Yay, you hoar! Diving on in to the hoar frost!

Sometimes we question why we live in Minnesota. For example, the Vikings almost blew a 17 point lead to the Packers last night. Even when our teams don’t lose they still almost give a heart attack and no one should live like that.

We deal with snow and ice, too. Heck, if you ask anyone that’s not from Minnesota, I believe that we don’t get above freezing until June and we’re right back to the land of ice and snow before Labor Day. There are some downfalls to a Minnesota winter, but there are some real advantages, too.

The snow can be quite beautiful, the water freezes over so much we can walk on water and, one of my personal favorites, hoar frost.

Hoar frost isn’t an everyday occurrence, which makes it neat, but we all think it’s quite lovely. The reason a lot of the Christmas trees nowadays are ‘frosted’ is they are going for the beautiful look that these fine specimens get when hoar frost is present.

What is hoar frost? Glad you asked! From the ‘Frost’ article on Wikipedia, section ‘Hoar frost’:

“Hoar frost (also hoarfrost, radiation frost, or pruina) refers to white ice crystals, deposited on the ground or loosely attached to exposed objects such as wires or leaves. They form on cold, clear nights when conditions are such that heat radiates out to the open sky faster than it can be replaced from nearby sources such as wind or warm objects. Under suitable circumstances, objects cool to below the frost point of the surrounding air, well below the freezing point of water. Such freezing may be promoted by effects such as flood frost or frost pocket. These occur when ground-level radiation losses cool air till it flows downhill and accumulates in pockets of very cold air in valleys and hollows. Hoar frost may freeze in such low-lying cold air even when the air temperature a few feet above ground is well above freezing.

The name hoar comes from an Old English adjective that means “showing signs of old age”; in this context it refers to the frost that makes trees and bushes look like white hair.”

That beauty came to us today. The beauty needed to be photographed, so Kirby and I hit the snow to take some pictures. Turns out there are more pictures of my dog than the hoar frost, but both are quite adorable.

Yay, you hoar! Enjoy!

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Piecing Together A Beautiful Picture: My Great Grandma

There are a ton of metaphors for life and I keep finding myself at the metaphor of a puzzle. The pieces of all of our lives are somewhere within our grasp and it’s on us to figure out how they all fit together and make a beautiful picture. There’s no one I’ve finished more puzzles with than my great grandma.

Dogs, cats, barns, Powder Puff Girls… It didn’t matter; we put together all the puzzles we could get our hands on. We were pretty good, too. We made quite the team putting those pieces together, but now one of my key pieces to life is gone.20091216_1014

My great grandmother Doris Hahn passed away on Saturday, November 14, 2015.

When I was a much younger Collin, I’d go to my great grandma’s house during the day in the summer while Mom and Dad were at work. It was a handful of years that this happened and those memories will always be a huge piece of me.

She’s the reason I love The Price is Right. She didn’t have anything than over-the-air basic channels until after my summer days there and there is never anything on in the middle of the day anyway, except for Bob Barker. At 10 o’clock, the radio in the kitchen would stop playing KNUJ and we’d be in the living room watching The Price is Right. Well, I’d be watching it. Somewhere in there, she always snuck back to the kitchen to make lunch. Lunch, nine times out of ten it seemed, was ring bologna and mashed potatoes that were put through a ricer. Every time you sat down for a meal, you know you’d say a prayer, too. Every single time.

The meal was not complete without a glass or two of Dr. Thunder. Yes, the Wal-Mart brand knockoff of Dr. Pepper and Mr. Pibb. I loved my great grandma, but there is no comparing Dr. Thunder and Dr. Pepper. Nontheless, she’s probably the reason I love Dr. Pepper, so the CEO of Dr. Pepper has her to thank for a good chunk of their income.

I know the Dr. Thunder was probably purchased because it was about the cheapest pop you could find, but I like to think that she was just being a really awesome hipster about 15 years before being a hipster became a thing. She made my dad flannel shirts, I have now stolen some, and that’s a pretty hipster thing to do.

If she wasn’t hipster, she sure was a little off-the-wall which now looking at it explains a lot about her daughter (my grandma) and me, too.

