Jessica Simpson Is The Highest Charting Debut Solo Artist

Brody Vercher | June 3rd, 2008

  • Jessica Simpson made history by becoming the highest charting debut solo artist in the history of Billboard’s country singles chart for her song “Come On Over.”
  • John Bohannon says John Hiatt‘s formula becomes closer to perfect with each album and Same Old Man follows in that lineage.

    His ability to relate to an audience through repetition and relation to a common cause is near unparalleled, and as he gets older not only does his understanding of his age become clear, but the way he looks at a younger generation becomes more focused.

  • Check out “Silver Lining,” the new song Julie Roberts added to her MySpace. She co-wrote the song with Victoria Banks and Rachel Proctor–the same duo that helped Simpson pen “Come on Over.”
  • Marty Stuart‘s Sparkle & Twang exhibit has extended to the Nashville International Airport where travelers will see more than 40 iconic Nashville images taken by Stuart.
  • The Martin guitar celebrates its 175th anniversary this year and Michael Rubinkam shares the history of the company.
  • Newcomer Emily West, who cites Patsy Cline as the reason she started singing, explains where she got the title to her debut single:

    “‘Rocks In Your Shoes’, I got that title from my great grandfather,” said West. “Apparently, he used to put rocks in his shoes before he went to go plow the fields because it was for his tendons. He felt so guilty about getting drunk the night before. My mom told me the story and I left it. I ran with it.”

  • The annual issue of Playgirl magazine hits shelves next month and features Craig Hand (MySpace) on the cover.
  • Taylor Swift plans on signing autographs all day Saturday during the CMA Music Festival and donating all the profits from her merchandise sales that day to the American Red Cross.
  • For the Record’s Industry Pro of the Week is JoJo Cerda, PD Clear Channel KTEX/McAllen-Harlingen-Brownsville, TX.

    What is the most pressing problem radio faces today? There are too many to list — but the short list is: budget cuts that affect personalities, merchandising, promotions….in the other corner — iPods, digital downloads satellite radio (& others) are taking away from local radio listening…there are a lot more options of entertainment.

    Sadly, he doesn’t list The 9513 as one of the websites he uses for prep purposes.

  • NPR’s rock critic Ken Tucker on Ashton Shepherd‘s debut album: “Sounds So Good is a big ripe commercial recording for the commercial country industry of, oh, about 1983–that is when fiddles and a banjo and subject matter about working class life were still viable hit single ingredients.”
  • Robert Sandall ponders Emmylou Harris‘ career, focusing on her relationship with Gram Parsons and her regrets from not doing more to help him.
  • If you can’t make it out to Nashville for the CMA Music Festival, but you have XM Satellite radio, then tune in all this week for exclusive coverage. Here’s the broadcast schedule.
  • Advertising Age takes a look at country music and the increasing trend in number of sponsors it’s been receiving, specifically for events like the CMA Music Festival where there’s a record 68 sponsors. Peter Kohan, who referred the article to me, left his own thoughtful comment on the piece that’s worth reading.

    Most Country artists realize the corporate brands seeking to tie in with them do so because they share a common goal: filling a need in that fan’s/consumer’s life. The artist wants to be able to break out of the box with a campaign allowing them to get exposure outside of that narrow Country marketing/promotion “box” while still maintaining credibility. The brand seeks to play upon the incredible loyalty of the Country fan to the artist and the Country music lifestyle.

  • Lonesome Music found what they claim is the perfect soundtrack for this summer’s barbecue in Deke Dickerson‘s King of the Whole Wide World, which they describe as country soul, rockabilly hotrod bluegrass surf. Check out the mp3s.
  • After you listen to those, go check out Jason Eady‘s dark tale of cheating and redemption titled simply, “Redemption.” It feels almost like it could be the great-grandchild of Lefty Frizzell’s “Long Black Veil.” Definitely worth your time.
  1. Ryan
    June 3, 2008 at 10:08 am

    The comparison of Redemption to Long Black Vail is just plain genius. That is spot on.

  2. Stormy
    June 3, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Have to wonder how many of Jessica Simpson’s spins were from DJs playing it just to see how bad it is.

  3. Kelly
    June 3, 2008 at 10:21 am

    I cant help but wonder if Emmylou ever gets tired or will ever tire of the Gram Parsons line of questioning she seems to constantly be thrown. I love Parsons’ music deeply, but it has been so very long since his death and her time with him represents such a small amount of time compared to the rest of her body of work.

