Bro Country Music: A Topical Analysis Minus The Pie Chart

At The Federalist, some kid writes Country Music Has Become A Huge Clichéd Joke:

I love these songs, not just because they’re fun to sing along with, but because they involved people living, loving, falling down, and getting back up again. Songs that talk about how attractive you find your kid’s mom after years of marriage, or working hard and never giving up, contrast sharply with pop songs about the sexual excitement of whips and chains or “the beauty of one-night stands.” It’s fair to say I love country music for the same reasons I dislike pop music.

But by the mid-2000’s, country music started to change. It was a slow metamorphosis, but artists like Trace Adkins, Brooks and Dunn, Kenny Chesney, and Allan Jackson [sic] can’t deny their handiwork in this change, singing less about family or daily life and more about having a “Good Time,” or a woman’s breathtaking heinie. By the end of the decade, up-and-comers had completely embraced “party country” to the point where it seemed the entire genre needed to check itself into rehab.

Gimlet thinks it reflects what I wrote here.

A quick analysis of the article linked above shows that the young man writing the article hearkens back to classic country a couple of times (a couple of 90s songs, the earliest being Garth Brooks’ “Papa Loved Mama” from 1992), but most of the songs he uses as good examples stem from after 2000.

Well, he does say he started listening to country in the car, and there have been very few stations playing classic country in the 21st century.

That said, let me offer this sampling of classic country, which is to say country which was new when I started listening to it, that the damn kids, and by damn kids I mean “Garth Brooks”, ruined:

(See also this post about the general state of music that I wrote in 2003.)

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Christmas Album Review: Merry Music Christmas by Dean Martin/Jackie Gleason (1973)

Book coverThis album represents the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of albums. As you might know, I have two Dean Martin Christmas albums (The Dean Martin Christmas Album and Winter Romance) as well as White Christmas by Jackie Gleason. So when I cannot decide which to listen to, I can drop this platter on the turntable and enjoy the best of both.

This album collects some of the Capitol songs of both from the aforementioned albums and mixes them together. So you have songs with Martin’s warm flair followed by instrumental big band numbers by Gleason’s orchestra.

The track list includes:

  • Baby It’s Cold Outside (Dean Martin)
  • Winter Wonderland (Dean Martin)
  • You’re All I Want For Christmas (Jackie Gleason)
  • I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (Dean Martin)
  • It’s Christmas Time All Over The World (Jackie Gleason)
  • Blue Christmas (Jackie Gleason)
  • The Christmas Song (Jackie Gleason)
  • Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Dean Martin)
  • Snowbound For Christmas (Jackie Gleason)
  • White Christmas (Dean Martin)

Of the selections, most are standards, but “Snowbound for Christmas” is the new song, and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” might be from the original Winter Romance; it is not on either the reissue of Winter Romance I have nor The Dean Martin Christmas Album.

So it lies in the sweet spot between a compilation album of many different voices and a record with a single singer or group. It’s two acts I enjoy greatly, and I’m happy to have picked this disc up this year. I’d recommend it if you can find it for a couple of bucks out in the wild. Or, like I did, for a buck at a book sale.

Album mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: A Bullet for Cinderella by John D. MacDonald (1955, 1985)

Book coverThere’s no car crash in this book; instead, a Korean veteran and POW camp survivor returns to normal life a changed man. He cannot abide his former life, so he takes off to Hillston, the home of a fellow campmate who did not survive the POW camp. The dead man had told the narrator about some money he had embezzled from his brother’s business and hidden to run off with the brother’s wife, but the war intervened. The only clue he leaves as to the location of the missing money is that Cindy knows. So the narrator starts talking to people who knew the dead hero under the guise of writing a book. He finds that another person from the camp has already gotten there–a psychopathic former Marine who hasn’t found the money himself but is willing to let the narrator keep a cut if he finds it.

As the narrator digs, he finds evidence of murder, blackmail, and so forth and finds some redemption and/or clarity in falling for the dead man’s former girlfriend.

As a paperback original, this book runs about 170 pages, and none of them are wasted with convolutions, exposition, or technobabble, so it makes for a quick and satisfying little read. It holds up well, as does most of MacDonald’s stuff, if you can remember or imagine a world before pervasive computers in every pocket. Heck, I still imagine that world since I don’t have many apps on my phone and don’t feel compelled to look at it whenever I have a moment without noise.

