Sam Hunt and Kenny Rogers, Country Music Rule-Benders
welcome to the New York podcasts. Your own S- Plaka Veli of Music News and criticism on your host Junqueira Monica. A your system. Were listening to hard to forget. It's the boy. Sam Hunt Sam the hunt. He is back southside second album. Five years after Momma Violeau. I gotta be honest there few albums that I have been actively anticipating for as long or even one tenth as long as I've been waiting for the same record a wrote about Sam. I interviewed him piece. Came out about a week and a half ago. And just a little backstory tillage. How much I am how much I care about. Sam Hunt Montebello came out in two thousand fifteen and I had written about the EP that came out previously. So I didn't really write about Montebello because I kind of had said everything I needed to say but I knew I wanted to talk to him. I knew I knew that there was a story and I was like okay. Well let's get the first story of the second cycle and so I started making calls started started. Having meetings started having conversations that was true twenty sixteen and then twenty seven rolls around. And they're like okay. He's he's in the studio he's working and we were GonNa do a thing where I checked in every two three months throughout the process and then dropped a big piece. When the record came to Nashville went to the House that he had not yet moved in with his fiancee. His wife where he was on the about to move in so went up to the house where he lived with his bandmates. We had really really good conversation. We probably at two big talks on that trip and after that nothing I was like this is weird. I couldn't quite figure out what had happened to him and what had happened is he got his personal life together. He got married. He devoted time to his wife and two healing. That relationship was Hannah. Who is his wife is the woman who had been dating before he started becoming a country music star and had let go in order to become a country music performer and he did the kind of ethical and responsible thing which is put his career on a little bit of a slower path in order to make sure that he had gotten his life right before he got his career right. So I didn't hear from the Sam Hunt People for quite a long time and then once they started trickling songs back out and it seemed very clear that the record was coming finally this year a bunch more phone calls and a bunch more setup and luckily was able to tie up loose end and delivered the story. Persistence pays off so this week on podcast. We're GONNA talk about Sam. Natalie wanders going to call in noted Sam onto file and we're GONNA WE'RE GONNA chat about Sam than in now and then in part two when talk about someone else who is a a rule bender of country music and that was Kenny Rogers. Kenny Rogers died a couple of weeks ago. And I was thinking about the ways in which Kenny did with country and pop in the late seventies through the mid eighty S. It's not that different from what Sam has been doing with country and hip hop over the last six or seven years. So Bill frisks more and it's going to call in from national talk to me about. Kenny Rogers like see but I you know if you WanNa talk about Sam Hunt. You know who is on the other line. Nataliya Weiner's is here Natalie. Hi John Yes it's true. It's big facts. Big facts and bigger drip. Natalie is here Natalie as a staff writer espy nation will. There are no sports. It's true and of course writes about music for billboard and other publications. Sam Hunt is a frequent conversational topic between myself Natalie and has been for a long time. He's just been looming though. Sadly you know we've been dealing with the ghost of Sam Hunt instead of the reality of Sam Hunt and finally finally for Franklin me more than most as someone that has been working. I'm praying on this story for three years. Four years really. So Sam's back you're writing about south side. Tell me about your initial vibes on it. And how does it fit in the hunt? Well based on the singles. I wasn't Super Super Jazz. Do you know that really stuck out to me as bangers not even body like a back road which I don't like disagree now and to be fair so you're talking about a back road you're talking about downtown's dead and also like I mean he really sitting with you right sooner? Anna drinking drinking too much although totally feel like a single thousand mix tape that was that was the Lucy and also yes. Yes and kin folks. Obviously which you know is the one. That's at radio right now. I believe none of them really had that lake thing where I'm like. Oh my gosh I'm GonNa need to listen to the song five hundred million times but hearing album altogether I was like Oh this makes a lot more sense. Kind of totally agree. Let me ask you a question that I asked Sam or maybe even that Sam asked me somewhere in between okay. Do you think that people who liked Sam on the first go round and by the first go round I mean kind of like the entirety of the twenty fourteen to twenty sixteen windows? Kinda coming out of the mix tape into the EP into the album. Like the whole that arc. Do you think those people are people who crave country music innovation or what he did was access a kind of country music listener that maybe had not been adequately served by everybody else who was in the genre but who already pre existing. I think definitely the latter I think just like his own origin story. Kind of speaks to that. You know that. He speaks candidly about how he grew up listening to like country. Music and rap music like in locker rooms as it were. Hashtag sports. That's actually like a thing that I've encountered ally just in my sports life. You know like getting to know people from the rural south who I might not otherwise interact with unlike. Yeah that's their life. You know I remember. I did this story at the Super Bowl and I was just asking. All the players like what their dream halftime show would be this one player. Who was like de l'est like member of the Patriots or something but he's from Alabama and he was like I would pick like NBA young boy in Luke Bryan. That was his show and so I was like. Wow See. Him Hunt Listener. Why how I don't remember if that was exactly but it was something along those lines honestly. If