This Week’s News
Sure, Luke Bryan sang the National Anthem at Sunday’s Super Bowl match up between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots in Houston. He even managed to remember all the words. But the real country music star of the Super Bowl was a legend who has been dead for more than 13 years.
In one of the last commercial breaks before the game, Harry Belafonte and Simone Biles introduced a nearly five-minute short film based on Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag.” The Fox Sports-produced spot plays Cash’s song in the background as images of military personnel throughout American history carrying the flag throughout various wars are shown on screen.
The spot was commissioned by Fox Sports president Eric Shanks, who heard the song on the way to the airport after attending the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks in Hawai’i, Variety reported. The spot was clearly meant to acknowledge the political elephant in the room. It turned Cash’s story about a man meeting an older man on a park bench at a courthouse into a sprawling narrative featuring veterans and Americans from all walks of life.
“I wanted to make it seem like even though we are coming from a different place we all live in the same country,” director Jennifer Pransky said in Variety. “The one thing that isn’t different among us is the history of our country.”
Later on in the game, another commercial featured Cash’s music as a backdrop.
The second trailer for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” got the Super Bowl treatment, this time set to Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave,” which was a posthumous hit for the singer when it was released in 2010.
The fifth installment of the blockbuster franchise will center on Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow searching for the trident of Poseidon.
Cash’s music has been used in other movie trailers lately. The first full-length trailer for “Logan,” Hugh Jackman’s last stand as X-Man Wolverine, was set to Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” and one of the first teaser trailers for the “Power Rangers” reboot was set to Halsey’s cover of “Walk the Line.”
This Week’s Best New Song
After the misstep that was Sir Roosevelt and the love-it-or-hate-it “Jekyll + Hyde,” Zac Brown Band are, as promised, going back to their roots. “My Old Man,” the first single from “Welcome Home” focuses on Brown’s relationship with his father, and it owes more musically to “Highway 20 Ride” than “Loving You Easy.” The group is known for genre blending, so expect some more Southern Rock-meets-down home pickin’ from the upcoming album. Now that they’ve dipped their toes into everything from post-grunge (“Junkyard”) to reggae (“Castaway”) to big band ensembles (“Mango Tree”), the band is free to head back to their “Foundation.”
This Week’s Worst New Song
In another kind of genre crossing experiment, the Band Perry have said for the last 18 months that they want to become a pop band. That led to several reinventions. First, it was the ultra-bright, yellow-hued album art from “Live Forever,” a pop exercise that became one of the songs from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Then it was the pop-meets-country self-love anthem “Comeback Kid,” which tried to bridge the gap between the two genres but ended up failing at both. Now comes the straight-up pop of “Stay in the Dark,” which the band says is the most exciting thing they’ve ever done, but fans aren’t loving it. There’s nothing wrong with this type of genre-crossing when the artist is confident enough about it, like ZBB on “Jekyll,” Sturgill Simpson on “Sailor’s Guide” or even Corb Lund on “Things That Can’t Be Undone.” But when an artist is just trying on genres to see what fits and what can sell albums, that’s when it sounds awkward.
This Week’s Best Country Show in Austin
Thursday: Sara Watkins at Antone’s. A fiddle prodigy since her preteen years, Watkins accomplished more with stratospheric string band Nickel Creek than most instrumentalists do in a lifetime. Nickel Creek still occasionally reunites, but the past decade has been more about solo explorations and other collaborations for the trio’s members. Watkins is flying high off last year’s release of “Young in All the Wrong Ways.” It’s an ironic title, for while Watkins remains agelessly babyfaced, her music has matured considerably, as she’s proving to be a songwriter with hard-won lyrical wisdom and a musical range that reaches well beyond her bluegrass roots. Liz Longley opens. $20-$23. 8 p.m. 305 E. Fifth St. antonesnightclub.com. — Peter Blackstock
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.