My great grandma would go down to the basement every day with me and play with this plastic playground ball we bought at Cash*Wise in New Ulm. She would sit on the couch with a five-gallon pail in front of her and I’d throw this ball into the pail. We’d have a “Best of Country Music” CD playing songs like ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline and ‘Stand By Your Man’ by Tammy Wynette and we’d do that for at least an hour a day. This pail toss did nothing for my athletic skills, but it sure provided a lot of conversation, memories and my love for classic country music.

We didn’t leave the house much when I went over to hers. I can remember going to New Ulm once and Hutchinson once, vividly. It was weird going to Hutch, because Great Grandma was quite the New Ulm person. New Ulm’s KNUJ was always on in the kitchen, she did most of her shopping in New Ulm and she got the New Ulm newspaper, so I don’t know why we went to Hutch that one time, but it was probably destiny.

We went to Wal-Mart on that one trip to Hutch and right when we walked in the door there was a guy selling a board game. Yes, a board game that wasn’t even on the shelves at the Hutch Wal-Mart or probably any Wal-Mart in the world. The game was ‘Going, Going Crazy’ and for some reason, she bought it. To prove how obscure this game is, it has one review on Amazon right now. I’ll have to find the game, but I believe the guy selling the game in Wal-Mart was the creator and he signed the inside of the box for us. Simply, Great Grandma and I were the flame to moth of celebrities.

20091216_395The game was a ton of fun and we played it a lot. Go Fish was another one of our favorites. We did a whole lot of fishing without ever leaving the kitchen table and life kind of revolved around that kitchen table at her house.

When my mom would come pick me up at the end of the day, it always meant dessert and some more Dr. Thunder. More than likely it was some cookies and every time there were some cookies in the cookie jar behind the KNUJ-playing radio.

She lived in this farmhouse in the middle of the country and it had a long straight driveway from the gravel road to get up to the yard. Every single time that you left in the car, you looked to your left at the windows that were right above the sink and she would be right there waving you goodbye. Every single time.

For as long as I live, I will see that wave.

She’ll never cease to amaze me. She had gardens, mowed her lawn and was simply doing things that people in their eighties shouldn’t be doing, but she did them and with a smile. I never saw her complain and I think in my 21 years on this marble we call Earth, I’ve probably complained more than she did in her 90-plus. That’s just the kind of person she was. There wasn’t a puzzle she couldn’t solve, a Showcase Showdown she couldn’t place a winning bid on or a ball from a five-gallon pail she couldn’t throw back.

If life is a puzzle it’s a 10,000 piece behemoth that’s not even a picture, it’s just a solid color, but she made life look like it was a 15-piece Thomas the Tank Engine puzzle. There’ll never be a better puzzle solver in this world.

While the hearts of the ones who loved her might be in pieces, just remember that she gave us the love to put it together again and to make a beautiful picture.

The angels I have in heaven are beyond amazing. I miss them more than I can express. My Grandma Connie (left), Me (center), my Great Grandma Doris (right). We are all so photogenic.
The angels I have in heaven are beyond amazing. I miss them more than I can express. My Grandma Connie (left), Me (center), my Great Grandma Doris (right). We are all so photogenic. Like in 2009, I still can’t take a decent picture.

Don’t let Chris Stapleton be country radio’s flavor of the month

I will admit that before last Wednesday’s CMA Awards, I had not listened to a whole lot of Chris Stapleton. I heard the track ‘Traveller’ a handful of times and maybe a couple other tracks, but never the Traveller album as a whole. I made myself change that the very next day.

I immediately regret not doing so earlier.

The rumblings have made it here to the upper Midwest that the industry loved Chris Stapleton and he was compelling to me, but I just simply never got around to listening. Even with the word that the industry loved him, I doubted he’d win a single CMA Award nonetheless sweep the three awards (new artist, album and male vocalist) he was up for.

Now it’s history that it was Stapleton’s night. Between the three big wins and the amazing performance of ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ and ‘Drink You Away’ with Justin Timberlake, Stapleton is the main thing the music world has been talking about for the past week.

His sudden national stardom is showing, too. Stapleton got to number one on the Billboard 200 this past week, selling over 153,000 copies of Traveller. Plus, Stapleton’s new single, ‘Nobody to Blame’, was the second most added song on country radio according to Country Aircheck, only behind Eric Church’s ‘Mr. Misunderstood’.

This is all great, but it’s only great if this stardom lasts.

Stapleton’s wins have spurred up the conversation that he might save country music, but to that I have multiple rebuttals.