  4. Jim Malec
    June 3, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Ken Tucker is insane. 1983? Uh…does Ashton sound anything like:
    “Talk to Me” by Mickey Gilley
    “Inside” by Ronnie Milsap
    “Till I Gain Control Again” by Crystal Gayle
    “The Rose” by Conway Twitty
    “When I’m Away From You” by the Bellamy Brothers
    “We’ve Got Tonight” by Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton
    “Fool For Your Love” by Mickey Gilley
    “The Closer You Get” by Alabama
    Because those songs all went to #1 that year.

    The early 80’s were not an era in which Shepherd would have thrived commercially.

  5. Kelly
    June 3, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Good point Jim. Several of the “1983” artists you mentioned also thrived with pop-crossover success, as well as a more contemporary vibe for that time, niether of which I would acuse Ashton of attmepting at this point. Would he have been more accurate to equate her sound to 1993? I am just thinking out loud, but the items he mentions as being of value in 1983 were more prevelent in 1993 than they are now (or at least I seem to remember it that way without really breaking it down or researching)..

  6. Brody Vercher
    June 3, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Ryan – It was the bass beat in “Redemption” that reminded me of the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash’s version of “Long Black Veil” and led me to the subject connection between the two songs. It took several listens and reading through the lyrics to fully decipher what was going on in “Redemption,” but definitely worth it.

    Stormy – I wouldn’t say they were necessarily playing the song to see how bad it was, that would suggest that they had preconceived notions about the song’s quality, which they may have, but I think they’d be more prone to accepting the song than most of the readers here would. So I’d chalk it up to plain ol’ curiosity.

    Kelly – In a way Emmylou is a willing participant in the Gram Parsons line of questioning by always shrouding the subject in an air of mystery. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

    “Harris likes to mention Parsons, but she doesn’t like to be asked about him,” the writer Nicholas Dawidoff has observed, describing the effect as “a feeling you’ve been led into sensitive terrain by the same person who then wheels and warns you away”.

  7. Kelly
    June 3, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Good point Brody. She has long danced around the subject of whether there was any romantic involvement between them as well. She uses terms that suggest a very strong bond and connection, but always seems to leave it “shrouded” as you say…

  8. Rick
    June 3, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Was there any doubt with Jessica’s pop princess / actress(?) celebrity status that her single would chart well? Its a catchy little song perfect for the Top 40 Airhead Country radio listening audience. It was literally a “No-Brainer”……

    If only John Hiatt had a voice worthy of his singwriting abilities….

    Julie Roberst has the most annoying vocal style in country music today. I hate to say it, but I’d rather listen to Taylor Swift (gag) than Julie….

    As for the NPR crtic regrading Ashton Shepherd, “consider the source”. I never put creedence in anything I hear on left-wing “National Propaganda Radio” except for a little from those car guys now and then. That critic wouldn’t recognize real country music if it bit them on their blue state ass….

    The more I read about and hear Emily West the better I like her. On the Opry last Saturday night she explained that rather than rocks in her shoes she had bandages for blisters from dancing too much the night before. She’s a sweetheart….

    Deke Dickerson is one of those great “hidden artists” like Monte Warden that have putting out fine music for years off the grid and under the radar…

  9. Funk
    June 3, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    As for the NPR crtic regrading Ashton Shepherd, “consider the source”. I never put creedence in anything I hear on left-wing “National Propaganda Radio” except for a little from those car guys now and then. That critic wouldn’t recognize real country music if it bit them on their blue state ass

  10. Chris N.
    June 3, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    NPR is far from the only media outlet that routinely sends a rock critic to do a country critic’s job.

  11. Lanibug
    June 3, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Rick – I usually like you, but today I dont – I would rather have Julie Roberts over Taylor Swift any day –

  12. Pete
    June 3, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Not sure what NPR’s alleged “left-bias” has to do with being clueless about country music in the 1980’s.

  13. Mike Parker
    June 3, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I think anytime a well know celebrity (or talent show contestant) debuts on a chart they will chart well. Seems obvious vs debuts from folks who are completely unknown. Looks like the previous record holders were both Nashville Star contestants… and I’m willing to be Buddy Jewel and Carrie Underwood are both pretty close to that same mark.

  14. Brad
    June 3, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Jason Eady is sadly underappreciated…that record’s been out almost a year and is chock full of gems. He’s playing the 1-5PM slot at Gruene Hall this Saturday if anyone’s in the area…I’ll be there!

