Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hollywood Goes Trashville

Supposedly, this week's American Idol broadcasts will feature the contestants singing songs made famous by Grand Ole Opry members. Singers Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Randy Travis will also be making appearances on the show.

I'd love to think the American Idol producers would require the contestants go way back and sing songs made famous by the likes of Grandpa Jones, Ernest Tubb, Little Jimmy Dickens or Bill Monroe. But, I'm going to guess there are going to be a lot of covers of songs made famous by Garth Brooks and the likes. Maybe a couple of contestants will venture into a Norah Jones or Tony Bennett-like version of a classic Hank Williams song like "Cold, Cold Heart" or "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)". I'd actually watch the show if a contestant would sing Bill Carlisle's "Too Old to Cut the Mustard" and dedicate it to Paula Abdul.

When I read the news piece about this American Idol foray into "country" music, it started me thinking (again) about the real music artists who are still out plugging away trying to make a living by playing another form of country, whether it be traditional country, alt. country or bluegrass, and not the watered down 70's rock and trailer park easy listening that passes for "country" music nowdays. Many of the these real music artists have written and/or recorded songs voicing their disdain for state of things in modern day Music City. Heather Myles gave us "Nashville's Gone Hollywood", Robbie Fulks got in there "F*ck This Town" and Hank Williams III has sounded off several times with cuts like "Trashville", "D*ck In Dixie", "Not Everybody Likes Us" and "The Grand Ole Opry Ain't So Grand Anymore". The only example of this type of song making any noise in mainstream "country" was the George Strait & Alan Jackson version of Larry Cordle's "Murder on Music Row". Of course Strait made the comment he recorded the song as a joke on an awards show when the recording won an award for country single of the year.

To further show you what modern day Nashville is all about, I'll relate a story I heard at a bluegrass festival where Larry Cordle was playing a few years back. The story going around was that after the release of "Murder On Music Row", record company execs and producers in Nashville were "encouraging" their artists not to record Cordle's songs. To make matters worse, those same execs and producers were trying to avoid using Glen Duncan, one of the top fiddle players in the business, on recording sessions because he had once fronted a band with Cordle.

So, if you tune into American Idol this week, please keep the info in this entry in mind and consider checking out some of the artists mentioned here. Hell, even if you hate American Idol, check out some of these artists. You'll be glad you did.

(BTW, the above photos are of Hank Williams III & Heather Myles)

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