Christian Views on Country Music

Welcome! This is the blog of DaveLoneRanger which entails only his commentary on country music, from a Christian conservative perspective. Thus, he takes a dim view of some songs many consider "staples" of country, such as drinking songs. Ye be warned.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Reba and Kelly - Will It Blend?

Down this week from the number 2 spot on the Billboard country music top 25 charts is Rebca McEntire and Kelly Clarkson's countrified duet of Clarkson's pop hit "Because of You" (seen here).

Although I incline more towards country, it's not uncommon for me to flip over to contemporary/classic/pop/soft rock stations if there's no good songs on the country stations, or if it's at a commercial. So I've heard the original rendition of "Because of You" (seen here) from the premier American Idol winner previously. I've heard a few of her songs now, and while I don't go in for her style quite so much, it's clear she's a talented singer.

But now she's thrown in with country diva Reba McEntire to record a new version, with Reba carrying most of the tune.

To borrow a phrase from the Will It Blend? video series, "NO it DOESN'T BLEND!"

Reba's voice has an inescapable and intrinsic country twang to it, which has been perfect for her other songs and made her a legend in the world of country music. Unfortunately, I dislike the content and style of some of her earlier, more notable hits, such as the ballad of the peasant-turned-prostitute "Fancy", or the murder mystery "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia." She scored well with "Somebody" but then moved on to overly sentimental songs such as "He Gets That From Me" and "My Sister."

Unfortunately, Reba's voice simply doesn't blend well with Clarkson's less accented, more classical vocalization. Why it has risen as far as it has is beyond me - if you like the song, listen to the original by Clarkson.

Mixing pop and country is more and more common these days (as Tim McGraw noted in "Back When") but there's a fine line to be walked, and "Because of You" is one that doesn't cross over well in transition.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Garth Brooks Releases New Single

Destined for a Top 10 (probably Top 1) position, country king Garth Brooks took a respite from his temporary semi-retirement (as he has been known to do from time to time, such as with "Good Ride, Cowboy" and "Love Will Always Win") to release a new single entitled "More Than A Memory" which debuted today on AfterMidnite with Blair Garner. The song was played twice last night, and has been making the rounds of local stations since.

What can we say about Garth? Whether or not you approve of certain songs (such as "That Summer" about a young man who works for a weathered older widow's farm and becomes involved in a sexual relationship with her, or the rough-n-rowdy party-hardy "Ain't Goin' Down ('Til The Sun Comes Up)") or not, there's no doubt that Garth sings and performs with unparalleled energy and enthusiasm, and his efforts have earned him a spot in country music history.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lambert Almost Shot Boyfriend


Country singer MIRANDA LAMBERT once almost shot an ex-boyfriend in the face because she thought he was an intruder.

The 23-year-old, who is currently dating fellow country star Blake Shelton, admits she held a gun at her unnamed ex's head after he surprised her with a late-night visit.
She tells American magazine Blender, "I heard a noise outside my house and saw something flash across the window, so I got my revolver and opened the door like they do on Cops.

"He came around the corner, and I was like, 'That was pretty stupid. I would have shot you and then dragged you into my house, so it looked like you were breaking in.'"


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Big and Rich: Big but not Rich

The firecracker duo known as Big and Rich made ripples behind the microphones with writing and background vocals for artists such as Martina McBride, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill before making their own splash in the country music world. But their singing seems more rowdy than their writing, and it's not just the voices.

Big and Rich forge a unique combination, beating out the styles even of other duos such as Brooks and Dunn, with "Big" Kenny setting his low and nasal voice against the higher voice of John "Rich".

Their appearance is as unique as their sounds; Big Kenny looks like he stepped off the back lot of Mardis Gras (or MTV studios, one) while John Rich sticks with the more contemporary cowboy hat and dressy jacket.

Sound and appearance aside, the content of the group is what often defines them, and you need look no farther than their first big hit, "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)". As usual with songs, the lascivious number's video was even more raunchy than the lyrics. It took months of switching to other stations before I actually gathered an accumulated half of the song in bits and pieces. The song screams "sex" at the listener from beginning to end.

The two found a calmer and more ambiguous sound in their next single, "Holy Water". Reportedly, the song is intended to support battered and abused women, but the lyrics to me did not make much sense.