that was a tour I would be. I would be a dead on that tour. I know you just need to hang out in more football locker rooms clearly as I actually and I actually have another sports metaphor which is something that I thought about when I was when I was talking to Sam so to that point about making music for fans at already existed. Who had not been properly. I really was thinking about it. Anybody who knows me and let me know that I do not give mostly any kind of a rat's butt about sports but I do know this one thing and you as a sports writer can correct me if I am if I am not right. You throw the football where the receiver will be not to wear. The receiver is looking you. Okay I see okay okay. And and the Ecstasy EP and Mono- Vilo are where the fans were already moving. It was a natural direction if you were to arc out the direction of young interested country music listeners. That's where they were going out of. All he did was he hit the pocket. No he didn't hit the pocket. He's in the pocket. Also we're so close. Our you know. The quarterback stands in the pocket. He was in the pocket the receivers the fans. They're running the route. They're already out there. He knows where they're going. And he's just hitting them exactly right right between the numbers yes and that thank. You really really brought it home for to me so to me. That was the of reason like I. It's not that I don't think Sam Hunt as an innovator because I do but I don't think that that's his primary appeal and that's something that he and I spoke about a little bit about like the level of innovation that he has to continue to have or does or does not have to continue to have for the subsequent stages of his career. I think it was that there is this pre existing country music. Listeners are already attuned acclimated to this other pool of aesthetics and him being someone who is naturally fluent on both sides obviously can throw that backs in them. And frankly in a way that Florida Georgia line or loop bryner these other folks never did like. I went back to read a country rap profile kind of like seen peace maybe the month that the Ecstasy EP came out. So we're talking like twenty fourteen like early to mid twenty fourteen and that piece for the record was late. I remember I had been working on the previous year in at shelving for some reason or another so that pieces already late but all all that is to say all that stuff was already happening cruise the cruise remix near Lake Shelton. Luke Bryan even just in more like all. That stuff was already happening but it always felt false. It always felt pastiche and always felt sticky. And then come Sam Hunt and it was like this is cute that you guys are doing this. Let me tell you how this is really dumb. I totally agree. I think it's just like he managed to integrate elements of hip hop in a way and are in be just in a way that's really really subtle. Frankly and I think honestly it's like more obvious on south side than it was on Montebello. Yes it was a lot more intentional and like coherent the way he did it throughout the whole project. It's all underscored by Lake not a trap. Beat I'm not gonNA say that but the same kind of syncopation that you find in a trap beat. That's grounding almost the entire project yeah and like again these are. These are very conscious choices about. We're using drum machines even we're not. We're not using live drums. Like even that thing that to us is like a pretty nothing choice for people who listen across genre and who are are trained on op drums and pop music production choices but if you compare it to other national productions it's a qualifies as a little bit radical. Although you did mention are in be do. There is one song on South side that I do think is probably not going to get enough attention so we should probably play just a bit of it. It's called nothing lasts forever. And he's like probably yeah. It's a really good like salmon. I talked a lot about. R&b is a really really good are in Bisong. That is a country song a little nothing lasts forever so me feel sorry for me. Tell me your fears simply asked again on this record. I agree that's outside. You'll maybe a little bit more coherent but I also I do feel that. I'm hearing him playing to a bunch of different constituencies on this record. A couple of songs after nothing lasts forever is. That's all I'm breaking. Up was easy in the nineties and bring it was easy in the nineties. Seems like the smarter version of a song that maybe he would've written and then like Seoul to like. Yeah Standards Shea or that load off Luke Luke cones. You told me you know I I know I know it. You get more Charlie worsham. I don't know but you know what I mean has a light for to it but it's the songwriting users like at a higher clip. I think it's not so much that the album all is the same. I just think there's certain elements that go through the whole thing that make it make a little more sense than Montreal like Montebello like had these like Super Kinda like whimsical UPTEMPO. Things that really didn't have any of that like hip hop element to them and then other ones where it's like totally like out there like single for the summer Was just like he was definitely like playing in all these different areas whereas with southside. It's like like we were talking about the singles. Make more sense in the whole because like there's this thing not only the lake kind of the underlying syncopated pulse but also just the way that it's recorded as sort of a little casual you know like ever so slightly like rough around the edges in a way. That's really appealing in that ties. All the different sounds like the army like bluegrass one. Whatever you know that makes them all sound kind of coherent together and it's also like true to his process because he's not necessarily working in the same studios mostly national folks are working in. You know. Zack growl has a home studio back. A little setup there there's like not even like a blanket around the microphone section now obviously they clean it up a little bit after that but the kind of Rostov happens in a much more casual space. A lot of the national stuff does and I agree it. The thing that Sam does well is I think. Because of his range of influences his vocal approaches