Critical Listening

In a recent conversation I had with some friends, we were discussing how there isn’t as much critical thinking among our culture as there once was. Some people would say there isn’t any at all. In either case, we all agreed that there are a number of reasons for this such as the lack of reading books, filtered news bordering on propaganda, and being distracted by too many entertainment options to fill our reflective time. In addition, we have become accustomed to getting ideas, information, and news pushed to us and not seeking wisdom and depth for ourselves. We’re told how to think and how to react.

Music has suffered similarly. We have had songs Headphonesvetted, tested, researched, and pushed to us so radio will know what won’t polarize the audience and keep us from changing the station. In other words, passionless.

This highlights a more concentrated problem of country music losing it’s lyrical weight. Once upon a time many songs were about stories and deep subject matters that people could relate with and/or have an emotional response to. More recently, those real life songs are few and far between. Listeners have grown accustomed to hearing light-weight songs about partying, drinking, and trivial moments that ring hollow. Bringing depth (life) back into the equation is critical, but that means listeners will have to LISTEN again and not be pacified by non-offending, lowest common denominator testing wallpaper.

Remember listening? Letting well crafted words, story, and melody take you away or hit you directly in the heart. Having to think about what you are hearing rather than passively paying attention. Getting lost in the song. Powerful.

I’m all for happy good time music to help us celebrate or forget about life for a while. We want those songs, but we NEED songs which actually relate to our lives and tell stories that are interesting, intriguing, and moving. The songwriters and artists are out there, but labels and radio will have to make a move back toward country music’s soul, or music fans will continue to seek those songs on their own in other ways.

Regardless of where we find our music, we should all be getting back to truly listening to songs and not just be passionless consumers. Maybe then we’ll get rewarded for our active participation with higher quality music, rather than taken advantage of because we are allowing music to be dictated to us.


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Favorite Music of 2014

 2014 Album Covers

Best Musical Groups of 2014:

U2, Little Big Town, NEEDTOBREATHE , Foo Fighters, Paramore, Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil, Lady Antebellum, The Black Keys

Best Female Musical Artists of 2014:

Miranda Lambert, Lily Meola, Holly Williams, Brandy Clark, Jill Phillips, Alison Porter, Lee Ann Womack, Taylor Swift, Lori McKenna, Lauren Daigle

Best Male Musical Artists of 2014:

Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr., Will Hoge, Sturgill Simpson, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Wade Bowen, Doug Seegers, Cody Johnson, Joe Bonamassa

Best Albums of 2014:

  • U2 “Songs Of Innocence”
  • Miranda Lambert “Platinum”
  • NEEDTOBREATHE “Rivers In The Wasteland”
  • Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil “Goliath”
  • Little Big Town “Pain Killer”
  • Jill Phillips “Mortar & Stone”
  • Lee Ann Womack “The Way I’m Livin”
  • Dierks Bentley “Riser”
  • Charlie Peacock “Lemonade”
  • Doug Seegers “Going Down To The River”
  • Eric Church “The Outsiders”
  • Taylor Swift “1989”
  • Lori McKenna “Numbered Doors”
  • Joe Bonamassa “Different Shades Of Blue”
  • Thousand Foot Krutch “Oxygen:Inhale”
  • Lauren Daigle “How Can It Be”

Best Singles of 2014:

  • “Automatic” – Miranda Lambert
  • “I Hold On” – Dierks Bentley
  • “Wasteland” – NEEDTOBREATHE
  • “Middle Of America” – Will Hoge
  • “Goliath” – Steve Taylor & The Pefect Foil
  • “Girl Crush” – Little Big Town
  • “I Hold On” – Dierks Bentley
  • “Deep As It Is Wide” – Eric Paslay
  • “Like A Machine” – Thousand Foot Krutch
  • “LaZaretto” – Jack White
  • “Going Down To The River” – Doug Seegers
  • “Something In The Water” – Carrie Underwood
  • “Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
  • “Say You Love Me” – Jessie Ware
  • “Numbered Doors” – Lori McKenna
  • “Give Me Back My Hometown” – Eric Church
  • “Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass” – Sunny Sweeney
  • “Greater” – MercyMe
  • “Lips Are Movin” – Meghan Trainor


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Reba Headlines “Dawn Sears & Friends” Benefit Show For Lung Cancer Research


Nash Icon artist Reba McEntire will headline a benefit concert at Depot Square in Gallatin, TN on Sunday, November 30th at 6:30 p.m., to fund lung cancer research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Organized by singer and lung-cancer patient Dawn Sears, the show will also feature performances by The Time Jumpers (of which Sears is a member) and Riders In The Sky.

