Roots, Toots n' Hoots Blog
A new look at Murder on Music Row
Jeffrey Remz | March 20, 2015
About 15 years passed since George Strait and Alan Jackson recorded "Music on Murder Row," a song that condemned the country music interlopers.
An article this week at CMT.com by Managing Editor Calvin Gilbert wonders whether times have changed all that much.
I remember the song well. The song, recorded on Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time's bluegrass album, received much attention because of the subject matter. Perhaps what was most surprising was that Jackson and Strait were the ones behind the more recognized version of the song, releasing a single. They were (and are) such traditionalists compared to what else was (and is) happening in Nashville. They still are today, although Jackson's star isn't quite what it was once was. He has been part of the traditional side of country music since the get go with pedal steel part and parcel of his sound. While supposedly not touring any more, Strait remains an icon with hit after hit on album after album.
The sounds on that song would be in sharp contrast to today, of course, where the instrument is rarely heard.
One of the interesting parts of the Gilbert piece was a look at the top 10 singles in 1999, the year Cordle recorded the song, and last year's list. In some ways, it's not so clear things are all that different. Jackson led 1999 country airplay charts with "Right On the Money" with Dixie Chicks 6th with "You Were Mine" and Strait 10th with "Write This Down."
As for last year, Brett Eldredge topped the list with the soulful, poppy sounding "Beat of the Music." But there's nothing on the list that is remotely traditional, unless you opt for Florida Georgia Line's left-field (for them) song, "Dirt." Sam Hunt's "Leave the Night On" was number 10 and a big hit, but hardly sounded anything country.
Yet, Gilbert rightly points out that Mark Chesnutt was fourth on the 1999 chart with "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," his remake of an Aerosmith power ballad. Chesnutt, who was a honky tonk singer supreme, may have sold his soul for that hit. After that, he never had another top 10 song, Gilbert pointed out. Gilbert wrote, "I'm just pointing out that whether or not country music was ever actually murdered on Music Row, there's always somebody angling to mingle the genres to get a hit."
Truer words may never have been spoken in this day and age when genres seem less set than ever.