even on the more traditional material. Don't feel so crisp and like tied in like t's crossed and is Donald like they're like a touch of ambiguity in his delivery countries. Hostile to that sometimes. Yeah I think. So he's definitely a little more neutral but he's still got that slate. Twang to you know really like keep it in I in the country loop but we were gonNA talk about. Nothing lasts forever right. Oh yes going to get speak on it. You know that line like say it's something just don't say it's nothing because nothing lasts forever like what even do that. It's like Okay Sam. I'm already dead like stopped. I feel silly kind of reading Sam Lyrics because they make me. They make me like a sweaty like they're good. They're really good. They're smart. They're they're they're military precise. They're deployed so carefully. There's a hoskin the voice. Dafna them the emotional. Haft the structural crispness. It's just a lot you when he's when he's on his own like like holy what he is on. I mean honestly. I felt that way about twenty sixteen. I mean yeah no for sure. Oh my God I wait I need to. I need to some lurks. Also there's some lines in that one though where it's like if anybody else seen it. You're like lull. I'd take some girls out of my phone. Like Oh Crimea. River really means it. I know he. Of course you sound like he's means everything he's ever said. Let me read you in fact let me re as you quoted these lyrics in my piece. I put the whiskey back in the bottle. Put the smoke back in the joint. Look up at the sky and say okay. Okay Okay think you made your point. Oh Yeah it's like it's Emas Ema King Sam Hunt so good so when I went to Nashville to talk to him this most recent time I think it was the country radio we it. Has You know. Every label like has showcase where they parade everybody and unlike in other genres where like you could never get people to do one song at one. Pm for a bunch of Radio Programmers on a lineup with twenty other artists in country people show up and the stars and I saw Carrie underwood common like belt out a song in the middle of the day but Sam Hunt came and he did this saw and he did it like Super Strip down just ham and maybe one other star player. Maybe there were two. I can't remember but he did it. Super Shirt down. I had not heard it previously in I was blown away so blown away. It was so good and I am for minnows. Like Oh my God. Is he going to do like a traditional record legacy in a do like a track record and he had said that? Hit sort of alluded to that in the run-up you know 'cause obviously we've been waiting for this for five million years and unlike some of the interviews he would be like. Yeah I'm doing more of a traditional thing much to the Chagrin of a blog. I don't know if we're going to like say its name but if you know you know you know you know. I mean to me opening with that. Specific Song feels like a little bit of behaviors. Kind of thing right but like that's quite alright. That's quite a thing I do think that's right. I also there's there's two parts to this right one. Is I think that Sam is someone who is very cognizant of the conversation around him? I think he's been very careful to kind of calibrate output like almost like triangulate. It with the conversation you know like to know like where how am I being perceived how can I both lean into that in the positive stands but also push back against that in a productive way so I do agree like putting this song? I is very much like Oh you. Don't you all on about this life rally show up? Let me tell you what I'm really about. That's number one. The other thing is I think this song is very much a hard emotional reset. That's almost like a hidden handshake between him and his wife. I think it's like I'm GonNa make this the first song on the record. It's going to be like a table clearing song. It's going to be very obvious what it's about about the transition from my old life to my new life about the ways that I felt short and then it's going to free me up to then go back to being Sam Hunt in quotes. But I'm going to do this as kind of a table clear. That's how it feels to me. I did not get to speak to Hannah. Unfortunately for my piece I did ask and drinking too much which had come a long time ago and his last long on the record that to me is like the beginning of the secret handshake and then two thousand sixteen is like the end of the secret handshake. That's another thing that really really sets it apart from Montebello is like that album is like very beat fund flirtatious late. I'm hitting on all these women. Whatever like even like take your time is like ultimately like a Halloween Song. It's just like a very serious hollering song way. Let's listen to take your time. A let's let's everybody get a personal fan and put some cold air on yourself. Let's listen to a little bit of take your time. Just get. Let's get. Let's get this introduction to the song but whatever that's fine. It's an accurate attack. Here's some here's take your time. Notice Dawson pillow. Next thing you know try to be nice and some guys get into closed trying to pick you trying to get you own. And I'm sure won't you France about to come over here? She's supposed to save you from random guys to talk too much and want to stay on the same also and dance. Thank you so. It's like all these kind of hollering partying upbeat. Whatever songs and this album is mostly about like regret and yes even though it does have some upbeat songs like even the upbeat songs are about breakup. We should definitely say. Get you a man or a woman who will write songs about you. Like drinking too much and twenty sixteen. I am sure that it was difficult to convince Hannah to come back into his life when he was at the peak of his fame. I am sure V. Songs seemed like about as good an argument for. I'm going to be a mega famous country star and also can deliver emotionally resonant music. That pleases the love of my life. I'd add is a guy that can do both right. That's a real real way so it's very exciting but that said I think you're right when we were talking about the kind of interstitial singles that had come previously body like a back road especially by back down downs dead there. There is a kind of like neutrality to them right. There is a