SOME THOUGHTS ON A LIST…

I’m still recovering from the trip…And still being reminded I ain’t as young as I used to be. But I did want to comment on Rolling Stone‘s new list of the 100 Greatest Country Artists. It’s not the worst of its kind I’ve seen, not even the worst provided by Rolling Stone. You can read their own explanation for why they left off Elvis (who would be in the top ten of any real list). They don’t need to explain why they left off Brenda Lee and Linda Ronstadt and the Everly Brothers (had to make room for Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, among others). Or why they think Garth Brooks is “greater” than Lefty Frizzell (a judgment that will be considered at the level of a “what were they thinking” Communist plot when they update the list a generation hence).

But at least Patty Loveless made the list. Heck, she even came in three spots ahead of Taylor Swift, for which I imagine David Cantwell, who wrote Patty’s entry and is one of the few people on the selection committee who demonstrably knows anything about country music, can be thanked.

Why she’s fifty-two spots below Shania Twain, on a list that includes the words “Greatest,” “Country” and “Artists” in its title?

Well, there’s no explaining that. So I’ll just dedicate a song…from Patty to the rest of the selection committee:

 

15 thoughts on “SOME THOUGHTS ON A LIST…

    • Yeah, I’m the same way….I feel like I’m craning my neck at a car wreck (something I DON’T do)….but I always have to look!…Seeing Gram and Don Gibson on there were two reasons I didn’t think it was downright terrible!

  1. FYI, here’s a bit of what I wrote about the list over on FB…

    While having my coffee this morning, I took a little closer look at that RS 100 Greatest Country Artists list. (I contributed four entries but had zero input on selections and rankings). I wouldn’t have included many artists who made the cut–not because I dislike those acts but rather because there are so many other important figures and because country is a long genre and because 100 is a small number–and of course there are many artists I would have included instead. What follows is not exhaustive, just off the top of my head revisions while the coffee lasted, with no considerations of rankings at all but often, though not always, looking to replace an artist with someone more important who was doing something sorta kind maybe similar.
    John Denver replaced by Sonny James
    Keith Urban replaced by Carl Smith
    Alison Krauss — Barbara Mandrell
    Jerry Jeff Walker — Charlie Daniels
    Chris LeDoux — Gene Autry
    Lucinda Williams — Iris Dement
    Marty Stuart — Little Jimmy Dickens
    Jamey Johnson — Brandy Clark
    Townes VZ — Rodney Crowell
    Asleep at the Wheel – Milton Brown
    Jessi Colter – Sammi Smith
    Vern Gosdin — Gene Watson
    Billy Joe Shaver — Riley Puckett
    Doug Sahm — Elvis (for God’s sake, he has to be top 10)
    Gary Stewart — Johnny Paycheck
    John Prine — Floyd Tillman
    Randy Travis — Jimmy Martin
    and so on…

  2. And here’s a bit more…

    The right side entries wouldn’t necessarily make mine either….It’s a conversation–these kinds of lists I mean–and should together make an argument about the aesthetic rather than simply collect the right answers which isn’t possible anyway…Should include the legends for credibility but also surprises/reappraisals in service of said argument… Should understand “greatest” is a broader more complicated category than either “favorite” or “best”… But that’s me, not the RS list, which as I say I wrote for but did not shape or create…

    …These lists are always most valuable for the entries themselves

  3. One more…

    Someone like Doug Sahm is great of course but only makes a country best list if country’s best are being determined by a rock aesthetic–an approach this RS list does suffer from unfortunately…though hardly surprisingly…though not nearly as severely as I’d feared…

    • Hi David. Thanks for sharing your ruminations, insightful as always. I think you’ve put your finger on why these lists are always fun and fascinating on the one hand and frustrating on the other. The thing that always frustrates me the most is when they, uh, don’t make internal sense. Saying in the intro that Elvis was left off because he “made his biggest mark elsewhere” (or words to that effect) is maybe okay….but then you include Doug S.–who also made his (much smaller) mark elsewhere. As you say, it’s being determined by a rock aesthetic, but not a consistent one. It’s one reason I always prefer a personal list (Love to see yours if you ever feel in the mood!)…Once you have panels or committees involved you end up with a lot of head-scratching, which always takes some of the fun out of it.

      Just curious, but who were your other entries besides Patty? I started trying to track them down and gave up after a half-dozen or so guesses (mostly because what I was reading from the other writers didn’t seem to indicate they knew much about country music and I didn’t want the acid levels in my stomach to start rising…which is a whole other topic!)

  4. This experience was as close as I’ve come to seeing how the sausage gets made for an RS list, and I still don’t know much. But… I did learn that one tension, at least where RS Country is concerned, is between the small RSCountry office, which is based in Nashville, and the editors at RS, who are in NYC of course and have what seems close to the final say in everything. The Nashville office is aware of the rock biases and is trying to push back always but of course also has to pick its battles.

    I had no actual input or power here, but did point to several of the same artist omissions as you, starting with Elvis, in casual conversations with the Nashville editors and know they shared at least some of our concerns. FWIW.

    • Well, it’s definitely worth something…just wish it was more! Depressing as all that is on some levels I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m so far behind the times I didn’t even know RS was based in NY (do they still have an office in SF at least?) but that explains a lot. It’s at least good to know that some people are still in there pitching. I can only imagine THEIR frustration. Given how it feels from the cheap seats, it must take enormous patience and fortitude to bear it on the front lines. Hope you have a chance to let them know there are some of us out here who appreciate their efforts…as we certainly appreciate yours!

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