  15. Stormy
    June 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Brody: I actually do mean that literally. Every morning show, regardless of genre, I tuned into last week played Jessica Simpson’s song as a joke. Like they played Paris Hilton’s.

    Jim: You left a couple of people off your list of 1983 #1 artists:
    Janie Frickee
    Shelly West
    Charlie McClain
    Reba McEntire.
    Crystal Gayle
    Yeah, actually I could heard Ashton played between Paradise Tonight, Jose Cuervo and He’s A Heartache. And, frankly, “Black Sheep” and “Going Where The Lonely Go.” Part of the beauty of country in the 1980’s, and what I think we all miss about it was that you could go from Shelly West to Ricky Skaggs to Crystal Gayle to Merle Haggard. Well, that and the really ballsy women.

  16. Razor X
    June 3, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    “…Part of the beauty of country in the 1980’s, and what I think we all miss about it was that you could go from Shelly West to Ricky Skaggs to Crystal Gayle to Merle Haggard.”


  17. hairandtoenails
    June 3, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I agree with Stormy and Razor X.

    But in 25 years, people will say, “the beauty of 2008-era radio was that you could go from Swift to Strait to Chesney to Big and Rich…”

  18. Thomas
    June 3, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    to connect ashton shepherd to the country sound of the early 80′ is utter rubbish. then again, i found ken tuckers approach interesting enough to make some comparisons.

    my take is: shepherd’s debut is an album of considerable quality in every aspect. it isn’t quite as big as those legendary mid to late 80′ debuts of randy travis, clint black, alan jackson or dwight yoakam. but it’s easily on par with sara evans’ 97 “three chords and the truth” or sammy kershaw’s 91 “don’t go near the water”. two beautiful examples of twangy, (neo-)traditional country music.

    to me, it sounds as if buddy cannon, who produced both, shepherd’s and kershaw’s albums was giving her more room to manoeuvre than him, back in 91.
    a sign of a new dawn of traditional country or just well-deserved artistic freedom for a gifted young artist? frankly, i think it’s more likely the latter but …..

  19. Alison
    June 3, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    I am with Chris on this one. Rock critics always seem to hate country, mainly BECAUSE THEY ARE ROCK CRITICS. Same way I would most likely give Iggy Pop or Death Cab for Cutie mediocre reviews.

  20. Stormy
    June 3, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Alison: Ken Tucker has given every country album I have heard him review a good review.

  21. Rick
    June 3, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Funk, I never try to hide the real me. What you read is what you get. I find the conceited, self-righteous, whiney liberals that populate the NPR universe to be unbearable. NPR does score serious brownie points for airing “Prairie Home Companion” though. Personally I’m much more of a Rush Limbaugh “Dittohead” type…..(ie one Hillary would describe as a card carrying member of “the vast right wing conspiracy”)

    Lanibug, there is just something in the excessive vibrato of Julie Roberts’ singing voice that affects me like fingernails on an old chalkboard. You have shown consistently good taste here at The 9513, so we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

    I don’t think that Ashton’s album sounds like 80’s country (where are the electronic keyboards?), but it would have fit in well during the “new traditionalist” phase during the latter half of that decade. Traditional country styles became cool again and yet country radio was still open to a wide variety of styles (well except for Steve Earle anyway…)

  22. Razor X
    June 3, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Thomas said, “to connect ashton shepherd to the country sound of the early 80’s is utter rubbish.”

    I think she would have had a better shot of getting some radio airplay in the ’80s than she does now. Sure, the Urban Cowboy movement was still in vogue, but artists like George Strait and Ricky Skaggs managed to break through during that time period. She’d have been the exception to the rule, but there was a lot more diversity on radio playlists in those days. Today radio usually won’t play anything that is “too country”. I’m amazed that her first single got enough airplay to crack the Top 20.

  23. Chris N.
    June 3, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Say what you will about them, “Dittohead” is at least an accurate name.

  24. Funk
    June 3, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Ken Tucker is also critic at large for Entertainment Weekly magazine. He probably listens to more music, sees more movies and watches more television than all of us combined. He’s good at it because he actually likes these artifacts of pop cultire, so of course he generally gives positive reviews. He’ll tell you what he sees and hears in all these things and he’ll try to explain why they do or do not work for him, but he doesn’t hate the part of his audience that likes the things he dislikes.