kind of swimming in place aspect to it back where it is just so like like just as far as what it talks about. It's like the most like kind of cringe like it's not actually offensive. But it's just kind of like they just makes me personally just gag a little bit and I'm not opposed to like fam- doing like sexy stuff like I love speakers so much like obsessed with that song but this is the body bag just feels so like I don't know I D- viscerally. I'm like no downtown's dead. I like more in the context of the album than I did on. Its own but it's definitely like an in-between song and Nada Standout Banger. So it's a little interesting to me that they were chosen to be put out there not to get too deep into the tick. Tock of the San piece came together but you know I had been working on the same piece in two thousand sixteen seventeen twenty sixteen trying to make it happen when it still seemed like that record was coming and then twenty seven teams when we did the first interviews so when when they went dark you know when they went. Obviously I'm SORTA by caddying Zayed's I was like. Oh no where's the story? The story is not happening but I started. You know looking more closely when he would post on instagram. And like every little trickle of information star take on all this extra meaning and I remember at that time thinking he is not worrying about putting music out and that was so clear because I would see you know. He posted this photo of him. I don't know if they were married yet. But his fiancee or his wife. Traveling in Israel or Vietnam or wherever they were. This man is not putting any songs out. But then there's like the responsible side of him. I think he was like well. We're going to go on tour this summer and we should probably have a new single. If we're going to go on tour. Those things felt like concessions. They did not feel like the bowl statements that I would ordinarily expect from him. The striking thing that I took away from the interviews was his low key anxiety or stress about old town road and kind of what happens when Sam Hunt. The innovator actually is taking a step back from innovation that was really striking to be because one of the things that he talked. Abou was you know. He had sessions with Charlie handsome. Whose dump some postmodern stop and Travis Scott Stop. He had sessions diplomats. Actually with murder beats trying to identify a path that could take the ideas of Monticello and really do something fully formed and him talking about Old Town road and be like damn they kind of hit on something then. Maybe I had not yet. He thought he was very earnest and the willing to be vulnerable about having made slightly more conservative choices in the last year as he was winning record together and wanting his next cycle to be the more experimental forward-looking period honestly. I feel like this record is more experimental than Montebello. You know like I think there are risks. That he took here that he he wasn't taking then and I almost like appreciate that. We don't have the like diplo produced tracks because diplo is putting out country tracks right now. You know there's that Morgan Rolling. I know I know I know the cam one was over the Morgan and I am a mortgage aficionado. Who can relate? I just even the mere mention I feel like I need an accenture at the mirror. Firing the diplomat record. You know what I mean like. I think this is better because it's like they're still doing cool stuff. That is pushing the envelope in a very Nashville way which is to say not all that much. But I don't know to me. It just seems like I like the statement that this record is making because this is bringing in like Banjo and fiddle and whatever all that stuff on top of these. It sounds really seamless. You don't hear the edges you know you don't hear the borders and also First of all I have to say it on podcast. 'cause I wrote it in the piece or listening to heart forget at the beginning and that when I first heard that immediately my brain said Yo brother where are now which I was really proud of. I did note that Google to make sure that no person had ever used that phrase before any other context and I think I think no one has pretty sure. I'm pretty sure that congratulations. You're welcome you're on your. That's the global. You not just as global you. What you just said reminds me of something that Sydney may who is unable president said which when she first said it's me I almost like didn't even it for me until I went back and listen to the record again after I had spoken with her where she was like. This is his most progressive record and also is most traditional record now to be fair. He only has two albums so it's not like we're talking about ten albums here but the idea that he is pushing at both sides in both directions at the same time. I think is very real and I think true to the kind of identity crisis of the last few years for Sam because I know I know we didn't really get into this piece but I know he's very curious about artists like surgical and people like that and he speed listens to a lot of blue grass and he's really fascinated about how he can absorb some of those approaches and aesthetics into what he does. So that's in Han. And that's what he's trying to do but also he is the number one most thoughtful forward thinking genre matchup guy in Nashville. So how do you do both at the same time any anxiety? He might have about Old Town road down road incredible song. Obviously like you're defining song but like we don't know that little nauseous is gonNA come back. It was one we know we know. Okay all right. I haven't seen convincing proof that like all our country. Music is going to change because of all nauseous. We know that we know that he's not gonna come through with anything. Oh I see yeah so I'm just saying like this is a better worse thing. But it's like this is a fully formed idea especially sure linking it just. I was just really impressed by the kind of detail oriented -ness of the way that it was all kind of crafted together which I didn't get from the singles. The singles felt so haphazard and then in the album. It's not like I do think the role of singles has been like. I said a little bit of like placeholder. Certainly the prior singles prior to Kim