Their next six singles, "I Played Chicken with the Train," "Big Time" "Our America," "Coming to Your City" "Never Mind Me" and "That's How They do it in Dixie" never even made it to my airwaves.

The two revealed their patriotic colors in the military ballad "8th of November," telling the story of a military skirmish in Vietnam that all but wiped out the 173rd Airborne division. Notably, the song doesn't try to avoid references which "date" the song. (The soldier sung of is is "19 and green" when he leaves for war, and is 58 at the present day, and the chorus states that the 8th of November spoken of is in 1965. Ergo, the song was written in 2004.

But, excepting "8th of November," Big and Rich didn't score big with my personal tastes until their recent hit, "Lost in the Moment." The song centers around a wedding, and has a very wholesome, clean sound to it. Although all the details are taking place (parents, candles, flowers, music, vows), all the singer can be is:

Lost in this moment with you
I am completely consumed
My feeling's so absolute
There's no doubt
Sealing our love with a kiss
Waited my whole life for this
Watching all my dreams come true
Lost in this moment with you

Demonstrating once again that discerning individuals can seldom pick an entire group either to love or hate. No artist can be judged by the merit of one raunchy single, or one beautiful ballad. It's song-by-song all the way.


Blake Shelton Helps Thwart Intruder

Country singer corrals burglar

Country recording star Blake Shelton helped police corral a would-be burglar when Shelton responded to a frantic call from a relative who reported a drunk man in his house.

Shelton's mother, Dorothy Shackleford of Ada, said her brother Dempsey Byrd called for help late one night recently and she and her famous son responded.

"Blake was over at the house, and Dempsey called and said there was a strange man in his house," Shackleford said. "He said he woke up and there was a big man in his house, so Blake and I just jumped in the truck and went over there."

When they arrived, Shackleford said, they looked in through the window and saw a man inside.

"Blake knocked on the door and the man sort of stumbled over and opened it, and Blake said, 'Hey, you're in my house, man,'" Shackleford said.

Shelton then told the man to step out on the porch and Shackleford went inside to check on her brother, she said.

"He wasn't even in the house anymore," Shackleford said. "He had gone over to the house next door and called us. That's when we called the police and they came and took that man into custody."

Shackleford laughed when asked if Shelton had signed any autographs after the ordeal.

"I'm not even sure they (police) recognized him, to be honest," Shackleford said. "Blake just happened to be home in Tishomingo and had come over to the house. I don't think he would have guessed he'd end up helping arrest a man and then end up in the police reports."

Shelton is best known for his recent singles on the country charts, including "Some Beach," "Goodbye Time," "Nobody But Me" and "Don't Make Me."


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Giving Alan Jackson His Dues

I couldn't continue blogging on country music from a Christian perspective without addressing Alan Jackson. Indeed, no discussion on current country music trends would be complete without some mention of Mr. Jackson.

Although there are few songs among Jackson's numerous singles that I enjoy, he is the one responsible for first introducing me to country music. It was shortly after September 11, and I was scanning the stations looking for something new. I suddenly tuned in "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" and had to stop, as this song struck a chord in me, as it did with all of us. Shortly thereafter, I began tuning in regularly to catch other country songs, and I've been a growing country music fan since.

After a few years, I'd caught up with a lot of what I'd missed, including some of Jackson's older singles. There were some that didn't appeal to me, but weren't necessarily bad either, such as "Chasing That Neon Rainbow" and "Don't Rock the Jukebox".

I loved the sound of "Midnight in Montgomery," although I've always wondered why the country music world is so enamored of a man like Hank Williams, renowned for his drinking and drug problems. All kinds of country music artists have recorded reverent tributes to him.

"Chattahoochee" is considered among one of Jackson's earliest popular songs, but again, another one that never appealed to me. In addition, lyrics in the song speak of fogging up car windows but "she wasn't ready" which is a shameful wink of the eye towards the careless fornication so prevalant in culture today.

Likewise, I wasn't impressed with "Summertime Blues," "Living on Love" and "Gone Country," although these songs continue to be aired today, showing that they are still popular.

"I Don't Even Know Your Name" may have been slightly amusing, but again, I've never enjoyed songs that take their humor from the drunken escapades spurred by alcohol.

