Anna Garrott – “What A Way To Go”

Sam Gazdziak | September 16th, 2009

anna-garrott-what-a-way-to-goSongwriters: Charlie Black, Bobby Fischer, Phil Vassar

Anna Garrott’s first album came out last year on J&V records, and this is her debut single for Blue Steel Records. Unless you’re heavily into the independent country music scene or are a personal friend/family relation of hers, you’re probably never heard her name until just now. If her new single is any indication, that’s rather a shame.

“What a Way to Go” busts out of the gate with a rush of enthusiasm that’s unabashedly country music. The drums and lead guitar don’t overpower the rest of the instruments, and the fiddle and steel guitar sound like a vital part of the song and not just tacked on to make a pop song sound country. Just the music alone is a refreshing change of pace from most other country singles.

Garrott, who has has a very youthful-sounding voice, tackles the song with exuberance, which nicely fits the lyrics about a woman plunging headfirst into what could be a doomed relationship.

“Both ends of the candle, let ‘em burn away,” she sings. It’s not a perfectly polished song, but Garrott’s voice is strong, charming, and with enough of a twang to put some differentiation between her and many of the other up-and-coming singers out there.

Songwriters Black, Fischer and Vassar thankfully avoid any platitudes about how this guy is misunderstood or can be changed by the love of a good woman. Nope, he’s trouble, and the singer doesn’t care in the slightest. Taken as a whole, the song reminds me a bit of Faith Hill’s “Wild One,” a song about a different rebellious girl from a different era. This song won’t have that level of success, of course, but anyone nostalgic for the halcyon country era of the mid-’80s to mid-’90s might find a lot to like here.

A fun song that’s sung well, isn’t overdone and is instantly recognizable as country—what a concept. Funny how it takes a small, independent label to do what a lot of major-labels with much larger budgets don’t. Maybe it’ll catch on.

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  1. Rascal Flatts | NEWS
    September 12, 2009
    [...] Anna Garrott – “What A Way To Go” | The 9513It certain would be good to have an orderly organisation of blurb air wave stations which embraced brand new artists similar to Anna as well as NEVER played marks from Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Gloriana, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Fast Ryde, … [...]
  1. James S.
    September 16, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Spot on review. This song is very refreshing, indeed. I love the fiddle and steel here. It’s a shame radio pretty much ignores songs like this nowadays.

  2. Drew
    September 16, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Heard it a few times now in the last week or so. I definitely agree, it’s a nice little number… hope she can keep it up.

  3. Rick
    September 16, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    I’d suggest Anna consider changing the spelling of her last name to say Garrett. The way her last name stands it reminds me of something else entirely:
    “garrote or garrotte ( ) n. A method of execution formerly practiced in Spain, in which a tightened iron collar is used to strangle or break the neck.” (lol)

    Sam said: “Funny how it takes a small, independent label to do what a lot of major-labels with much larger budgets don’t.” Actually the big labels “won’t” typically record or release this kind of song these days as the odds are against major market Top 40 “Young Country” stations giving it a spin (“it’s too country”). Twice a month CDX country CD’s are mailed out to a whole bunch of small radio stations around the country just full of the latest singles from artists like Anna. Some of the cuts are great on rare occasions while most fall into the average to mediocre category. What they have in common is rarely if ever do they break through the radio barrier to find any real success there, and the indie artists just fade off into obscurity. Not even the money and effort put behind pop country artist Katie Armiger has hit pay dirt, so the odds are really stacked against Anna and all similar new female artists who offer a more traditional sound. I think RCA’s experiment with Catherine Britt drove that point home big time with that label at least.

    Artists like Anna just reinforce my desire to see a major fracturing of mainstream country radio scene into the pop-rock “Young Country” and more tradition oriented “Real Country” formats. It sure would be nice to have an organized group of commercial radio stations that embraced new artists like Anna and NEVER played tracks from Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Gloriana, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban, Fast Ryde, and on and on. If Americana format stations can succeed commercially, I just know “Real Country” radio stations could as well!

  4. Jon
    September 16, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    “If Americana format stations can succeed commercially, I just know “Real Country” radio stations could as well!”

    How many “Americana format stations” do you think there are, Rick? (As opposed to stations that include an Americana specialty show or two, or report to the Americana chart on what format-related stuff they program in with, for instance, their AAA stuff). And given that that format embraces a lot of rockin’ stuff – “roots rock,” they call it – what makes you think that “Real Country” stations (as opposed to specialty shows) would be able to achieve even that level of success? Especially when, no matter how tightly they program, there will be a body of people who complain that they’re playing stuff that isn’t “real country?”

    The proper comparand here isn’t Americana radio, it’s bluegrass radio, which has a considerable number of problems of its own.

  5. Jim Malec
    September 16, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Jon’s right, and he beat me to the comment–there are no commercial Americana stations, according to Kix Country’s Larry T.