folks. It's almost like he's drawing like some kind of distribution curve and he's like inching his way towards the risky stuff. It's like I'm GonNa give you buy like a back road. Mcgivney downtown's dead. It's like it's like the most house party e of the songs in John's right right so that's like. I'm inching back to the Montreal stuff. It's a little bit better than that. But it's still not gonNA like offended like no one's going to push back on it then I'm GonNa give you hard to forget it starts with a Webb Pierce sample but then it turns into like a boom bap record. So it's I do matter which part of which part of same hunter into you're getting that and then you set up the rest of the record and the rest of the record let you say accomplishes. Both sounds both approaches. That Sam is of good at. I think I'm grateful that this record exists but I'm also like particularly excited because I think if he can take some of those ideas you know he could have. A BUBBA sparks deliverance on his hands. We did not talk about but he I think he could have a deliverance on hands. Which is you know to me. Probably like the defining hip hop record with country influence of of of of all time. Teach you you got. I'm excited to see that happen. I feel like I want to see that. I don't know if he'll go there. You know maybe you will. Maybe he won't you know I think it's kind of hard to say at this juncture. You talk about in your piece. Sort of how personal all the songwriting is purely. He's like a perfectionist. You know he was sure area percent so it's just like to see artists who are in that mold you know like. I think it can be like particularly. I don't know it's made me more unusual for them to take those super bowl leaps but I like this album ally and I think it works. Well now something. I didn't really get into the peace but I think speaks to what you just said. I was talking to him about though sessions that he had with other producers and also he was working with that Guy Brillant who has a my truck record. That's that's been doing pretty well. And bruins. Background is primarily in our in be songwriting. You know he's not worked in the country space at all and one of the things that Sam said I thought was really interesting was he was talking about the logistical challenges of working cross genre. You know he was like you know. Country Music sessions. They start at nine. They ended noon. They started one. They ended five. It's a very rigid system. And if you are working with your normal concert music folks you know Josh Osborne Shane McNally. The people were writing with. Sam that's where they're working there you know it's it's a it's a job. You're checking in checking out the people who make the kinds of records. I think SAM is interested. Try or just see if he can like extract something from do not working that way and Sam is molded by the country tradition even though his influences are very vast he's logistical. Framework is the country framework. And he's also trying to be that guy right straight to be married. I have kids and to of course and he also said that it's also tougher to have the freedom to make risky choices. Now that he is he was very transparent. Not Not all this into the peace but he was very transparent about this one of the things. I was really grateful for was he. Didn't sugarcoat it. He was just like I'm not that guy anymore is like you know me and my wife. We live together. And that's my wife and this is what we do and yes. Do I stay up sometimes? Learn bluegrass slicks and like trying to like. Do you know like absorbed music at one in the morning. Like record little notes to myself for for Ideas. Yes but basically he. Oh He's working a job and he's pretty straightforward about that but the logistical like what it would take if he was going to go in the studio with Charlie anthem or somebody like that for like two weeks to really try to like suss out idea. That's hard it's hard to carve out that time from the country perspective. It's hard to lock in that time from the perspective. And it's hard to get the hip hop informed producers to work on your schedule because that's just not what that ecosystem is like so that the logistical challenges. Or something he talks about it. And also his Producers Act talked about some of these potential outcomes a little bit tougher to get to. I feel like we need to talk about that. Ain't beautiful at coin new. I knew this was coming. All right. We'll go out on that a beautiful. Let's talk about it before we go out on it. Sam Hunt who I basically a door. I don't think that's news to anyone on this. Podcast ACCU has some drake tendencies is a person who I struggle a lot with. I do not struggle personally with drake and I also have drake tendencies so okay. Well you don't have that many drake tendencies because we're friends. So drake has specific way of being sexist. That's like really patronizing. Minute just drives me up a wall you know. Like a lot of music is sexist. But Drake's particular brand is like it's not something I can tolerate and Sam sometimes years a little a little close to that and we see on drinking too much sort of you know he's kind of in this like Imo. Confessional spoken Modina. That's that's very drake. Sam Hunt China's most straight record and but also like totally this song. That ain't beautiful is like extremely drake what he's like he's lamenting this woman. This woman who I can totally picture. It's a very vivid description and I'm not saying this woman doesn't exist but it's like this superficial woman who light does all this stuff and you know he's just like that ain't beautiful that ain't you that's response to this woman making decisions okay. Well who cares what you think is beautiful Sorry but also only I don't hate it completely but like from a philosophical perspective. It really upsets me but like the song itself is not terrible and I. I understand that it's like well intentioned so I will say like it's the only song on this album were. The lyrics are so brusque as to almost take you out of the moment. Because he's inhabiting. He's always happening a bit of a character but the character isn't so overtly tyskie as it is on this. Yeah that's true and when I heard the record for the first time top to bottom it kind