Monday, December 28, 2009

Ten I Love

Steve Martin Rehearsals for The Hardly Strictly Business Bluegrass Festival

A funny thing happened on the way to my usual year end list of top albums: one of my employers—the one that usually asks me for a year end critic's pick list—didn't want it this year. Well, that's not completely true—they wanted it, but they wanted to merge it with dozens of other lists to form some sort of amalgamated "super list" that didn't reflect any one critic's personal choices.

My main problem with that is that this particular publication is short on country music fans. My list merged with a couple dozen others adds up to my picks being negated by the indie folk rock duo from Queens that sell 10 albums and the German dance/pop wunderkinds who sell 20.

No thanks.

So for what it's worth, here's the list of my favorite 10 albums of 2009 (in no particular order):

Miranda Lambert, "Revolution" (Columbia Nashville)
Like her first two albums. Miranda and producers Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke crafted a major label album with indie sensibilities. There's not a clunker among the 15 songs and "The House That Built Me" is a monster track.

Steve Martin, "The Crow: New Songs For The Five String Banjo" (Rounder)
What can't this guy do?

Rosanne Cash, "The List" (EMI Manhattan)
I've been a fan for 20+ years and I knew she could pull off an album of covers before I even heard it. That said, she blew me away.

George Strait, "Twang" (MCA Nashville)—King George continues to amaze. I won't pretend that I've heard every one of his albums, but this has to be one of his best, if only for his spot on (to my ears) Spanish only version of "El Rey."

Jack Ingram, "Big Dreams & High Hopes" (Big Machine)
From "Barbie Doll" to "Seeing Stars" and everything in between, this album is solid from start to finish.

Holly Williams, "Here With Me" (Mercury Nashville)
It's too bad there wasn't a breakout hit from this album so that the world could find out what a talent Hank Jr.'s daughter is. "Three Days In Bed" is naughty and nicely done.

Radney Foster & The Confessions, "Revival" (Emergent)
One of the men that helped me fall in love with country music is still blowing me away two decades later. There are so many standouts it's hard to pick one, but I'll choose the title cut.

Keith Urban, "Defying Gravity" (Capitol Nashville)
I love everything Keith does and this is no exception.

Sam Bush, "Circles Around Me" (Sugar Hill)
OK, I'll be honest... I wrote the bio for this album. That said, this is everything you could ask for in a modern bluegrass album. "The Ballad Of Stringbean and Estelle" made me pull my Jeep over to the side of the road.

Jason Aldean, "Wide Open" (Broken Bow)
Jason is a great example of how a career can be built. He just keeps getting better and so do his albums. I won't soon forget watching 10,000 people stay right where they were during his concert in a rainstorm.

Ricky Skaggs, "Solo: Songs My Dad Loved" (Skaggs Family)
An exceedingly cool tribute to Ricky's dad, who inspired his love for music. For a guy that is as prolific as he is when it comes to albums, Ricky never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Three To Get Ready

I have a new favorite young trio: the Band Perry, which is made up of siblings Kimberly, Reid and Neil Perry.

Their first single "Hip to My Heart," which they co-wrote with Brett Beavers, is currently on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.

The trio owes its unique sound to its parents. "Most dads would be rocking their kids to sleep singing 'Rock-a-bye Baby,'" Kimberly recently told me for a Billboard story. "Our dad was singing us Rolling Stones songs, and our mom loves country. They definitely cross-pollinated our musical palette."

She describes the group's sound as "modern throwback. We love tons of old country, from (Johnny) Cash to Loretta Lynn to Hank (Williams), but we also love modern music. And we live up in Appalachia, so there's a little bit of bluegrass thrown in now and then."

Kimberly, the oldest of the trio, fronted her first high school band at age 15, employing Reid, then 10, and Neil, only 8, as her roadies. Eventually the brothers formed their own band, which opened for Kimberly's. Four years ago the siblings banded together. "We always knew at some point it would be a family band," Kimberly says.

The trio toured, playing "a little bit of everything -- festivals, churches and clubs," Kimberly says. "Anywhere there was a pair of ears that would sit and listen, our dad was really dogged about getting us the opportunities to play for them."

Raised near Mobile, Alabama, the siblings moved to East Tennessee seven years ago to be closer to, but not live in, Nashville. "Our initial inspiration and songs came from outside Nashville, so to keep one foot in and one foot out was always really important to us," Kimberly says.

The trio teamed with Garth Brooks' manager, Bob Doyle, in 2008 and a year later it signed with Republic Nashville. The group's debut album, which is being produced by Paul Worley (Lady Antebellum) and Nathan Chapman (Taylor Swift), is due in 2010.

Speaking of Lady Antebellum, my love affair with that band is not over just because of my newfound discovery. Both acts reaffirm my faith in music done right.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Swift Winds Buffet Nashville

The winds of change were blowing at gale force strength Wednesday night (Nov. 11) in Nashville. Nineteen-year-old Taylor Swift bested stalwarts Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley to win country music’s top honor, the Country Music Association entertainer of the year award.

2009 CMA Awards - Press Room

Swift is the youngest ever winner of the award and the first female to win since Shania Twain claimed the trophy in 1999. She also stymied Chesney, who had hoped to move ahead of Garth Brooks all-time by claiming his fifth crown.

Swift, who opened the show with “Forever & Always” and also performed “Fifteen” surrounded by a swaying chorus of teenagers, was emotional when accepting the trophy. “I will never forget this moment,” she said.

The award was as much a tribute to her success as an album and ticket seller as it was to her pop culture appeal. Her Nov. 7 appearance as host and musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” brought the show its best ratings of the season. Next year she’ll appear in the movie “Valentine’s Day,” which follows on the heels of her cameo in “Hannah Montana: The Movie.”

“Everything that I have ever wanted has just happened to me,” she said as her parents hugged in the audience. “Every single person in that category let me open for them. Thank you.”

Asked backstage what could be left to accomplish, Swift replied, “I never imagined that the unattainable thing that I’d held in my mind, my imagination, would happen to me at 19. I couldn’t be more grateful. But I love a challenge, and right now the challenge is to find the next challenge.”

“And a child shall lead them,” Paisley, the show’s co-host and winner of two awards, said backstage. “I couldn’t be prouder of her. She’s the biggest artist in music. It's hands down.”

Country Music Hall of Famer Barbara Mandrell praised Swift, who is only the third female to win the entertainer award since Mandrell won in 1981. “I think it’ll be exciting to watch where she takes it,” Mandrell said.