By the time you get to "Little Bitty" and "Who's Cheating Who" and even "It Must Be Love" they all begin to have the same, and continue to lack appeal.

"Where I Come From" makes me want to tear my hair out, because every time Jackson sings "Where I come from tryin' to make a living, workin' hard to get to heaven, where I come from." For someone who would later release an album of "inspirational" hits, the lyric represents the grossest of spiritual misunderstandings. Romans makes it exceptionally clear that it's not by any works of man that we are able to enter heaven.

"Drive" is probably one of the first songs in Jackson's long line of singles that appealed to me, as it certainly will to anyone who was once young and unable to drive.

"It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" had some appeal, particularly with Jimmy Buffet joining the cast. Though one is forced to wonder how it can be "only half-past 12" and yet still be "five o'clock somewhere."

"Remember When" is absolute musical magic, with the accompanying bittersweet spirit of old age, blending both the morose and the golden into a tragic happiness of memory. It will certainly be some time before this song applies to me personally, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it.

"Too Much of a Good Thing" still lacked a catchy tune and variety on the scale, as did "Monday Morning Church," although the latter had more powerful lyrics (or at least mood) to help it along.

"The Talking Song Repair Blues" was the first catchy song that I could really enjoy. The lyrics were creative and clever, and the music video gave it an additional zing.

Jackson's latest two singles, however, fail to score high, both for me, and for the charts. "Like Red On A Rose" premiered on After Midnite, but the song was rather monotonous, and at times sort of confused. ("I love you like all little children love pennies"? I wasn't aware that all little children loved pennies!) The song pooped out on the charts at #18 -- a dismal performance for a brand-new single from Alan Jackson, the cowboy-hatted gentleman.

"A Woman's Life" maintains the same lack of imagination, and melodious variety that make a song worth listening to.

So while I owe Jackson his dues for first snaring me with his heart-jerking "Where Were You," there are times when I fail to see why this man remains a staple in country music.

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Josh Turner ('n God)

The first time I heard Josh Turner, it was a radio ad for the song/album "Long Black Train." Already considering myself somewhat of a country music aficionado, I heard words like "redemption" and "cling to the Father and His holy name" and thought the song would go nowhere. (I had similar impressions of "Jesus Take the Wheel." Clearly, I have a lot to learn.)

I was surprised (pleasantly!) to hear the song make it to mainstream, and rise as high as #13 on the charts. The song, while not varying as much as I like, had true spiritual meat imbedded in the lyrics. It puzzled me to liken sin to a train, but Josh explained in an interview with AfterMidnite's Blair Garner that it came to him in what he would describe as a vision.

Josh's deep, low voice resembled Johnny Cash, and definitely provided another trait to recommend himself for future fame.

His next single, "What it Ain't" did not fare so well; it failed even to make my local stations. Happily, the next song, "Your Man" was more successful. I have a tiny quarrel to pick with Josh about the music video on this song, since Josh was fiddling around with certain areas of the clothing on whomever was playing his significant other for the music video, and it struck me as a little inappropriate.

"Would You Go With Me" solidified Turner's place in the country music arena. The guitar-picking is incredible, and the song is quite catchy. Since joining the eschalon of iPod owners (it's actually not the Apple iPod itself, but it's a portable music player, and I'm happy with it), I've downloaded few songs, but "Would You Go With Me" was one of them.

Just recently, I went to YouTube to search for a music video for "Would You Go With Me" and found one had been Josh Turner! It turns out that there have been several profiles set up on YouTube for musical figures such as Josh Turner, Johnny Cash, Sugarland, George Strait, Willie Nelson and Shania Twain. Doubtless, not a profile maintained by the artists themselves, but still a nice touch for maintaining a presence among "regular folk."

Turner returns to his gospel roots once again with his latest single, "Me and God." When I first heard the song, I thought it might possibly be taking God a little too lightly, but hearing the song a few more times has lessened this impression somewhat. The song itself doesn't make it onto my favorites simply because the tune doesn't appeal to me.

Josh Turner is off to a great start on his country music career, and here's wishing him well for a bright and productive future.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gretchen Wilson: The Homeschooling Mom?

