Honky Tonky Happy Hour: Why I Won’t Be Watching The CMA Awards
I haven’t watched the CMA awards in years. Sometimes I’ve had a gig, but most of the time, there wasn’t anything there to interest me. I would flip channels and land on the awards show, but wouldn’t stay long. In the 80s, I didn’t miss a show. All my favorite artists were on. Country had encountered a “traditional” country revival of sorts and I was head over heels (musically speaking) about Ricky Skaggs and his fiddle player, Bobby Hicks. I wanted to hear Randy Travis and George Strait and Reba McEntire live.
I think my lack of enthusiasm for the current awards show is because I’m not a fan of the artists in general, so there’s not anything drawing me to the show itself. I know that the show gets flak for lip syncing and bad hosting and too much focus on glitz and glam, but honestly, if my favorite artists were a part of it, I could get past all of the frills.
Which is why people watch the shows–they’re fans. And I get that.
But I’m not a fan–I perused the list of nominees and just didn’t see me drawn in. I have a small temptation with Lee Ann Womack and Jamey Johnson, but I can’t endure the whole show for that.
What bothers me the most is the lack of diversity exhibited by the CMA. There’s no bluegrass, no Americana, no Red Dirt, no Hardcore–the show and the music is centered upon the hitmakers. But what is country music? Is it only those limited sounds produced by the Top 10 on Billboard?
While I understand the philosophy of having “all the big stars,” I have a proposal for the CMA Execs that involves a concept that record labels continually try to nail down: Appeal to everyone.
Why not have a Bluegrass portion? You could have performances by Ricky Skaggs or The Cherryholmes Family or Nickel Creek or Alison Krauss or The Steeldrivers.
How about Red Dirt music? Get Randy Rogers or Deryl Dodd or Kevin Fowler on the show. And Americana? Grab Jim Lauderdale, Randy Crowell, or Buddy & Julie Miller. Hardcore Country? You could bring in older Nashville acts from George Jones to Connie Smith to the Texas honky tonkers like veteran Dale Watson and younger newcomers like Amber Digby and Justin Trevino.
Maybe even Rockabilly with acts like Hank III, Big Sandy, Wayne “The Train” Hancock and Deke Dickerson. And have awards of course–Best Bluegrass Album of the Year, Best Red Dirt Album of the Year, etc.
Suddenly, there’s something for everyone; the hard partying 20 year olds, the over-60 retirees, the environmentally friendly hippies, the middle age hipsters, and of course, with the hitmakers you’ll still keep your young to middle age mainstream crowd. (And, for once, you might actually get musicians watching the show.)
And I wouldn’t extend the show–just cut back the existing list of performers and insert one of the above. Some of the performance choices are baffling. You’ve got Lee Ann Womack up for a nomination and there as a presenter, but she’s not singing. But Dave Matthews is? Really? I am a past Dave Matthews fan, but he can’t hold a candle vocally to Lee Ann. And why is Kid Rock performing? Maybe that’s the CMA exec attempt at appealing to more people. No Kid Rock fan is going to sit through an entire night of country to hear him sing with Jamey Johnson, though. Put Jamey up there on his own–give him a guitar and let him loose with “In Color.”
I understand that “live” performances have changed–it’s a show. It’s theatrical. But are we missing the music? Has the rise of artists like Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, The Dixie Chicks, and others not taught us anything about the genuine thirst that we have to hear musical performances? To watch a band that features not only a gifted singer singing a well written song, but instrumentalists that are just as much a strong part of the performance. You could include the guys up for Musician of the Year. Paul Franklin could have the audience with their jaws dropped or on their knees in tears.
My frustration with the awards shows is probably more tied to my frustration with music and with live performances in general. I regret our current lack of diversity and lack of focus on music and musicians that are truly allowed to play as opposed to sitting in the background playing fills. Fills and frills. I guess that sums up live music award performances to me–lots of icing and no cake. I love icing, but I get sick if that’s all there is.
I don’t have a gig tomorrow. I’ll be at home–possibly flipping channels. I’ll probably land on the CMA Awards at some point. I’ll be slightly interested in the dresses and the hair (I always wonder what Reba’s going to pull out of her hat). I might watch part of a performance or hear a bad lead-in by a presenter. But if I knew that there were some or all of the categories included that I mentioned earlier, I’d only be flipping during commercials. And you can report that to Nielsen.
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