It was a clean sweep for Swift at the 43rd Annual Awards. She also took top album honors for “Fearless,” which she co-produced with Nathan Chapman, the female vocalist award—besting three time winner and the show’s co-host Carrie Underwood—and top video for “Love Story.”

The turning tide was not limited to Swift. Lady Antebellum, last year’s new artist winning trio, took home single of the year honors for their No. 1 single, “I Run To You." They also won top vocal group, unseating Rascal Flatts, who had won the award every year since 2003. “That was a complete shock,” Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley said backstage. “Rascal Flatts, [those are] some big shoes to fill. We don’t quite feel worthy.”

Meanwhile, Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker was named top new artist. “I’m a country singer now,” he told reporters. “This is my day job.”

AT 43-years-old, Rucker is more than twice as old as Swift. His album, “Learn To Live,” has just crossed the million sales mark this past week.

Rucker wasn’t the only country convert at the event. Kid Rock performed with Jamey Johnson, Daughtry played with Vince Gill, Dave Matthews dueted with Chesney and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons appeared with Brooks & Dunn, who were making their last appearance on the show as a duo before splitting in 2010.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Garth Goes Vegas

Garth Brooks Announced As Resident Headliner At The Wynn Las Vegas

The man I took banjo lessons from when I was a young teenager was a prophet. I don't remember his name, but he was. He revealed to me way back when that artists of the day like Michael McDonald would eventually become mainstays in Las Vegas.

OK, maybe he was wrong about McDonald, who as far as I know has never settled into a lengthy run at Caesar's Palace or Harrah's, but he was right about the concept of contemporary stars inhabiting the place like Steve & Eydie did not that long ago.

As you probably know by now — although I did talk to someone in the music business the other day that didn't know — Garth Brooks is the latest artist in residence in Sin City. For fifteen weekends a year, four times a weekend, for the next five years if all goes as planned, G-Daddy will do shows at the Wynn Encore and then jet back to Oklahoma to be with his daughters and wife, Trisha Yearwood.

It's not a bad deal for Garth, who admitted that he underestimated casino owner Steve Wynn. "I told him he couldn't afford me," Brooks said of Wynn. "I was wrong." In addition to whatever Wynn is paying the Garthmeister, he gave him a jet to fly back and forth between OK and BETTERTHANOK.

All that to say, even if I had stuck with the banjo lessons, I wouldn't be playing Vegas. Garth is doing a one man show.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Urban Gives It All For The Hall

As I sat enjoying the wonderful Keith Urban "All for the Hall" benefit at Sommet Center in Nashville the other night, I wondered who else besides Keith could pull off such an extravaganza. The answer is no one. Well, no one and Vince Gill, who was there along side Keith.

It's not just the matter of asking your friends and peers to show up—Keith recruited acts that had opened for him in recent years and also dipped into the friendship well with Faith Hill and guitar buddy Brad Paisley—but it's also about having the grace and humility to then support them as part of their backing band. Who does that?

Jason Aldean, Little Big Town, Dierks Bentley, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, plus the aforementioned Ms. Hill backed by Gill's band plus Vince, Keith and Dann Huff on guitar. Talk about lack of ego. I can't think of another current country superstar who would/could do it.

From where I sat, Keith looked like a kid in a candy story. He was just having fun.

The funny thing is that since I was young I always imagined being at a concert when a surprise guest came on stage (In my mind's eye it was usually Bruce Springsteen joining Michael Stanley, but that's just me). This wasn't quite like that—most of the acts were announced in advance: Dierks Bentley was the lone surprise— but it was close enough . . . hell, it was better. “I think this is officially one of the greatest open-mike nights we’ve ever seen in Nashville,” Urban said during an opening set that found him and his band as the opening act for the night.

The concert was such a success that Keith plans to do it again next year. By the way, the show was born out of Vince's call for country artists to donate one night's take to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Keith took that call to heart and Vince came to support his effort. Bravo.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Flashback, Again

I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: 2009 has been a flashback kind of year for me. A few months ago it was Steve Martin and Spinal Tap, now it's Rosanne Cash and Radney Foster and Sam Bush. I've also reconnected with old friends via Facebook.

I'm not complaining.

Each in their own way, Rosanne Cash, Radney Foster and Sam Bush are all big reasons why I'm involved in country music today. When I was hired at WXKX Parkersburg, W.Va., in 1987, I knew little of country music. But artists like Cash and her then husband, Rodney Crowell, Foster & Lloyd and Bush's New Grass Revival quickly caught my ear and sucked me in.
Americana Music Festival And Conference - Day 2

Twenty-plus years later, Cash, Foster and Bush are still very much on my radar. Rosanne's new album, "The List," which was inspired by a list of 100 essential country songs that her father, Johnny Cash, gave her when she was 18, is a wonderful walk down memory lane.

Radney's new album, "Revival," is one of my favorite releases of the last two years. There's a passion there that reminds me of Radney's best work with Bill Lloyd. I'm guilty of playing the title cut again and again. Loudly.

And then there's Sam Bush. I wrote his bio for his forthcoming album, "Circles Around Me." That's a big deal for me, both musically and professionally. If you had told me way back when I was spinning New Grass Revival records like "Callin' Baton Rouge" that I would write Sam Bush's bio one day, I would probably respond "OMG," or whatever the '80s equivalent was. ("No shit?")

I may one day write a book about the importance of late '80s country music in the big scheme of musical things, but for now I'll relish the fact that artists whose music I fell in love with 20-plus years ago are still around and thriving.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jay Leno, The Softball Pitcher

A softball.Image via Wikipedia

If you missed Jay Leno's inaugural show in the 10 p.m. ET time slot Monday night, consider yourself lucky. I watched and I'm still trying to get his horrible "interview" of Kanye West out of my head. West, as you know by now, had stolen the spotlight from Taylor Swift the previous night on MTV's Video Music Awards and the rumor was that he would use Leno's show, on which he was performing with Jay-Z and Rihanna, to apologize.

What transpired could be used to teach college students how not to conduct an interview. In fact, I will use it in the college class I'm teaching at Belmont University here in Nashville.

Let's go to the transcript...

LENO: Welcome back, everybody. We're thrilled to have Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Kanye West here tonight. But before they perform, this really wasn't planned; we did this kind of last minute. Kanye wanted to talk, so please welcome Kanye West.