Gretchen Wilson Finishing Her GED For Personal Reasons - Star wants to homeschool daughter

One of the things Gretchen Wilson spoke about at the CMA Fest pre-Stadium concert this weekend was her effort to finally get her high school diploma through GED.

When we asked why that was important for her to do she said it was because she'd told somebody she would do it, she wants to be able to homeschool her daughter.

"It's always something I wanted to do and something I told someone I would do. I said it out loud to somebody and I'm one of those people that I do what I say I'm going to do. But, I think the reason it crept up on my right now is because we just started home schooling my daughter and I'm not eligible to be listed as an educator for her because I don't have a high school education or a GED. It's all her dad right now. I want to be a part of that and maybe, next year when I have my degree I'll be able to," Gretchen explained.

Very admirable of Ms. Wilson to take the initiative in completing her high school education, considering her very rough upbringing. One can certainly see the benefits of homeschooling during an aggressive touring schedule.

But sadly, as a Christian, it is hard to approve of the fact that this child was born out of wedlock. We hope that as Ms. Wilson straightens out her priorities, giving the child a stable living environment with two committed parents is one of them.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Lucky Men" Montgomery Gentry - Wild at Heart

Have you ever heard those songs that are tailored to specific regions? Having not listened to a lot of country outside my listening area, I have no way of confirming that it is a nationwide phenomena. But songs such as David Ball's "Riding with Private Malone," Buddy Jewel's "Sweet Southern Comfort" and Terri Clark's "I Wanna Do It All" all have phrases conditioned to the listening area.

For example, instead of the lyric "but it picked up that oldies show, 'specially late at night" from "Private Malone" replaces "that oldies show" with a local station's call letters. Clark's and Jewel's songs replace their sports teams with the local sports team in my vicinity.

That's how Montgomery Gentry first grabbed my attention with their latest single, currently riding the charts at #17. Instead of being upset at the Bengals losing, Eddie Montgomery led off the song by saying "But last Sunday when my Wildcats lost, it put me in a bad mood." What was so striking about this is, the Cats had just had their hat handed to them in the NCAA tournament, on a Sunday no less. The song's timing couldn't have been better.

Pulling back to take a more general look at the group, one finds once again that, when sticking to Christian principles, choosing among a group's songs is a selective process. There are several songs that carry with them immorality and other such typical fare.

Still as a whole, even some of the wilder songs by the group appeal to me. The mix of Eddie's deep drawling voice and Troy's lighter, wilder voice create a blend that can only be described as rugged, raw and untamed. True, at times their songs are rebellious and vulgar. But at the heart is a more elemental tone, a testosterone-pumping purpose of manhood, not to be rowdy and brash, but to be wild at heart.

Of their earliest works (from 1999 on), I've heard "Hillbilly Shoes" and "Daddy Won't Sell the Farm" which are mostly boasting on what being a country boy is, and don'tcha mess with them country boys.

"My Town" (which is on Patriotic Country, one of my few exclusively country CDs) was an excellent downhome tune, mirrored later with songs such as Podunk.

Although I've never been brokenhearted over losing a woman, "Speed" remains one of my favorites in the Mongomery Gentry repertoire. Admittedly, I don't like the part about how he wants to get rid of his truck because it's where they first made love, his woman and him. Once again, merely spoken casually in passing (to a greasy car salesman no less!) adds to the flippant attitude towards sexual intimacy that is par for the course with most country music songs. Still, the song's tune almost drips with the heartache, and is a good rainy- or bad-day song.

"H*ll Yeah" is where we come to the beginning of the more vulgar Montgomery Gentry songs. And if you've ever had the displeasure of seeing some of the music video, you know the women tearing off their shirts and dancing on the bar in their underwear (and/or bending over to expose parts of their behinds) makes it even worse. This is a song that gets a big fat station-switch when it comes on.

Until writing this entry, I never knew the group contributed to one of my all-time hated songs, The Truth About Men. (Tracy Byrd stole the show with "The Keeper of the Stars, but that's another entry for another time.) Just like Terri Clark's "Girls Lie Too", the song draws on far too many conclusions about the scratching, burping, boozing redneck stereotypes, and leaves as much of a distaste in my mouth as any Gretchen Wilson song you can conjure up.