Jamey Johnson had the same phenomenon happen to a lesser extent when ‘In Color’ won Single of the Year at the CMAs and ACMs in 2009. That has rolled into five singles from Johnson since ‘Color’ with the highest charting at number 34.

It happened with Kacey Musgraves in 2013 after she won the Grammy for Best Country Song for ‘Merry Go ‘Round’ and the Grammy for Best Country Album for ‘Same Trailer Different Park’. Musgraves’ success there has resulted in only one more top ten single despite producing some of the best country music in the last handful of years.

Stapleton is really good and he’s made a fan of me, but I don’t want this to all equal out to nothing again. The music that Stapleton is making is what country music should be and a lot of people agree with that, but yet people don’t demand that and that’s what has been putting a limit to radio success of him and Kacey Musgraves before him.

If you truly think that Stapleton’s beautiful country music should be what is actually heard on country radio, make sure the radio station you listen to knows. Request the heck out of Stapleton, and Musgraves while you’re at it, and let the music directors know that changes need to be made.

Country radio is paying attention to Chris Stapleton, but they’ll only pay attention for so long. Listeners need to make sure that Stapleton doesn’t turn into the flavor of the month… or the flavor for only the next two weeks.

CMA Awards: Predicting the winners at the 49th CMA Awards

Country music has a lot of award shows, but you can oversaturate the market with them if you get the ratings and, well, country music is a big draw. The night will be full of big performances, can’t get much bigger than an opening number from Eric Church and Hank Williams Jr., and, of course, the crowning of the night’s champions in a multitude of categories.

Let’s predict who’s going home with the hardware while also saying who should be going home with it when the night is done. You can watch the 49th CMA Awards on ABC on Wednesday, November 4 at seven central.

Music Video of the Year

Three really fun music videos against two pretty serious ones are what we have on the docket this year. The category is dominated by women this year which is about the only thing that women are allowed to dominate in today’s country music word.

The nominees are:

  • Biscuits – Kacey Musgraves
  • Girl Crush – Little Big Town
  • Girl in a Country Song – Maddie & Tae
  • Little Red Wagon – Miranda Lambert
  • Something in the Water – Carrie Underwood

I love Kacey Musgraves, something I will probably mention a couple more times throughout this post, but her video wasn’t played enough to win the award. I hadn’t seen it until I searched it out. Great video, but probably not enough juice to win the award. Girl in a  Country Song was nothing special of a video.

A good rule to live by is that if something fun is going up against something serious in a music awards show, it’ll go to the thing that is serious. Sorry to my favorite video of the year, Little Red Wagon. The video is one of the most fun videos in years in country music and I wish it would win.

The last two videos are both absolutely beautiful, but I am leaning Little Big Town and Girl Crush to win. Girl Crush is very straight forward, but very powerful and almost chilling in the black and white presentation. It’s going to be a big night for that song and it’ll start in the video category.

Winner: Girl Crush – Little Big Town

Who should win: Little Red Wagon – Miranda Lambert

Musical Event of the Year

Are you ready for some duets?! Or at least that’s what I think they really should be in this category. Only two songs in the category are true duets with both parties sharing an equal, or close to equal, amount of signing. The other three have a main star with the other person noted basically being a flashy background singer.

The nominees are:

  • Django and Jimmie – Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard
  • Lonely Tonight – Blake Shelton featuring Ashley Monroe
  • Raise ‘Em Up – Keith Urban featuring Eric Church
  • Smokin’ and Drinkin’ – Miranda Lambert featuring Little Big Town
  • Wild Child – Kenny Chesney with Grace Potter

Again we have the case of a song not being too well-known to the masses, despite being pretty darn good, my apologies to Willie and Merle. Of course, that one is one of the only two that are true duets. We’ll talk about the other one in a bit.

Blake Shelton features a lot of people in his music and none of it is overly amazing. Lonely Tonight is a good tune, but I don’t think the addition of Ashley Monroe really adds to the song or the event of it. Wild Child by Kenny Chesney pairs him up with Grace Potter once again and it turns into a beautiful creation once again. Part of me tells me that it wins, the other part says since it’s another edition of Kenny and Grace that it loses its speciality.

Smokin’ and Drinkin’ features a lot of Little Big Town on the background vocals and it produces a kickass wall of sound, but it completely flopped at country radio. That shouldn’t really affect how the song is judged, but people were judging that it shouldn’t be played on the radio, so that hurts it.

