(Not) Record Of The Week # 84

Dustin Lynch – Tullohoma

Duncan Warwick the editor of Country Music People sent me an email asking if I’d review the above Bro-Country album. I responded in a grouchy way as I’d already given him four reviews for the month (and I don’t get paid for all this scribing). However, he wrote back “Sorry, I was getting so depressed by this and everyone thinks I’m a miserable bastard because I’m always slagging this kind of thing off I was hoping someone else might take it on… And I thought I’d give you a try being a bit cheeky. This is the kind of thing that makes me question whether I even like country music”. So I listened to it and wrote this review. It is truly execrable but it’s popularity as a sound is growing. I attempt to explain why:

Dustin Lynch is one of the manufactured male and manicured mannequins who clutters up Country radio. Eligibility for stardom is a serviceable voice, matinee idol looks and an age of around 30. Lynch found his way to Nashville’s Bluebird Café at the tender age of 16 years old. It’s been a journey where he’s had to ‘pay his dues’. It paid off; he had a debut number one album in 2012.

Since he’s had six Billboard number 1s, it’s fair to say there’s more to come. Tullahoma is his fourth album. Lyrically it’s a dreary confection of ‘boy meets girl’ plots. There are 26 mentions of ‘girl’, 22 mentions of ‘momma’, 16 mentions of ‘dirt’ or ‘dirt road’, 12 mentions of ‘stars’, 10 mentions of ‘kiss’, 10 mentions of ‘small or little town’ and 8 of ‘baby’. The body count also includes ‘church’, ‘beer’, ‘blue jeans’, ‘whiskey’’ and ‘tractor’. You can safely say he’s got the full set of mandatory references that Bro-Country demands.

All 11 songs are love songs. They are over fussy sub-rock with howling guitars, slappy drums and extended vocals that deliver a chorus. All this is at a level that never drowns the seductive baritone. If you check out his videos then his objects of desire are female, 24 years old, white, have long hair, enjoy the figure of Venus de Milo, love dancing on Saturday nights and live in a ‘small’ town. And here is the crux of the matter – a large record company’s subsidiary has kept strictly to a formula that gets it played on the radio because it ‘speaks’ to the teenage and millennial female audience: they all want to be the girl in the video. The rest of the audience are either flipping burgers or dealing with morning rush hour traffic.

To rail against this manufactured product is to forget that the industry has controlled, one way or another, the hit making machine for several decades. The problem here is that it has previously had more variety, quality, humour and sincerity. Now there is nothing to differentiate the current purveyors in terms of music, words, looks, gender and age. Don’t get me wrong: the album is accessible and musical, but it is so indistinguishable and disposable. The Country Music Association is the leading provider of research and their website says there is an annual growth rate of 9% for listeners of Country music over the last 5 years. It now reaches 139 million. The population of the USA is 327 million: that is some reach. No one’s going to kill the ‘golden goose’. Fasten your seat belts this stuff is around for sometime to come.

 

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