of took me out a little bit because I was like i. It's like you're having to do the mental recalibration of like okay. Is this the same Sam that was on the previous song and if so why is this that Sam? Sound this way for the last seven songs but doesn't sound like that on this song. One thing that he told me is that he had a little bit of a concern about this writer and he was considering putting an extra verse on the end. That's sort of like kind of like softened it a little bit like kind of Lake brought it home a little bit but but ultimately decided that the tone of it was being consistent throughout was kind of a successful artistic choice so ended up not doing and I also think probably running out of time near the end of the near the end of the the cycle to get the record done but I think it was on his mind as well but it is I I agree. It does have a little bit of Drake tendency that you're talking about but I think the thing that was perhaps more jarring for me was hearing Sam. Han to is usually like lamenting his own failings or flirting or it's very rarely looking at a woman and saying you're doing this thing wrong ya you know what I mean. That's not point is also. It's just him crooning. You can split an admiral with a stranger in a bathroom stall at line is like he's like crooning. It so sweetly and it just cracks me. Yes that's fair. If what if what if he's the stranger maybe and also when he is like being treated like is really comfortable to you. I'm like okay. Wow All right you got me Sam. You got me like yes. Yes and also Sam cursing on this record. There's at least two curses on our country. Music thing There he and I think the jarring thing for me was hearing him kind of like testing potentially judging someone who ultimately the song is like I don't know if it's an affectionate song a song about someone. He feels warmly towards the path. To that was a little bit disruptive. Yes it's an interesting moment. Definitely an aberration from from the rest of the catalog. So let's go out with a little bit of the aberration. This is that aim beautiful. Natalie thank you so much for continuing to ride the same train of course thank you for having me Corona virus is still on and popping and very much happening. We are still doing remote recording. We're still doing verite BOP gas and stolen the crib. I'm still in the Home Office as promised I am I've turned around the shelves behind me in pull something off the shelf and we're GonNa talk about it for a minute So I just yanked a couple record down. The one that fell to the floor is actually a good one okay. So let's talk about the backpack rap of the of the mid to ninety s when I used to write about hip hop in the late nineties this when I lived in London and I would come back and I would run around to record labels and have meetings with folks. I spent a lot of time up at the Raucous Office. This is I talk about dragging yourself. This is the thing I did a lot to shout to. Shasta Black Sean. R I P Devon Rogerson so you spend a lot of time to drop is obviously one of the first. Promo lists that. I got on with him that where. I got stuff with regularity. I remember getting this record that I'm holding my hand and kind of not knowing what to make of it. But in retrospect it was a pretty savvy thing because I was living again and I know for everybody used playing the drinking game. I was living in London's I was exposed to a fair amount of German basis. Obvious go metal heads at the blue note on a lot of those clubs when I refer trace magazine so raucous had a sub label called. Rock Cuts K. U. T. S. and only lasted very long. But they did put out a pretty good drum bass remix of. Oh No ono was a song staff. Nate Dogg Fairmont. And they put out a twel that had two different. German bakery mixes of John was the producer knocked at John. Be The other John B so the record is pulled off the shelf. Ease the one with the smooth drumming based on one side and the heavyweight german-based mix on the other side so this is a great moment in Indie rap and jungle crossover history. Let's listen to a little bit of Ono heavyweight drum and bass mix bank. We got an old loch ness shifting. Directions WE ARE. GonNa talk in the second half of podcast this week about Kenny Rogers. Kenny Rogers passed away last month. At Eighty. One and Kenny was one of the signature. Pop COUNTRY CROSSOVER STARS. Really of all time. But certainly from the late seventies into the into the Nineties Bill Frist kicks. Warren is calling in from Nashville Bill. What's going on John? Sunny weather finally. Well that's that's one small positive in an otherwise traumatic time in American history of Bill. Wrote the obituary for Kenny Rogers. From The Times. He's been writing for writing obituaries of Country Music Stars that they prefer twenty years. Been writing about country music longer than that I'm very happy to have built here to kind of talk about Kenny's career. He's impact and how he had been perceived during his career and also I want to talk about how that changed over time out this retrospective look of him kind of evolved bill. There was a quote that was in your obituary from an old Kenny interview that I was struck by where he said something to the effect of the reason he chose his approach to country. Pop friendly gentle. Almost fatherly was not so much because he was reacting to other modes of country in terms of genre choice but more that he felt. He should do what he can do that. Nobody else could do. And he didn't feel that he could do a better. Johnny cash than Johnny Cash. Do a better waylon than wayland. But he could do this and he could do this better than anybody else was doing it. That really struck me. Tell me about that take. I was actually curious if that was something that he felt in. Nineteen seventy seven in one thousand nine hundred nineteen eighty-three or if it's something that you learn over the years when you look back on your choices based on your reading of Kenny's career what do you think I think it was looking back on his part and also his coming to terms with piece with being a musical omnivore. Someone like Glen Campbell. Who is at home in multiple genres and is engaged by them and just doesn't see to be dividing lines between the sport of expression