That leaves us with Raise ‘Em Up, the collaboration between Keith Urban and Eric Church.  Church usually doesn’t record things that he doesn’t write and he didn’t write this song. The writing in this song is brilliant and it really deserves bigger awards than the Musical Event of the Year. Urban and Church blend so nicely together and it truly is a great even since it combines two of the biggest names in country music today.

Winner/Who should win: Raise ‘Em Up – Keith Urban and Eric Church

Song of the Year

Always one of the hardest categories every single year.  This category takes all the great songs in country music and limits it to five and then we try to choose from there. It sounds easy, but it’s not, except for this year… It seems pretty easy this year.

The nominees are:

  • American Kids – Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally
  • Girl Crush – Liz Rose, Lori McKena and Hillary Lindsey
  • Like a Cowboy – Randy Houser and Brice Long
  • Like a Wrecking Ball – Eric Church and Casey Beathard
  • Take Your Time – Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne

As I said for the videos, serious overtakes anything fun so American Kids is out right from the start. I’m always more impressed with artists who write their own songs and three of the five nominated songs were co-written by the performing artist. Take Your Time is the best song that Sam Hunt has released to date, but it’s pop-qualities are enough to knock it out. Like a Wrecking Ball is a great song, but it’s about sex and that’s still a little taboo for recognition in country music. We like it, but we don’t love it. Like a Cowboy is a good song too, but it wasn’t all out amazing.

Girl Crush is all out amazing. I remember listening to Little Big Town’s Pain Killer album for the first time and when I listened to Girl Crush the first time, I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. It was so beautiful and so well written. I had to listen to it over and over and over again. It’s a real shame that radio overplayed the song, because I am less compelled to listen to it over and over and over again, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still one of the best country songs ever written.

Winner/Who should win: Girl Crush

Single of the Year

What’s the difference between single and song of the year? Glad you asked. Song is very lyrically based. That category looks for songs that touch your heartstrings or make you laugh out loud or make you feel a feeling and are very well written. Single of the Year is more wide open and looks more at the success of the song than a critical eye at the song.

The nominees are:

  • American Kids – Kenny Chesney
  • Girl Crush – Little Big Town
  • I Don’t Dance – Lee Brice
  • Take Your Time – Sam Hunt
  • Talladega – Eric Church

For Single of the Year, I usually try to find the song that was most overplayed and, oh boy, do we have a competition for that spot. Girl Crush and Take Your Time were both incredibly overplayed, but both are very good songs.

Sam Hunt has an incredible amount of popularity outside of the country music world, but Little Big Town found a lot of success outside of the country music sphere for Girl Crush, too. Both songs did appear on the Billboard Hot 100 with Girl Crush peaking at 18 and Take Your Time at 20.

It’s a total coin-flip between the two, but I have a hunch that the Girl Crush train will keep on crushing it.

Winner/Who should win: Girl Crush

Album of the Year

I am one of the few crazy people in this world that still buys albums. Yes, all of the songs and, I hope your sitting down, the physical copy of the album. I can count on my fingers how many songs I’ve downloaded off of iTunes. I love albums and one of my favorite albums of all-time is on this list. I have actually bought that album twice: one CD, one vinyl.

The nominees are:

  • Old Boots, New Dirt – Jason Aldean
  • Pageant Material – Kacey Musgraves
  • Pain Killer – Little Big Town
  • The Big Revival – Kenny Chesney
  • Traveller – Chris Stapleton

Well, my friends, Mercury Records is going to go home with an Album of the Year award, but which of their two nominees will win it. Going the Mercury route eliminates Old Boots, New Dirt, Pain Killer and The Big Revival. All three are really good albums, but not as good as the other two. Old Boots might not even be Aldean’s best album, American Kids is the best Chesney album in years but still doesn’t compete and Pain Killer has my favorite producer, Jay Joyce, but doesn’t stand up to Musgraves or Stapleton.

I will openly admit, I have listed to Pageant Material about 100 times more than Traveller, so I might be a little biased, but I still think Pageant Material wins.  I try to write down the best lyrics I hear and seemingly half of those are off of Miss Musgraves’ latest album it’s that good.

I’m all in on Pageant Material, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Traveller steals it.