    He does most of his reviewing for NPR on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Sorry Rick, I am pretty sure Gross is a lesbian so I can guess your opinion of her, which must cause you to have certain opinions of NPR as well. But if you take a look at the people she interviews you’ll see they have a wide range of political views. She has a tendency to only want to talk with interesting and creative people, and these are people who tend to have mostly progressive views. I guess you can say that makes her left-leaning, but if you do, I don’t think you are being logical. Anyway, Tucker and Gross are both great IMO. I’ll also note that NPR does more to promote country and traditional music than any other radio organization in the country.

  25. Jim Malec
    June 3, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Just pointing out that I don’t think Ken Tucker is actually insane.

    Although I doubt he listens to more country music than I do. He and I should totally have a listening-off.

  26. Peter Kohan
    June 3, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks for the props guys!

  27. Brady Vercher
    June 3, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Funk, Terry Gross’ Wikipedia entry says she’s married to a guy.

  28. Baron Lane
    June 3, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    re: Advertising Age article. I would have to count that article as high-irony, that by becoming more indebted to corporate brands you’re working “out of the box”. Yeah, nothing says rustic beauty and bittersweet heartache like Nacho Flavored Dortitos. Calling Dr. Faust!

  29. Cindy2
    June 3, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Re: Jessica Simpson: Jeez. I wish the woman no ill will, can we just get over this, already? Lets talk about the talented people that should get press that aren’t (Brady, c’mon, you know you want to give Steve Azar a review…)

    Re: this whole debate on NPR: To quote Funk:

    “Sorry Rick, I am pretty sure Gross is a lesbian so I can guess your opinion of her, which must cause you to have certain opinions of NPR as well. But if you take a look at the people she interviews you’ll see they have a wide range of political views. She has a tendency to only want to talk with interesting and creative people, and these are people who tend to have mostly progressive views.”

    …jeez, don’t talk to me about conservatives being prejudicial and close- minded!

    For my left-leaning friends, I think its cool that we are in a country where we can agree to disagree. If you want to expand your horizons a bit, perhaps even break down a pre-conceived notion of what conservatives can be like, check out National Review’s Top 50 Conservative Rock Songs.

    Here is the entry for number 10, from the Kinks:

    “20th Century Man,” by The Kinks. ;
    “You keep all your smart modern writers / Give me William Shakespeare / You keep all your smart modern painters / I’ll take Rembrandt, Titian, da Vinci, and Gainsborough. . . . I was born in a welfare state / Ruled by bureaucracy / Controlled by civil servants / And people dressed in grey / Got no privacy got no liberty / ‘Cause the 20th-century people / Took it all away from me.”

  30. Funk
    June 3, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Funk, Terry Gross’ Wikipedia entry says she’s married to a guy.

    I didn’t know that. Thanks for the pointer.

    Cindy2, unlike Rick, I didn’t mean to come across as judgmental. I live in the most conservative state in the US, so you might not have me pegged as well as you think. But I don’t typically think of conservative and creative professions being highly overlapping. I tend to think of banking and farming to be typically populated with those who have more conservative views and most writers and musicians have more open views. I’m not talking about anything exclusive, just what kinds of people generally do certain kinds of things. It takes all kinds.

    It takes a pretty amazing interviewer to make the Chair of the Fed be interesting. It’s easier to make it work with a strung out guitar slinger.

  31. Lynn
    June 3, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    “Have to wonder how many of Jessica Simpson’s spins were from DJs playing it just to see how bad it is.”

    LOL. I agree. However, I’m sure there are thousands of Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood fans out there who are going to make radio DJs rue the day they did that! I wouldn’t be surprised if 5 years from now Jessica Simpson is the latest member of the Grand Ole Opry…

    Cindy2 – Hysterical article! I wonder if some of those artists knew they were writing so-called “conservative” songs. Regardless of the fact that the list is highly populated with Brits (including the top 2), that is a list of some of the least conservative artists out there! But, honestly, give me a break, criticizing inefficient government and complaining about the taxman aren’t the exclusive property of Republicans. That’s pretty universal.

    Lanibug – Would you still take Taylor Swift over Julie Roberts if it were a live show? :P

  32. Kim
    June 3, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks for the info and link to Julie Roberts’ new song. I love it and that it was written by Rachel is double the goodness. Hope she can have a successful 3rd album. I love her!

