Spotify Listen Link: Hunter Hayes – Hunter Hayes
2013 Grammy Nominations:
- Best New Artist
- Best Country Solo Performance, "Wanted"
- Best Country Album
All right, let's get this out of the way: Hunter Hayes is absolutely adorable. And aside from the fact he was born in the 90's, he's 21 so I can feel completely comfortable saying that.
Hunter came on to the scene with his lovely sweet song "Wanted," and I haven't heard much else since. But he's a sweet southern boy from Louisiana, and we'll see what else he has to offer.
"Storm Warning" kicks things off. You know, that would be so much more fitting if the title of the album was like, "Tornado" or something. Regardless, his sweet, far-too-Rascal-Flatts-like voice is very nice. The song's about twitting he had warning about the girl that walked in and rocked his world more than expected. It's sort of a compliment in a way. He's just too dog-on cute to take it any other way.
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Ah, and the first breakout single: "Wanted." So sweet, so very sweet… how any girl in the world is not melting to a puddle throughout this one is beyond me. Dog on he looks young, but he makes you feel like a lady for sure. Obviously, it's a love song, and one that hits directly to the heart. It's just the right kind of fast/slow mix to sing along to and dance in someone's arms at the same time.
"If You Told Me To" starts up with this beautiful and typical guitar playing in extremely typical country fashion. I mean, tell me you've never heard this sound before. He also gets on those higher airy lines that makes you smiles. It's a great country song, through and through, complete with steel guitar and a sweet story of devotion undying that just just don't see.
Ooh, you gonna throw a little rock in there Hunter? "Love Makes Me" starts with one of those great rebel yells that amps a song up. Now, lyrically, it's fairly innocent, but this is good ol' country music here people. We can only push things so far out in the open. I like the concept - all the insanity love makes you do. Boys are more liable to loose their minds in this awesome way while a girl stands by and giggles. Dear god I need a boyfriend.
"Faith to Fall Back On" is sheer proof this boy's from the bible belt. I love the rhythms in this, and actually the lyrics aren't overwhelmingly a call back to the church. It's just a generally good concept, in the feel of "Stand" or other inspirational songs you just need to hear once in a while. The kind of song that makes you let go just a little like you should.
Ah, right, there was another single other than "Wanted." "Somebody's Heartbreak" was this other adorable little number that hit the airwaves and stole us away. Nice line: "one minute with you is better than two without." He wants his shot even if it's going to end badly. Just one break, come on. Oh well, okay Hunter, if you insist. ;)
| |"Rainy Season" is the first truly slow song on the album, and I have a feeling the saddest yet. Yup, that's some kind of sadness happening here. Sorry, but cute country boys singing sad songs rarely works (unless you're Luke Bryan, in which case ANYTHING works). It's a gentle song, and I appreciate the smokey guitar solo, but let's move on.
Oh man, is this the sad part of the album? "Cry With You" has that old school Keith Urban sound where you could listen with a broken heart or when you were preparing to break someone's heart. Though, here he's pledging devotion in any time she needs it. Basically, a call out of empathy, unendingly. Basically, more proof of the sweetest guy ever.
"Everybody's Got Somebody But Me" is so dang cute. I'm talking from the lyrics to the melody to the backing music and rhythms. Everything about this one screams adorable. It's supposed to be a little sad, as he's just annoyed with seeing love everywhere he looks (heh, I gotcha there babe), but you can't help but just bop along to this one as it goes! Even down to the singing of "You-oou-ouu" - come on!
Now we slow it down a bit and give this song, "What You Gonna Do," a little more serious of a tone. Reasonable question being asked - after all he's done for her, what's she going to do once he's not around anymore? There's some real hurt in this one, and some really good lines used throughout, some of which I really wish I had thought of a few years back. Something hits really perfectly on this one.
Rock back on it for "More Than I Should." Hah, the payback song after the breakup. He gave her everything, she broke his heart. Funny how his titles work right on into the song itself, where Blake Shelton's always seem to be a little different than what you expect. The guitar's great in this - close your eyes and imagine him getting his little dance on on that stage. Adorable, right? Great breakup song for sure, with a lot of fun to be had while singing. Dang, where's this music when you really need it?
Sweet slow final song time. "All You Ever" finishes things out with a more solemn tone, but it's still about a relationship. We're 11 for 12 in that department. But he's young and probably mostly un-lived in this world. Traveling for tours will change that up a bit. In a turn-around from the last one, this time it's him who didn't do enough for her, and now he's realizing it and basically kicking himself through song. It's a slightly sadder ending to the album than we probably really wanted, but the mood is final and I guess that makes it work.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Love Makes Me"
- "Faith to Fall Back On"
- "Somebody's Heartbreak"
- "What You Gonna Do"
- "More Than I Should"
Aww, a sweet new Country face. Can't go wrong with a cute Southern boy singing to your heart. I look forward to seeing him mature musically as the years go on, but this was a nice little start to get him on to the scene.
Spotify Listen Link: Blake Shelton – Red River Blue
2012 Grammy Nominations:
- Best Country Solo Performance for "Honey Bee"
- Best Country Song for "God Gave Me You"
- Best Country Album
I'll just go ahead and put this out there: Blake Shelton is the husband of my country-singer girl crush, Miranda Lambert. This is a new version of Faith and Tim: a true country vocal power couple, both of which know how to rock and have a great time. While I'll admit I haven't bought any of Blake's CDs, I have loved every single he's put out there, and he is by far one of the funniest guys out there on Twitter. I've been holding out on listening to this whole CD until I was ready to review it, so I'm stoked to get into this - let's do it!
