Monday, January 16, 2012

Questions and Controversy: Can't We All Just Get Along?

I was all set to write this next piece to set up my upcoming trip to Boston this weekend to attend and review the show with Texas legend Robert Earl Keen and Saskatchewan's own, The Deep Dark Woods.  However, as is wont to happen every once in a while, a story pops up that is far too interesting to pass up.  And what's a story without a little conflict.  It's especially interesting for me, as I am a big fan of the two artists at the center of the conflict.  

In addition to being a member of the Americana Music Association, I am also a member of the great roots/alt-country/Americana website No Depression.  This is truly a great web site made up of writers of all stripes and is the off-shoot of the No Depression publication that has since ceased.  One of the bloggers, Autopsy IV, submitted a piece which speaks to a recent Twitter post by Jason Isbell which levels a fairly serious accusation of song theft at Dierks Bentley regarding Dierks' recent hit "Home."  There is a strong feeling in the blog world that "Home" is far to similar to Isbell's song "In a Razor Town" that it can't help but be ripped off.  Bentley's responding comments on Twitter weren't what I would call strong, unequivocal denials, but I do get that Bentley could have been angry and speaking out of emotion without speaking clearly.  

Having listened to both songs a few times, I don't really know what to say.  Depending on circumstances and strength of evidence, I'm not a rush-to-judgement kind of guy. I like to hear both sides of the story, and then decide for myself.  And I certainly was not in the room with either of these great artists when they wrote or co-wrote their respective songs.  There is no way I would know the circumstances of how either of these tunes came about.  Lyrically, I don't see the songs as being all that similar.  Jason's "Razor Town" seems to have ill-timed love in a hard-knocks town, where Dierks' "Home" is undeniably an ode to the United States.   However, the melody is something to be considered.  To my ear, there is a real similarity that can't be denied, especially in the chorus.  The arrangements are different with "Razor Town" having an acoustic arrangement and "Home" is clearly electric and having a generally larger sound ... but the melody, to me, remains the same.

Here, courtesy of YouTube and Autopsy IV, are the two songs in question.  Have a listen and let me know what you think, I would love to hear back from all of you.  And, if you have a moment, stop on by No Depression and Autopsy IV's blog site on No Depression for a whole world of great articles, album reviews, musicians and Americana bloggers ... but be sure to keep coming by here!

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit -- "In a Razor Town"

Dierks Bentley -- "Home"

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