Talk about what, Jay? You're not going to tell folks about the incident the previous night? After all, not everyone was watching when Kanye took the mic from Taylor and not everyone saw the clips posted on Web site, Facebook and Twitter. Tell us why he's here, Jay.


Have a seat, my friend. First of all, let me say thank you for honoring this commitment. A lot of times, people -- things happen. They kind of back out at the last minute, or they have a publicist or someone call and say, "Oh, I'm sorry, my client's not available." So thank you for coming and doing this, in light of all the things that have been going on.

Tell me about your day. Have you had a tough day today?
Yes, Jay, he had a tough day. He was rude to a young woman on a nationally televised awards show. He interrupted her acceptance speech so that he could call attention to his own opinion about who should have won the award.

(Weak laughter.)

WEST: Yeah, it's been extremely difficult. I just -- just dealing with the fact that I hurt someone or took anything away, you know, from a talented artist or from anyone, because I only wanted to help people. My entire life, I've only wanted to give and do something that I felt was right. And I immediately knew in the situation that it was wrong, and it wasn't a spectacle or just -- you know, it's actually someone's emotions, you know, that I stepped on. And it was very -- it was just -- it was rude, period. And, you know, I'd like to be able to apologize to her in person. And I wanted to --

LENO: So when did you know you were wrong? Was it afterwards? as you were doing it? When did it strike you, "Uh-oh"? Uh-oh? Yeah, that's what he was thinking, Jay. Uh-oh.

WEST: As soon as I gave the mic back to her and she didn't keep going. (Laughter.)

This next segment is where Jay attempts to make it seem like he's grilling Kanye. He still doesn't specify what it is that Kanye's mom would be disappointed by. He can't, he's pitching softballs.

LENO: Let me ask you something. I was fortunate enough to meet your mom and talk with your mom a number of years ago. What do you think she would have said about this? Would she be disappointed in this?

Would she give you a lecture?

WEST: Yeah. You know, obviously, you know, I deal with hurt. And, you know, so many celebrities, they never take the time off. I've never taken the time off to really -- you know, just music after music and tour after tour. I'm just ashamed that my hurt caused someone else's hurt. My dream of what awards shows are supposed to be, 'cause -- and I don't try to justify it because I was just in the wrong. That's period. But I need to, after this, take some time off and just analyze how I'm going to make it through the rest of this life, how I'm going to improve. Because I am a celebrity, and that's something I have to deal with. And if there's anything I could do to help Taylor in the future or help anyone, I'd like -- you know, I want to live this thing. It's hard sometimes, so --

LENO: Thanks for coming here, and thanks for doing that. Doing what, Jay? Drilling your softballs foul even though you pitched them right over the plate? Barely mentioning Taylor's name?


You're going to sing? Give it a shot?
Yes, he's going to give it a shot, Jay. He's a tough kid. But don't be so tough on him next time, OK?

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

They're Just Doin' Their Job

M068 Chevrolet Bel-Air - USA Ohio State Highwa...Image by conner395 via Flickr

I've been on the road in Ohio the last several days, attending my brother's wedding in Cleveland on Saturday.

The number of state troopers on Ohio's highways never ceases to amaze me. Yes, it's Labor Day weekend, the last hurrah of summer, and I'm sure they're on the lookout for drunk drivers and speeders, but I've long been convinced my home state has more troopers per capita than any state I've driven in. They're everywhere!

It reminds of the time I was taking Paul Brandt, who has gone on to become quite the star in Canada, on radio tour. We were sailing north from Cincinnati to Dayton on I-75 when I was pulled over by a state trooper for not properly signaling when I changed lanes.

The trooper asked all the standard questions: "Do you know why I pulled you over?" "Where are you from?" "What is the purpose of your travel?" When he got to the last question, I told I worked for Warner Bros. Records and was taking Paul to visit K99 in Dayton. He hadn't heard of Paul, of course, but he did know the station in Dayton.

After going back to his car to run my license and registration, the trooper returned, this time on the passenger side. When Paul rolled down the window, the trooper tossed my license back in the car and pushed his clipboard in the window toward Paul. "Can I get your autograph?" Paul quickly obliged, adding a line from a Junior Brown song of the day to the grateful trooper: "I'm just a-doin'my job, I'm the highway patrol."
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jack Ingram Has A Record And A Record

Jack Ingram is in the midst of a Guinness World Record breaking attempt to complete the most interviews in a 24-hour period. (By the time you read this he may be done.) From what I can gather, the record is 90-some interviews and Jack will shatter it with a scheduled 200+ interviews.

The reason for Jack's marathon media schedule is the release of "Big Dreams & High Hopes," a fine album that I highly recommend, which is in stores today (Aug. 25).

I watched a bit of Jack's back to back interviews on, which is streaming video of the event. I tuned in when he talked to stations in Australia, which was pretty cool. I watched as Jack, framed by a New York bridge skyline, intelligently answered questions from DJs in Australia and then ended his segment with a somewhat inane back and forth with a jock somewhere here in the States.

For a guy that had been at it for 14 and some hours when I watched and listened, Jack was pretty durn lucid and on top of things. He was in good voice and treated each question, even the silly and repetitive ones like it was the first time he'd heard the question ever.

Texas artists who want to expand their horizons are often chastised in their home state and treated with skepticism outside of it, but Jack Ingram—long before he attempted this world record—is a man with ... wait for it ... "Big Dreams & High Hopes."

The great thing about Jack is that while he's willing to work hard to promote his record, he's also got a great record to promote.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'm Way Overdue

Sometimes life gets in the way. It's been 11 days since I last posted a blog and I feel badly about it.

I do have some thoughts I want to share, but they'll have to wait a few more days. My day job(s), thankfully, has kept me quite busy.

More soon!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

'Spare Time Is Our Major Export'

Mac McAnallyMac McAnally via

A few months ago in what was my second post on this then newly created blog, I wrote of Mac McAnally's impending return via Toby Keith's Show Dog Nashville. Now Mac's album, "Down By The River," a wonderful set worthy of your attention, is finally out.

I recently talked to Mac for a story that runs in Billboard this week and found him as funny and self-deprecating as I had remembered him to be. “I’m going against my nature,” he said right off the bat. “I’m talking about myself today and I’m in New York City.

“I’ve actually gotten to where I like New York, but it took me a few decades,” he quickly added. “As cities go it’s a great city, but as a small town boy it just scared me to death for the first 25 years or so.”

