewed

by: Storm Hoobler

16463360_10210229047796614_7991069575171995855_o(photo credit: Dave Hensley)

Red River Songwriter’s Festival. Red River, New Mexico. The teeth cutting Northern New Mexico town of Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen, Michael Martin Murphy and some other song makers with serial killer names.… Read the rest