You Should Know: Joey Hyde

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Country music’s biggest strength, and it’s biggest weakness, is its unapologetic emphasis on a familiar structure that has remained virtually unchanged since its hillbilly origins almost a hundred years ago.

You know the rules: a typical country song has a familiar chord pattern, a distinct melody, lyrics that favor direct imagery over poetic ambiguity and deal with working class and family-oriented values, you get the idea. Country legend Harlan Howard affectionately called this structure “three chords and the truth”, but anyone who finds this structure impersonal and used only as a means to sell sex, trucks, and beer would show you this.

But regardless on where you stand, there’s no denying this structure’s success: almost half of Americans are country fans and, since 2012, it’s apparently America’s favorite music genre. Even in its current pop-rock, New Nashville-influenced embodiment, which was popularized in the mid-2000’s by Carrie Underwood, Rascal Flatts, and later Taylor Swift, modern popular Country music still retains its structure and probably will continue doing so as long as people keep buying trucks and beer.

Joey Hyde, a Country music newcomer who’s gaining some traction with his debut single “Get It On”, does nothing to try and fight this structure, but there’s no reason for him to do so. His upcoming EP touches on all the necessities of a modern country-star in the making, which results in an enjoyable collection of well-written, well-produced songs.

A song with the words “American” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll” in the title? Check. A song about drinking? Check. A song about watching a sunset with that special girl? Check. Crisp production? Check. A solid singing voice with just enough twang to appeal to traditionalists but not enough to turn people off? Check. Good lyrics that are cheeky and relatable, even if you won’t admit that you can relate to them? Check.

Hyde does gets some bonus points though for the few key details that he hides throughout his songs. He references Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side” on my favorite song on the EP “American Rock ‘N’ Roll”, his tongue and cheek video for “Get It On” is better than most overly serious country music videos, and there’s nothing cringe-worthy in his lyrics, a little victory for this genre (there’s nothing here that’s as bad as “She thinks my tractor’s sexy”).

So you could dismiss Hyde for sounding like the young talented country star that he’s becoming, but that would be your loss and your misunderstanding of what country music is about. Plus, this is also an exciting time for country music. Eric Church, with his “Springsteen” song that actually sounds like a Bruce Springsteen song, has led the pack of other country stars like Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, and Sturgill Simpson to make traditional country music sound exciting and fresh again. Right now is the best time for anyone who doesn’t like country music to give it a second chance.

Joey Hyde could very much follow that pack if he wanted to. But no matter what he ends up doing, it looks like we have another potential hit maker on the rise.

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Kacey Musgraves: The Country Singer-Songwriter You Secretly Want Taylor Swift To Be

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It’s easy to hate on mainstream country music, a genre littered with overproduced songs about trucks full of beer and horny Jesus-loving southern guys (and gals). But of course, there are always exceptions to the stereotypes of any music genre. 24-year-old Kacey Musgraves is that exception to country music.

Her debut album Same Trailer Different Park was released earlier this year, and it’s so well crafted that any country hater could like this record. Musgraves sounds a lot like Taylor Swift, but instead of singing about boys she sings about cheating, smoking pot and small town boredom, and that’s all just in one song. This is a songwriter’s album, and the strong lyrics married with simple production will remind many people of Ryan Adams and other great country artists that appeal to non-country fans.

So is Kacey Musgraves the female Ryan Adams, or is she the Taylor Swift that you secretly wish that Taylor Swift was? Either way, give Same Trailer Different Park a spin.

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Classics In The Making: Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

The greatest album Gram Parsons never made.

In its purist form, country music is not about how sexy a girl thinks your tractor is.  Country music is all about the heart, but not the achy breaky kind.  Country music is about the heart that is fragile, stubborn, and hard to heal, the kind that has been disappointed just one too many times, and the kind of heart that keeps beating while our minds try to make sense of everything.  So in that respect, Ryan Adams is essentially a country singer, for  nobody can sing about a broken heart better than he can, and no album displays his gift as well as 2000’s “Heartbreaker.”

The album, for the most part, is stripped down to just acoustic guitars, piano, and Adam’s withered harmonica and voice, singing of youth, bad love, and everything in-between.  From missing his home and family (“Oh My Sweet Carolina”), to a love turned sour (“Why Do They Leave?”), to the things he loves that are slowly killing him (“To Be The One”), Adams creates the perfect soundtrack for those nights of reflection on what could have been, what should have been, and what it all means.

The album is more folk than country, so those country-haters can ease up a bit.  But make no mistake, this is a country record, and a darn good one too.  There are no weak tracks on the entire record, and very few album are filled with the kind of emotion Adams is able to express.  This is an album for all of us who have ever felt alone, defeated, and heartbroken, which is all of us at certain times.  Adams continues to make more albums, some of them good and some of them alright, but this is easily his greatest moment.

Essential Tracks: “To Be Young”, “In My Time Of Need”, and “Oh My Sweet Carolina”

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