by Julian Spivey
The newest class of the Country Music Hall of Fame was announced on Wednesday, March 25 and it’s the most lackluster, unworthy induction class in the history of the hall of fame – and it might not even be close.
The three new inductees are: The Oak Ridge Boys, Jim Ed Brown/The Browns and Grady Martin. Now, I want to say right up front that Martin on the induction of the Oak Ridge Boys and The Browns and the incredibly dumb format in which the Country Music Hall of Fame chooses its annual induction classes.
Since 2010 the Country Music Hall of Fame selection committee has focused on three voting categories. The categories are: Modern Era (artist is eligible for induction 20 years after first coming to prominence), Veterans Era (artists is eligible for induction 45 years after first coming to prominence) and Non-Performer, Songwriter and Recording and/or Touring Musician active prior to 1980 (this year was a musician selection and Martin was chosen).
An inductee from each category does not have to be chosen every year if they don’t receive the required amount of votes, but every year there seems to be one from each category make it. The voting committee thus doesn’t seem to be picky enough.
I particularly have an issue with the Veterans Era category that allowed Jim Ed Brown and The Browns to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this year. I don’t mean any disrespect toward The Browns, but can anybody out there (even rather big country fans) name any of their hits? No? I didn’t think so. This is reason alone for them not to be worthy of hall of fame induction. Even if you only knew that Jim Ed Brown had a hit with “Pop a Top” in 1967 (which was later covered into a hit by Alan Jackson) that still wouldn’t be enough to justify hall of fame induction. But, because the category needed an inductee and they were one of the few acts around (especially with living members) that haven’t already been inducted they got the call.
The Veterans Era category doesn’t make any damn sense because pretty much every artist deserving of induction from that era has long since been inducted. Two artists, however, eligible for the Veterans Era vote that would’ve been way, way more deserving than The Browns and got snubbed were the late Jerry Reed and Johnny Paycheck.
My problem with the Oak Ridge Boys being inducted is two-fold. 1) They aren’t any good. 2) There were many better candidates that were snubbed in favor of them.
Hits are important in country music and the Oak Ridge Boys had hits. From the late ‘70s throughout the ‘80s the Oak Ridge Boys had 17 number one songs. They also had harmonies that many people gush over, but are overrated in their sappiness. But, what the Oak Ridge Boys also did was record many of the corniest and worst songs in country music history. For the bullshit that is “Elvira” alone this band should’ve been blackballed from ever being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. But, not only do they have that turd in their repertoire they also have schmaltz like “Bobbie Sue,” “American Made” and “(I’m Settin’) Fancy Free.”
While the Country Music Hall of Fame selection committee was making the call to the Oak Ridge Boys many more worthy choices were being snubbed like Hank Williams Jr., who once again has unbelievably been passed over despite huge hits, a larger-than-life stature within the genre and influencing nearly everybody in today’s country world.
The most obvious selection for the Country Music Hall of Fame should’ve been Alan Jackson. He will obviously be inducted one day in the future, but peers like Garth Brooks and Vince Gill have seen Hall of Fame inductions in the last few years and Jackson would’ve made perfect sense. Jackson, in my opinion, was the biggest snub.
Other artists who would’ve been more deserving than the Oak Ridge Boys that are eligible for induction include: Dwight Yoakam, Randy Travis, Brooks & Dunn, Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, Clint Black and Charlie Daniels. All of these artists have had an immeasurable impact on the genre of country music over the last three decades. The Oak Ridge Boys have just made a mockery of it.
The 2015 Country Music Hall of Fame induction class is simply put a joke, which is a shame because this hall of fame is one of the last truly halfway respectable ones around.
by Aprille Hanson
When you want a badass, foot-stomping rockin’ hit country song, you go to Miranda Lambert. She carved a niche in the genre for herself that has opened the floodgates for other female artists to follow in her boot steps. Gretchen Wilson attempted it, but her redneck side was a little too overwhelming. What Lambert brought is the beauty of a Southern Belle with the wild attitude of a strong country woman. Her latest single “Little Red Wagon” is the perfect mix of her two worlds.
The song starts off a little slow, as she sings, “You only love me for my big sunglasses / and my Tony Lamas / and my Dodge Dart Classic / You said I’ll be Johnny and you be June / and I’ll ride with you to the moon,” pretty much explaining what these country boys are after. In a sea of songs about “getting some of that” and “lookin’ so hot” and “slide on over here, girl grab me another beer,” it’s a tough music world for female artists and females in general to be taken seriously.
But in true Lambert fashion, she packs a punch in the chorus, “But guess what? / You can’t ride in my little red wagon / the front seat’s broken and the axle’s draggin’ / no you can’t step to this backyard swagga / you know it ain’t my fault when I walk jaws drop like ooo, ahhh.”