Winner/Who should win: Pageant Material

New Artist of the Year

This is the most screwed up category in the history of award shows. Seemingly, every year, no matter what awards show, there is always a candidate that is overqualified to be in the running. It’ll be obvious when you see it.

The nominees are:

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Sam Hunt
  • Maddie & Tae
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton

The one that is overqualified is Thomas Rhett by a landslide. Rhett right now is on a five straight songs going to number one streak. Maddie & Tae just released their third single, Kelsea Ballerini is on number two, Sam Hunt is one number four overall and Chris Stapleton has had two singles in his career and the title track to Traveller didn’t even chart.

It’s simple, but it depends how you look at the New Artist category. If it’s career to date, it’s Thomas Rhett. If it’s in the past calendar year or so, Sam Hunt is probably the favorite. I’ll go Rhett since he’s had the more successful career to date, but Hunt should win if truly this was a ‘new artist’ competition.

Winner: Thomas Rhett

Who Should Win: Sam Hunt

Vocal Duo of the Year

This is the biggest slam dunk of the night. Why did they even vote?

The nominees are:

  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae
  • Thompson Square

Next year this might actually be a conversation, but it’s still going to be all FGL. Brothers Osborne are still a little too fresh and only have two single to their name, only one the past calendar year, and their first album does not drop until 2016. Maddie & Tae will challenge next year, too, but not yet. Dan + Shay is an interesting duo, but they have only had one single this year. Thompson Square was nominated because they needed five for the category.

Florida Georgia Line has won the award the last two years and they’ll make it three in a row on Wednesday night. The scary thing is that their music gets better as they age and might be just in the beginning of quite the run of wins.

Winner: Florida Georgia Line

Vocal Group of the Year

The category on its face has some big names, but when you really look into it, it is simply a two band race. Picking between the two bands is a real challenge and it’s definitely one of the hardest choices of the night.

The nominees are:

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • The Band Perry
  • Zac Brown Band

Let’s quick take out the three non-contenders. Lady Antebellum is good, but they did not have an outstanding year. Rascal Flatts is still trying to revive their career and finding radio success in about every other single, but still are not comparable to their prime. The Band Perry took a year off and are now just firing the engines back up. The Band Perry’s first single off of the break, Live Forever, was a flop at country radio, too.

That leaves us with Little Big Town and Zac Brown Band. Little Big Town has won the award three years in a row from the CMAs and are destined to have a big night of wins with or without the Group of the Year. Zac Brown Band hasn’t won the award from the CMAs yet and had a heck of a good year.

Little Big Town had a smash in Girl Crush and a new album in Pain Killer. Zac Brown Band had smash hits in Homegrown and Loving You Easy and a spectacular new album in Jekyll and Hyde. The ZBB is musically and talentedly better than LBT, but is that enough for them to break the streak?

I feel like the CMAs are going to go all-in on Girl Crush this year and that’ll include another Group of the Year victory for Little Big Town.

Winner: Little Big Town

Who should win: Zac Brown Band

Male Vocalist of the Year

It’s like the song/single category. Everyone has a case in this category. I would not be shocked if any one of the five win the award which makes the picking and analyzing of the category a very difficult thing to do.

The nominees are:

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Luke Bryan
  • Eric Church
  • Blake Shelton
  • Chris Stapleton

Let’s just go in order. Dierks has released some really good songs this past year with Say You Do and Riser. He’s a great singer and has been doing great charitable things as well. Dierks is a star in country music, but not as big of a star as the three candidates in the middle of the list which sadly might just knock Dierks out of the running.

Luke Bryan released an album (two if you include his final Spring Break venture), every song he releases goes to number one and had a stadium tour. Everybody loves Luke and it’s hard to bet against him.

Eric Church is a star that everybody loves, but his radio success is really weird. The public loves everything that Eric releases, but on the charts sometimes the songs don’t get as high as they should. That worries the huge Church fan inside of me, but he still has as good of an argument as anyone.

Blake Shelton has gained throngs of fans due to his coaching on The Voice, but he didn’t release a record this year. On the other hand, a lot like Luke, every single that Blake releases eventually goes to number one. He’s got a good shot.

The critics love Chris Stapleton, but how much is he loved when it comes to the voting. Stapleton deserves the awards he’s nominated for, but it still seems that award shows are always weary to give the award to anyone that isn’t a household name and Stapleton simply isn’t there yet. I just can’t get a feel for what the people that vote feel about Stapleton, he could win this or he could finish in dead last.