The 52-year-old Mississippian was in New York to do press for the album and to produce some tracks with his longtime employer and friend Jimmy Buffett, who apparently has a home in New York. Who knew?

When I asked him about his first No. 1 single as an artist, which came earlier this year via his collaboration with Kenny Chesney on "Down The Road," he was typically humble. “Kenny drug me up the charts like an ankle weight," he said with a laugh. "That’s how big a star he is. He’s able to get there with me riding his back."

Mac's best individual chart performance as an artist was 1990’s “Back Where I Come From,” which reached No. 14 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs that year. Chesney also cut that song on 1996's "Me And You" and it became a concert favorite.

The album that both those songs came from was 1990's "Simple Life" on Warner Bros. Ten of the 11 songs on that collection have been cut by other artists, Mac told me.

While it's a shame that Mac hasn't had more hits as an artist, he has scored six No. 1s as a writer, no thanks to his lack of ability as a pitchman. "A couple of my buddies say that the only way they’re going to get one of my songs is to break into my car and steal them," he says. "I’m not good at pitching."

My favorite Mac story is how he told his family that he writes songs in his sleep, so it's best not to wake him during his afternoon naps for fear of interrupting the creation of a potential hit.

He swears it's true. "I’m such a stickler for telling the truth that I did write some songs in my sleep so that it wouldn’t be a made up story," he says. "For a Mississippian, where spare time is our major export and laziness is appreciated as an art form—I’ve actually written a few chart songs in my sleep—the fact that I’ve done so has lent enough validity to buy off all the rest of the naps I’ve needed to take between then and now and justify them as work."

I'm a fan of his work and I believe him. And henceforth I'll do my best to follow his foot, er, nap steps. Read quietly, I may be creating a masterpiece.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

America Loves The Funny, Fat White Dude

I may be a bit late to the party, but count me among Colt Ford's fans. I talked to Ford, who was on vacation with his family at Disney World, last week. I was impressed with him on a lot of levels—his work ethic and his ability to keep his ego in check, chief among them.

"Most country folks sing, but I couldn't so I'm rapping." That's a lyric from the title cut of Ford's album, "Ride Through The Country," which was released late last year on his own Average Joes Entertainment, but is gaining momentum thanks to his heavy touring schedule alone and with artists like Montgomery Gentry and Jason Aldean.

An intriguing amalgam of country lyrics laced with hip-hop beats, the album is faring well on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. The sales ostensibly come thanks to heavy touring—Ford will do 200-plus dates this year—and not because of scattered radio airplay for the title cut/single, which features country star John Michael Montgomery. That's an interesting twist in a genre that is still heavily reliant on radio play.

"For whatever reason, America loves the funny, fat white dude and I'm in that category," Ford told me. "I'm just a 300-pound country boy who shops at Wal-Mart. I'm not singing a three-minute love song, but people like what I do."

There's another reason to like Ford. He's self-deprecating. That always scores points with me. "I like people," he says. "I’m not one of those introverted artists that likes to be deep and all that bullshit. It’s not brain surgery. It’s supposed to be fun. It ain’t diggin a ditch."

A country fan growing up, Ford later gravitated toward R&B and hip-hop. He eventually recorded an album with producer Jermaine Dupri (Mariah Carey, Usher) that never saw the light of day. "I'm glad it worked out the way it did," Ford says. "I might have made a million dollars, but it wouldn't have been authentic. At the end of the day, that's what music is about."

Despite his hip-hop leanings, Ford, a former professional golfer, describes himself as a country singer. "I hate the term 'country rap,' " he says. "It throws people off." What Ford does is more closely linked to the Charlie Daniels Band's "Devil Went Down To Georgia," which he performs in his shows. "That's what I do," he says.

Call him the liason between the Grand Ole Opry and BET. Ford's album includes guest performances by Jamey Johnson, Adrian Young of No Doubt, Jeremy Popoff of Lit, Bone Crusher, Attitude and Brantley Gilbert.

Who else does that? No one, which is another reason to love Colt Ford.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift

HOLLYWOOD - DECEMBER 06:  Grammy nominee Taylo...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I recently made a discovery. If I mention Taylor Swift in my blog, hits and page views go way up. Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift.

I've heard from people that know, that Web sites such as and are highly attuned to any world wide web mention of Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift. When they find a story or picture or mention of Taylor Swift, they go viral, baby. Big time.

My recent interview with Scott Borchetta included a question about Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift.

Here's a sample of the comments posted on my blog regarding my conversation with Scott (better known as the man who signed Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift.):

AHHHHHHHH I'M A SUPER FAN!!!!!!!!!! :) I'm so exciteddddddd ahhhhh :D

YESSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fearless re-release. I'm such a super fan that I went to Hendersonville, TN when Fearless was released to actually get a glimpse of Tayor!!!! I CANNOT wait for thi album to be re-released. PLEASE BIG MACHINE LET IT BE SOOOONNNN!!!!!

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????? I AM THE BIGGEST TAYLOR SWIFT FAN EVER!! Please release more (brilliant!) songs!! I love you taylor (and scott too!!)

:) XOxxoXOxxo

If I had realized how rabid Taylor Nation is, I would have included Taylor Swift in a post months ago.

When I started this blog, it wasn't so that I could get rich. I was just looking for another outlet for my writing. That said, why can't I do both? I mean, Taylor Swift probably would agree, wouldn't she? In fact, I know she would. Taylor Swift endorses this blog fully and would love to have another outlet for Taylor Swift fans to keep up what's going on with Taylor Swift.

Did I mention that I spent close to 30 minutes on Taylor Swift's tour bus last Labor Day weekend talking to Taylor Swift about Taylor Swift's then-forthcoming "Fearless" album?

So Plain Speak About Taylor Swift is born. Unless, of course, Selena Gomez has more rabid fans. OMG, what if Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez became BFFs?

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Jack Talk

Jack IngramImage by lsala66 via Flickr

Jack Ingram is one of my new favorite interviewees. Again. I don't know why I forgot this after the last time I talked to him, but you couldn't ask for a more thoughtful subject if you, errrr, ummm, asked for one.

I got off the phone feeling like I'd just chatted with a friend about music, not conducted a formal interview. (I wish they were all that way, but then I guess conversations like the one I had with Jack wouldn't seem as special then, would they?)

His new record, "Big Dream & High Hopes," due Aug. 25 on Big Machine Records, is a fine piece of work that I find myself listening to over and over again.