I could have skipped "Honey Bee" and just sang it in my head - I've heard it enough. Don't get me wrong though, I love this song. It's adorable enough to be country, with lyrics clever enough to be worthy of Blake. "You be my glass of wine, I'll be your shot of whiskey." The song's just a simple little love song with some great trade offs between a guy and gal. I can't get over how nice it must be to be in love like this. You can hear the couple giggling together just listening to this. How freaking ridiculously cute.
"Ready to Roll" is one I'm sure I haven't heard yet. Even looking at it while still on the first song, I'm a little excited to see what Blake's got hidden on this album that the radio hasn't gotten its hands on yet. When it does finally start, man, talk about a good rock 'n' roll beat lead in. Also, let me just note this: love that Blake manages to get a drinking reference in there for just about every number. Totally my kind of guy. This one's just about being ready for the weekend with your girl, and basically nothing else. Nice lazy weekend. I can sort of even picture the line dance for this one, based on the beat, but really, just kick back and tap your foot - that's all that's actually necessary this time around.
In one of the sweetest friction' songs to ever hit the airwaves, we've got "God Gave Me You" next up. I want to sing this for someone's wedding so badly. Or to someone. Really, it's just an insanely romantic, beautiful sentiment about love and fate and being humbled by it all. There's no better way I think I can talk about this one, so I'm just gonna go ahead and listen. And then watch this video… and try not to tear up. We should all be so lucky as B&M. =)
"Get Some" is next up. So far, a little confused in trying to figure out what it's all about other than a list of what you do in a day. Oh wait, there's the chorus. Time for Friday and some fun - ok, awesome, good times. The beat is a little on the lazier side about it though - more like a Friday night in Nashville than the ones up here in NYC. Annddd there's a line about getting high. Blake, I love you. Most entertaining country album of the year for sure.
The next one pops up on Pandora for me quite a bit, but I've never stopped to listen close enough. "Drink On It" calls her back to him to have another drink. He's just there for her. I mean, hey, you sleep on things and figure them out that way, who says drinks can't be as effective? Or maybe they just belong at that bar together. Who knows? It's a song that's on the slower, sway-y side, almost feeling like falling in love.
In "Good Ole Boys," Blake is simply asking a question I've been wondering myself - where have they all gone? Okay, maybe he's also singing about our wonderful military and how they're basically keeping us all alive. But there's some questions in general - btw, sounds like they're all down south. And I heard a line about one possibly being right here in New York City. Guys - take a hint.
"I'm Sorry" is light at the start up. Blake's got a very nice country voice for all kinds of tempos, but hearing him sing slower still takes me back a little. "Austin" is one of those songs, and it gets me every time. Okay, time to concentrate on this one a little more. She's the one apologizing, which I didn't really expect given the title. This is an instance where the words aren't enough. Man, I've been on the receiving and giving side of this, and apologies are one of the hardest things to both get (because forgiveness is hard to give) and give (because forgiveness is hard to get). Man, talk about stirring up memories and current feelings all at once….
Okie doke, welp, kept the tears back. Next up is "Sunny In Seattle," a song which makes no sense right off the bat. Everything's upside-down until… aww, it's like a new "when pigs fly" sentiment - when everything's completely upside down, that's when the love'll stop. Clever Blake, very clever, and downright adorkable.
"Over" is, yet again, a clever play on a title. It's actually about winning a girl over and earning her trust and love, not about love ending. It's one of those great country songs that I'm a sucker for - it's slow in verses, and then hits you hard musically in the choruses, with a full on orchestral accompaniment that melts your heart while making it beat hard as hell all at once. People, this is why country is so great - it can really do so much.
Oh jeeze Blake, could you go any more country on us? "Hey." I kid you not, that's the title and theme of the song, both as a greeting and the bales. It's a cute song, and meant for the farm, and I'm sorry, but that's about it in my view.
"Red River Blue" is the final official song of the album, those Spotify gives me two more to hear. If that's not Miranda in the background, I'd be shocked. This is a sweet ending song, with a call to back home and heartache. It's an interesting take on a subject, as Blake seems to be hell bent on throughout the album, and a good country blues song. It's sad, lonesome, and heart-string-tugging.
Two tracks extra on Spotify - so it depends on the version you get. "Chill" is a pretty straight-forward sentiment - kick back with a beer and relax. Yup, that's about it. And he mentions 65. Hells yeah Nashville. Let's face it: sometimes something so simple is just so damn good.
"Addicted" is the final final track of the album. Slow piano leading in, so either it's sad or a love song. It's country for sure: here we've got a story of two folks who were in love. The first verse is about her crying herself to sleep when he leaves, basically waiting on him all the time. The second is about him detaching and leaving and never returning phone calls. Then the music picks up with trade off lyrics about each of them. Oh shit, this is not a good song for me to listen to. Do yourselves a favor and call someone you think maybe you owe one to. Trust me, someone out there somewhere is waiting for that phone to ring. Like Blake says "it hurts to feel like such a fool."
Added to My Playlist:
- "Honey Bee"
- "Ready to Roll"
- "God Gave Me You"
- "Drink On It"
- "I'm Sorry"
I've liked Blake for a long time and I have to say his work just keeps getting better and better. I think the more we hear from him, the better balance he has been able to create, showing he has a hilarious side as well as a serious/loving side. The biggest change now from his earlier music if that you can find both sides in the same song from time to time. This is a guy I have some serious respect for, plus I just kind of want to be best friends with him and his wife.
I was going to include the video for "Footloose" as a bonus, but then I found these fun promo videos on his YouTube, and well… go there. Here's a taste from The Most Interesting Man In Country Music:
Oh, what the hell - because I like y'all, and because this was so much fun to be in on stage in 2003 --
Spotify Listen Link: Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur
Man, I feel behind. Spotify describes Kathleen Edwards as "a fixture on the female American landscape" (she's Canadian, by the way). She's studied violin since a very young age and moved with her parents overseas as they served the country and was removed from American pop for a while, delving into Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Tom Petty records instead. After high school, she wound up back in Canada and hit the scene there.
