What’s Your Truth?

Josh Abbott recently released his latest single “My Texas” and received some harsh criticism from an array of folks. I myself have many times taken Josh’s music to task for its lack of depth and cliché-ridden lyrics and he knows this. Last night, stung by the reaction by the Rita Ballou commenters by some to his latest song, Josh tweeted this:

“Some days you just laugh at the critics, but some days it gets to ya. I need to develop tougher skin I guess.”

and

“wish ppl would give the deeper lyrics as much attention as they do the “cheesy” ones. Not trying to save the world here, just playing music.”

As I told him in reply on Twitter, he needs to make music for himself and not the critics or anyone else. The minute music is produced with restrictions and the notion of trying to please a target audience, it loses its soul. The moment music becomes a marketing ploy and not an organic artistic statement is a tragedy.

I’d be willing to bet that there have been numerous times over the years that Kenny Chesney has been asked by his label to stretch out of the nostalgic, Buffett-lite zone he’s been stuck in since ’99. But, he can’t help but be who he is. He records those tunes because they speak to him, not because he’s worried about what critics might say about it. Chesney’s never been a critical darling and the blogosphere takes him to task for every piece of his music and lifestyle…but he’s able to soothe himself with sold out stadiums and $100 bills.

To take it back to the 90’s grunge movement as I’m often wont to do,
Kurt Cobain made music for himself. No apologies. With the winking sarcasm of “here we are now, entertain us” fired as a prophetic salvo of self-awareness. He didn’t write his songs because he thought people would dig it and he’d knock Michael Jackson and hair metal off MTV. He wrote it because it spoke to his truth. It just so turned out that it was the truth of a whole generation. That connection must happen naturally, it cannot be forced…which is something that many folks around Texas/Red Dirt seem to have forgotten all too often lately.

A manufactured movement is a product. A revolution is tangible.

At the end of the day, no matter what field you’re in, you must be able to look at yourself in the mirror and find comfort in your own truth. In line with that, 40,000 people heard the “My Texas” tune at LJTs and went bananas.

Abbott’s on to something. If it makes him happy and connects with an audience, then he really shouldn’t give a damn what I or any other person, critic or anyone else has to say about it.

Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief

61 thoughts on “What’s Your Truth?

  • May 10, 2011 at 11:23 am
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    This article lay’s it out. Bottom line the great thing about this scene is there is room for everything from Townes, to Josh. It’s all music from the heart.

  • May 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm
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    I agree with your ideals about truths and music.

    But.. Josh made his bed and he’s going to have to lay in it for a while.

    He is very successful, but the deeper crown shuns him. So what?

    A lot of artists go every day knowing that nobody gives a shit about them OR their music, but the deeper crowd appreciates their lyrics and differing music style.

    The good news for him is that the same people that eat up everything that he makes, BEFORE HE EVEN MAKES IT, will pull their gluttonous ways on everything he prepares for them, no matter how deep or how shallow it comes out.

    He has a formula that works. “Hey your FRIENDS like this song. Shouldn’t you? Good! After you drink those 4 beers then come back to the front of the stage and take your shirt off, dumbass.”

    I don’t dislike Abbot personally, because I don’t know him, but I can NOT feel sorry for him.

  • May 11, 2011 at 12:39 pm
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    “The minute music is produced with restrictions and the notion of trying to please a target audience, it loses its soul. The moment music becomes a marketing ploy and not an organic artistic statement is a tragedy.” BINGO. Abbott should take these words to heart. Following the formula to create a “Texas” hit is absolutely a marketing ploy. It’s the same with Chesney. I don’t believe that it’s just because they “can’t help who they are”, it’s because they have a marketing strategy to write/perform songs that appeal to the masses (lowest common denominator) and make the most money. These guys are business men more than artists. And Josh Abbott follows the formula to a tee. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that song was a joke or some SNL-like skit making fun of songs about Texas.

  • May 11, 2011 at 1:19 pm
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    I agree with Josh and Seth for sure. You want to make music solely for financial gain, without regard for quality? Then don’t complain when people criticize it. Make better music instead.

  • May 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm
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    This is an art form but it is a business as well. If you were the venue owner and were trying to make money to pay a staff and keep the doors open you book what draws the crowds. Josh does that. Thankfully, there is also a market for the smaller listening room type acts so that everyone can put there money down to support what teh enjoy. Lets stand together as a Texas Red Dirt scene and keep the genere growing.