We chatted about Radney Foster, Joe Ely and Willie Nelson, among others. We also talked about his remake of his own "Barbie Doll," a live show staple that first appeared on 1999's "Hey You." "For an artist who for a long long time knew what my hits were by what people wrote on napkins and dollar bills at the front of the stage, that was probably my biggest hit," he says of the song.

The new version features Dierks Bentley plus an all star chorus that includes James Otto, the Lost Trailers, Little Big Town, Jedd Hughes and Randy Houser. "It was just a ton of fun," Jack recalls. "I've always wanted to be able to say, 'hey man, c'mon over and be part of record. Let's just hang out for a little bit'."

We also talked about his new single, "Barefoot and Crazy," and how he knew when it was connecting with his audiences. "There are certain songs that play out immediately and when you go into them live you can feel the energy in the room change," he says. "It's fantastic."

"This last week people started throwing their shoes on stage," he adds. "Three weeks ago people started holding up their flip flops."

On the day his album comes out, Jack will attempt to break the Guiness World Record for "Most Radio Interviews In A 24-Hour Period." (Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump currently hold the record, having interviewed with 72 stations last year.) I hope the DJs Jack talks to enjoy the conversations as much as I did.

More on my conversation with Jack in an upcoming issue of Billboard.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Scott Borchetta & The Remnants

LAS VEGAS - APRIL 05:  Album of the Year Award...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I recently did an interview with Big Machine/Valory Music/Republic Nashville CEO Scott Borchetta that landed in the pages of Billboard and on As is the case with many interviews I do, space limits what can actually be published. With that in mind, I offer you, dear reader, the best of the rest of my conversation with Scott—the remnants, if you will.

How has your role changed since you launched Big Machine in 2005 and what have you learned?

That’s a great question because it’s become so many different things. When we first started the label, I was really a glorified vice president of promotion. I always had had at least a voice in what acts were doing what, what singles came out, etc., but at the end of the day that was never really just my call.

But working with [former DreamWorks principal James] Stroud gave me the opportunity to really be involved with all aspects of a label. James really allowed me to learn how to run a record company. Obviously I had to learn a lot more about marketing, learn a lot more about distribution, learn contracts from zero to putting a record out, and that knowledge base has expanded greatly.

Being involved in the negotiations, being involved in global marketing with all the Universal companies that we work with is fantastic. Obviously we’re involved in different parts of management with different artists. We’re not day-to-day managers of anybody, but we have different strategic consulting management responsibilities.

We’ve always felt that we always wanted that open door policy. If you can save a new artist heartache, [you should]. It’s about saying, “You shouldn’t do this and this is why. We’ve been here before. This is 20-plus years of experience saying, 'You can try that. Here are two or three things that could happen if you go down that road'.”

And when you have new families come in—because it’s very rare when it’s just an artist, especially as we’re delving more and more into younger artists—there’s a lot family involvement. And they don’t know anything coming in.

Until you’re on the job, there’s no on the job training. And so, whether it’s everything that we’ve gone through with the Swift family or if it’s just a new act that we want to sign that’s a family act that we’re hoping to land literally today. There’s a lot of family involved then. It’s three siblings, and their parents are very involved, and we invite that. Nobody knows their kids better than their parents. So why not use that knowledge base? They’re experts on their kids. So we welcome all that. With Kate & Kacey, their dad, Frank [Coppola], is a very smart man, and so why shouldn’t we have him in the circle of the knowledge base?

The first act you’ve signed to your new Republic Nashville label is Fast Ryde. What’s the story behind their signing?

I had just gotten back from Australia. I was there for the second week that Taylor was over there. I was in the office Monday, and Harry, my assistant, says, “Hey, Allison,” our VP of A&R “wants you to hear this CD.” I’m like, “Alright, when’s our A&R meeting?” He says, “Thursday.” I’m like, “Alright I got a couple days, right?” So Monday goes by, Tuesday. Thursday I said, “Let me play this. Get ready for Allison. See what she’s got.” And I’m like, “Oh my god.” I played the first song, it’s amazing. Play the second one, “Are you kidding me?” I call her before the meeting, “Why didn’t you break into my office?” She goes, “I tried.” I’m said, “You’re right. Harry told me. You know what, if they can breathe, they’re signed. Get them in here.”

And they ended up being these two young, cool guys [James Harrison and Jody Stevens] who have this whole thing going on. It was one of those beautiful situations where something fantastic happened right under your nose.

We told them “You want to be here. We want you to be here. Let’s go.” We told them about the Republic opportunity. They kind of scratched their head and looked at each other, and then met with [label president] Jimmy [Harnen] and myself together and they said, “Alright. Let’s go.”

You had several different releases between Taylor’s first album and her second—there was a Christmas record, a Wal-Mart exclusive, a deluxe edition—do you foresee doing different variations again between the second album and her third?

Yeah, we will do a “Fearless” deluxe re-release. There will only be one more version of the album, but she has so much music that comes out of her. There are some great songs sitting, and she and I were just talking about this last week. Like, “You know what? ‘Sparks Fly’ is a great song, and if we don’t get to that song, you’ll leave it behind and your fans won’t ever get to own it.” So that’s a song that she’s seriously considering for a deluxe re-release.

There are three or four or five things sitting that, with as quickly as she’s growing up, if we don’t get ‘em now, they won’t get out. And she acknowledges that. It goes back to the first album conversation. She didn’t really want to put “The Outside” and “A Place In This World” on the first record. I said, “They’re so important and they’re such great songs, if you don’t put them on the first record, we’ll never get to ‘em.” And she was nice enough to go along with me on that and there’s been a couple times where she’s high-fived me. She said, “You know what? I’m glad we put these songs on this record because they made the record so real.”

So that’s where she is right now. We’ve had a couple things that have happened musically during the “Fearless” campaign that will be part of a “Fearless” deluxe edition and that’s for the fans. We’re not going to shove a million copies of a re-release out there. We’re pretty knowledgeable about what the super fan wants, and so we’re going to make just enough to fulfill that need and desire. Also we very specifically, from day one, established her as a fourth-quarter artist. So there will be people going into the stores in the fourth-quarter saying, “I want to buy a Taylor Swift gift for my daughter/sister/girlfriend/whoever it is.” We’re not going to disappoint.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Run, Run Rodney

Rodney CarringtonRodney Carrington via

Comedian Rodney Carrington is ending his nine-year relationship with Capitol Records Nashville in an interesting way: with a Christmas album.

