Label Spotlight: Average Joe's Records
Since its founding by Georgia hick-hopper Colt Ford in 2008, Average Joe's Entertainment has all but cornered the market on a shameless style of country whose debt to rap music makes bros of the Luke Bryan/Florida Georgia Line stripe seem like neo-trad purists in comparison. In fact, current roster residents like Demun Jones, Moonshine Bandits, Redneck Social Club and The Lacs (whose "Country Boy Fresh" takes its guitar hook from OMC's '90s Maori-pop one-shot "How Bizarre") are as much country- (and rock)-infused rap as the other way around. Their patron saint, Georgia crunk star Bubba Sparxxx, is now signed to Average Joe's subsidiary imprint Backroad; he doesn't land Top 10 pop or R&B albums anymore, but his current Made on McCosh Mill Road ranks as one of 2014's finest albums regardless.
Colt Ford has put out five studio albums, a live one and an EP on his label himself, along with staking a claim as the go-to guy when country superstars need a tacked-on rap verse. And if anything, he and his artists play up their good ol' boy side even more than Nashville stars do. If Average Joe's has a recurring theme, it's the sloshing of big-tired trucks through off-road mud, as depicted on the label's annual-since-2010 series of Mud Digger compilations, where acts throw down against each other in the manner of any '90s/'00s Dirty South rap label. Lenny Cooper's "Mud Bog Paint Job" is basically Dorrough's 2009 Dallas rap hit "Ice Cream Paint Job" gone redneck, with guitars echoing Don Henley's "Boys of Summer." Average Joe's artwork is tied to a crunkish branding aesthetic, too; the albums often have a certain look.
Another big man on this campus would be the sometimes-solo-recording Danny Boone and his shambling alt-rap-rock group Rehab, best known for their initially 2000-released "Bartender Song" that took eight years to reach the Hot 100. But though past Average Joe's-associated acts include Kentucky rap quartet Nappy Roots and Eminem's old D-12 sidekick Bizarre (both, like Rehab, assigned to the AVJ side label), rapping doesn't overshadow everything in this messy neck of the woods. Onetime American Idol contestant Sarah Ross and Maryland/Indiana duo LoCash Cowboys have a hick-hop side, but Daniel Lee, JB & the Moonshine Band, and JJ Lawhorn lean more toward hard Texas honky-tonk and Southern rock -- Colt Ford seems to have a thing for actual self-contained bands. Major names like Brantley Gilbert (before he had hits) and Montgomery Gentry (after their hits slowed down) have put out music on Average Joe's in the past few years as well, as have several midlevel players like Josh Gracin, Matt Stillwell and Kevin Fowler. This playlist includes selections from across the Average Joe's spectrum, including ten Mud Digger tracks. Be forewarned: You might need to hit the car wash after it's done.