Her recorded debut was in 1999 with an EP, Building 55. It seems like she's been writing, recording, and touring ever since. Things have gone more Americana for her ever since, so we'll see what's up in this latest, Voyageur, which is apparently a chronicle of a love affair - beginning to end.
"Empty Threat" is track one, and I have to say, right off the bat, there's something incredibly nice about this sound. The guitar is gentle, but carries as it should. It moves the way a good 90's song used to - you know exactly the ones I'm talking about. This isn't as annoying as Sheryl Crow could be, keeping up its sound with just a great basic rhythm and playing. The song is a really great intro to an album that I'm hoping with be just as good. While it's hard to relate to (I mean, it's about moving to America - which is her empty threat, but she can still say it), although, I could just replace "America" with "Nashville" and probably be in the same boat... Anywhos, here's a live performance from CBC's Studio 211:
"Cameleon/Comedian" softens things but has these gently biting lyrics as she speaks on someone with just a little disdain. The places that the harmonies come in are just right and not overwhelming. The places her voice is alone are poignant in specific ways just to really punch whatever that line is. The music itself is really great. There's a slight rock sound mixed with this familiar sound of folk that keeps it reserved just enough to keep your mood even as you listen.
The piano takes front and center for "A Soft Place to Land," and if this wasn't in the Twilight soundtrack somewhere, I don't know what was. This is totally a song you could loose yourself in on a rainy day. All I want to do is kick back and forget the world right now. In the meantime though, it has this fantastic power to it, full of understanding of pain that drives you mad and coming down from it. Does that make sense to anyone else? I mean, there's just this really fantastic sense of calm after the tragedy for some reason. Come home from a funeral of a dear friends and maybe you'll get what i mean on this one.
In an exciting little change of things, "Change the Sheets" picks up the pace just enough to warrant the label of dance beat. There's a cool bass back coming from what I assume is an electronic devices, but don't quote me there. The rest of the instruments sort of also keep a pretty regular beat going, breaking out for a different one in the chorus. The melody is carried by the vocals though. This one's an extreme 90's-sound-throw-back song that I'm almost tempted to associate with more recent Goo Goo Dolls music, but even then it's toned down. In short, this is the track that has hands in the air and hips moving during the show. Let's check out the video.
But then we slow things way down - like John Mayer down. "House Full of Empty Rooms" is the "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" of this album, except it's not quite as depressingly romantic. It's definitely not a great on, leaving little impression, if any, on the memory. For this, it was actually a relief when the stupid Gain commercial finally came on at the end to break up the monotony. Hey, I didn't say they'd all be winners.
We get some electric guitar to pick things up for "Mint." It's still a relatively slow, steady movement in the beat, and there's some reverb added to the mic. Unfortunately, I can't label this one a winner either - the pitch is too high to enjoy really, and it's just like way too much else I've ever heard. None of the lyrics make an impression, though maybe closer listening would show them doing so. Meh, I think I just want to get back to watching some True Blood.
I like "Sidecar." I'm not sure if it's any one element that makes it stand out in my mind though. There's these cool little hints of horns going on throughout. The drums are keeping a sweet little rock beat. The melody is enjoyable and the lyrics are sort of uplifting. I think altogether it makes for a good dance-around-your-room album for really no terribly good reason. The Line of Best Fit did a live session with her and posted this one back in November:
"Pink Champagne" doesn't remind me of "Hotel California" like I want it to. (Side note - anyone else notice the amount of references being made today? I love pulling from a frame of reference!) Anywhos, this is sort of the story, or at least it sounds like, of a girl in a situation she wasn't ready for or ever truly wanted. The line "I don't want to feel this way" is just tugging away at my heart completely. This is in no way some kind of happy song disguised by a sad sound. It's a hurtful realization of life not being all you wanted. Goddamnit.
Eh, now we're getting a little too into the airy side of folk, where we're constantly on a whim of the wind, with "Going to Hell." I didn't realize how out of place that statement was until I looked and typed the title of the song. I'm telling you, that title's just ironic for the first minute or so, at least until the drums pick up a bit, because it sounds more like she's floating on air up to heaven. The drums are what brings on the hell element, as the song builds into something much, much more. Once the guitar pulls in an electric sound, we're definitely realizing a more chaotic sound and something entirely more fitting of the title.
"For the Record" is the final song on this album. "I only wanted to sing songs" is what got me as I was playing on my learn Italian app and not paying attention. It's a final statement on her life and what she's been though, in comparison to what she ever planned. You can put her down or hang her out to dry, but the girl just wanted to make music above it all.
Added to My Playlist:
So, if you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed this. I mean, I'm a sucker for good guitar/folk tunes, so this was right up my alley to start with. Kathleen managed to get to me in a way no other female folk singer has since Carol King though. She's got lyrics and melodies that are grasping and worth the listen completely. It's just an enjoyable set of songs, and I'm sure any good summer day would be well soundtracked with some of these tunes in the sun.
- "Empty Threat"
- "A Soft Place to Land"
- "Pink Champagne"
- "For the Record"
Here's our final Best New Artist nominee for this year. The Band Perry is a trio of siblings, Kimberly, Reid, and Neil. They were discovered by Garth Brooks' manager and have been considered great new faces in country ever since.
Something you'll come to realize in country music is that if the artist isn't writing themselves, they're usually working with a specific set of writers. These guys and gal wrote on eight of the eleven tracks, and everything else was either written with or by the Henningsens. This is a Nashville group for sure, take it from someone who remembers every day there quite fondly. :)
Here's the full listen link to follow if you want to hear the album. As hesitant as I am on this band ("If I Die Young" turns me off every time), I'm so excited to hear some country again!