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Book Report: Cry Hard Cry Fast by John D. MacDonald (1955)

Book coverI read Slam the Big Door in August, and it features a car crash (‘slam the big door’ refers to the sound of a car crash in the night on the backroads of Florida), and this book centers on a car crash. I wondered if this was from MacDonald’s CHiPs era.

But the books were published five years apart with many intervening novels. Perhaps he wrote them close together, or perhaps he rotated back into subject matter when it seemed fresh after the passage of time.

Unlike Slam the Big Door, this book centers on a big car wreck: it focuses on the individual stories of the people and families who are going to be involved in the car accident and the immediate aftermath for the survivors. We have a recent widower on a trip to recover from his grief (see also Slam the Big Door). We have a nuclear family with a domineering father and an attractive teenaged daughter; we have a couple trying to rekindle their marriage after the husband becomes cold and distant; we have an ace truck driver considering moving into management; and of course, we have a couple of bad fellows on the run from an armed robbery and the funtime girl they picked up at a roadside bar. It’s vintage MacDonald, slamming all these people together (literally) and seeing what erupts.

The first part of the book, before the accident, is better than the last bit after the accident, but it’s still a pretty good read.

As I mentioned, I have a number of MacDonald books on my shelves, and I’ve been reluctant to read them because once they’re gone, they’re gone. However, given my ability to re-read the Travis McGee books from time to time, perhaps I should seek more of them out since I enjoy them and I can re-read them when I’ve finished all of them. And, to be honest, finishing all the John D. MacDonald books is a better use of my time than reading all the Executioner books (that is, the Mack Bolan books, not The Executioner, which is a John D. MacDonald book).

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Christmas Album Review: Winter Romance by Dean Martin (1964)

Book coverThis album comes in two flavors: The original version, depicted below in the Amazon link, and the 1964 reissue depicted to the right, which is the edition I have. The two differ by a couple of tracks: The original includes “White Christmas” and “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” which makes it a more straight-ahead Christmas album. The reissue, on the other hand, has no explicit Christmas songs at all.

Instead, the songs are all about cold and the winter, but some are standard songs on Christmas albums and radio stations, including “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, “Winter Wonderland”, and “Let It Snow”. Some are jazz standards that you hear all year round, like “I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” and “The Things We Did Last Summer” (although I hear them all year round because I listen to jazz standards throughout the year–if you don’t, you probably won’t).

In that regard, I can play the album well into January, although it’s not particularly cold here in southwest Missouri (especially for a Wisconsin native).

The track list includes:

  • I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm
  • June In January
  • Canadian Sunset
  • A Winter Romance
  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
  • Baby, It’s Cold Outside
  • The Things We Did Last Summer
  • It Won’t Cool Off
  • Out In The Cold Again
  • Winter Wonderland

As it is Dean Martin, it’s in pretty heavy rotation at Nogglestead as is Martin’s The Dean Martin Christmas Album.

And I’ll be honest, I’ll never be brave enough to try the sweater over a turtleneck look, but I’m not living in the past, just listening to the past.

Also note that now that I know it exists, I’ll be on the lookout for the original release with the more Christmas flavor. If nothing else, it will make yet another Christmas album review someday.

Album mentioned in this review:

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Christmas Album Review: White Christmas by Jackie Gleason (1970)

Book coverIf you like the mellow orchestral mood music sound of Jackie Gleason presents albums, you will love this album. It’s a welcome departure from the normal Christmas record orchestration, with the reliance on traditional choir, organ, and bells/chimes. These are swanky orchestrations for a holiday get-together or a nice bit of background music for baking. No snow required!

The track list includes:

  • White Christmas
  • Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
  • Jingle Bells
  • Blue Christmas
  • The Christmas Song
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  • I’ll Be Home For Christmas
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

It’s not my favorite Christmas album, and it’s not my favorite Jackie Gleason presents disc (that would be Music, Martini, and Memories or The Torch with the Blue Flame), but it’s an excellent addition to the rotation at Nogglestead. I’m glad I picked it up this year.

