Jason Isbell really isn’t shy about letting you know where he stands on the music industry these days.
After the Country Music Association failed to even mention the late, great John Prine at this year’s CMA Awards (while somehow finding time for an Urban Cowboy tribute and a performance from Justin Bieber), Isbell tweeted that he and his wife Amanda Shires have decided to return their CMA lifetime membership cards.
Due to @CountryMusic’s failure to mention John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Billy Joe Shaver at the CMA’s last night, @amandashires and I have decided to return our membership cards. I doubt anybody will care, but we cared a lot about our heroes. pic.twitter.com/UmplzD0Z7p
Isbell’s shot here is obviously directed at these “mainstream” country hits that have a bazillion songwriters and are still shit. Look at any country album coming out of the major record labels this year and you’ll see the pretty much every song has four, five, six writers on it. Thomas Rhett had a song on his latest album with 8 co-writers. And there’s a core group of writers who show up on just about every album, no matter the artist.
And you wonder why mainstream country all sounds the same?
There’s something to be said about great country songs with only one or two writers. Take a look at Eric Church’s albums and you see he wrote songs some of his best songs, songs like “Lightning” and “Holdin’ My Own,” all by himself. Dolly Parton wrote “I Will Always Love You” without a co-writer. And Tyler Childers’ Purgatory and Country Squire albums have a combined total of… zero co-writers.
These great songs that are written solely by the artist who sings them are sadly the exception rather than the norm in mainstream country these days.
And you know exactly how Jason Isbell feels about that.