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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.

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