"You Lie" is the lead track, and is, to me, the most memorable single from this band so far. It's a good ol' country rhythm and girl getting to bitch a little about a guy who's trash. I love country songs like this honestly (Miranda Lambert, you have my heart lady). It's really a classic sounding country song, complete with the right combination of instruments and twang to the voices, something we haven't gotten a good fill of in country in a while. I don't love the song continuously, but it's catchy and worthy of the album completely.
I don't know why, but I sort of love this video. The whole look is fantastic, minus her white dress. Her pissed off kind of works well. Her brothers are almost like secret agents gathering the info to convince her. The background are a pretty cool effect. I don't know, I just like these little elements. I don't get the food table thing, but okay.
"Hip To My Heart" was also a single, though I didn't know that right off the title. I vaguely remember it as we get towards the chorus, but not much of it. It's got a cool rock feel to it, showing that hipster side of Nashville at its finest. There's really a nice combo of hippie and rocker to the song, with the over-arching country twang to it all. This one would go over well at the Roo. :) <-- this albums got me doing a lot of that, even if I'm not loving every bit of it.
Super cute and it works. It's a cute song, come on, admit it. The paint comes in and just makes the whole thing work for everything I said about the song before. God I can't wait to paint on a wall at the festival this year!
Why "If I Die Young" became the song to really launch them is beyond me. It is, by far, the most depressing thing I've ever heard. Okay, I get the beauty in the intricate lyrics of a girl being content with her life, but I can't help but only hear the story of a sad, early death. I appreciate her contentedness with life overall, but come on. There is more child, I promise. Maybe I'm speaking from someone overcoming things she's thinking about, but that's the beauty in understanding songs can mean different things to different people. This is floods back the old feelings and sadness, and I, quite frankly, can't take it, no matter how gorgeous the melodies are.
Why are they so damn happy when they're walking with the boat? AH more frustration...
We get a little more adorable with "All Your Life." There's a sweet steel guitar and slide going on right from the start. It's a pretty cute song about just trying to get him to get a clue. Gentlemen, she's saying everything you just don't realize you want to hear. There is such a thing as being a hopeless romantic, and this one's it for a girl. In other words, this is my favorite so far. "I don't want the whole world, the sun the moon and all their light. I just wanna be the only girl you love all your life." So, all your life is asking a little much, but how about just trying for a bit? Bah, I'm getting off on a tangent in my own head. Apologies y'all.
And we've now exited the realm of the singles from the album. Here we go with the additional tracks. First up is "Miss You Being Gone." There some really cool old rock 'n' roll influence going on here at the beginning, and if Kimberly's voice were about one octave lower I might love it. It's a good moving song and seems like it'd make for a great live number, so let's see if that holds true.
She's got a point at the start - Friday Night Country Music Lovers are a fun bunch to party with. Damn I miss the south. By the way, this song sounds GREAT as a live number! So much energy and fun!
I think I get why i was so turned off of this band for so long. There's not a ton of range in Kimberly's leading vocals, and it's evident in "Double Heart." Don't get me wrong - the use of fiddle and the rhythms in the vocals are all pretty great. She just gets a little difficult to listen to when you feel like nothings really changing. There's no dynamics change to indicate a different feeling in the song meaning as she goes between tracks.
I'm hopeful for a slight slowdown in "Postcards From Paris." I think vocally, the best song so far as been "If I Die Young," and that Kim does better on the slower numbers. No such big luck hit here. But the comparisons made in this are really great and definitely country. Like I said, you hear a lot of people complain we haven't had a real country-sounding group in a really long time, but I think this band has hit big because they help those nostalgic folks that need it, as well as show young folks it's possible to not be Taylor Swift and still make it in country.
"Walk Me Down the Middle" maintains about the pace we've been easing into - something a little slower and softer. By the way, if you were thinking this had anything to do with an aisle or wedding, you were mistaken. It's about walking together in the open and letting them all know you're together. Being proud to be with someone, go figure. It's a pretty lovely song on a subject I don't think I've heard directly dealt with in a song, at least in recent memory.
Sorry, no video for that last one. But we have one from Oceanway for "Independence!" Bonus points if you know why that studio's so awesome. It's most definitely a driving song and good for being on the move. I have to hand to them lyrically - they hit the right words in great ways. This one's all on leaving, and they have some cool ways of saying it. Something abou their instruments and the musicality of the songs takes things to good places. Interestingly, she's actually leaving the town of Independence though, all while declaring it.
"Quittin' You" has kind of strange sound to it, but I guess the words bring it to light. Anywhos, the music is completely right for such a song, as it takes this nice tone overall. You ever notice how some chords seem to speak certain sentiments? That's what these are saying. While the chorus is kind of hokey, the music carries this one to a fun level of freedom.
I guess the title of a song "Lasso" is right for a country album. This one slows things down a bit, giving us a nice pretty way out of the album. Love the lyric "loving you was like throwing a lasso 'round a tornado." It's so exciting and sad all at the same time. "I've always been afraid of flying, but you can't blame a girl for trying." It's a love song, but a lost love too, though she at least can admit she tried. And it does make a great fair song - just watch and see.
Added To My Playlist:
Overall, a solidly country album. Admit it, everything musically and even lyrically screams that this is a country record meant to take us all back to a twag-ier time when the stereotype of the genre was true. It is a nice young ride though, as we see heartbreak and sweet innocent love take bloom and whither. Overall, a commendable job by the newcomers to the country scene and music industry.
- "Hip To My Heart"
- "All Your Life"
- "Walk Me Down the Middle"
All right y'all, now that we're caught up on dates, we can start knocking a few of these out more of these nominees. Countdown to Grammys: 17 days!
