The guardians of country music are pissed off, and they won’t let country music die any longer, well, at least without making an attempt to save it. Over the past year, multiple legends of the 1990s have released or announced new music. I can name Tracey Lawrence, Clay Walker, Travis Tritt, Clint Black, and the big one, Alan Jackson, off the top of my head. Jackson especially isn’t mincing words, as the album is called “Where Have You Gone” with a picture of him looking over Nashville on the cover. What did it take for this music to be released, though? Were artists just looking to pass the time in the pandemic? Or are they tired of hearing pop songs on country radio? Will any of this music actually make a difference, or will it be released and then sort of fade off into the distance? Let’s look a little deeper.
Country music has always had a few different generations of superstars. The big names are Luke Combs, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett, etc. There always is a place for a little bit of pop in-country; look at Billy Ray Cyrus and Shania Twain in the 90s. However, that’s the thing, there should be a little bit of pop in the country; right now, we have a little bit of country in pop. Right now, on country radio, we have four pop songs and an Eric Church song in the top five. That’s 20% of the top five that really belongs on country radio. It’s terrifying to think how far this problem has come; it isn’t just “Cruise” dominating the charts right now; it’s truly top to bottom filled with pop songs.
Before, the current crop of superstars really were the artists of the 90s. The 2000s saw the rise of Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, and Tim McGraw. Still, besides that, it was sort of a transition between artists on the end of their commercial success like George Strait and the beginning of artists like Carrie Underwood’s career. We did see artists like Rascal Flatts start the pop trend, but they were really stand-alone at that time.
This brings us to the big-name players of the 1990s. My favorite country music legend of all time is Alan Jackson, and he is releasing 21 new songs in just a few weeks. I think it will be a declaration of war on country radio. Although none of the songs will be number one, I’d be willing to bet that it will be the best collection of music we have seen in a long time. Alan Jackson doesn’t give a shit about mainstream, and he hasn’t for a long time. He was a part of “Murder on Music Row” with his buddy George Strait in the early 2000s, and maybe that song should make a resurgence. I can’t want to hear the album, and maybe for a minute, pretend that country music is alive and well, not on life support because of this terrible boyfriend country era we are in today.
Travis Tritt is another monster name that released music this year. His new album “Set in Stone” is straight out of the 90s. The song “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That No More” is probably my favorite song on the album and is a song that throws major shade on new music. I do like the delivery, though. It doesn’t just sound like an old man saying, get off my lawn; it’s him saying music from artists like Merle Haggard will live on forever because it has soul. The entire album is fantastic, and it’s so fucking country it hurts.
Clint Black released an album last year, “Out of Sane.” I admit I have never been the biggest Clint Black fan, but it’s a return to form for the artist. He admitted that he wanted to create a true Clint Black album that would fit in with his discography, not one that sells out to a pop sound. It does just that; if you were to put all of his music on shuffle, there’s no way you could pick out the songs from 2020 to 1990 if you didn’t know his music. Clay Walker has been in the news a little bit as well. He released the album “Long Live the Cowboy” in 2019, was on a song with Upchurch in 2020 called “A Little While,” and in 2021 is releasing another album, “Texas to Tennessee.” So far, the songs released from the new album are country to the bone. Tracey Lawrence is releasing three albums this year as part of a 30th-anniversary thing. He already released “Hindsight 2020, Vol 1” in April. The album features twelve songs, and although I haven’t gotten the chance to listen to it yet, I’m sure it won’t disappoint.
I hope that these aren’t the only artists that are pissed off right now. Brooks and Dunn haven’t come out with a new album in a long time, besides the tribute album they did. George Strait released “Honky Tonk Time Machine” in 2019, so we probably won’t get anything from the king anytime soon, but damn I want it. Joe Diffie passed away last year, but it would be amazing if he had a project in the works that could be released. Maybe a little something from John Michael Montgomery? Tracy Byrd? Let’s get the last great generation of artists into this. The music today is crap. Sam Hunt is a country music star, and he doesn’t even want to be. Rascal Flatts retired last year, and they are still being played. P!NK is on the damn chart, for crying out loud. Are we seriously saying that we have no place for Travis Tritt in country because P!NK and Justin Bieber are there? Get the fuck out of here, start putting good music on the radio and respect your listeners. The guardians of country music are angry, and they aren’t going to hide It anymore.