2015 is just a few weeks old, and already we have a newcomer who is lighting the world on fire. Mo Pitney is a mild-mannered country boy from Illinois who has been raising a lot of eyebrows with his debut single, simply titled “Country”. The song has been getting added into rotation across the nation, gaining a lot of support along the way. He has been garnering comparisons to Randy Travis already, and it is well deserves. Mo Pitney might be the guy to get some real country back on mainstream radio, and he perfectly lines up with the ideals of this blog.
“Country” is a pretty straightforward song, but he has honesty and earnestness not heard on country radio much anymore. It is a perfect blueprint for the posers on the radio today to explain exactly what country music is. While the bros on the radio want to make you think being country is about having the biggest truck, wearing designer boots, and having bonfires in a cornfield, Mo Pitney explains that country “isn’t even a place on a map, it’s a place in your heart”. He goes through things like helping someone in need, getting baptized, and going to the Grand Ole Opry, which seems like it may be cliché, but in comes across with so much honesty that you actually believe this guy. It may be because the song is arranged to sound like an actual country song. There is a ton of steel guitar, and the accompaniment is very sparse, and lets the melody and lyrics do the talking. It was co-written by Pitney, Bobby Tomberlin, and Whisperin’ Bill Anderson.
In the 19080’s, during the height of the Urban Cowboy craze, country music was very much sold out to the pop world. One of the big reasons it came back around to find itself was the influences of Randy Travis. He brought traditional arrangements and story-telling back into the mainstream, and won a ton of awards in the process. Today’s country is in a very similar boat. Many are asking if Mo Pitney is the next Randy Travis. While I can see the resemblance in situation, let’s cool our jets. I can already tell I’m gonna love this guy. His voice is fantastic and he seems like a genuinely nice guy on Twitter and Instagram. But, it’s incredibly unfair to try to make comparisons to a country music legend with a guy on his debut single. It puts too much pressure on a new artist, and it can sour them. We have already tried heaping the crown of country music savior on Sturgill Simpson, and he politely refused that notion. Truth be told, I’m not sure I want someone to ride in on a white horse with the intention of “fixing” country music. That sounds very arrogant and self-fulfilling. We want artists who sing what they feel , who love country music, and want to add their own brand of it to the equation. If it changes trends and rights some wrongs, so be it. If it flutters out and only 3 people ever hear your song, so be it. That’s the artist I want. The artists that will get mainstream country back on track won’t be trying to, it will come naturally.
That being said, Mo Pitney is a big deal. The only way country music is going to get back on track is if the mainstream gets better. We can have all the great independent artists we want, but if they don’t have the wide reach that radio and television have, it won’t help the genre grow enough. We need both sides working together. Mo Pitney, whether he wants to be titled as some kind of hero or not, he is bringing back that old school sound. If he can have success with it, it will be huge. I will be keeping a close eye on Mo Pitney this year, and I hope to see him take real country back to the top of the charts where it belongs. Keep it “Country”, kids!