By Rita Ballou

(Oct/Nov 2012/vol. 5 – Issue 5)

So the Randy Rogers Band has a new song out. It’s the first single from their next album, Trouble, and it’s called “One More Sad Song.” Have you heard it yet?

Well of course you have. The more important question is, what do think of it?

No, wait — let me take a wild but educated guess, based on everything I know about fans of Texas country music: You LOVE it and it’s the best song you’ve ever heard! Or, you HATE it, and you hate it with a passion so deep, you have no choice but to call the coroner because everything you ever loved about the Randy Rogers Band, everything that made them special and worth believing in for 10 long years, is clearly dead. So dead, in fact, that you didn’t even have to hear the whole song: you could smell the stank of Nashville all over it just by clicking the little sample on iTunes.

It’s that simple, because you’re a Texas country FAN, and clearly there’s no room for any opinion on the subject between those two extremes. You either love the new Randy Rogers Band single or you hate it, and by extension, you KNOW that the rest of the album is going to either be totally amazing, or it’s gonna suck — even though Trouble won’t even be out until like, next year. 

What the hell is wrong with you people? And by “you people,” I mean … us. Because hell, I am the first person to jump on an artist and give them a hard time about making what I consider to be a “bad” decision. And I’m not only a total bitch who’s said some pretty harsh things about various people on my blog and on the radio, but a total hypocrite, too, because I have seriously cried when some of those people have turned around and criticized me — calling me a “bitch,” for instance (like William Clark Green did because I said he looked like Chaz Bono). Oh, and on the flip side, I can totally gherm your ass, too, as Brandon Jenkins, Sunny Sweeney, and the Trishas can all attest.

So yes, people — I am a fan, just like all of y’all, so don’t think I’m just passing judgment here. This is a cry for help that I’m making on behalf of all of us. Well, actually just on behalf of the haters and “the sky is falling” doomsayers on the scene. The self-help group for all the “Go Team!” cheerleader apologists will meet in a column to be scheduled later.

Now … let’s have us a look-see at what some of us Negative Nancies and Bitter Bills have been saying about Randy’s “One More Sad Song” on iTunes. Fair warning, it’s gonna get ugly.

“Needs to go back to the drawing board and start writing his own songs again. C’mon man. Think outside of the box.” 

You’ll note how this one starts out addressing Randy in the third person, and then switches to directly addressing him. We feel entitled to that kind of familiarity as fans in this scene because we’re accustomed to having direct access to our favorite artists after each and every show. Well, at least until they get too big for their britches or get spooked and stop feeding the man-fan bears. But I digress. Let’s address that matter of Randy needing to write his own songs again. Uh, hello — who do you think wrote “One More Sad Song”? RANDY DID.

“The new single is something you wouldn’t wanna step into out in the cow field …”

Translation: “I think this single sounds like shit, but I’m gonna say so using one of those fancy metaphor-whatnots that so-called “professional” music critics like to use so people think I’m clever.” Well played. But wait! He/she goes on …

“Idk if they wrote this song but it isn’t what we are used to hearing from them … it sure as heck isn’t Randy Rogers Band sound/music.”

“Idk” what your computer calls it, but it sure as heck says Randy Rogers Band when I play the song in my iTunes — and I’m pretty sure that’s them standing up against a brick wall behind a giant RRB logo and above the song title in the album art. But you make a point echoed by another confused fan here:

“I am from 13 miles outside of Cleburne, TX in Grandview and this isn’t what I am used to.”

This I do know and understand, because change is scary, right? Every time I hear a new song by one of my favorite artists and it’s not a carbon copy of their other song that I’m already used to, Ike Turner Ballou has to take a sick-day to make sure I don’t have another episode like that one time Stoney LaRue played that song with two chords in it.

Moving along …

“OK song, but definitely not Country and doesn’t sound like Texas country at all. Guess that’s why they didn’t allow the 484 South Band to open for them in Baton Rouge this year — didn’t want an outlaw country band to show them up.” 

I’m sorry, but can you please be a little more specific there, iTunes user “Joe Schultz”? I’ll admit I’m not familiar with this apparently jilted 484 South Band you speak of, so let’s pop their name into Google and see what … ah, there it is: Baton Rouge’s own 484 South Band, featuring the guitar stylings of one Mr. Keith Schultz! Surely no relation, right?

Now I wonder when somebody’s going to say … ah, here it comes:

“The title of this song should be ‘Welcome to Nashville.’”

Ah yes — we LOVE to bring up the Texas vs. Nashville rivalry every chance we get, don’t we? Again, there’s no “we” without “me,” because I break out that “N word” just about each and every time when I want to gripe about what I think is crappy music, too. I’m going to address that a little bit more in a second, but what I love about how it’s used here is that “welcome to” part. Because we all know Randy and the boys are all brand new to having anything to do with anyone in Big Bad Music City. Up until last week, they were still safe inside the womb of Cheatham Street Warehouse, right?

Please. By now, I can assure you that Randy knows Nashville so well, he probably knows the name of every gift shop and food vendor in the airport there. And you wanna know who probably told him “Welcome to Nashville” before you? Radney “Del Rio, TX 1957” Foster, that’s who — way back in 2003 or whenever they first started writing and recording Rollercoaster together. Now I’ll grant you, Randy has gotten a little slicker over the years and “One More Sad Song” isn’t exactly “Lost and Found,” but come on … it isn’t exactly “Truck Yeah” or “Corn Star” either, is it? And it’s not like Randy’s rapping about drinking beer on a backroad.

