The sad state of what is now considered to be popular country music is a topic of much ire for me, a subject which I have touched upon a few times on this blog, most notably here. The girlfriend/fiancee mentioned in that particular post and others is now my wife, and she still holds the same baffling predilection for country radio. Therefore I hear modern country radio on a daily basis, whether I like it or not (definitely not). There have been a few gems encountered amongst the soul-crushing crap, such as this still respected song by the Randy Rogers Band, but for the most part, it’s all hideous pop masquerading as country music (I’m looking at you, Taylor Swift/Lady Antebellum!). Dress up any old pop tune with a drop of fiddle here, a pinch of mandolin there, maybe a dash of banjo, and you now have the recipe for what passes as country music.
So I was sitting at the breakfast table a few weeks back, trying as hard as possible to block out the stream of Country Top 40 crap blaring out at me at way too early in the morning for such things, when I noticed that what I was listening to at that particular moment was even less country than usual! In fact, it almost sounded like… R&B? “Wait,” I thought to myself, “Why in the hell are they playing Hall and Oates on a country station?” I would soon come to find out that I was not in fact listening to Hall and Oates (although they apparently assisted with this version), but instead to a “country” artist named Jimmy Wayne.
Now, I have been somewhat shocked to hear in recent years that Hall and Oates somehow have the respect and admiration of the current hipster community. Not the most expected fanbase for them, I would think, but what do I know? I myself have never been much of a fan of any of their music outside of “She’s Gone,” which admittedly is a great tune. Some of their other 70′s material is listenable, and their 80′s material is downright lame, but “Sara Smile” has always been such a non-entity of a song to me. It’s got a similar blue-eyed Philly soul template to “She’s Gone,” but it has always seemed to have such a watered down flavor, lacking in that authenticity that “She’s Gone” captures so well. No shocker that it was the song that put the group on the map. Watered-down-whiteboy-AM-soul music in the 70′s? “Yes, please!” screamed audiences.
“Sara Smile” by Hall and Oates
Then there’s this cover by Jimmy Wayne. What is added to this cover? What distinguishes it from the original? The smattering of banjo and fiddle is just barely even there, just enough to give someone the opportunity to justify its place on country radio. Admittedly, Jimmy Wayne sings this song well, perhaps even better than Daryl Hall, but who cares? This song bores the crap out of me, and the cover is even more unecessary than the original.
“Sara Smile” by Jimmy Wayne (featuring Daryl Hall and John Oates)
If you have never heard Mr. Wayne’s cover of this song before and this is your first listen, please explain to me how this song fits on modern country radio? It’s not as insipid or blatantly ridiculous as Taylor Swift’s Avril-Lavigne-with-a-fiddle act, but do we really want our country stations to move in the AM Gold direction after already losing the country airwaves to tweener pop? I guess at this point, it doesn’t matter. Country and pop have become one, and there’s no stopping it, especially since this stuff is vastly outselling the other musical genres.
However, in regards to this Jimmy Wayne song, I will paraphrase David Allen Coe and say, “If that’s country, I’ll kiss your ass.”