in this one and now at the time. That Kenny was really arriving at his peak. So we want to say you know the late seventies into the early to mid eighties. How did Kenny relate to the center of Nashville? Because one thing that we know from writing about country music for years and years and years is that there is always a tug of war happening between people who ostensibly occupy the center of the genre even though that is always a trouble framing but there's always a tug of war between that and people who are doing something different or to the left or more pop focused or you know in the case of Sam on tour earlier in the more focused at the time was what Kennywood was doing perceived as radical or challenging or even disruptive. I don't think so. Think about folks like You Don Williams Crystal Gayle who were on the radio at the same time. You've got the outlaw stuff going on as well with Waylon and Willie and those folks but by the time Kenny hit it with Lucille and the gambler in the getting to be late. Seventies were inching toward urban cowboy. And so you know Mickey. Gilley was big. At this period. There was room. I think for the pop country in fact it you know it should grin someone like Charlie rich who famously lit his entertainer of the year card as that year on fire. I think he was supposed to say that. It'll be Newton. John had won entertainer of the year. Or maybe John. Denver ITEM IS THAT I don't. I don't actually know if I knew that. Yeah I mean Peter. Ground that documented really well in his in his book on Home Charlotte's not having it no well he'd had a lot as well so he's pretty new creative. And also you. You mentioned you know just crystal Gayle and it's it's interesting. I spent some time in the last couple of weeks thinking about the beginnings of my own engagement country especially coming from New York not growing up in it but I remember very vividly. Crystal Gayle was popular enough. That my mother and my father had crystal Gayle albums. I have like very clear. Memories of in their final collection like in addition to the opera records and the point is just to record and the sheik records. You know like sort of standard seventies soul on stuff. I have very vivid memories of Crystal Gayle records because her hair was so long. So stuck in my head all these years and I remember US listening to those records and that was really probably my entree into country music and not even knowing that. That's what it was but Kenny. Obviously coming at a very similar moment to that we also should probably at least just nod to kind of the country politics stuff from you know decades two decades earlier if it's not as if like the first genteel ballads earring coming out of. Nashville was done by Kenny. Rogers you're very right about the country. Politician paving the way in some ways for for Kenny Rogers and again Don Williams Crystal Gayle those records that people like Sammy Smith. And Tammy Wynette and George Jones were mayhem with people like billy. Sherrill recipes Cheryl Yeah. Yeah but there's definitely a kinship continuity between the counter. Palton sound that kind of has some roots in in southern Seoul music but in that kind of Bala deering that feature songs that are about adult concerns like making ends meet staying faithful. Yes aperture infidelity. We can listen to Kenny. Rogers hits all day long but we should probably just skip right to the money. And that's the gambler. You got home. No wind no win the wall. No Hunan cow when you sit at the table. There'll be timing when the you got a thing. That is very striking to me about the gambler. In retrospect is the way that that song spread and was marketed. Feels very modder. 'cause it's there's the gambler and then there's movies there's you know it becomes this kind of touchstone for all these other forms of cultural production in it. Had Real lagged talked about this. I think last week I think it was last week on gas but like during the first quarantine weekend when denies was doing his instagram live. Dj Sat and played a Kenny. Rogers tributes that when he played the gambler the comments went crazy. And this is in a fundamentally like an upset but everybody who was there knows. The gambler gambler was across genre hit. It was a cross platform. Hit it feels like I said it reminds me of kind of how songs aspire to be marketed. Now but back then it felt radical at a time. Did it seem to your recollection wasn't working harder. Was it spreading more quickly or more wildly than other kind of similar hits but today I think it was and I think a lot of it had to do with Kenny Rogers persona how easily it lent itself to various media. He could step into an acting role area. Naturally he really reminds me a lot of kind of the country. Stars of old when touring would include devotional number comedy type theme number something upbeat that maybe demonstrated some instrumental prowess and then some Bala- deering and in some ways. I think of a guy like Brad Paisley today putting all those things together being something of an inheritor of kenny rogers. Someone who isn't worried about what's going to be perceived as cool but what entertains and what he enjoys doing. Yeah that's interesting. The kind of the idea that the job of the singer really does extend past the song. It does extend entertaining. It's funny because we take for granted now but there are still some contemporary singers. Who just aren't that good at that. They're like good singers. Maybe they're good song interpreters or they're good dancers or even good vocalists and songwriters but the entertainment part of it isn't always their Kenny. Was someone who I think. Got that from the very jump. That seemed like that was always key to him. Tell me a little bit about how he's music evolved and grew throughout the post gambler period. Like into the early to mid eighties. He ever a parallel. They're kind of like Willie Nelson at that time to after stardust to just being able to sing whatever he will hunt. I'm really impressed to learn or was impressed to learn about preparing his obituary that BG's originally wrote islands in the Stream for Marvin Gaye. Oh my so that. That could translate so seamlessly. Apparently said no thanks. That could that could translate so seamlessly to