But sticking with that mindset, uh oh …

Long way from Cleburne to Nashville. Say hello to Pat Green while you are there.” 

OUCH! Hold the phone. It’s all over now. Someone just played the Pat Green “sell out” card. Ewww … that is the ultimate insult of all insults to get from a dedicated Texas music fan, isn’t it? But again with the trying to say it all sly and clever? Can’t anybody here in iTunes land stand up and HATE like they really mean it?

“100% pure Nashville CRAP. You boys have done a darn fine job of selling out, u aint what u used to be. Was the money worth it??”

Finally! Someone with the balls to go all-caps on the band’s ass. And then the guilt trip, jamming that “darn fine job of selling out” in their face like a mock complement, followed by a one-two combo punch of shame-on-you and was-it-worth-it. When I read that, I can’t help but picture Randy and Brady and Geoffrey and Les and Jon all sitting on top of a giant pile of cartoon cash like greedy Scrooge McDucks, looking at each other with “what-have-we-done?” looks of self loathing. And then I imagine that reviewer, iTunes user “west tx cowboy,” smiling all proud and smugly to himself in front of his computer screen and dribbling chaw spit into a Lone Star Beer can.

Like I said, I can be a real bitch myself sometimes.

Anyway, I could go on and on quoting these things; there were 11 pages of reviews for this song on iTunes the last time I checked — and yes, there were just as many glowingly positive ones, too. And I wasn’t even surprised that there were so many reviews for a single by an artist who, let’s face it, is still hardly a household name outside of Texas. That’s what I’ve always loved about our scene — that passion. As fans, we are bat-shit passionate about our Texas country and Red Dirt music, and we like “our” artists to be just as passionate about making it and passionate about us to care about keeping us caring. That’s the glue that holds this whole scene together and makes it special, right? We’re like a big ole family!

If that’s the case, though, my question is, why are we as fans so ready to totally bail on our favorite artists at the drop of a hat or one damn song that we might not love right out of the gate? I can’t stress this enough people: “One More Sad Song” is, literally, ONE song off a whole brand new Randy Rogers Band record that none of us has heard yet. Now, let’s go ahead and entertain the hypothetical possibility that the rest of Trouble lives up to its name and actually does just plain suck, with song after song full of Top-40 clichés about being the country’est of country boys and cheesy pop-rock guitar solos and everything else that we hear coming out of “Trashville” these days. If that turns out to be the case, then we can all get our mob on and burn it at the stake. But how about we give the whole record a chance first? How about we play the whole thing a couple of times, and maybe even wait until we’ve heard the band play most or all of the songs live, on the off chance that, even if we don’t love them at first, they might grown on us? As the diehard fans we claim to be, surely we owe Randy and the boys that much, right? I mean I used to be the biggest Dierks Bentley super-fan on the planet, so I at least gave him the chance to make two shitty albums before I bailed on him.

Maybe we’re so quick as “fans” to call it quits at the slightest hint of, ahem, “trouble,” because we’re just scared of getting hurt again. We’re like an angry chick who got her heart broken once upon a time when the love of our life cheated on us with a prettier girl, so naturally we just can’t trust anyone anymore. We want to love again but we’re so emotionally unavailable that no other guy can ever break through past our defensive wall. But really, enough is enough. Are we all still that butt-hurt over the whole Pat Green thing? I mean, what exactly is the statue of limitations on “selling out”? Pat’s not even on a major label anymore. He came home, and seems really, really humbled. We don’t have to forget what he did — that couch is just fine for you, mister — but can’t we forgive and let him off the hook so we can start really living again?

And while we’re putting on our big-girl panties and growing the heck up already, can’t we give the whole “Nashville Sucks” thing a rest, too? Because we’ve been on that bandwagon forever, and I think we’ve ridden it as far as it goes. The reason I climbed onboard in the first place was because Cory Morrow told me Nashville sucked, and then all of our other Texas/Red Dirt music heroes were saying the same thing. I bought the T-shirt and wore it with Texas pride. But then Cory and Cody and Jack and Pat and Randy and Wade and Stoney and all the rest started flying back and forth to Nashville like Southwest Airlines was giving away tickets in beer cans. They would go there to write songs or make records for Nashville record labels, and some of those songs and records kinda did suck, but some of them were actually great! Just like … well, this is real hard for me to admit, because I used to loathe every single thing Kenny Chesney ever did, but damned if I can’t listen to “You and Tequila” enough times for it to get annoying. Why? Because it’s a good song!

Meanwhile, and I hate to break this to you, but we’ve got LOTS of bad music being made right here in our own backyard. And sure as “something you wouldn’t wanna step into out in the cow field,” there’s as much of that shit stinking up the Texas Music Chart as there there is on mainstream country radio. Bad music is bad music no matter where it’s made, and by no means is all of it being cranked out on Music Row.

I’m not just saying that as a snarky blogger/columnist, either. I’m saying that as a FAN. So speaking of which, what do I think of Randy’s “One More Sad Song”? Honestly, it didn’t blow my skirt up. I just thought it sounded a tad too “fancy” for my liking. But I didn’t think it was horrible … and I still can’t wait to hear the rest of the album.

But what do I know? I’m on the radio now, so maybe I sold out.