Country Music Roundup: R.I.P. Hastings

This Week’s News

The latest death blow for country music isn’t a person, but rather, a chain store. Hastings Entertainment (unsurprisingly) officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy June 13. Now, as the chain is officially going out of business, its entire inventory is currently sitting at 30 percent off store wide. Sales discounts will probably go higher in the coming weeks and months leading up to permanent closures.

HastingsGOOB

It may seem silly to mourn the loss of another chain store, especially when so many independent record stores are struggling to make ends meet or, in the case of Austin’s End of an Ear, dealing with relocation after the property it sat on was sold.

But for rural residents of the 30 cities in Texas where Hastings had a presence (including Bryan, Killeen, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Victoria and Waco), the store’s bankruptcy is another step closer to the end of an era where customers had quick access to a physical store that sold used and new records, music, books and other pop culture items. And that includes country music.

When I lived in Victoria, Hastings is where I was able to find physical CDs of Aaron Watson’s “The Underdog,” Turnpike Troubadours‘ most recent album, many up-and-coming artists and countless older albums on vinyl. (Also: movies. Lots and lots of movies.) Outside of going to shows (often hours away) to see the bands I enjoyed that weren’t on iTunes yet, Hastings was my only option. I’m not old enough to remember frequently going to a Tower Records to buy music (although Circuit City and Blockbuster are still flickering memories), but I did kill a lot of time and spend a lot of money at Hastings this past year.

When Hastings finally closes its doors, Victoria will have one other small bookstore in town. College towns like Waco and San Marcos have Barnes & Noble and Half-Priced Books, respectively, but for many rural Texas residents, Hastings was the best option to buy music that you can’t get at Walmart or Target, and oftentimes, for a cheaper price.

Sure, there’s always Amazon, but if you’re the type of person that still likes buying physical copies of music, you’re probably the type of person that still likes buying said physical music in a physical store.

And while I live in Austin now, home to more record stores and bookstores than I can spin a turntable at, I can still appreciate what the store did for country music’s rural fans.

So, Rest In Peace, Hastings. And if you live in a city that has one, go grab some stuff on sale. You might be able to find some good country music, too.

This Week’s Best New Song

Lori McKenna, whom you’ve heard and probably not known it (she wrote “Humble and Kind” and “Girl Crush”), has her new album dropping this Friday. The lead single “The Bird and the Rifle” (also the name of the album) is a master class in metaphor and personification.

This Week’s Best Country Show in Austin

Grady Spencer & the Work are playing the Saxon Pub again this Friday at 11 p.m. $10 cover charge. A friend recently described this group’s sound as “Tex-acana,” which sounds just about right. The four-piece band mixes deep songwriting themes with Texas country, rock n’ roll blues and Americana, but the proceedings are never dull. Their last show at Saxon was one of the best I’ve seen in a while, and certainly the best show I’ve seen performed in a bar. They also just released a music video for their new song “By Now.”

This is the Country Music Roundup, a weekly blog where we’ll give you the latest news in country music releases and local country shows. For a more in-depth analysis of the genre and where it’s headed, check back with our weekly Gone Country blog every week.

Questions, comments, suggestions? Let me know on Twitter @jakeharris4 or by email: jharris@statesman.com.

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