Album mentioned in this review:

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Christmas Album Review: A Christmas Sing with Bing by Bing Crosby and the Norman Luboff Orchestra (1958, 1973)

Book coverIt’s not really the Christmas season when it comes to record albums, ainna? It’s Bing Crosby season. So let’s get this year’s Christmas album reviews off to a proper start, with this album. It was recorded in 1955 and released as a record in 1956. It’s from a radio broadcast that Bing did on Christmas Eve, so it’s chock full of not only songs that he performs, but also bits recorded by others. Like many albums I’m planning to review this year, it features the spoken word–in this case, Bing’s introductions to the songs and the cutaways.

The album dates from 1956? 1958? But the pressing I got dates from 1973 or so. Reissued 25 years later. So you know there was a market for it. Whether there still is, I don’t know.

The track list includes:

  • Happy Holiday
  • Joy To The World
  • Hark The Herald Angels Sing
  • White Christmas
  • Adeste Fideles (Oh, Come All Ye Faithful)
  • We Three Kings Of Orient Are
  • The First Noel
  • Carol Of The Bells
  • What Christmas Means To Me
  • Good King Wenseslas
  • Jesus, Sweet Savior (Jesus Sauveur Adorable)
  • Angels We Have Heard On High (Gloria In Excelsis)
  • Away In A Manger
  • Thou Decendeth From The Stars (Tucendi De La Stelli)
  • Deck The Halls
  • God Rest Ye Merrie Gentlemen
  • Oh, Little Town Of Bethlehem
  • Silent Night
  • Happy Holiday (Finale)

Pretty stock stuff, but with some different bits in there (“Thou Descendeth from the Stars”, “What Christmas Means To Me”, “Jesus, Sweet Savior”).

The most interesting part, of course, is the recreation of an old time radio broadcast.

I like it a bunch, and I’ve got it on steady rotation this year so far.

Album mentioned in this review:

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Brian J.: Amazon Prophet

In my post earlier this year about Amazon Prime trying to go all-digital instead of being free shipping, I said:

But undoubtedly Amazon will offer ship-to-store for free someday, just like every other retailer does now (and did in 1990).

How ridiculous you might have thought it sounded. Amazon does not have physical stores!

But it’s December now, kids. Now we have Amazon Go:

Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. With our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously.)

Although, don’t forget, IBM predicted Amazon Go years ago:

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What I Want To Watch, When I Want To Watch It

As you might know or guess, gentle reader, I am a skeptic of online streaming services and buying “digital” copies of movies, books, or music (exception!) because I’ve had enough electronic devices crash that I don’t trust electronic media, because I’ve seen enough tech companies fail to consider that they might not be there to provide me with what I purchased tomorrow, because I don’t trust that online services will keep their promises of availability of things I purchased.

But we have two paid streaming video sources at Nogglestead: Amazon Prime because it remains a shipping discount (for now) and Netflix because my beautiful wife likes to watch television shows on her tablet as she rides her elliptical exercise device.

A couple of times in the last couple of weeks, I wanted to watch a particular film not in the vast Nogglestead library.

After reading a listicle about John Hughes’ Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, I wanted to watch She’s Having A Baby because it’s the most adult of his coming-of-age comedies (and I plan to come of age sometime soon). But it’s not on Netflix nor Amazon Prime.

Then I got to thinking about funny Christmas movies my children might like to watch with me since White Christmas, Holiday Inn, The Bells of St. Mary’s, or The Bishop’s Wife are a little black-and-white for them, and they’re not old enough for Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, or Gremlins. So I checked Netflix and Amazon Prime, and again I was disappointed.

Fortunately, Amazon Prime still includes free shipping.

So now I have the two films I wanted to watch, and I can be assured I’ll have the actual ability to watch them whenever I want.

Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming are good when you want to watch something as they give you a lot to chose from. But I often do not want to sit down and watch something; I want to sit down and watch a particular film. So physical media still have a vital role in that. Much like the old independent video stores offered something other than the newest releases at Blockbuster.

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Book Report: Desperate Measures by Joe Clifford Faust (1989)

Book coverThis book is by the author of A Death of Honor; although I didn’t like that book a lot, the author Googled himself and commented on my book report on his blog and had better things to say about my book report than I had about his book. So the author earned some respect from me, and I thought I’d give him another chance.

