Originally this piece had a very different purpose. You see, there are many people (myself included) who thought that 2016 was a down-year for great music (at least in the Country/Americana scene). To be honest, outside of a handful of projects such as Sunny Sweeney, Marty Stuart, and Rhiannon Giddens, I’d argue the same for this year as well, at least at one point I did.
But that’s not what this final draft has turned into. I still want to talk about the quality of music this year, but I want to approach it from a different perspective. To do that, we need to have story time.
Now, there are some notable years for my musical journey in terms of discovering new music and/or music that really spoke to me. 2010 was a big one seeing as that’s the year I decided to put down the video games and get lost in all of those albums sitting in my living room that I never checked out. I’m here to talk about one other year though, and that’s 2015. Now, 2014 was the year I really figured out about all the cool music beyond my radio dial, but in truth it wasn’t a huge year of discovery for me. I blame laziness. 2015 though? Entirely different animal.
It was the first year I decided to go digital with my tastes (yes, I was that crabby old fart who only wanted the actual CD), and I can’t tell you how fun it was. In the beginning I was rocking out to Holding All The Roses by Blackberry Smoke. I was also mesmerized by the bright folk of Drew Holcomb’s Medicine album, and of course it was great to have Dwight Yoakam back with his excellent Second Hand Heart album. That summer brought even more joy. I was absolutely blown away by the darkness of Gretchen Peters’ Blackbirds, and I was absolutely blown away by the lyricism of James McMurtry’s Complicated Game as well. While it took awhile to click with me as well, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen’s Hold My Beer album brought a healthy dosage of fun to the table. Of course, if you want a damn good time, William Clark Green’s Ringling Road album is extremely hard to beat.
Now, I think you get the point. I could manage to work in some examples for Chris Stapleton or Whitey Morgan, or maybe even Ryan Bingham, but again, you get the point. All of the aforementioned artists/projects were things that changed my little world, and originally this piece was going to be me just sadly wishing that I wish we had another 2015 for music. Then I realized, we don’t need another 2015!
You’ll notice I said I went digital with my collection this year, but that doesn’t mean I started streaming right away (started that in late November). Everything I heard I bought with my own cash, and while I did buy some stuff I ended up regretting, I also found a lot more that outweighed those costs. Of course, I didn’t buy everything out there. That’s crazy. Nobody can hear it all, and nobody can buy it all. I did keep a record of the music I listened to, much as I do now. As of the last count, I’ve reviewed twenty-nine this albums this year. At this time in 2015, that number was merely thirteen, with William Clark Green being the latest entry at that point. Seems like a big difference, huh? Yeah, I noticed it too, and I think the number is ultimately what’s to blame here.
Granted, there’s a certain excitement that comes with trying anything for the first time, and that extends to hearing either a particular album or artist for the first time as well. Moreover, certain events in life can percieve how you’re taking in all of this music and in terms of my journey I’d say that’s more than accurate. However, I really think we need to focus on this number thing for a bit.
I’m a nut. I want to cover it all, and I want to be the one who can do it all. This is a stupid dream however. I was hungry in 2015, but I didn’t have the full means to carry out my wishes to hear all of this new music. So I settled for picking and choosing, hearing the music at a slower pace than what I do now. Now? I can hear what I want anytime I want, and naturally that’s led to me trying (and failing) to cover it all.
There’s too much damn music coming out though each and every week, and for awhile it’s been such a hassle to keep up with. In all honesty I haven’t really “enjoyed” listening to music in I don’t know how long, at least until I wrote this post. I used to think it was the quality that I should blame, but really I think it’s me who deserves the blame. I have a rule when covering albums – give it at least three listens and jot down notes to go with it. I scrapped that rule. It’s too mechincal, it’s not fair to any artist I’m talking about, and I’m not a critic – I’m a music fan, and while I can’t replicate those feelings I had when I was in discovery mode in 2015, I can at least reignite the passion I have for listening to music.
Thankfully I’ve already started. Last week we had two releases we covered – Chris Shiflett’s West Coast Town and Sam Outlaw’s Tenderheart. I didn’t give them three listens or jot down any notes either. Instead, I gave them each a good number of listens (Shiflett was probably around seven while Outlaw went into the double digits), and the words flowed out like it was nothing. The Outlaw piece I did took about twenty minutes to write, and I was so familiar with the album that I knew what I wanted to say off the top of my head.
Now, neither album will make my year end lists, sure, but they did help to me learn how to really absorb music again. I only focused on two for the entire week, and while there are moments I could have written about either project, I chose to wait until they were really ready instead. After all, what’s the rush? Music and time go hand in hand, and I’m starting to learn that now. Some projects take time to evolve, as I’ve learned with Marty Stuart’s latest album (which only gets better and better with every listen. SERIOUSLY). Why try to cover every single piece of music out there instead of honing in on those special projects?
Now, that does mean I’m going to try and cut the number of albums I cover (not a problem considering we have other features to focus on…like this), but it doesn’t mean everything here is just going to be covered if I like it. The world didn’t end when I had some harsher words for Sam Outlaw’s album than others did. I covered it because I had something to say about it, and that’s what I should be going after rather than “oh, this looks cool, cover it!”. I still want to try to have a good mix, but as the post says, I miss 2015, and I miss the feeling of enjoying and absorbing the music again. As you all know, this week was a HUGE release date for new albums, and believe me, I do want to try to get to all of them. However, I won’t do it until I’ve really taken a non-half assed attempt to gather my thoughts. I’m currently on my fifth or sixth listen of Jason Eady’s new album, and others such as Brad Paisley and Charlie Worsham are probably at five listens each. I’ve only had time to listen to Angaleena Presley’s latest album once, but what’s the rush, right?
It’s funny, I don’t feel inundated at all with the new releases, mostly because I’m not concerned with the pressure of it all. I’m having a blast listening to everything right now, and it’s made me see things from a different perspective. Maybe it’s not the music that needed an upgrade. Maybe it’s just me.