This one is another nominated for Best Album Notes as well as Best Historical Album. And, oh boy, it's 5 CDs long. But it's only in a range from July 1927 through August 1928. For a little over a year, and at 20+ songs per album, that's at least 2-3 songs a week - impressive at the time for so much to get done so quickly, and by a variety of artists. That's dedication.
Not sure who's going to be dedicated and stick with me for the whole thing, but we'll keep it as condensed yet interesting as possible, promise.
I wasn't able to find these notes online to copy and paste into here for y'all. Some info though, that will at least let us know if it's something worth reading:
These were written by Ted Olson (an ETSU professor) and Tony Russell. While some call the notes to have a lingering sound of academia, they are still deemed very impressive. The two essentially wrote a short book on the sessions and background of the musicians and engineers involved. As far as the recordings themselves go, “Johnny Cash once said that the Bristol Sessions are the single most important event in the history of country music,” said BCMA Board President John Rainero. “It’s amazing that those recordings are still having an impact, even today.”
You'll remember some of these artists, and you'll never have heard of some of the others. Jimmie Rogers and The Carter Family are the two biggest names known when talking abou these sessions, but there are many, many more to hear from tonight.
Ever been to Bristol? I have. It's both in Tennessee and Virginia, and I confused the hell out of my GPS driving around looking for a GPA, because I went between the states about 5 times. It's actually a pretty cute little town - definitely more modern now, but one that always is my welcoming point back home to Tennessee.
Let's get on into it, as this is probably going to be one of those all-day projects. Let's hope Mr. Cash doesn't disappoint with his opinions. :)
Brewer, Mooney, and Stoneman bring us the first two tracks to get going. "The Dying Girl's Farewell" is a very raw recording, I believe telling of the times we're about to listen to. It's harmonized though, with very simple musical accompaniment. The do add a few more instruments to "Tell Mother I Will Meet Her," and we're still welcomed with the boys singing all together. The harmonies aren't polished, but I think that only adds to the down-home feel.
"The Mountaineer's Courtship" is the next one up, with Dunford and Stoneman. I've been trying to figure out if these were songwriters or the artists, but the site swears they're the performers - probably both though. Anywhos, eastern TN is actually pretty mountainy (my aunt was amazed by this the first time we drove through when I started college). The song is a cute back and forth on courtship and love. It's quite adorable really.
Stoneman takes on the next 9 songs, two of which are two separate takes of the same thing. He starts with "Midnight on the Stormy Deep" maintaining that same mountain feel. I think a lot of banjo is what we're dealing with here. "Sweeping Through The Gates" seems to be in the same vein, but with more singers accompanying him, and definitely more strings. The words are a little harder to decipher with so many involved though. The same goes for "I Know My Name Is There," a religious ditty, but this time with an echo of the choir. You can tell we're in the bible belt though, again, with another Jesus song next in "Are You Washed In The Blood?" Not complaining - these are the things that were the basis of so much of today.
"No More Good-Byes" is actually much more upbeat than I expected, but if I hear this out-of-tune choir one more time, I may scream. ...and I'm screaming. "The Resurrection [Take 1]" is just very hard to listen to, along with "The Resurrection [Take 2]" which sounds nearly identical. Just trying to remember that these were people with a passion for music who just wanted to sing. The continue to do so for "I Am Resolved [Take 1]" where there is definitely some kind of leader to the group, but he gets lost. It keeps happening in "I Am Resolved [Take 2]" and my final note is that, while my heart appreciates the past, my ears love technological innovations.
Taking over for the next 6 tracks is Phipps. We're in for more bible belt music, but sometimes there can be the best early-music gems among these. "I Want To Go Where Jesus Is" finally gives us a little different sound, and the mixing is a lot more polished. It was probably the arrangement in the room at this point in the history of recording - singers are arranged for a better balance of leads and backgrounds, since individually recorded tracks weren't happening yet. A familiar old gospel song "Do, Lord, Remember Me" shows it with some really great trade offs of solo lines and BGVs coming in for support. "Old Ship of Zion" brings the same thing in, allowing a lead without loosing him. "Jesus Getting Us Ready for That Great Day" sounds almost exactly the same melodically, but... sure, it's a different song!
In a funny little twist, we get a praise song in "Happy In Prison." I can only access clips of this album, so I don't know what the whole song is about, but it is oddly optimistic. I guess when your faith's that strong, you can find happiness anywhere. Phipps closes out his portion with "Don't Grieve After Me." I can't believe how similar a lot of these songs are. But I guess that's the reasoning for calling it sessions and not an album - this was a lot of experimenting and getting the sounds they liked.
Dunford and Stoneman hang out again for "What Will I Do, For My Money's All Gone," one of the first truly solo voices on a verse we've heard yet. It's kind of cool to be able to hear the record hiss as well throughout this. Oddly, like most people will probably tell you when they give it some thought, this is a comforting sound.
Dunford's alone for the next two, starting with another upbeat, strangely familiar sounding "The Whip-Poor-Will's Song." Someone's singing with him (the response if you hear it). He follows that up with something I never thought I'd hear recorded, "Skip To Ma Lou, My Darling." Whoa! Hahaha, I just love that this is coming from my speakers right now.
Again we get Dunford and Stoneman for "Barney McCoy." Same general sound, right? Don't tell me that music's different, because I hate lieers. It fits, for sure, but everything's been doing that.
Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers close us out with the last two songs, "Old Time Corn Shuckin', Pt. 1" and "Old Time Corn Shuckin', Pt. 2." The first finally brings a little different sound, as we are introduced to the band and what we're about to hear. The fiddle starts in on this awesome solo spot. Into part two, we've got more instruments going, and little to no vocals throughout either. It's a great old time jam session.
