Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Blake Shelton ft. Trace Adkins – Hillbilly Bone

And we conclude All-Country Monday the only way we know how — Trace Adkins, in a hat, having a snifter. Awesome…


John Seroff: Got a bone to pick with Blake and Trace: as a native Tennessean myself, I’m a bit choosy about how Southern folk are labeled, whether by out or insiders. The signal points in the song (the F-1 pickup, Conway Twitty, bubbas, dodging cowpies underfoot, collards, Skynyrd-y electric guitar, dick jokes) are not so much indicative of a hillbilly, they are the province of the redneck. This is no small distinction, and “redneck” is not a dirty word; it’s a shame they didn’t embrace it. It’s also a shame that the sense of inclusion that’s inherent in the lyrics does not extend to the hackneyed video, with its Blake-and-Trace-crash-the-upper-crust Trading Places vibe. No bonus points for the Obama-ish couple that might as well be holding up “TOKEN” signs above the otherwise pasty crowd. All in all though, this isn’t half-bad, and it’s nice to hear country pop that leans heavier to the country than to the pop. But c’mon: you expect me to believe your New York friend has never been to Brooklyn? Y’all should really take a look at a map sometime.

Michaelangelo Matos: I’ve got a friend from around Nashville/He ain’t never heard of Mink DeVille/He ain’t never been south of Lebanon/I should have looked at a map before I wrote this song.

Anthony Easton: This surplus of southern pride, esp. loud southern pride, as it works against New York or the east, in the last couple of years in Nashville has made me incredibly nervous because I am not quite sure what it signifies. There are more or less dangerous versions of it — Josh Turner’s “White Noise” moves much closer to real racism, while Tim McGraw’s “Southern Voices” has a smarmy politician’s escape valve. It seems to have come from discussions of what is real America, but considering most of country’s listeners are from the west or midwest, the free floating nostalgia seems to engage in an ideological function — so one wonders what the function is. 40 years after Atwater’s Southern Strategy, after Clinton and Bush Jr, after Katrina, and Obama pushing everything back up north — after Nashville moving its offices to New York and LA, we could make a list about how country is now post-geography, or at least how the geographic center has shifted.

Doug Robertson: Some types of music do their best to avoid the stereotypes and clichés associated with the genre, but country seems to positively revel in the sort of lazy assumptions about both the style and the sort of person who would be expected to listen to it. This is basically a big “Yeah, we are like that, and so what?” bird flip of a tune, not caring what you may or may not think about their choice of aural pleasure, simply pitying you for not getting involved in the party they’re oh so clearly enjoying. Not that I’m planning on joining the party, mind — I had a rednecktomy when I was 8 to remove my hillbilly bone — but it’s times like this that I miss it.

Alex Ostroff: There is no rational justification for my love of this song besides the theory put forth by the lyrics of the song itself. I’m aware that self-justifying arguments based on infinite recursion have no place in intelligent discourse about music, but I’m too busy yelling “Yee-Haw!” to worry about that, to be honest. Except to say this: between Shelton, Love and Theft, and Brad Paisley, there seems to be a trend in 2010 of pushing country outwards and bringing outsiders in that I haven’t seen since the early days of Big & Rich and Bubba Sparxxx. Shelton’s hillbilly night out with his city slicker friend is no different from Paisley’s video-conference with Japanese country bands — it’s just celebrating it from a different angle. We’re large enough to contain multitudes and so is country, and the more we all converge and blur the lines, the better the party will be.

Chuck Eddy: Heh heh heh, Beavis, they said “bone down deep inside”. Seriously though, this has one heckuva phat Skynyrd boogie going, just like Billy Currington’s current hit “That’s How Country Boys Roll,” which falls back on redneck half-truths at least as tired — the kind Skynyrd never would have copped to before the crash. Thing is, this song might be making fun of the cliches just as much, like how Blake tells you don’t need a Bubbah (literal meaning: “Brother,” I recently learned) in your family tree, but then Trace goes and calls you Bubbah in the very next line. And of course one of the main hooks is buh-buh-buh stuttering itsownself, just like “Bobbie Sue” by the Oak Ridge Boys from 1982. Still annoys me for some reason, but if you can’t hear how these guys are having fun, you’re not much fun yourself.

