The 9513 Last.fm Chart Update (5-24-09)

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Mai 27 2009, 15h57

It can take years for a singer’s career to build and grow before they become a major, chart-topping sensation. The end of that phase of a singer’s career can happen almost instantaneously. Sometimes it’s in the choice of albums they make. Patty Loveless was still producing Top 20 hits when she went into bluegrass mode. Since then, her singles have gone unplayed, and she’s now doing her own thing on an independent label. Sometimes it’s the fact that they refused to stay young. Dwight Yoakam’s career as a top-charting country singer essentially ended when he turned 40 years old, and I’m convinced that the two events are related. The Dixie Chicks (Saddam’s Angels) and Garth Brooks (Chris Gaines) require no further explanation. I suspect that in some sub-basement of a media empire headquarters, there are two lists of artists, “Relevant” and “Irrelevant.” Make one wrong move–put your artistic ambitions ahead of commercial demands, say something dumb, age another year–and you may find yourself on the wrong list and off the airwaves in a heartbeat.

Alan Jackson, this week’s top artist with 21 listeners, has managed to avoid these career killers. Not only has he had the audacity to be 50 years old in the Taylor Swift Era, but he’s also dared to record a covers album and a gospel album midway through a viable career instead of waiting until he got dropped from his major label record deal like you’re supposed to do. He even had an album produced by Alison Krauss in an era when country radio likes to pretend she doesn’t exist outside of Brad Paisley duets.

Just check out some of our other Top 10 singers who are Jackson’s contemporaries: Loveless (20 listeners), Trisha Yearwood (19), Yoakam (17) and Brooks (17). He outlasted them all, radio-wise. It’s not that he’s more talented, though maybe he’s been more consistent in what he’s recorded over the last 20 years. Whatever he’s done, there is a very short list of modern singers who’ve had the kind of career he’s had and a lot of up-and-comers who’d love to know his secrets.

Additionally, as further proof that our group’s collective memory dates to well before 1989 or so, Merle Haggard (18 listeners) tied with the likes of Miranda Lambert, Paisley and Lee Ann Womack for 4th on the list.

Over on the Top Albums chart, Sounds So Good by Ashton Shepherd is #1 with 13 listeners. According to Billboard, the last time this album was on its Top Country Albums chart was March 28 of this year. It spent 54 weeks on the chart and peaked at #16. Is The 9513 group better than Billboard? Well, we’ve also got three Sugarland albums and Taylor Swift’s Fearless in the Top 5, so the answer is probably, “Not yet.” But the combination of those albums and things like the Dixie Chicks’ Taking the Long Way Home (#8 with 9 listeners) and Joey + Rory’s The Life Of A Song (#15 with 8) is a nicely balanced selection.

The singles chart is dominated by Lambert’s Dead Flowers, with nine listeners. I believe this is the first time that a song that’s currently unavailable on Last.fm has been at the top of the charts, so people must not mind the fact that downloading this song (legally) costs 30 cents more than most songs. George JonesWhite Lightning and Martina McBride’s Independence Day are tied for #2 with six listeners each. Who says country music fans only care about positive, socially acceptable music these days? Ashley Monroe’s album, Satisfied, came out last week after a long debacle that you only find with a major label, and a couple of her songs, Pain Pain and That’s Why We Call Each Other Baby, were part of the #4 logjam with five listeners. We’ve got three Lambert songs, three Sugarland songs and two Swift songs in there also, along with Jackson’s Everything I Love, Jamey Johnson’s High Cost Of Living and Keith Whitley’s don’t close your eyes.

For the second week in a row, I’m writing about something Wilco related. I had the chance to see Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett perform as a duo at a Chicago festival a few years ago. They mostly focused on the Woodie Guthrie Mermaid Avenue songs, as well as a couple from the Summerteeth album. Knowing some of the behind the scenes drama that was taking place at the time, it’s a wonder that they shared the same stage together, but they were thoroughly professional. Tweedy did all of the talking, cracked a few jokes and played the worst harmonica solo I have ever heard from a professional musician. Bennett played what seemed like a different instrument for each song, and he played every single one of them like an ace. As someone who’s tried to play a guitar and struggled to get one chord to sound like it should, I’ve come to realize that there’s skill you can learn and talent you’re just born with, and Jay Bennett was blessed with God-given talent.

Just before I started writing this piece, I read his obituary online. He died over the weekend at the age of 45. So for the freebie of the week, here’s a Jay Bennett album, Whatever Happened I Apologize. I’ve only just downloaded it myself, so all I know about this album is what’s on Rock Proper’s Web site. The album was apparently written, arranged and performed by Bennett himself, with a few exceptions. Of the songs I heard, “The Engines Are Idle” starts off with a weird electronic percussion track, but Bennett’s guitar and vocals come in and turn it into a lovely and sad folk song. “Hank” is apparently his mandatory Hank Williams ode and is better than most iterations. He’s also got a couple of free tracks on his Last.fm page.

Thanks for reading.
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The 9513

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