The Johnson Brothers kick off this next portion with four songs, the first of which are "The Jealous Sweetheart [Take 1]" and "The Jealous Sweetheart [Take 2]." We actually kind of slow things down a little bit! There's not much of a different between the two takes, to my ears, other than maybe a little more drag in the second one. "A Passing Policeman," I'm almost willing to bet, is a continuation of one of these takes. It sounds like another verse to the same story just based on melody alone. We only slightly depart from the same sounds for "Just A Message From Carolina" by a few little strums.
Reed takes on the next 6 songs. "The Wreck of the Virginian [Take 1]" and "The Wreck of the Virginian [Take 2]" are pretty simply done songs with a violin as the main, and seemingly only, instrument, completely following the singer as he sings along. "I Mean to Live for Jesus" is just a simple man's song of praise through everything, no matter what temptations are abound. It must have been so interesting to be a person of faith in the 20's.
"You Must Unload" continues to be string dominant, which I'll go ahead and say is Reed's typical sound. He also keeps up these early gospel/hymn songs as we move along. "Walking in the Way with Jesus [Take 1]" and "Walking in the Way with Jesus [Take 2]" keep that sentiment up. Ah, simpler times and simpler music.
We reunite with the Johnson Brothers for the next three tracks, starting with "Two Brothers Are We" (awwww). But holy cow, I am not a fan of that hallow, whine of a voice. "The Soldier's Poor Little Boy" continues the voice and the banjo dominance (which is easier to handle than the voice). But then, it all makes sense with "I Want to See My Mother (Ten Thousand Miles Away)." Honestly, they sound very much like Civil War songs, but who knows.
Watson does the next two. Looks like we're heading into blues territory, give the next three have it in the title. "Pot Licker Blues" makes me giggle a little every time I say it. Seriously, say it out loud and tell me you don't laugh a little. No? This is totally one of those few times I'm okay that no one actually reads this (though I'd love you to prove me wrong on that by commenting!). The song's not nearly as funny. Neither is "Narrow Gauge Blues" though there's a sweet harmonica part in it that I haven't heard yet in this collection.
Shelton starts us off in their 4 song set with "Cold Penitentiary Blues." There's lyrics to this one this time, yet the music sounds familiar of everything else we've been hearing. The voice sings of the blues aspect though. "Oh Molly Dear" picks it up with the banjo with this incredibly familiar style of old folk music that you can tell has to have been an influence on later artists. "Pretty Polly" sort of has the same feel for me actually. I'd be interested to see how many folk artists name Shelton as an influence, though they're more likely to say the Sessions in general. Shelton closes out with "Darlin Cobra," another pretty classic folk sounding number.
Karnes has the next 5 songs. He brings in this much deeper voice with more power behind it, and a clearer sound, right off the bat with his first one, "Called to the Foreign Field." This is much more of a soul turn than the rest so far. It continues into "I Am Bound for the Promised Land," which includes banjos. Normally, something like that sound, along with the next one, "Where We'll Never Grow Old," which is this sweet song, and would be even more so if it weren't religious (nothing against it, I just wanted a romantic one for a sec). His voice works for these themes though, and continues to do so with "When They Ring the Golden Bells." His voice goes a little funky as he tries to hit the higher notes, but I'll deal. We close out our time with Karnes on "To the Work," and thus ends our clear voice of song.
Nester joins in for the next two songs, starting with "Train on the Island." Not loving this... at all. Not the vocals at least. The fiddle work is really great though. "Black-Eyed Susie" kind of rolls on in the same manner, which is respectable from one perspective, and terribly annoying from another.
We end this CD with Moonshiners and "Johnny Goodwin." It's a much lighter fiddle backing and the voices are clearer. Sounds like a cleaned up version of a lot of the harder-to-listen-to music from earlier. Overall, a nice way to end this part out with a single artist.
If you're still with me, you're awesome. I may fall in love with you by CD 5 if you remain through the whole way. We've reached the point of the Carter Family for the next 6 track, beginning with "Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow." It's definitely a much more light-hearted theme than I expected, given the title. "Little Log Cabin by the Sea" sounds slightly almost exactly the same as the first song, but I guess when you get on a kick that works, you stick with it, if these albums have been an evidence. Even "The Poor Orphan Child" has a similar sound. It is interesting to hear female and male mixes again though, as we haven't heard it in some time. "The Storms Are on the Ocean" allows the girl to sing a little more out instead of as a backup to the male. They keep up cute songs with "Single Girl, Married Girl," but at least change the pacing a little and allow soloists to make a sound. It's the most different so far. We end out set with the Carter Family with "The Wandering Boy," another roughly similar sounding song as the others, but I'm still happy to hear a female taking center stage.
The Alcoa Quartet comes in for the next two songs. "Remember Me, O Mighty One" gives this pretty great blend of voices together, a cappella. It's not polished, but not awful. Same goes, in a different way, for "I'm Redeemed." Singers step out for small solo lines throughout, and the dynamic variances here make it a great piece overall.
"Henry Whitter's Fox Chase" is the start of Whitter's two songs, and it's got to be the most intriguing song yet in this set. There's a harmonica, and then there some other noises in there providing the beat of sorts. The harmonica in this, "Rain Crow Bill" is the song, and I believe there's more than one at place. Pretty interesting piece as a whole.
The Shelor Family takes on the next 5 songs, beginning with "Big Bend Gal." It's actually an interesting recording use of reverb and ambiance. It's only slight, and probably has to do with the actual recording set up more than anything, but I totally get the feel of a barn dance. That feeling continues into "Suzanna Gal." I don't mean it in any negative way at all - the instrumentation is very impressive - it's just the sounds and how they're hitting that makes me thing that. "Sandy River Belle [Take 1]" and "Sandy River Belle [Take 2]" have the same sort of party quality to them as well. Almost like we're live. They're final number, "Billy Grimes, the Rover" keeps it up, even with a simpler sound, like it's toward the end of the dance.