Carrington recorded "Make It Christmas" earlier this year in Los Angeles with producer and composer Steve Dorff, who also handled the music for Carrington's sitcom "Rodney," which ran a few years back on ABC. The album is due in August.

But don't expect songs about Santa getting caught in a compromising cuddle with Cupid or Rudolph's nose lighting up a Tulsa tap house. "It ain't got a funny song on it," Carrington told me. "It's a big-band, Frank Sinatra-type Christmas record; something I've always wanted to do." Huh. Who knew?

"Make It Christmas" includes the holiday classics "Mary, Did You Know?," "O Holy Night" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," among others. And while Carrington knows people might be surprised when they hear it, he says he's "never pigeonholed what I've thought about doing. I've just said, 'I'll try that.'"

Still, Carrington admits that a straight singing career isn't in his future. "The Christmas record is as serious as I'm going to get," he told me. "I'm still touring, still telling jokes, still doing my thing."

So why is Carrington, who has sold 2.2 million records and whose "El Nino Loco" is near the top of the Billboard comedy charts, leaving Capitol, his home since 2000? "You're never going to own your own stuff unless you hang on to it," says Carrington, who told me he is appreciative to label president Mike Dungan for letting him finish his obligations with a Christmas record. "I'm going to do a stand-up record again but not until I can own it myself. I own the first record I ever did, and it's very valuable to me."

I like Carrington's philosophy on making a buck. "I have a simple plan," he told me. "I want a million people who really like what I do to give me $10 a year for the rest of their lives. I'm not greedy."

Amen, brother. And Merry Christmas!

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Friday, July 10, 2009

George Strait Will Blow Your Mind

Cover of "Strait Country"Cover of Strait Country

Before listening to George Strait's new album,"Twang," yesterday I couldn't ever imagine stringing these words together, but now I can: "George Strait will blow your mind."

When you’ve been making music as long as Strait has—his first album, “Strait Country,” came out in 1981—it has to be tough to come up with new twists and still maintain the level of success King George has had for 28 years.

I have long appreciated Strait's music and ear for a song. Who else has done what he's done so consistently for so long in any genre of music? I'll answer my own question. No one.

But here's the thing: on Strait's new album he takes a few musical detours that deserve our attention.

Tony Brown, who has co-produced every Strait album since “Pure Country” in 1992, agrees that “Twang,” due Aug. 11, will surprise more than a few people. “When I work with artists like George and Reba McEntire, I’m always careful not to take them where they shouldn’t go, but this is going to blow your mind,” he recently told me.

Recorded at Jimmy Buffett’s Shrimp Boat Studios in Key West, Fla., the album includes a song that Strait sings entirely in Spanish, “El Rey,” which is a Mexican standard and was a giant mariachi hit for Vincente Fernandez. ("El Rey" means "the king.") “After he played the song for me, George said, ‘Can we do this?’” Brown remembers. “'Hell, yeah,' I said. 'You’re George Strait. Everybody’s wondering what we’re going to do anyway'."

Brown was so taken with the track that he suggested Strait call the album "El Rey." Strait disagreed. "I can call myself a troubadour," he told Brown, "but I can't call myself 'the King'."

The song also includes horns—a first. “I’ve never put horns on a George Strait record,” Brown says with a chuckle.

The album includes three songs that Strait co-wrote, which is another first for the man who has made a living singing songs others wrote. (He wrote one song on his 1981 debut.) First single “Living For The Night” was co-written by Strait, son Bubba and longtime contributor Dean Dillon. The trio also wrote “He’s Got That Something Special.” Meanwhile, Strait and his son wrote “Out Of Sight Out Of Mind” and Bubba wrote “Arkansas Dave” solo.

“[Johnny] Cash down the middle,” is how Brown describes the latter song and he's right. “Usually George never does a track for arts sake, but this is a piece of art.”

Meanwhile, "Hot Grease And Zydeco" is a greasy and fun as the title suggests.

“If everybody expected us to step it up a bit, by God we did,” Brown says. “This is a side of George I’ve never heard before.”

Amen to that and God bless George Strait.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Can You Duet?

Duet album coverImage via Wikipedia

It's early—we're only three episodes into the season—but so far I'm digging CMT's latest edition of "Can You Duet." While I liked last season's judge/mentors, Naomi Judd, songwriter Aimee Mayo and vocal coach-to-the-stars Brett Manning, this year's line-up of experts is even better. The colorful Judd returns and brings opinionated record exec Scott Borchetta and quirky and extremely watchable Big Kenny with her. Their chemistry is great and each judge has a unique personality and perspective. (First year host Rossi Morreale is also gone, replaced by CMT's Lance Smith, but that's pretty much a wash as far as I can tell.)

I'm not going to weigh in on this year's contestants because I feel like I'm still getting to know them, but I will say that Ryan & Avalon have my attention.

The winner of this year's show will release a record on Borchetta's Big Machine Records. When I recently asked Borchetta why his label was involved in this year's show, he countered, "What you wanna ask me is, 'Why the hell did you do this?'" OK, fair interpretation.

"I’ve wanted to work with CMT, but I didn’t expect it to be this," Borchetta told me. "They said, 'We’re interested in you being a judge.' I said, 'I don’t act. I don’t make TV shows. So, I’m not going to worry about that part. I can’t promise you that I make good TV. I can be myself, and I’ll give you my opinion. If we’re going to do this, I’m going to treat this like an A&R opportunity. If you’re going to screen hundreds of artists, then I’m going to have my A&R crew with me at every stop.'

"It’s a great opportunity," Borchetta added. "Hopefully when the show closes, I’ll feel as good about it as I do now."

Borchetta was right when he sensed my un-asked question about the sanity of getting involved with a reality show.

Outside of "American Idol," which has spawned the country careers of Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler and Bucky Covington, reality shows (read: Nashville-based reality shows) don't have a great track record of launching country careers. "Nashville Star," which spent four years on cable's USA Network before spending a season on NBC, can claim Miranda Lambert, Buddy Jewell and Chris Young among its alumni, but that's about it when it comes to folks you've heard on the radio. Warner Bros., Universal South and Sony BMG all took turns as the host label for the winning acts.

I won't even mention last year's "Next GAC Star." Oh wait, I did. Move on. Nothing to see here.