While classic country critics might scoff at the premise of the song, thinking of it as nothing more than a girl power anthem, it’s really more of a battle cry because we’re sick of it. We’re sick of being referred to as objects in this subgenre of Bro-Country. It was a miracle when Maddie & Tae released, “Girl in a Country Song,” which outright pokes fun at the concept while also standing their ground. Lambert essentially is doing the same thing with this song, but in her subtle, ass-kicking style. Because of that, many might just miss the point. In the song, here’s this gorgeous girl strutting around, but she’s not sleeping around or being a doormat for any man. This is most evident in the bridge, as she goes back to the beginning, lines of the song, but jumping into a sultry, “I live in Oklahoma and I’ve got long … blonde … hair” then picks it up in an irate fashion, “And I play guitar / and I go on the road / and I do all the shit you want to do / and my dog does tricks / and I ain’t about drama y’all / I love my apron / but I ain’t your mama / so guess what!”
And the male backing vocals respond, “what?” and she explains again, “You can’t ride in my little red wagon.” On the surface, she’s referring to her Dodge Dart Classic, as she points out. But, it’s not a very far leap to consider that the “little red wagon” she’s between-the-lines referring to could be her vagina. However, the song is far from dirty. She can be gorgeous, successful and you can be mesmerized by her – but she’s not a play thing and not every good ol’ boy can hitch a ride in her little red wagon. Leave it to Lambert to say what we’re all thinking … to the backdrop of a ridiculously fun beat.
by Julian Spivey
Elvis Costello left the sold out Gillioz Theater in Springfield, Mo. absolutely mesmerized by the end of his two hour set on Saturday, March 7. Costello poured his heart and soul out for the jam-packed theater, which is a beautiful old movie theater from the silent film era that has been renovated into a concert hall equipped with fantastic acoustics.
Costello sounded terrific during his solo show that saw him perform tunes spanning his entire discography from his very first release 1977’s My Aim is True all the way to his most recent work with The New Basement Tapes, a supergroup formed by the great producer T-Bone Burnett to form unfinished Bob Dylan lyrics into a complete album.
Costello opened up his performance with “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes,” from his debut album, which was a huge hit with the audience.
He followed with a long string of ballads showing that a guy who started out as a new wave, punk rock type could also make a career out of being a lounge singer. If there was a slight lull in the evening it was at this point, but to be fair Costello sounded exquisite the entire time.
Costello would make numerous instrument changes throughout his set – mostly switching up between different guitars, but he also had a piano on the stage and wowed the sold out crowd with a stupendous version of his 1982 song “Almost Blue” – a song that shows Costello could have also been quite the jazz performer.
Costello seemed to have the audience in the palm of his hand when doing songs that could be considered among his “greatest hits” like “Accidents Will Happen,” “Watching the Detectives,” “Everyday I Write the Book” and a terrifically stripped down version of “Beyond Belief.” This isn’t too surprising as many show up to concerts of someone who has been around as long as Costello has wanting to hear “the classics.”
Some of Costello’s deep cuts from My Aim is True were among his best of the concert. “No Dancing” and particularly “Blame It On Cain,” with accompaniment from opening act Larkin Poe, were incredibly entertaining.
Costello also utilized the incredibly talented sister duo of Larkin Poe – Rebecca and Megan Lovell – for his performances from The New Basement Tapes sessions doing “Hidee Hidee Ho” and “Down on the Bottom.” “Down on the Bottom” was particularly interesting, because it wasn’t a song that Costello did on the album, but rather one that My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James did. Costello’s version is different and a nice take on the track.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Costello’s performance was the giant television set that adorned the stage. Before the concert Costello’s music videos throughout his career played on the television screen to entertain the waiting crowd. Throughout his performance images and poems would scroll across it. The most interesting use of the television set came during one of Costello’s encores when the screen was removed and Costello himself stood inside the television set to perform a handful of songs. This was one of the best portions of the entire concert as Costello jammed to “Pump It Up” to the crowd’s great delight. He also performed fantastic versions of “Ghost Train” and the fitting “TV is the Thing (This Year) before closing out his encore with a fantastic performance of my personal favorite Costello song “Alison.”
The audience wasn’t about to let Costello leave on that note though and he returned to the stage for one more encore. This encore began with a jaw-dropping vocal on “I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down” with him on piano. He then performed “Jimmie Standing in the Rain,” a newer song from his 2010 album National Ransom, which he said he likes to perform because it always reminds him of his grandfather.
Costello brought Larkin Poe back out to the stage for a rip-roaring performance of “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” that was the most perfect way I could think of for Costello to end his show. Hearing the crowd sing along to the refrain “what’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding?” is one of those utterly unforgettable and epic concert moments that I know I will never be able to forget if I tried.
Costello is one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of the last four decades and it was a true honor to see him in such an incredibly sounding venue. Hopefully everybody gets a similar opportunity in a city near you.