Mr. & Mrs. J. W. Baker (which I think is adorable to name your act as) bring us "The Newmarket Wreck." Not completely sure what to make of these two in the small snippet I got, but they're telling a story. "On the Banks of the Sunny Tennessee" sounds very similar, but you can tell there's another story being told here as well. This is definitely part of the roots of country music.
Rodgers does the next two songs, starting with "The Soldier's Sweetheart." Very simple with a guitar and a man, very reminiscent of early, easy-going country. "Sleep Baby Sleep" is the same way (actually incredibly similar). He lets his voice float a little that provides comfort.
The Tenneva Ramblers have the next three songs. "The Longest Train I Ever Saw" makes me remember why I hate vibrato. Okay, not totally, but the way peoples' voices shake sometimes is just hard to deal with. This is true when any note gets held out and played with too much. Anywhos, it's like a funny band on the porch for "Sweet Heaven When Die," and yes, I'm totally thinking of that scene from Family Guy. Then, to end, there's this just really funny sounding song, "Miss 'Liza, Poor Gal." Seriously, there's just something a little hilarious about it.
"Greasy String" is the first of the West Virginia Coonhunters' 2-song set. And now that I'm thinking about it, I can't get it out of my head - the violins in this completely sound like what a greasy string would probably sound like. Their second song, "Your Blue Eyes Run Me Crazy" is really just a funny little story about a southern girl. It's cute.
The Tennessee Mountaineers polish off this disc with two last songs. "Standing on the Promises" is first, and it's a choir basically, only slightly better than the early ones we heard. It's an old spiritual/gospel-ish song of sorts, almost in a march formation. Their song "At the River" is much of the same, and that's how we end out disc 3.
We've passed the halfway point! The Smyth County Ramblers kick off this set with two songs. Now, with a song name like "My Name Is Ticklish Reuben," I'm not sure what to expect. But, it sounds like your pretty classic fun fiddlin' song. "Way Down in Alabama" is much of the same. The voices here are quite good and blend well.
"Do Not Wait 'Till I'm Laid 'Neath the Clay" is the first of three songs from Karnes. His voice has much more of that down home quality to it, and his guitar is much clearer than previous ones we've been hearing. This continues into "The Days of My Childhood Plays," a reminiscent songs of days gone with good times and pleasant thoughts. Finally, he does "We Shall All Be Reunited" which keeps up an upbeat feel, yet his voice does give the sadness and hope that are needed for a song titled as such.
Phipps has the next 6 songs, beginning with clapping for the beat in "If the Light Has Gone Out in Your Soul." I mean, there's a banjo, but the people are into it as well. "Went Up in the Clouds of Heaven" has those same slaps in it, from here to there. It's going to bug me that I don't remember the term for that sound, especially when "I Know That Jesus Set Me Free" uses it in a different way (not just 1-2, 1-2, 1-2; there's rhythm here!). "Shine on Me" is a much slower song, and I have to say, the voices are not all that great. It's tough. We're back with "Bright Tomorrow" though, singing our little hearts out in a seemingly party in the studio. We end with the girl's taking over a lot of the prominent vocals for "A Little Talk with Jesus."
"I Cannot Be Your Sweetheart" is the first one from Howard & Peak, and it's just so sad and heartbreaking. Poor guy. Now, musically, it's pretty happy, but the story is a sad one. The same kind of sadness is actually very evident in "Three Black Sheep." The voices tell it this time, instead of the lyrics.
Greene's got the next two, starting with "Good-Night Darling." Just a sweet little goodnight song, almost like a cowboy's song before he leaves on his adventure. Oh damn it, now I'm just going to think of Westerns the rest of this time. "Little Bunch of Roses" is like his song around the campfire that night when they've parted and he's on his own.
The Stoneman Family's next on is "The Broken-Hearted Lover." This one doesn't come across as sad at all musically, but then again, the emotions of these are not screamed through their music, or lyrics, or sometimes even titles.
Dunford does the next two songs. "Angeline, The Baker" has a similar sound of what we've been hearing musically with harmonicas, but he voice is much older and worn, which makes it a much more interesting listen. He has the same manner in "Old Shoes and Leggins," using a very old familiar melody, and it's a nice little song altogether.
The Stoneman Family is next with "We Parted by the River Side." It's actually interesting to hear more than one instrument for a minute here, with guitar and harmonic, and maybe some fiddle. The voice is clear, and the use of mics is getting better.
Stoneman looses the family for the next two. (No one laughed at that joke other than me, I'm guessing.) "Down to Jordan and Be Saved" doesn't have quite the clear voice anymore. It's almost that sound of someone having cotton in their mouths. "There's a Light Lit Up in Galilee" is better though, with that clear familiar voice again, until the chorus comes in, and I have a feeling the family is back.
Oh, yes, they are, for the last four songs on the album. "Going Up the Mountain After Liquor, Pt. 1" brings on this little story, I think. It's kind of hard to understand. "Going Up the Mountain After Liquor, Pt 2" seems to continue it, though I'm still sort of confused as to what the hell is going on. We move on to "The Spanish Merchant's Daughter" in a totally different tone, and an interesting take on a Spanish girl. We finish out the disc with "Too Late," a song about being over it, from the sound. Nicely done.