Last year's inaugural edition of "Can You Duet," which like "American Idol" is produced by FremantleMedia North America, boasts Joey + Rory (Vanguard/Sugar Hill), Kate & Kacey (Big Machine) and Caitlin & Will (Sony) as finalists that have been heard on the radio in 2009.

So will "Can You Duet" produce a bonafide star duo or will it simply provide entertainment for the masses? I'm betting it will do both.

More later.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gone But Not Completely Forgotten

Lila McCannLila McCann via

Reading Patsi Bale Cox's new book, The Garth Factor, reminded me of many things about the country music industry in the '90s that I thought I had forgotten, not the least of which was the parade of new artists that 30 labels tried to introduce to a somewhat open-minded public.

In her book Patsi mentions John Bunzow, a Northwest artist who was signed to Jimmy Bowen's Liberty Records in the mid-90s. For a variety of reasons, which are chronicled by Patsi, Bunzow never found the stardom that he and others that make the trek to Nashville hope for.

As many people who work in the music industry do, I tend to emphasize the positive when talking about the artists I've worked with over the years. Faith Hill always gets mentioned, but Greg Holland does not, even though he was a very talented guy. (WSIX Nashville morning man Gerry House co-wrote Greg's first single, "Let Me Drive," with mega hit songwriter Bob DiPiero. One day I ran into Gerry on the street. When he asked me about how I thought the single would do, I predicted a top 10. I was way wrong.)

With that in mind, here are five acts you may or may not remember and that were pretty much never heard from again. I worked with all of them. Draw your own conclusions.

  • Chris Ward
  • Lace
  • Crawford West
  • Regina Regina
  • James Prosser

Here's another list. Folks I worked with that had some level of success and may still be around in some way, shape or form. Or in they are in Canada.

  • Anita Cochran
  • Chris Cummings
  • Paul Brandt
  • Brady Seals
  • Chalee Tennison
  • Michael Peterson
And finally here's the group of artists that had success before I worked with them, but not after. Go figure.
  • Lila McCann
  • Mark Collie
I cast no dispersions on any of these folk's talent. I can't sing a lick and have never written a song in my life. I'm just saying that when it came to country stardom, it didn't happen for them.

I also worked with Victoria Shaw. While she didn't achieve the solo stardom I know she wanted, she's had major success as a songwriter ("The River," which Garth Brooks recorded) and more recently as the co-producer of one of my favorite acts, Lady Antebellum.

So there.
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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Garth Factor

Garth Brooks album coverImage via Wikipedia

My friend Patsi Bale Cox has written a fabulous book, The Garth Factor.

The beauty of the book is that while it focuses on the unprecendented career of Garth Brooks, it also chronicles what was going on in the country music world — and the world in general — during the time of his biggest successes.

The Garth Factor brings back a lot of memories. I remember, for example, when the number of Nashville record labels surged from eight to 30. We were all riding the wave that was the country music explosion of the early '90s, much of which was fueled by Garth. (Silly side note: I remember going home to Cleveland, the Rock 'N' Roll Capital of the World, and walking into a store less than a mile from where I grew up and hearing the country station, WGAR, playing on the radio behind the counter. Just a few years earlier, WMMS the legendary rock station, would have been the station of choice in that very establishment. I was both proud and taken aback.)

Here's my one Garth Brooks story. Okay, maybe two. In 1989 I attended the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville for the first time. One night in the Westwood One suite (it was, at the time, the place to go for a free drink) I met Garth, who was with Cassandra Tynes, who worked for independent promoter Tari Laes. They were handing out buttons that said "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)," which, of course, was the name of his first single. I remember the moment, but it was mostly because I hadn't met anyone named Garth before. Beyond that, I'm not sure if we conversed, or if we did, what we talked about. There was a free bar to get to after all.

A few years later when I was working at industry publication Radio & Records, Garth, who by that time was off to the races in terms of radio and sales success, made an unexpected visit. Alone in the office in the days leading up to Christmas, when Music Row pretty much shuts down, I heard a knock at the front door. When I opened the door, there stood Garth holding Christmas presents. "Hi, I'm Garth," he said. "Ummm, hi, I'm Ken," I replied, not so smoothly. "Hi, Ken. Can you tell me where Tari Laes' office is?" (It was immediately across the street.) "There," I said, pointing in the general direction of her office. "Thanks, Ken."

So there you have it, my two brushes with Garth greatness.

I say all that to say this: I benefited both professionally and personally from country music's '90s boom, much of which was driven by Garth and the industry's attempts to find another Garth. His career has been criticized, analyzed, celebrated, dissected and criticized again, but the bottom line is that Garth Brooks is a rare one of a kind artist who raised the bar in Nashville in particular and the music industry in general.

To find out more read Patsi's book.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Blake Shelton Is Tweetin' Hilarious

Blake SheltonBlake Shelton via

While I've had my doubts about Twitter, I'm becoming a fan. The key, I think, is in who you follow, which makes all the difference in the world.

After originally making a few poor choices—I thought, for example, that following the White House tweets would be interesting, but it's not—I've hit upon the right combination, at least for me.

No. 1 on the charts and in my tweeting heart is Blake Shelton, an artist I've known for almost 10 years. I've always thought Blake was funny, but his humor shines through on Twitter.

Here are a few of my favorite tweets from Blake:

"Just saw a lizard eat a fly. High five PETA! I stomped his little ass! Just doing my part..."

"Doing a show with with Craig Morgan today. He's taking me water boarding for my birthday!! It's all I hear about these days.. Must be fun!"

"Ok, just mixed a drink and am going to watch craig Morgan perform.... Oops! I almost forgot my earplugs and barf bag..."

"Just because you look good for your age doesn't really mean you look good... Maybe you were ugly as a youngster..."

"I used to feed my pet turkey stove top stuffing.... Stuffed himself."

"Will someone please give PETA directions to my tree stand!"

"Why can't we give the mail to jehovahs witnesses and save on postage?"

Meanwhile Blake's girlfriend, Miranda Lambert, can hold her own when it comes to Twitter.

"How come all my tweets are about Blake and all Blake's are about......Blake?:)"

It's one thing being funny, it's another thing being funny in 140 characters or less.

Another of my favorites is actor Brent Spiner—Data on "Star Trek: Next Generation," as my Trekkie friends all know.

Mr. Spiner has over a half million followers on Twitter and here's why

"Finally watched THE DARK KNIGHT. Very entertaining. Heath Ledger is amazing, and Christian Bale is great as the new Picard."

