What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Good American music

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There’s minimal loss in repetition: Our country labors under many political distempers and grievous social poisons, but her popular music is not one of them. In fact, American popular music, in my estimation, erects itself like a trophy in opposition to decadence. Our politics, our commerce, our public conversation, our discourse may well be in a state of deep and dark decadence, but at least we can still enjoy a well-composed tune.

The volume of well-composed tunes, of simply high-quality songs that fill you with warmth, speaks to a creative popular force, standing at defiance of cynical profit, bitter political division, and social media monomania, which we Americans might well take heart in.

I speak not disinterestly when I start with the fine Denver-based country-blues band Coal Town Reunion. The lead singer, John-Paul Maxfield, grew up with me and my brothers, across 17th Avenue Parkway in east Denver. In other words, we’re old friends. A successful businessman in the recycling industry by his own right, John-Paul finally took the step from a fantastic guitarist and singer in private settings (he played for my brother’s bachelor party in Evergreen) to a publicly labelled band in 2017, with an EP that included the classic “John Wayne’s Grave,” along with several other excellent tunes. Then last year these guys released another album featuring my favs “Alibi” and “Hide and Seek.” I keep waiting and watching for when they’ll come play a show here in ATL. I also get a yuk out of the fact that even Coloradans affect a warm Southern accent when they play country.

Here in this space, mention has already been made of Lord Huron, Nate Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Leon Bridges, Josh Ritter and Justin Townes Earle. And of course Bob Dylan.

Speaking of Dylan: are you interested in a superb album that resonates with Dylan’s late-60s Nashville charm? If so, check out the young Kentuckian Ian Noe. His album Between the Country might claim top honors for 2019 Americana. Start with “Letter to Madeline” and “Barbara’s Song.”

The Kentucky Renaissance continues with Sturgill Simpson and his protégé Tyler Childers. The Bluegrass State churns out some great songs. “Sea Stories,” “Mercury in Retrograde,” “Universal Sound” and “All Your’n” are your openers.

Or what about Saskatchewan country? Yes, you read that right: it turns out that way up in the desolate Canadian plains they produce excellent country showmen. Okay, he’s not American but our alliance with Canada presents itself as one of the most successful alliances in history, so -- Colter Wall, North American talent. Check him out: “Thirteen Silver Dollars” and “Sleeping on the Blacktop.”

While folks in New Hampshire haul themselves to the polls to pick a clown to stand against the other clown, let’s take comfort in the richness of our nation’s musical performers.

Comments (4)

Our country labors under many political distempers and grievous social poisons, but her popular music is not one of them. ...

The volume of well-composed tunes, of simply high-quality songs that fill you with warmth, speaks to a creative popular force, standing at defiance of cynical profit, bitter political division, and social media monomania, which we Americans might well take heart in.

Paul, when you say "popular music", are you including or excluding the music of the likes of Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Eminem, and Beyonce? If you go by what's "popular" in terms of most listened to, these represent the top of popular music in America. And while they have produced some interesting stuff, I would hesitate class their output, as a group, as something to be hopeful about.

What is wonderful is that unlike 40 years ago, other singers, not those who cut glittery deals with record labels, can get their music out there, and anybody looking around can discover so much more than the top 40 names on the lists. And thank goodness there are plenty of singers out there not trying to copy Beyonce to sell their souls for fame and fortune.


Agreed, Tony. The folks you mention definitely have some good songs, and are talented performers; but what has changed over the past two decades is the capacity of the recording industry to shove their favored stuff down our throats. "Top 40 radio" amounts to a niche market now: basically just folks stuck driving in traffic. Even within the "country" genre, I find it fascinating how much good music gets excluded from radio play. In 1990 that would have been close to a death sentence for a band, but not anymore.

Good point. I no longer can even tell what has been playing as the "Top 40", since I never even listen to the radio. I can only get a glimmer of it from the names that are shoved at us as the top performers (such as in ads on TV, or web ads). Mainly, I avoid anything having to do with mainstream anything. That's a big change since 1990 or 1995.

Are the big labels about to put themselves out of existence from overplaying their hands on the "power" to tell us what to listen to? Will they learn better before they sink beneath the waves?

Paul,
You left off one of my all-time favorite Colter Wall songs, “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie”. Colter, Tyler Childers, Cody Jinks, Brother Dege and 16 Horsepower are among many others in a playlist I have titled Rustic Grit. Murder, addiction, deals with the devil and other breezy, light themes.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYvj_ZYotn1m5HN76_1tnfg

On the other hand there is also a Swing & Jazz playlist and an Instrumental & Christian music playlist and other more mainstream choices on the channel.

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