Which turns out to be a good thing.

Whereas A Death of Honor was similar to Casablanca, this book is similar to Firefly–except the book preceded the television series, so it’s more in line with the genre of the scrappy interstellar traders. But the protagonists often operate outside the law, and the book features a Chinese syndicate, so in 2016, that earns a Firefly comparison. Which will be a known reference point for a couple more years, anyway.

You have May, a captain of his own ship (but indebted to the aforementioned Chinese syndicate) whose co-pilot steals the ship–or takes the ship in lieu of back wages–after a barroom altercation leaves the captain laid up for a while. May makes a drunken deal with a commodities trader on the planet who sells him beef at a discount for transit. But his new untrained co-pilot only meant transit to the other side of the planet, not another planet. Also, the beef might not have been his to sell.

The book is a series of such incidents without much of an overarching story arc aside from the episodic events, much like Firefly was before they screwed it up wrapping everything up in Serenity. This book is the first in a set of three, and I’ll keep my eyes out for the others in the series and the others by the author.

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A Tale Of Two Stockings

I have two Christmas stockings:

My mother-in-law made the one of the left for me somewhere around the turn of the century; my sainted mother made the one on the right in the middle 1980s, when we were living in the trailer park and she came across some iron-on letters somewhere.

The one on the right hung with similar stockings with my mother and brother on the wall by the bedrooms in the house down the gravel road we lived on during our high school years; the one on the left hangs by the chimney at Nogglestead with similar stockings for my wife and children.

But I point out to my children that the difference in their appearance does not reflect a difference in the love with which they were made. Their grandmothers had differing skill levels at crafts and different gifts. So while my mother-in-law (for whom I really need a standing adjective–perhaps I will try “wonderful”) can make beautiful crafts with felt, glue, and spangles, she probably has not singlehandedly finished a basement or remodeled a bathroom.

It would be nice if the children could learn the lesson from this, that people have different talents and skill levels, and that’s okay. It’s a lesson many storybooks from their earlier years tried to convey, but my children are boys, so each must be the best at everything, or at least better than his brother. Which will only succeed ultimately in making one of them sadder than the other in each assumed competition.

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No Word If Towanda Was Involved

VIDEO: SoCal parking lot fight turns into demolition derby:

A parking lot brawl between two women in South Los Angeles quickly escalated into a demolition derby.

Dramatic video captured fists flying in an apparent argument over a parking space near the 8400 block of South Western Avenue on Sunday.

Here at MfBJN, we have exclusive video of the altercation:

Brian J., is that a clip from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes? WE THOUGHT YOU WERE A MAN!

Gentle reader, I am man enough to sometimes let a woman pick the movie.

Brian J., is that the second day in a row where you’ve equated a news story with a clip from an early 1990s film?

Yes, sadly, it is. Real life is so derivative from pop culture these days, as people build their lives around memes and examples set by modern popular culture. Time was people tried to build lives from examples set by their parents, and culture such as classic literature they learned in school or church set good examples. Now, though, the race is on to build personal lives like people see on conflict-driven reality television.

Or maybe I’m just cynical.

(Link via the formerly One Hand Clapping guy, who blames a new culture of honor/shame arising.)

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Not As Varied As Advertised

When I was younger and people asked me what music I liked, I proclaimed eclectic tastes. I listened to oldies. I listened to Album Oriented Rock (kids these days call it “classic rock”). I listened to country. I listened to pop. I even listened to jazz when I could find it.

Well, now I’m older, and nobody asks me that question any more because I’m old (they must assume it’s all 60s easy listening/Sinatra/Alpert, and they’re not far off). But judging by my Amazon purchases over the last six months, my musical taste has streamlined into two categories:

It’s all hard rock or jazz songbirds except for the Leonard Cohen and Lorde.

It’s either something to get me pumped up for the gym or something to mellow.

Although being it is the Christmas season, the one-for-you-one-for-me Amazon ordering protocol is in effect, so the ratios may change as I buy new music on whim. But given that I learn of new artists from the hard rock station on the radio, my Legion of Metal Friends Facebook group, or the radio stations I stream (KCSM and WSIE), perhaps they will not change much at all.

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