Gold-winning Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton, a cancer survivor himself, will emcee the event.

Vanderbilt physicians Leora Horn and Pierre Massion will speak briefly on goals and advances in cancer research.

“I am on a mission to help fund lung cancer research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center,” states Sears. “A benefit concert is the best way I know how to do that. It is my mission to bring more hope to those of us with lung cancer. I was diagnosed with lung cancer over a year ago and I now have a greater understanding of the daily battle and challenges that people with cancer of any kind face.”

Reba McEntire has excelled (and been awarded for) every art form she sets her hand to: live performances, recording, movies, the Broadway stage and series television.

The Time Jumpers is a four-time Grammy-nominated band, made up of professional touring and studio musicians. Its specialty is classic country and Western swing. The band’s regular Monday night performances at 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville remain one of the hottest tickets in town and routinely attract some of the biggest names in entertainment.

Riders In The Sky, with their mixture of classic cowboy music and comedy skits, have won two Grammys for best musical album for children, had their own public radio show and provided music for the hit movie Toy Story 2. They have recorded more than 30 albums.

Dawn Sears, a former recording artist for Warner Brothers Records and Decca Records and a longtime harmony singer in Vince Gill’s band, was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2013 and continues in treatment.

Ticket information and donor opportunities are available via

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Ridiculously Talented – Chris Stapleton

I’ve been meaning to post this one for a while, but my blogging has suffered as of late. However, I couldn’t go on any longer without featuring singer/songwriter Chris Stapleton. Because he’s Ridiculously Talented.

As a songwriter Stapleton has penned big hits for George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Tim McGraw and many other top artists. More often than not he makes them sound better and come alive when he’s the one actually singing them.

As a vocalist, Chris was the lead singer for the ultra-talented bluegrass band The Steeldrivers for a few years and then went on to front a rock band. Now he’s where he belongs, as a country music solo artist, and recently released his first single “What Are You Listening To.”

It really doesn’t matter what genre he writes, performs, and sings – it’s phenomenal. If country radio knows what’s good for them and their listeners, they’ll take ownership of Stapleton and allow the masses to hear his music. There’s a huge void that he can help fill to bring back more passion and authenticity to the format.

Here’s a taste of music, but don’t let this be the only Chris Stapleton music you listen to. Go deeper. Trust me.

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Before Social Media And Branding Were In Style

Over the last five years, I’ve enjoyed being more involved with social media marketing and branding. The more directly engaged I get with each proficiency, the more I realize I’ve been doing both of those responsibilities, and most of what goes with them, a lot longer than that; before there was such a thing as social media and branding.

Allow me to explain this recent revelation.

Finding my career in radio and the music industry were the only things I wanted to do coming out of high school and into college. My first on air gig was at the college rock station in Claremore, OK and eventually I joined the big country station in Tulsa, KWEN (K95FM). I was a DJ and a promotions assistant. When I eventually moved to Nashville, it was my goal to work for a major label behind the scenes and help artists achieve their dreams. That happened at MCA Nashville and several record labels to follow, where I was fortunate to do promotion and marketing for some of the biggest artists in country music.

Ironically, as much as I purposed working behind the scenes, I’ve actually been on the front lines at each and every job I’ve ever had. At the radio stations I may have been unseen in the studio, but I was also a direct representative of the station. Developing relationships one by one, taking listener phone calls, and meeting them at concerts, events, and remotes. The original social media and brand management!

At the record labels, it was mostly behind the scenes promoting the artists, but in essence I was on the forefront of each label as well. In the thick of it as a representative and face of the label. Developing and maintaining relationships with radio, fans, and listeners alike and networking with all of them to enhance the brand of our artists and of the label. I was a promotion guy, but I was also a brand manager, image builder, and social marketing guy. It came with the territory and was part of the job I really loved.

The same has held true for my non-radio/label work with All Access, Compassion International, and World Vision.

I think this applies to many people who have done the work of social marketing, branding, and imaging, but didn’t have a title or the responsibility in their job description. It was just part of the gig.