  33. Kelly
    June 4, 2008 at 3:39 am

    I am digging the Deke Dickerson audio! Sometimes
    I think that I am way ahead of the game and know about so many great unknown acts, and then someone shines a light in the direction of something cool like this and I am reminded of how much great stuff is out there waiting to be heard…

  34. C. Eric Banister
    June 4, 2008 at 7:12 am

    Maybe I am reading it wrong, but I don’t think Tucker meant that as a slam. I think he meant that 1983 (probably an arbitrary date for sake of sarcasm) was the last time you heard about subject matter in songs about how the middle class live or are affected in life rather than the sunshine and rainbows of country radio today. I think he meant it as both a compliment to Shepherd and an indictment of the current country music scene.

  35. Brody Vercher
    June 4, 2008 at 7:17 am

    That was my impression, Eric. I think it was supposed to be more of a commentary on the state of today’s radio. I probably should have included more of the quote to put it in context.

  36. Ken Tucker
    June 4, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Wow, I am loving the comments regarding my NPR review–let the arguments fly. Regarding A. Shepherd and my ’80s music comparison: yep, I was thinking about how George Strait and Dwight Y. used to get played alongside less hardcore country acts. As for rock critics writing about country, I’ve been writing about country since 1975; hope you’ll check out an essay I wrote for The Country Music Foundation book “Country: The Music and the Musicians” in–well, whattya know–1988, and more recently my essay on Webb Pierce reprinted in “Cooking and Stealing: The Tin House Non-Fiction Reader.” Great website; lots of good points made here. Just don’t pick on my pal Terry Gross; I’ll have to defend her honor. Best to all even those who disagree with me.

  37. Lanibug
    June 5, 2008 at 7:51 am

    Lynn – you have me wrong – I said I would rather have Julie Roberts than Taylor Swift, not the other way around — do not let my credibility get shredded around here….

  38. Peter Kohan
    June 5, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Baron – What I meant by “out of the box” was just that without corporate brand involvement an artist and label (especially in this budgetary environemnt) generally stick to the standard script for marketing an album or single: radio and video promotion, the obligatory articles in all of the Country music and lifestyle mags and blogs, artist visits to retail, touring, MySpace, Facebook, and other Internet marketing. All of those channels are fine and good, and some will work very well for artists – but every artist tries to work those same channels, making for a crowded field where there is little differentiation.

    I’ll give you an example of what I mean. When I was working at Sony BMG I was contacted by a liquor brand named Tequila Rose. They were working on developing a cause-related promotion; they wanted to focus on a Country artist. I turned them onto Sony BMG Nashville regarding a particular artist on our roster, but that didn’t work out. But the brand did eventually latch onto a Country act they put their marketing muscle behind: Bombshel. And the partnership worked so well that Tequila Rose sponsored the group’s 2007 tour:

    Now you know Bomshel was doing the same type of marketing and promotion other similar Country acts have to do, but this effort with Tequila Rose allowed them to garner a paid tour sponsorship and product endorsement. So, even without a substantial radio or video picture – here is a country act that was able to secure a six-figure deal with a major brand where there was a good fit all around. And labels – whether they be major or indie – often cannot provide the level of marketing support a corporation will put behind a brand marketing campaign, so a deal such as this only adds increased and varied media exposure for a musical act.

    Hey guys – can you help out with my links? There might be some trouble clicking on them directly. If not, then just cut and paste into your browsers. Thanks.

  39. Jim Malec
    June 6, 2008 at 2:05 am

    Hey Ken, thanks for stopping by. I understand the point you were trying to make, but I just don’t see how that environment is a lot different than the current one. George and Dwight may have been “more country” than Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton (singing a Bob Seger cover, by the way), but those artists were still well within a mainstream sentiment. Today, country radio goes from “International Harvester” to Jessica Simpson, from Ashton Shepherd to Darius Rucker.

    In this format there is always a push and pull. There is always some degree of culture vs. counter-culture. But the point I am making is that I see the early 80s as a time when there is a strong rejection of the country “counter-culture”–it is a time when the format made a shift to a pop-based, urban-cowboy sound.

    And so I think your selection of timeline is ill-advised. Perhaps the late 80s or early 90s, before the Garthzilla era, would have been more appropriate. It was then, after all, that artists like Clint Black and Mark Chesnutt (and Randy Travis, still) began a reclamation of the traditional roots that had ebbed out of the format during the early 80s.

    And by the way, Dwight didn’t break onto the scene until 1986.

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