"My friend, Dave, says he saw Chem trails over L.A. yesterday. I'm not sure I believe in this, but...sorry, have to go. My nose is bleeding."

"I think it's possible the results of the Iranian Presidential election were tabulated in Florida."

I'm guessing Trekkies are pretty tech-savvy and right at home on Twitter, which probably helps explain his popularity as well.

While I prefer Facebook for honest-to-goodness, albeit mostly abbreviated, conversation, Twitter is a fun distraction.
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Livin' In The '80s

The w:floodwall of w:Parkersburg, West Virgini...Image via Wikipedia

I'm living in the past. Or at least that's the way it feels lately.

A few weeks ago, I witnessed Steve Martin's Grand Ole Opry debut. More recently, I got the opportunity to interview the members of Spinal Tap (albeit via e-mail) about the faux group's forthcoming "Back From The Dead," a collection of new and old Tap tunes.

Facebook has also contributed to my feeling of deja vu. Just over a week ago, Gerry McCracken, the man who first hired me to work in radio in Parkersburg, W.Va., and a Facebook friend, asked me if I remembered Laura Dowler, our overnight jock at WXKX (Kix 103) back in the late '80s. I said I did and he let me know that he had just "friended" her and that he was sending her my way.

As anyone on Facebook knows, adding one friend generally leads to a steady stream of new friends connected to both you and your new friend. Before I knew it, I was back in contact with several other former employees of the station.

Suddenly it's 1987 all over again. Photos are flying and I'm 25 pounds lighter, bearded and with more hair.

Ummm, never mind.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Death By Mail

So this is kind of weird. 

A week and a day after word came down that Radio & Records was being shut down, I received the last issue in the mail. Tucked inside the front cover was a letter from a Nielsen Business Media senior VP explaining the decision to shutter the publication. (Since R&R was printed on a Tuesday night and shipped to subscribers on Wednesday, the letter was probably being inserted in the magazines at roughly the same time the last group of R&R employees were being informed of their fate.)

It's strange and a little creepy to look at the magazine as a snapshot in time, knowing now what most of the employees didn't know then. It's sort of like walking through a house after its occupants die in a car crash. There are reminders of the deceased everywhere. 

There's so much unfinished business in its pages.

In what may one day be the answer to a radio-phile trivia question, financial guru Dave Ramsey has the distinction of being the last cover advertiser in R&R history.

Inside there are three full page house ads promoting the now cancelled R&R Convention '09, which was to take place in Philadelphia in September. (Consultant Jaye Albright, who recently received a refund of her R&R Convention registration fee, shares her thoughts here.) 

There's also a full page ad for another cancelled event, the 2009 R&R Triple A Summit in Boulder, Colo.

In a telling statistic, of the 21 ads in the final issue of R&R, 10 are house (read: not sold) ads, promoting everything from the convention to free job listings to the recently relaunched Web site. One full page ad, which bills the now-defunct magazine as "the industry's most comprehensive format analysis resource," strangely includes in its list 10 feature stories written by editors who were axed in the last round of budget cuts in March. 

The magazine's lone two page ad wonders "who will be this year's R&R industry achievement award nominees?" I guess we'll never know.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Going Nowhere Fast

One year ago today I was in pain. A lot of pain. A lot of self-induced pain.

A year ago gas was $4 a gallon and rising. I was (and still am) driving a Jeep Wrangler that gets about 13 miles a gallon in the city. The five miles I drove to my office on Music Row completely qualified as city driving. So did any short trips to lunch or the local Home Depot, which is three miles away.

After a good bit of consideration, I decided it was time to "go green." I was going to buy a gas-powered  scooter to ride to the office on days when it wasn't raining or that I didn't have to meet someone beyond a 10 mile radius of Music Row. (OK, exchanging one gas burning vehicle for another isn't exactly "going green," but I figured 70 miles to the gallon was a heck of a lot more green than 13 miles to the gallon.)

My wife, Leigh, wasn't nuts about the idea and told me so. My brother-in-law, Clayton, a physician's assistant, didn't like the concept either. I proceeded with my plan anyway.

I crashed the scooter on the test drive. 

Two weeks later the company I worked for told me they were closing the office I had intended to ride my scooter to.

A year later my broken collarbone has healed, albeit with a noticeable bump that I'll probably never lose, and so has my broken nose. My right ankle, which was initially diagnosed as severely sprained, has undergone surgery and months of physical therapy. 

Twelve months after the accident I finally feel better, but the damage I did will probably mean arthritis in my later years.

Who knew going green could be so painful?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The End Of An Era

Radio & Records is no more. As someone who spent seven years at the publication during two different stints, I have mixed emotions.

When I moved to Nashville in 1990 to work for R&R I was certainly familiar with the weekly newspaper from my days in radio. It was the publication for the radio industry and working there was a great entry into Nashville and the music business.

After four years in editorial and sales I moved on to Warner Bros., but R&R was still a daily part of my existence since it was my job to get records up its airplay charts. 

Three years ago R&R once again became part of my life when Nielsen, the company I was working for, bought it and closed Billboard Radio Monitor, the industry magazine I was writing for at the time. In March I was laid off from R&R in what was apparently a pre-cursor to today's news. 

There's a lot of speculation about the "whys" and "wherefores," but my own take is this: the editorial content that R&R offered, particularly on its Web site, was really no different than what could be found elsewhere. For readers and advertisers alike, there are simply more choices these days.

With few exceptions, the news that was on was the same news that was on and all the other radio industry-specific Web sites. With slight modifications, the "news" was simply a re-write of a press release. There was no further investigation or insight, which is something competitors and Inside Radio do very well.

As for the weekly magazine, the charts that were included were old news by the time they reached subscribers a week after they were first distributed via e-mail. Back in the day, before electronic distribution, I remember grabbing the magazine when it came in to A-B it with the station playlist. We didn't have local research and that was my way of finding out what was happening nationwide.

It's cliche to say that information moves faster these days, but it's the truth. I read more about the demise of R&R on Facebook in the minutes following the announcement than I did on any industry Web site. I'm sure Twitter and plain old texts spread the news quite quickly too. That's a fact that all newspapers and magazines face on a daily basis.

Is there a need for a weekly radio industry trade magazine anymore? My gut tells me there's not. Especially not at a time when information flashes past us in bite-sized morsels and radio programmers are stretched so thin that they don't have time to sit down.