"If You Ever Stopped Loving Me" gets a little too rock-n-roll for my tastes, and uses some language which I'm not find of, and usually gets the big old switcharoo too, when it comes on, which is not very often lately.

"You Do Your Thing" seems to have the right ideas on military service, disciplining children, actions and consequences, and praying to God. It gets everything right except the big picture. Today's liberal luminaries frequently extol the virtues of tolerance, which is in keeping with this song. It's a "live and let live" kind of thing. The question is, how far to we take or leave this idea of "You do your thing, I'll do mine"? Hey, Iran! You can kill your daughters for the sake of family honor! You can beat your women to death for peeking out from their gunnysacks! You can train more terrorists and send them over to Iraq with weapons to destabilize the region! You can strap crude bombs to your children and send them to their deaths! You do your thing; we'll do ours. Right or Wrong is a bit more absolute than that. Luckily, we have laws that recognize sometimes "your thing" ain't right. On a similar note, the song was relatively flatline; too low, too slow, and it didn't go anywhere of interest. It didn't even crack the top 20.

"Gone" is another one that gets "gone" from the station when it comes on. It rings in as the third unpleasantly rowdy, cacophonous songs from the group.

"Something to be Proud Of" marked a new trend of songs for the group. Hearkening back to "My Town," the story is of a young boy who loves to hear his father's war stories. Eventually, he leaves town on an adventure, and is hit with real life and responsibility. There's part of me that is bothered by the father's words of encouragement not to worry about making minimum wage in caring for his family. The son is worried that his father is ashamed of how he turned out, but the father consoles him that he is working, putting food on the table, and providing for his family. I'm irritated only because I hate to see people become content with just getting by. Granted, sometimes you meet people and you're glad they aren't in a position of greater influence. But surely everyone hears the inner call to make a greater impact in this world; limiting yourself to a high school education and minimum wage jobs (another stereotype of rednecks, probably closer to the truth than others) means greater limits and restraints on being all you can be later in life.

"She Don't Tell Me To" is a brilliant song that, knowingly or not, reflects ideology and psychology being taught by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. The main point being, don't nag or harangue your husband into doing what you want; love and reward him into doing it. The message of the song is exactly that; the wife is so loving and dear to the singer that he's in home early from Saturday night outings with "the boys," and in the pew on Sunday morning. My all-time favorite line:

And she don't even know that she keeps me lookin' for the next right thing to do, cause she don't tell me to

Men aren't that hard to figure out, really. And this song sums it up perfectly. We're not animals to be punished or rewarded. But any human responds more to positive feedback and reward than negative shaming and nagging.

Montgomery Gentry then took on a redemptive air with "Some People Change" which, like Carrie Underwood's single "Wasted," extols the virtue of rejecting the destructive lifestyle, whether the vice is racism or alcohol. The song will no doubt breathe some life and hope into the lives of those whose struggle is with the vice itself, but with a loved one's vice.

Finally, we come to number four in the duo's streak of genius; "Lucky Man." In the country counterpart to Pollyanna's Glad Game, the singer steps back from a bad-day groove and examines his life as a whole. And surprising to find, his life really isn't that bad. He is married to a good woman, his parents are both still alive, his job is treating him well, and each day is another day given to him to be his little boy's father.

There's no doubt that Eddie and T-Ro are living lucky (read: blessed) lives. Currently, they're riding a lucky streak on the charts also. Let's hope they take a hint and steer away from the more raucous revelry while not losing the lush yet untamed sound to their songs.

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Underwood Carries Another #1 Hit

Carrie is back, scoring big with "Wasted" which is a positive return from "Before He Cheats." This time, echoing the Montgomery/Gentry song "Some People Change," the song is about redemption, and returning from the brink of disaster. Presumably, "wasted" refers not only to recovering from alcohol or drugs, but simply not throwing away your life. Instead, live for the moment, live for the future, live for the present.

The tune is also very well-strung, although she sings it at such a high pitch that it makes my own throat ache. Not only are the notes high, but also the fervor and intensity behind them. That song has to be taxing on the vocal chords. But that's too late; an artist must be very careful in choosing a song, and if it hits the top 20 or greater, then it will be in great demand from concert audiences nationwide, who won't stand not to hear their favorite song played.

Keep your ear tuned, and heed Carrie's advice; don't spend any more time wasted.