So I’m a couple days late with this article, mostly because I was on the fence on whether or not I was even going to write this to begin with. By now, I’m sure all of you have heard about Jonny Whiteside essentially slamming ten well known Americana acts as “lame”, something that naturally lit a spark in many fans.
The ten acts that Mr. Whiteside criticized were as follows: Sam Outlaw, Jack Grelle, Wayne The Train Hancock, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Shovels and Rope, The Devil Makes Three, Gillian Welch, Jason Isbell, Robert Ellis, and Lucinda Williams. There are some acts here that I agree with, and some I don’t agree with.
I’m not here to speak about who is right or wrong here though, since when it comes down to it, what defines good or bad for me and you can only be determined by…well, me and you (for ourselves that is). I’m merely here to talk about Mr. Whiteside’s approach to this article.
While I cannot prove that Mr. Whiteside set out to write this article just to piss people off and boost views for his publications, the semantics made it pretty clear, and that’s my main issue with the piece overall. For God’s sake, you don’t like Sam Outlaw and that’s fine. I myself only think the guy is pretty decent outside of “Ghost Town”. Couldn’t you make your point without calling him a hipster though? Or perhaps make your point without making jokes about his name (which he has explained several times is his mother’s maiden name)? Oh, you did acknowledge that last part…well ok, what does that have to do with the actual music itself that this man makes? You see what I mean? This name calling thing, it gets us nowhere.
While I have heard maybe three Shovels & Rope songs in my entire life, I certainly couldn’t tell you why Mr. Whiteside doesn’t like them other than that they’re “sort of like The White Stripes meet Lady Antebellum, only even more full of themselves. And SO cute. Just. Go. Away.” Again, what does this have to do with the music? You can make the funny little comparsions all you want, but it still doesn’t tell me why you don’t like their music. Something such as, “the production is often cluttered, or their writing could use more work in [insert area here]…” sounds much more professional.
Now, there are times when Whiteside does insert valid points. Ok, you think Jason Isbell’s melodies are lackluster. Fair enough. You would also say that Robert Ellis is too self-indulgent in his writing. Again, fair enough. That’s a big reason I loved his last album, but if you didn’t like it, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, to have these moments surrounded by vicious wordplay meant to be hurtful instead of helpful is not something we need more of. Do we all need to be more critical? Oh hell yes, but angry? In this day and age, why?
Now, I bring up the comparison to name calling and being angry since, let’s face it, are we, the detractors of this article really any better sometimes? We’ve got our pitchforks at the ready, and why? He’s attacking some of our favorites. This isn’t a list featuring Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan. It features acts that are akin to the Lord almighty for some of us.
How many times do you see people go on rants about certain artists, or songs, or hell, even albums? I have, and I can easily find you other outlets that have (do) as well. Just give me five minutes. What’s different? We’ve got hateful words used for humor or clickbait (or both) that aim to destroy rather than identify what the hell is actually wrong with a piece of music or an artist. It’s another example of where the whole elitist spirit of the independent side can really come to stink.
I said I wasn’t going to speak on right or wrong today, and that’s because I can’t. There is no right or wrong side. I agree with the spirit of Mr. Whiteside’s piece, even if he did an absolutely piss poor job of communicating his feelings, but it also can be a lesson for all of us, myself included. Let’s try to focus on the music in our writing from now on. I hate writing background information when I talk about artists here, and that’s because I’d rather focus on the music. I also usually skip past it when I read someone else’s work as well. I came to hear what the music is like, not to hear you rehash the Wikipedia page. It seems like I went off track here, but it is somewhat related to this.
It’s like as Drew Holcomb says in “Wild World”,
“try to listen, not to shout.
Hold your opinions loosely maybe you’re not always right.”