Friday, February 26, 2010


Every Friday I’ll be doing a reoccurring segment entitled the “Beer of the Week” where I’ll donate one beer (to be paid at some time in the future of course) to a deserving artist. The weekly award will be based on a variety of factors – perhaps the winner has had an extremely successful run of hits or just released a great album. It might even go to an artist I just feel deserves a little bit of recognition for their contributions to the country game. So without any further ado, drum roll please…This week’s Beer of the Week goes to…..

Blake Shelton.

Wait, what? Blake Shelton? Wouldn’t you rather give the inaugural Beer of the Week to a living legend like Alan Jackson or George Strait or an A-list entertainer like Kenny Chesney or Brad Paisley?

Listen, I know those guys are great, but they receive loads of praise every day – everyone knows George Strait is one of the best ever and no one can rock a show like Kenny Chesney, but the guys who keep country music going are the solid voices who consistently produce high-quality music album after album. This is what Blake Shelton does.

As an artist, Blake’s vocal range is impressive – he can rock the lower end of the spectrum in upbeat tunes like his recent duet “Hillbilly Bone” with Trace Adkins and he can test the limits of his upper register in ballads like “Austin” and “Goodbye Time.” By the way, on a side note, I’d strongly encourage all of you to check out any of the songs listed on this blog – definitely worthwhile listening. Anyway, in addition to Blake’s vocal talent, he’s also displayed the ability to successfully record power ballads and light-hearted, beer-ripping tunes. A lot of artists confine themselves to a single formula which they ride to the top (Taylor Swift, anyone?), but the lasting artists know how to make it all work. Sure, not every one of Blake’s songs is an instant classic, but he has, for over ten years, been one of country music’s most reliable talents. Perhaps not a fool-proof headliner, and I admit, there’s a good chance he’ll never be able to carry a tour, but Blake for your years of consistent, reliable and quality music (and simply for the fact that your dating the ever-saucy Miranda Lambert), this beer is for you.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Water" -- Why the critics got it wrong

I don’t mean this blog to be critical of other writers, but I feel I the need to address a recent review which lambastes Brad Paisley’s latest single release, “Water,” from his highly acclaimed American Saturday Night album. My peers at the9513, one of the internet’s most popular country blogs, are usually dead-on with their song and album reviews. As obvious country purists, I can relate to their appreciation of the neo-traditional and outlaw movement that is so important to this genre nowadays, but sometimes it’s easy to lose perspective when you become so convinced that there is only one way country music can elicit an emotional reaction. Yes, singing about deep, personal issues, love and loss will stir any listeners soul, but there’s also room for songs that appreciate the simple moments in life, the ones where we aren’t wrestling with our demons or dealing with a lost love.

Brad Paisley’s “Water” is by no means an emotional masterpiece, it does not explore new ground, and quite frankly, it’s not even in the top three most memorable songs from his latest album. But “Water” can still stir an emotional response. It’s about the simple joy of summer time, of hanging with your buddies by the lake, about kicking back with a few beers in the sunshine. It’s a song that makes you feel content when your driving with the windows down during the summer, cranking up the country tunes and just appreciating the simple things in life. Sometimes country critics get too caught up in what they are supposed to criticize, rather than remembering that a song does not have to be “deep” to be emotionally provocative. I don’t imagine I’ll usually be this harsh, but this really got to me. More examples on this to come. For now, I’m out.

Let's get this party started

Welcome everybody and welcome to Urban Cowboy. First of all let me thank my friend Brett, a talented young graphic designer, for his help in creating this blog. The text and background design that surround this text is his doing and, as I'm sure you agree, looks really great. Thanks for all your help buddy!

Now, I'd like to formally welcome everyone to Urban Cowboy, what I hope will become an outlet for a different perspective on country music. First, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mike, I'm a 22 year old paralegal, living and working in the Big Apple. It really is a great time to be living in New York City -- Manhattan has so much to offer for someone in their twenties. Everything, that is, except for a country music fix. You see, I've been a country music aficionado for as long as I can remember. Growing up in Alabama, its really not out of the ordinary. But I grew up in Scarsdale -- about as white-collar and Jewish as a town can come. Not exactly country music central. In fact, we didn't (and still don't) even have a country music radio station. So when I say my appreciation of country music was seen as unique, I mean it.

But that's not to say that New York is lacking a distinct, country persona. In fact, believe it or not, New York City is the biggest country music market in the United States. So why is it then that I can find about 2 bars in Manhattan that label themselves "honkytonks" and finding a live country performance is about as easy as finding a lunch in midtown for under $10? There's no reason it has to be this way, and that's where Urban Cowboy comes in. It's a forum for discussion, a podium from which I can preach about the positives and negatives of the country music industry, and ultimately, an outlet for a northern voice on a largely southern tradition. That's one thing I'd like to be a running theme throughout this blog. Country music is not distinctly southern -- the emotional themes in the music are ones we can all relate to. Listen to "Songs About Me" by Trace Adkins and you'll get the point. Anyway, my hope is that we have some guest writers, recurring segments, interesting posts, truthful and insightful song and album reviews, and interesting topics of discussion. I'm not going to guarantee that this blog follows any set pattern as to its format but we'll see where it goes. And if you some how came across this searching for a 1980 flick starring John Travolta, tell your friends about us -- Urban Cowboy -- serving up country to big apple.