  6. Rick
    September 16, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Jon, on the Americana chart front page there is a blurb that says “Working With Over 350 Adventurous Radio Stations That Aren’t Afraid To take A Chance”, so I assumed there were 350 dedicated stations. After your inquiry above I looked for the first time at their list of “Reporting Stations and Syndicated Shows” and the total was under 75 stations! I didn’t realize that most of those 350 adventurous stations are just airing a syndicated Americana format show most likely once a week. Gosh, no wonder most new and unknown Americana classified artists don’t sell many albums! Crikey!

    As for Bluegrass Format Radio Stations, I’ve never heard one so I have no experience with that realm at all. Maybe such a station could alternate blocks of “Real Country” (both current and classic) with blocks of bluegrass to expand their listening audience. Hmm….

  7. nm
    September 16, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Anyone know whether WSM is now an Americana reporting station?

  8. Bradley Olson
    September 16, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    ABC does have a trademark on the term “Real Country” and that syndicated format has had success since 1990.

  9. Bradley Olson
    September 16, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    To find the list of Americana reporting stations, go to http://www.americanamusic.org

  10. Jon
    September 16, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    “Jon, on the Americana chart front page there is a blurb that says “Working With Over 350 Adventurous Radio Stations That Aren’t Afraid To take A Chance”, so I assumed there were 350 dedicated stations.”

    Um, that’s an ad for Bill Wence Promotions.

    There are very few bluegrass radio stations, which was kind of my point. Most bluegrass on the radio is aired as specialty shows on either non-commercial radio or on commercial country radio stations in secondary and tertiary markets. I’d guess that the same is true with respect to Americana, except there’s probably less aired on stations fitting the latter description and more on either non-comms (especially college radio) and commercial stations in other formats.

    Arbitron was tracking the numbers for “classic country” stations for a while; their numbers were abysmal, somewhere around what “Dixieland radio” numbers would look like. And the audience for contemporary “real country” artists isn’t likely to be larger than for classic country. In fact, I would say that to the extent that “real country” is largely too country for mainstream country radio, it’s also largely too country for Americana radio, which is heavy on singer/songwriters and roots rock bands, and light on bluegrass and traditional country. That’s not a criticism, it’s an observation; it is what it is, and there’s just not much room on radio these days for stuff that is too, for lack of a better word, retro; artists who want to work in such forms need to be looking at all the “new media” stuff for ways to get their music out.

  11. Rick
    September 16, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Jim, I was composing my response when you posted, so I wasn’t trying to ignore you.

    NM, Yes, WSM is on the Americana reporting list. See for yourself:
    http://www.americanaradio.org/ama/reporters.asp?he=1
    I know Eddie Stubbs likes to play music from Buddy & Julie Miller and Chris Knight now and then among others.

    Bradley, I would bet my concept of what constitutes “Real Country” and ABC’s would differ a bit! (lol) I’ve never heard a “Real Country” syndicated program, so I have idea what ABC is doing. Since that term is trademarked, the search goes on! Has anyone trademarked “Authentic Country”? Hmmm….

  12. Rick
    September 16, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Jon, what I’d really like to see is for Top 40 “Young Country” stations to set aside a single DJ shift during the early afternoon or evening (not drive time) dedicated to more traditional sounding artists, and especially the newer ones. (The mornings are off limits due to Rush Limbaugh! lol) If LA’s KKGO “GO Country” had something like that goig, I’d tune in, but since its ALWAYS the same stuff night and day (current Top 40 and recurrents) I never listen any more. A syndicated program like featuring more traditional artists would be better than nothing, but they don’t even do that to my knowledge.

    You pointed out my big beef with the whole Americana scene, that the tradition oriented styles of bluegrass and country that have been dumped there play second fiddle (like Jeanie Shepard) to the edgier roots rock stuff. I find these two disparate styles of music to mix about as well as oil and water. There is a lot of musical incompatabilty under the Americana label big tent.

  13. Jon
    September 16, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    “You pointed out my big beef with the whole Americana scene, that the tradition oriented styles of bluegrass and country that have been dumped there play second fiddle (like Jeanie Shepard) to the edgier roots rock stuff.”

    I don’t think they’ve been dumped there; I think a lot of folks in the Americana community have started out with a commitment to airing such stuff as part of their mix. But when you start getting down into these niches, a lot of listeners tend be intolerant. a lot of bluegrass people won’t listen because they hear stuff with drums and electric instruments; traditional country listeners don’t want to hear anything too rock-y; the roots rock folks miss the drums in the bluegrass; and so on.

    That’s why I pointed to new media as the place for artists working in these kinds of fields to get busy. Aggregating an audience in terrestrial broadcasting is a really rough business.

  14. Steve M.
    September 16, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    Even on satellite radio the Americana format is no more. XM’s Cross Country was replaced by Outlaw Country which only really plays Americana during Elizabeth Cook’s show. Most of time Outlaw Country seems to be old David Allen Coe and Johnny Paycheck.

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