So where do we turn? When in doubt… Luke out.

Winner: Luke Bryan

Female Vocalist of the Year

It wasn’t that long ago that a big topic in the world of radio was that female artists were not well-represented. It’s not perfect, but there are some solid artists on this list that are making females heard once again. Hell, there’s some on this list that we should hear a whole lot more of on the radio.

The nominees are:

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Lee Ann Womack

Our first issue is that, well, there still isn’t enough music from females on the radio airwaves. I can’t remember the last time I heard a Lee Ann Womack song on the radio. She’s very talent and should still be getting some spins, but she’s not and she is eliminated.

Kelsea Ballerini has started her career like a shot from a gun and I wouldn’t be shocked if she wins a couple of these awards before her music career is over, but this won’t be the year. Ballerini is still too young and hasn’t quite done enough to take this from the grasp of the two main heavyweights.

Sadly, Kacey Musgraves isn’t one of those two heavyweights. Musgraves released the wonderfully amazing Pageant Material, but still isn’t getting radio airplay. She should be the winner of this award, but she’s not going to be.

Miranda Lambert has won the award for five straight years. Carrie Underwood won this award three straight years from 2006-2008. Taylor Swift was squished in the middle of the two runs. It’s been a fight between Lambert and Underwood for years and it’s here again.

Underwood will re-claim the crown this year. Lambert hasn’t had the same success she has had the last five years this year and Underwood has released two great songs from her Greatest Hits compilation, plus her new album Storyteller should push her ahead of Lambert. I would not be opposed to any of the last three mentioned winning, but I think the co-host of the CMAs will be handed this trophy.

Winner: Carrie Underwood

Who should win: Kacey Musgraves

Entertainer of the Year

Two artists in the history of the CMAs have won the Entertainer of the Year award a record four times and that tie could be broken by either artist this year. We could have one artist defend his title from last year or we could have a brand new winner. No matter what happens in this category, there will be a fun story to go along with it.

The nominees are:

  • Garth Brooks
  • Luke Bryan
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Eric Church
  • Miranda Lambert

I believe we can eliminate two artists, sadly, right away. Eric Church and Miranda Lambert simply didn’t have big flashy enough tours this year to compete with the other three. It also doesn’t help that Church and Lambert’s latest albums are both over a year old. Both are great artists that should win this award sometime in their career, but it won’t be this year.

Throughout this piece, I have been harping on radio play and how important that is. That makes this difficult for me. Luke and Kenny both have a lot of radio airplay, but Garth does not share that same benefit. On the other hand, no one is selling out arenas over and over and over again quite like Garth has this past year in his comeback tour.

Luke and Kenny are selling out stadiums, sure, but Garth is playing to more people on more nights and making more of a stir. The guy has a DVD boxset called The Entertainer, for crying out loud. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for the CMAs to give the award to someone not exactly in their prime with George Strait winning the award just two years ago.

I’m a huge Garth fan and I’m sure it’s clouding my judgement a little, but I still don’t see how anyone can claim he isn’t the best entertainer of the past year. I’ll take Kenny over Luke if they don’t go the old guy’s way, but they really need to be going his way.

Winner: Garth Brooks

There we have it. All of the major award categories at the 49th CMA Awards broken all the way down. It’s some of the stiffest competition in years which speaks wonders about the future of country music. Fans have a lot to look forward to on Wednesday night and on their radio for years to come.

Watch the CMAs with the rest of the world on November 4 at 7:00 central on your local ABC station.

40th Anniversary Retrospective of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run

A little over a year ago, on this very website, I wrote my 30th Anniversary Retrospective of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA which was a fun experience and an endeavor that didn’t hit me to do until the evening of the day of. I am much more prepared for Born to Run… I’m beginning the adventure the night before Run’s 40th birthday.

Not to overstate the importance of Born to Run, but this album is the reason that Bruce Springsteen is Bruce Springsteen. The lead single off the album was the title track which gained Springsteen popularity and, to use a phrase that is overused, the rest is history.

It doesn’t even take you an hour to listen to the album as a whole, 39:26 to be exact, but the term ‘short, sweet and to the point’ was made for this remarkable Springsteen album.

So without further delay, let’s talk about each song on Born to Run on it’s 40th anniversary (August 25, 2015).