Kenny Dolly. Doing what is just an exhilarating performance. That almost feels transgressive. It so so ecstatic. Yeah yeah and they're really. I mean I know it's maybe tried to say it but they're really in step with each other. Yeah not all do that. It sets a very very high bar for the texture of duet in my mind. We should probably listen to some of the harmony parts in islands in the Stream. Because man that I mean you know not to be an old person but they do not make them like this anymore. I mean this is just. This is just some nut stuff happening on here all right. Let's listen to a little bit islands. That is Matt. I also think like those of duets. Obviously much more in vogue at the time you come in and out of favour in pop over over over the decades but they were like very much invoke and I think part of the reason that Kenny was so good at them is he had this capacity to be incredibly vocally evocative. But not in any way overpowering. He's never trying to like stomp on us all. He's achieving a lot with really just a little bit of a little bit of movement kind of my gesture stuff more than anything in that really opens up space to to be able to sing with a partner absolutely and I think to his his roots in Gospel. Music are key here. The you know the call and Response. He said in interviews how he really wants. He learned what harmony vocals were really almost preferred that to singing the lead because it gave him an opportunity to be creative and to stretch it was also just an expression of the Gospel Call and Response. Talk a little bit about how Kenny Rogers. Success change the perception of country music in the mainstream in the nineteen eighties in some ways by the mid eighties. When Kenny might have been at his peak in terms of presence on the charts video touring movies in all mainstream country went kind of traditional with the neo traditional movement with Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam and singers like that and although a lot of Kenny stuff has that somewhat of a traditional feel of of folk song kind of quality to it. I think that Nashville was turning a little bit away from where he had taken things by mid decade. I hadn't necessarily thought about that NEO traditional surge mid to late eighties. I was thinking more of the kind of comes after that. You Know Alan Jackson Brooks and Dunn. I was thinking of that as a reaction to Kenny. But you're right there. Is this kind of transition in between those two where the neo traditional music now is being made by those folks was so so grounded historically but to my years like a lot of it was still kind of Genteel. It didn't have that Braun and I always think of the Braun being the reaction to Kenny. By that you're right that that kind of grounded nece really is is part of the reaction that you see not rescuing but throwing a hook into country and trying to pull him back in another direction. It's interesting though how these things cycle around. You've got these folks who are seeking that grounded nece. Who probably are saying. What's Kenny Rogers? Doing with Sheena Easterner Kim Kearns or Gladys Knight or James Ingram. These aren't typical collaborators. And yet by the ninety s nationals putting out country in Seoul records that had Wino- winona judd singing with Sam Moore of Sam and Dave and those kind of pairings and so. I think one of the things. Kenny Rogers did was low. Things open such that anything could go. There was the there. Were the horses to drive it. Look there's so many jams that we go out with on encourage everybody first of all. We'RE NOT GONNA go out with lady but I do want to say that lady is so sterling. It's so good and it's also it's so stark. It could almost weirdly be like an off off Broadway one man show about desolation and dismal sadness. It's so intense. It's tactile level of intensity Sarabhai. Please Melissa Lady written by Rhino Ritchie recorded by Kenny but bill what's it Kinda slept on Kenny. Hit for us to go out with that. People might not be up on Kenny. And the first edition of You. Know Ruby. Don't take your love to town. I mean just the the Interpretive Range he demonstrates on that Inhabiting the agony of the Disabled veteran as he watches his. Who's also impotent? Who Watches his wife? Go Down town to meet men right and and kind of the murder. That's in his heart. It's just pretty breathtaking if you settle into also like just real good. Og Country Songs Story Song like the the depth of depth of emotion. But also the kind of intricacy of narrative that you don't see as much anymore especially once country not to the point tripartite songcraft of like it's three different versions on the same theme. You didn't really have these kind of intense story songs quite as frequently but this is this is gem. So let's definitely go out this it's Ruby. Don't take your love to town Kenny. Rogers First Edition Bill appreciate calling in thank you so much thanks John. I don't mean to interrupt you and bill but I do have a quick story to tell. Yeah Man. Y'All interrupt away. I gotTA Say Ruby. Don't take your love to town. The first editions on that is one of those songs that you just never forget a great song bad bad good bad bad absolutely a bad record. That was a song. My mom had a tendency when we were kids to ban us from listening to songs was one of the songs Wallace that was it was so macossa. For for some strange reason Omarosa manigault indeed are piano tobacco but That is just a great song. It really is and shouts to your mom for trying to delimit your cultural absorption child and we hear on podcast retold her. So this is as we go out. This for Pedro's mom. Thanks Natalie. Winer THANKS TO BILL FOR SIX Warren. Listen every podcast ever ny times dot com slash. Podcast get involved with the facebook group. Seek it out. It's jumping. I can't keep up with it. The podcast facebook listener group. Email me your favorite Secrets Amazon. Song or live performance podcast. Ny TIMES DOT COM. I want to know where all the I think I know where all the gems gems are subscribed podcast anywhere. You get your audio content. Google play Itunes stitcher apple etc etc our producers. Peters out of from head stepper media. We will be back next week. Do don't take your love. Stunned CRAZY ASIAN WAR BUT I.