Pete Baran: A storming track, which acts in accordance to its lyrics. Happily it located its hillbilly bone as a notion of unaffected country enjoyment, as opposed to any connotations of backwater ignorance. But in making a bold statement that everyone can enjoy a bit of a fun country tune, it also supplies the fun country tune to enjoy — thus proving its own assertion in a simple three minute pop song. It perhaps gets a little too self satisfied near the end, but who would begrudge anyone the clear enjoyment of a job well done?

Martin Skidmore: Ooh, the two voices here work together in nearly as appealing a style as Big & Rich. This is country rock — not as in post-Eagles ultrasoft rock, but as in country twang with some added rock ‘n’ roll. It could do with a bit more energy, but I like the combination of the two very different vocal tones a lot.

Edward Okulicz: A pretty rollicking track, this, and in keeping with its subject matter, it’s eminently danceable too. Sounds fine through earphones, but would probably sound better blaring as an intermission at a NASCAR rally. Though the “bo-bo-bone” hook of the chorus leaves me a bit cold, rhyming “city” with “Conway Twitty” in the first couplet is delectable.

8 Responses to “Blake Shelton ft. Trace Adkins – Hillbilly Bone”

  1. lolz at the general critical mindmeld on display here.

  2. Wow, Ed made me want to go to a Nascar rally for the first time in my life.

  3. between Shelton, Love and Theft, and Brad Paisley, there seems to be a trend in 2010 of pushing country outwards and bringing outsiders in that I haven’t seen since the early days of Big & Rich and Bubba Sparxxx

    I actually think 2010 has been a pretty disappointing year for country singles so far; really bleh, with just a meager handful of low-charting exceptions that I never actually hear on the radio. Though then again, the Love & Theft and Brad Paisley tracks I love came out last year, not this year. (And fwiw, country radio never actually had any use for Bubba Sparxxx. And I also don’t understand how Shelton and Paisley qualify as outsiders. Still, if country’s exciting other folks now, that’s cool.)

  4. What is up with the Jukebox going all Country lately?

  5. It’s one of the top five genres in the world’s biggest market… and deserves to be considered alongside other kinds of pop as their brother.

  6. Chuck: I don’t think Alex is calling Paisley or Shelton outsiders, but rather saying that those two (along with Love & Theft) are themselves welcoming the outsiders.

  7. Yeah, that’s exactly it, Rodney. Shelton and Paisley are both preaching the ‘big tent’ view of country that is sort of the awkward legacy of Big & Rich.

  8. Okay, that makes more sense. Still not sure I agree with it, though. Seems to me Big Tent is a fairly recurring theme within country; in the post-“Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)” era, we’ve for instance had Brooks & Dunn (“I learned the path to Heaven/Is full of sinners an’ believers/Learned that happiness on earth/Ain’t just for high achievers/I’ve learned, I come to know/There’s life at both ends/Of that red dirt road”) and Toby Keith (“We got winners, We got losers/Chain smokers and boozers/
    We got yuppies, We got bikers/We got thirsty hitchhikers/And the girls next door dress up like movie stars”), just off the top of my head, not to mention country radio opening its tent bigtime to Darius Rucker and Taylor Swift opening country’s tent to Radio Disney tweens (who are obviously only one part of Taylor’s own tent). So it’s hard for me to perceive how 2010, or even 2009, has meant any major kind of sea change. (By the way, Trace & Blake’s “friend in New York City” in “Hillbilly Bone” sems to me a direct descendent of Hank Jr’s “good friend in New York City” who winds up “killed by a man with a switchblade knife/For 43 dollars my friend lost his life” in 1982’s “Country Boy Can Survive,” probably the archetypal ground floor for the sort of the paranoid anti-urban barricades that resentful country guys like Montgomery Gentry set up through the ’00s. Not sure if that should figure into the equation or not.)