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Country radio reviews: Bryan, Musgraves, Granger, Rhett

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Don’t you just love country radio? LOL, right? But when it’s warm outside and you’re driving down a long, westbound stretch of I-94, sometimes it’s all that sounds good.

BOB 106.1 is the gold standard, but the reception isn’t great across the Twin Cities, so occasionally you have to bite the bullet and flick to K102 or BUZN 102.9. And while you’re listening, you might hear a passable song from Tim McGraw wedged between the disastrous melodrama of a Sam Hunt tune or some forgettable Carrie Underwood ballad.

Country radio shuffles through singles like crazy, and I’m here to take them all down — or build them all up! — for you. Imagine me as a helpful hand on the passenger side, ready to switch the station at a moment’s notice. 

“Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” by Luke Bryan

2 out of 4 stars

Look, I don’t hate Luke Bryan. I kind of strongly dislike him for partially ushering in this horrid era of male-dominated schlocky country, but I don’t actually hate Luke Bryan. He’s fine. For every five terrible songs (“Home Alone Tonight,” for one) he releases, there's an one OK one, which is more than you can say for artists like, umm, Chase Rice? Whoever that even is. They all sound the same.
Luke Bryan thinks about huntin' or possibly lovin'

Luke Bryan thinks about huntin' or possibly lovin'

Luke’s got a new single out, the fourth from his latest album, Kill the Lights. It’s called “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day,” which is about as country cliché as you can get. Your move, Florida Georgia Line. While “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’” has all the trappings of a Waylon-esque country song with its half-time beat and its actual guitar, it still isn’t really all that great.

It’s a hell of a lot better than “Kick the Dust Up,” wherein Luke rhymes “up” with “up” more than once. If it came on K102 during a drive to the thrift store I might listen to 75 percent of it, but I can’t bend to this pandering. It’s like when Keith Urban released “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” begging stereotypically country folk who love their guns, God, and classic radio to make him relevant again.

Luke, too, seems to be feeling the heat as he’s getting too old to sing about spring break, but he’s not country enough to roll with dudes like Chris Stapleton, either. The writers of “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’,” which don’t include Luke, basically jammed every back-home cliché they could in this song, from a girlfriend who steals baseball caps to the act of getting “red dirt rich,” whatever that means.

It’s not horrible, and maybe it’s the start of a positive change for LB. I’d be open to a return of the countrified Luke of yore.

“Merica” by Granger Smith (aka Earl Dibbles Jr.)

0 out of 4 stars

It was only a matter of time before a Nashville songwriter got the bright idea to name a song “Merica.” And here we are, with this tripe from someone named Granger Smith. What in the hell is a Granger Smith? This single is credited to his alter ego, Earl Dibbles Jr., and can be found on Granger's debut album, Remington, which is possibly sponsored by the gun manufacturer (notice the ® on the album cover).  

I have to confess that I only got one minute into this song, heard a “hooah!” chorus, and had to turn it off. Then there's this jingoistic nugget, drawled over chug-a-lug radio-rock guitars: "We’re back-to-back, undefeated World War champs!" This is like Hank Jr. on a buttload of steroids and some Red Bull.

“Late to the Party” by Kacey Musgraves

3 out of 4 stars

Obviously Kacey Musgraves is great, though I’ll always trade her for Miranda Lambert if given the choice. Country music plays so few songs by women that when she comes on the radio, it's like, “wait, WTF?” Kacey’s latest single (thankfully) isn’t about following your arrow or being a circle in a square world — that schtick was getting old.

“Late to the Party” is just a cute little love song in the vein of Eric Clapton’s cheesy-but-delicious “Wonderful Tonight.” It’s not going to rock the country world, and we don’t need it to. It’s just a solid, good song, and lord knows those are few and far between on country radio.

“T-Shirt” by Thomas Rhett

1 out of 4 stars

At the Luke Bryan concert last summer, I have to admit I thought Thomas Rhett was hot. I take it back now, though, because he isn’t a country musician.

“T-Shirt” should put the nail in that hickory-smoked coffin, because it’s a pop song. There’s nothing country about this song in the slightest. Also, are men seriously as fixated on girls in their T-shirts as country radio would lead us to believe? This entire song is about a girl in Rhett’s T-shirt, which is probably a size small.

Why are these contemporary country dudes so horny? “T-Shirt” talks about dresses on the floor and compares a girl's post-missionary hair to a Guns N' Roses video. Unfortunately, country radio has created a niche for pop crap like this, so we're sure to hear it playing on boats all summer.