 

Thunder Road

Bruce Springsteen entered my life late in high school. Senior year is when it finally hit that this guy from New Jersey was speaking right to me. The first time I listened to The River was driving to move into my freshman dorm for college. That album felt like newfound freedom. Maybe it was just ‘Independence Day’, but whatever that feeling was is multiplied tenfold in ‘Thunder Road’.

You would never think that the combination of harmonica and piano would sound so good, but it sounds like pure gold to kick off this album.

As I grow older, I grow fonder of the namecheck of Roy Orbison in the opening breaths because Orbison is amazing and not enough people are exposed to Orbison. YouTube him, kids.

The thing Bruce does better than anybody is he names his characters. I care about Mary and Mary is fictional, at least to us. I hope Mary took that long walk from her front porch to Bruce’s front seat.

Yes, I am cheating with the favorite line portion. The last stanza is just too darn good to pick apart.

Favorite line: They scream your name at night in the street, your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet. And in the lonely cool before dawn, you hear their engines roaring on, but when you get to the porch they’re gone on the wind. So Mary climb in. It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.

 

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

This is one of the weirdest Springsteen songs. Anyone that doesn’t think it’s a little bit weird is a little too weird themselves. To prove the weirdness, nobody knows what a ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ actually is… at least, Springsteen isn’t really telling us what it is. Whatever it is, it sounds cool.

This song is about the formation of the band, mainly how Springsteen paired up with the late great Clarence Clemons, one of the best saxophone players to ever grace this little marble we call Earth. That is what makes this song great.

I have only seen Springsteen once in my life. That was back in 2012, about the toddler stage of my Springsteen fandom, they played this song at the show I was at and it hit me how important Clarence Clemons was. Right after Bruce sings ‘Big Man joined the band’, the band quit and the crowd went nuts. The crowd showed their love of Clarence for minutes where his sax solo should have been and that was one of the coolest concert moments I have ever been a part of. When I catch live performances of this song on E Street Radio on SiriusXM, I get goosebumps and choke up when that part hits. It’s special.

Some songs you don’t get until you really start to know the artist and this is one of those songs. If you are just getting into Bruce, this song seems like just a fun little song, but when you are a die-hard, well, then it becomes a true classic.

Favorite line: Well everybody better move over, that’s all. I’m running on the bad side and I got my back to the wall.

 

Night

Bruce Springsteen has the ability to paint the blue-collar life so beautifully. Maybe that’s why sportswriters love him so much. Sportswriters love the guys who leave it all on the field and Springsteen describes that kind of character in a good handful of his songs.

This song is about working, cars and wanting to get some loving from a lady. That is a deep shade of blue-collar. As someone deeply surrounded by blue-collar folk, I don’t know if many would come up with the line ‘she’s so pretty that you’re lost in the stars’.  I am literally jealous of that line.

I am well aware that I am very biased when it comes to Springsteen, but I think this song is so good and it’s my least favorite on the album. I don’t dislike it, but I like the mysterious Bruce. I like thinking a little bit and Bruce almost did this one too straight forward.

I am weird. That’s probably why I like ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ more.

Favorite line: She’s so pretty that you’re lost in the stars.

 

Backstreets

This song is perfection.

I love this song so much. First off, sonically this thing is kickass. There’s songs out there that just sound good and this is one of them. When I die the piano in ‘Backstreets’ will still be playing in my mind. That’s how good this song is.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the elephant in the room, no this song is not about a homophobic relationship. The Terry, another named character from Bruce, is a woman. His live performances early had an interlude that he would improvise and it would say ‘little girl’, ‘she’ and such. Not that that kind of thing matters, but wanted to clear that up.

There is such passion and heartbreak in this song. You hear it all the way through. It’s what makes this song special. The sonic matches perfectly to the lyrics, it’s like French fries and ice cream, my friends.

The question that remains is, what the hell did Terry do to ruin this?

Also, what a killer way to close side one of a record for all you vinyl lovers out there.

Favorite line: Blame it on the lies that killed us, blame it on the truth that ran us down. You can blame it all on me, Terry, it don’t matter to me now. When the breakdown hit at midnight, there was nothing left to say, but I hated him and I hated you when you went away.