  • May 11, 2011 at 5:04 pm
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    I’m not a Josh Abbott fan, and he can make the music he wants to make, but with that being said, it is becoming VERY formulaic. We are supposed to embrace originality and Josh Abbott is by no means original.

    Nobody put a gun to Josh’s head and forced him to become a musician. Criticism can be a very healthy thing, and not something we should altogether discourage. Josh needs to stop having his feelings hurt because the 18 and older crowd does not really dig his music. It is made for teeny bopper Texas kids, and that’s about it.

  • May 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm
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    I’m not trying to say Abbott sucks, or he is a disgrace, or anything like that. He just is what he is. He should be happy that he fills venues all over the place. Even if it is at the cost of approval from different crowds.

  • May 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm
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    Wait and see Josh’s music will evolve and grow. Look at early stuff from Pat Green that he wrote and see how past writing evolved as his career went forward. Much like Josh is doing now Pat drew fans one gig at a time by putting on a high energy performance and having natural chrisma on stage. The writing evolves with time and life experience.

  • May 13, 2011 at 1:35 am
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    I’m not saying that Josh sucks at what he does, but what I am saying is that he needs to have broader shoulders. If he feels he is writing from the heart, and if “My Texas” is a song straight from the heart, then he should not let critics bother him.

    I will be critical of him, mainly because I know he has it in him to better and possibly great. However, the music he is currently making seems tilted toward the 14-18 year old age group.

  • May 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm
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    “The minute music is produced with restrictions and the notion of trying to please a target audience, it loses its soul. The moment music becomes a marketing ploy and not an organic artistic statement is a tragedy.”

    These statements are the entire reason I do not listen to mainstream (Nashville) music. It’s unfortunate that there are some “Artists” out there that are trying to capitalize on the momentum of the Texas Music scene that’s been built by hundreds of true artists that write and perform from their heart and soul and make organic artistic statements. I just hope the lowest common denominator crowds that are hypnotized by mass produced formulaic “music” don’t allow these “artists” to destroy such a fine thing as the Texas Music scene.

    Well written article Brad.

  • May 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm
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    Really? It’s just a song. I think its good song. Nobody criticized Pat Green for singing all those songs about Texas. Thats what we want to hear. Songs about Texas. I don’t want to hear the same old Nashville generic crap. There are so many good artist in Texas, if you don’t like Josh Abbott, there are plenty more to listen to.

  • May 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm
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    The Texas music scene is here to stay no one segement of the market will destroy the entire scene. People vote with their dollars. Personally, I would rather go see for example REK than Josh but so what the folks that put there money down to go see Josh don’t harm the scene in any way. Texas Red Dirt music is true free market captolism at work no big corparte medling just fans saying who rises and falls with their hard earned dollars that folks is what america is supposed to be all about.

  • May 16, 2011 at 11:23 am
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    Nice article. I don’t feel like I should tell anyone what good music is, it is all personal. If a crowd feels it, then it is good to them, every person isn’t going to feel what we all call deeper music in their soul. I like having options. I was on vacation in Key West and saw CHesney on the beach there and I will tell you, I don’t think anything could have felt any more right during that moment. Some nights I feel like sitting under the stars and listening to Walt and other times I feel like having a beer and singing along to Kevin Fowler anthems.

    • May 17, 2011 at 10:44 am
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      Well said! Some days you feel like crankin’ up the party anthem stuff and some days you want the meaningful thought provoking lyrical tunes. It’s a mood thing.

  • May 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm
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    The question people never ask is “compared to what?” So Josh Abbott sucks, but compared to what? Compared to the songs some blogger writes? Compared to Guy Clark? Maybe Josh Abbott is trying to be Guy Clark. If so, he might should work harder on that.

    Most likely he is not. Is he being the best Josh Abbott he could be? Seems like he is doing very well for himself.

    The thing to remember: critics criticize for a reason — they can’t create.

  • May 18, 2011 at 4:37 pm
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    Agreed, he does what he does to the best of his ability at this given point in his career. Like I said before Josh will evolve with time and life experiences. Critic’s, who cares! They become radio consultants and try and force feed the masses nashvegas country. Texas music is independendent from any prescribed “system”. Thats what makes the scene what it is.

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