The modern social media and branding I do today isn’t much different than what I’ve done my entire career. Obviously there is more technology, strategy, and analytics in the mix, but the basic principle remains. Engage people one by one, develop relationships, give them quality content, and invite them to come along for the ride. It’s a recipe for success in the radio and music industries, and it always will be if we don’t forget what the point is – connecting to fans, listeners, and clients.


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Favorite Music Of 2013

Recently Updated

Best Musical Groups of 2013:

Imagine Dragons, Mumford & Sons, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Paramore, Little Big Town, The Lumineers, Daft Punk, Dawes, The Mavericks, Fall Out Boy, Zac Brown Band, Skillet

Best Female Musical Artists of 2013:

Holly Williams, Brandy Clark, Plumb, Lorde, Kacey Musgraves, Pink, Ariana Grande, Ashley Monroe, Ella Mae Bowen

Best Male Musical Artists of 2013:

Bruno Mars, Will Hoge, Marc Scibilia, Justin Timberlake, Wade Bowen, Gregory Porter, Jason Isbell

Best Albums of 2013:

  • Holly Williams “The Highway”
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band “Made Up Mind”
  • Daft Punk “Random Access Memories”
  • Imagine Dragons “Night Visions (Deluxe)”
  • Will Hoge “Never Give In”
  • Brandy Clark “12 Stories”
  • Vince Gill & Paul Franklin “Bakersfield”
  • Lorde “Pure Heroin”
  • Justin Timberlake “20/20 Experience”
  • Dawes “Stories Don’t End”
  • Plumb “Need You Now”
  • Marc Scibilia “The Shape I’m In” (EP)
  • Alan Jackson “The Bluegrass Album”
  • Ashley Monroe “Like A Rose”
  • The Mavericks “In Time”
  • Thousand Foot Krutch “Megamorphosiz”

Best Singles of 2013:

  • “Drinkin” – Holly Williams
  • “Strong”- Will Hoge
  • “Kings & Queens” – Audio Adrenaline
  • “Merry Go Round” – Kacey Musgraves
  • “Locked Out Of Heaven” – Bruno Mars
  • “Need You Now” – Plumb
  • Dawes “Most People”
  • “What Have I Done” – Leann Rimes
  • “Demons” – Imagine Dragons
  • “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk
  • “Brave” – Sara Bareilles
  • “Counting Stars” – One Republic
  • “Light Em Up” – Fall Out Boy
  • “Roar” – Katy Perry
  • “Alone Together” – Fall Out Boy
  • “Mirrors” – Justin Timberlake
  • “Royal” – Lorde
  • “Team” – Lorde
  • “Safe & Sound” – Capital Cities
  • “Hold My Hand” – Brandy Clark
  • “Pray To Jesus” – Brandy Clark
  • “The Highway” – Holly Williams
  • “Waiting On June” – Holly Williams
  • “Just Give Me A Reason” – Pink w/ Nate Ruess
  • “Sick Of It” – Skillet
  • “Berzerk” – Eminem



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Ridiculously Talented: Holly Williams

She’s been making waves for the last 10 years since the release of her debut EP in 2003. From there, Holly Williams has been developing a loyal following in the U.S. and Europe from her honest music, heavy touring schedule and critical acclaim for her 2004 and 2009 album releases.

If you’re not familiar with her story, Holly is the granddaughter of Hank Williams, Sr., the daughter of Hank Williams, Jr., and half-sister of country singer Hank Williams III. It’s an important family history and pedigree to be sure, but Holly has been blazing her own significant musical trail. Her most recent album release, “The Highway”, has proven once again that she stands on her own as a Ridiculously Talented singer and songwriter.

With rootsy authentic lyrics and music deeply planted, something that is sadly lacking in today’s contemporary country music, “The Highway” is one of the best albums of the year. There are too many outstanding songs to highlight, but following are a couple of them to enjoy. If you haven’t yet, please do yourself a favor and check out the rest.

“Waiting On June” From Songfacts: The song is about Holly’s grandparents, but not her famous one, Hank Williams Sr. Rather, this song is about her grandparents on her mother’s side, telling the story from the perspective of her grandfather. Holly’s grandmother, June Bacon White, died in 2009, and the song’s lyrics are an accurate portrayal of her life. “Even the order of the children work out in the lyric,” says Holly. “The cook, everything. So that’s the song that is really hard for me to get through when I sing it live. Usually people come up to me crying. It wrecks the family emotionally. But it’s such a sweet memory to me of my childhood and what my grandparents left. So that’s definitely my most proud songwriting moment, I think probably ever.”
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