 

Born to Run

This one of those songs that get people hooked on Springsteen and there’s not a real mystery as to why. It’s still weird to have this song as the official anthem of New Jersey when Springsteen is signing about needing to get out of Jersey. It seems counterintuitive to me.

‘Born to Run’ makes you want to roll down the windows and blast your speakers as loud as they’ll go. I’ve done this multiple times. Living in Minnesota, I will tell you that this song has made me do that at temperatures where most people would have the heater blasting in their vehicle and not being even close to thinking about rolling down their windows.

If I ever quit a job, I am probably going to walk out the door with a Bluetooth connected speaker blasting this song just because it’s another song that just exudes freedom.

Plus, Wendy, another named character, has to strap her hands across ‘his engines’ and I think I know what that means… Go Bruce!

Favorite line: Baby this town rips the bones from your back, it’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap. We gotta get out while we’re young, ’cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

 

She’s The One

Do not let the title fool you. She is not ‘the one’. Whereas ‘Backstreets’ had heartbreak pouring all over it from the beginning, this song is has a sense of haunt and excitement all wrapped up in one. Springsteen basically signs about a bad addiction and that addiction just happens to be a woman.

The narrator in the song realizes that this woman isn’t great for him, but she makes him feel good… at least she used to. She’s always there and he keeps going back. I’m just a guy that likes to write and play music, but that sounds like the definition of addiction. Some may insanity, but I am nicer than most people.

Sometimes the live versions of songs are even cooler than the studio version and I’d say this song would have that going for it. In certain live versions, Bruce and the E Street Band lead into the song with a cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’ which is maybe one of the coolest things to ever do.

The song reads like a country song, that’s what corral Springsteen would be in if he magically appeared today, but we’ll talk about that more on the next track.

Favorite line: With her soft French cream, standing in that doorway like a dream, I wish she’d just leave me alone.  Because French cream won’t soften them boots and French kisses will not break that heart of stone.

 

Meeting Across the River

Change this from gangsters going from Jersey to New York to, umm…, outlaws running away from cowboys and you have, my friends, the perfect country song. This song needs no changing though. The storytelling in this song is beautiful. Some details are missing, but that makes the song that more haunting, a really good haunting feeling.

We need to take a moment and point out the trumpet in this song. I could barely play saxophone in middle/high school and now am a very mediocre guitar player, but this song makes me want to learn the trumpet. This whole album makes me want to learn piano, but that trumpet is one of the highlights of this album.

Cherry is a really cool name for a chick. I wouldn’t name a future daughter Cherry, but I like it. No matter what I do, I see Steve Van Zandt every time I think of Eddie. Maybe it’s his time on The Sopranos, I don’t know.

Favorite line: Tonight’s gonna be everything that I said and when I walk through that door, I’m just gonna throw that money on the bed. She’ll see this time I wasn’t just talking. Then I’m gonna go out walking.

 

Jungleland

This song is almost too much of an epic to totally understand. Romance and violence all wrapped up together in one song which works all too well. Springsteen does a lot of things magically, but one he does better than most is now how to structure an album. ‘Born to Run’ as a whole sounds a whole lot differently on shuffle than it does in the intended order of play.

It takes a while when getting into Springsteen that he isn’t where the music stops and ends. The E Street Band is a major part of the magic in this music. The band itself is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if you need some proof about how amazing they are. Once again, Clarence Clemons takes the cake on this song with the beautiful sax solo smack dab in the middle of the song.

The Rat didn’t quite have the ending he wanted, but his ending was only the beginning for his creator, the Bruce Springsteen.

Favorite line: The poets down here don’t write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be.

 

Springsteen fans absolutely adore this album. Rolling Stone did a fan poll of fans’ favorite songs and the top ten features four songs from ‘Born to Run’. ‘Backstreets’ was at seven, ‘Jungleland’ at three, ‘Born to Run’ at two and ‘Thunder Road’ at one.

Yes, the three most favorited Springsteen songs come from this one eight-song album. Half the album gets in the top ten. That is insane.

The magic of music is that if it is good it will stand the test of time. Good music you don’t really have to explain to your children, you just have to press play or put the needle down and let everybody listen and soak in what’s going on in the album.

‘Born to Run’ stands the test of time. 40 years later, people are still trying to write songs that are good as these and rarely are people succeeding.

The future of rock and roll was Bruce Springsteen and now that we are in that future, it is safe to say, Springsteen was an excellent choice.