Anyone out there still with me? This is the home stretch! The first six songs on this one are done by the Stamps Quartet, beginning with "I'll Be Happy." Pretty standard to what we've been hearing, but quartet implies harmonies throughout voices. The do so with "Like The Rainbow," giving the bass (extreme bass, by the way) a chance to shine in this main solo. I was waiting for a female voice (dumb, it's a male quartet) in "Because I Love Him" but it's a song for Jesus, not an earthly man. They continue with praises together for "Come to the Savior." "Do Your Best, Then Wear a Smile" is probably my favorite title of the entire set honestly. It's also got this Charlie Chaplin sound to it that is cool to hear. We end our time with the Quartet on "We Shall Reach Home." It's got a piano backing (I didn't even notice that with the rest of the songs - so awesome to finally hear piano going on) and is a much more slowed down, solemn number.
The Smith Brothers do the next two songs. "My Mother Is Waiting for Me in Heaven Above" does keep up the tone you'd expect, as hard as it is to hear these voices. It's at least got that's right. Their second and final number is "She Has Climbed the Golden Stair," and it's a lot more of the same from the sound of it.
Moving on to the Palmer Sisters, who give us the next four songs, starting with "We'll Sing on That Shore." These ladies have a great sound altogether. It's not quite beautiful, but they're solid, and continue that into "Singing the Story of Grace." "Help Me to Find the Way" keeps it simple. They only really use one small stringed instrument to accompany their otherwise a cappella harmonies. "He'll Be With Me" is their final song, and the lower harmonies help bring a richer sound to their close out number.
Tarter & Gray sing the blues, starting with "Brownie Blues" (which reminds me how much I need to finish this and eat lunch). It's most definitely got that nice folk blues feel to it; the guitar is fantastic. "Unknown Blues" has nearly the exact same sound, but there's different lyrics and just works as a general 'I've got the blues' song, even without good reason.
Carolina Twins take on the next 6 songs. "Where Is My Mamma?" still has the blues sound we've been experiencing, though this one sounds like it's from a couple of kids' perspectives. Frogie doesn't go this time, but "When You Go a' Courtin'" has a little harmonica lead in and instructions for what you're to do without him there. "I Sat Upon the River Bank" sounds almost exactly the same, no lie. I think I'm too used to variety to properly appreciate this. However, the Twins give a yodel and change it up a bit with "New Orleans Is the Town I Like Best." "She Tells Me That I Am Sweet" and "Mr. Brown, Here I Come" really do maintain the same sound, complete with yodeling, and close out this set.
We are on our final two songs! Shortbuckle Roark & Family are here to close us out, starting with "I Truly Understand, You Love Another Man." It's a mountain folk song, and, well, works for the title. It's understanding and not sad in the least bit. Just ready yo move on. And the final song for this 5-disc box set is... "My Mother's Hands" to close us out with the down home feeling.
Whew. We made it. Maybe - anyone still there?
Yes, this is clearly an academically compiled set, meant to teach of the times and the people who made it. These were the roots of so much folk and country that we've heard ever since, and it's a great set of music of the times.
I still remember Eric Church from when he first debuted while I was living in Nashville with "Guys Like Me." He was just the sweet guy that you wanted to pat on the head and take home to mama. Now he's on his third studio album, and a total badass. This year, he's nominated for Best Country Album. This is his first Grammy nomination.
There's no reported deep-seeded controversy around him or his recording career. He's just this honest guitar players who came up in the industry with good ol' music for the crowds that wanted it. The only difference now as opposed to how he started is a little more freedom to be "bolder" with his writing. Things on this album are just a little more adult and complex, but I think he's remaining true to who he is overall.
"Creepin'" ficks the album off, and already it feels like we're down in the swamps of the deep south. The use of banjo is realy interesting, and not necessarily something you hear in mainstream country anymore. He's also got this old-school voice, kind of like Willie Nelson, but a rock edge to it. The use of electric guitar and that drum set is what, I think, sets the music apart from any down-home country we're used to hearing.
Second up is "Drink In My Hand," the second single from the album, which was almost immediately a chart-topper. Here's the video, showing off his fans and the tour as well:
Now come on y'all, who doesn't like a good drinking song? Especially a country one? This is going to become a bar classic, mark my words. The beat's great, the words are relatable, and it's just a great time!
"Keep On" is a pretty cute flirty song. This one kind of reminds me of some of his earlier work, like, let's dance around the bar to this one. It's got a good beat and cute lyrics. Not too much to say on this one, other than it's okay and a nice little addition to the album.
We slow things down a bit with "Like Jesus Does." If you've ever heard most down-home country music, it has a lot to do with God and whiskey and women, and this song is no exception. It's got it all. It's a dedicated number to the girl he loves and who clearly loves him too. It's all about being thankful. This is that slow-down moment in the show where the couples are swaying together happily.
"Hungover & Hard Up" is something kind of great for the morning after. The beat's good and the vocals are soft enough to notice facilitate a headache. Ha, yeah, I don't get hangovers, but this is a pretty great one either way.
The next song was the lead single from the album, "Homeboy."
I liked this song from the first time I ever heard it, even though it's hard for a girl to relate to. There's something incredibly heartfelt to it, and I think we all know at least one person like this in our world. You worry about them and would give anything to same them, but they need to come back to home, or back down to earth, before anyone can do anything for them.
"We need a country music jesus to come and save us all." Yup, that's a line in "Country Music Jesus." Wasn't this what Kid Rock was trying to achieve? Kidding... sort of. Basically, we need a strong country man to bring back country music to what it was. Is that what Eric's going for? Who knows. It's a good song though, for all those good country fans who love it. It's one of those tribute to country songs that fills that nostalgia need this genre seems to have.
"Jack Daniels." I already love it for the title alone. Okay, so the lyrics are more about the hangover and the rough night he gave. But... I don't know, still a pretty good number. It's a good song. And getting lost in drinking isn't all entirely bad... right?
As a Jersey girl, I should immediately love "Springsteen." Yah know what? It's actually a great reminiscent song. Here's an acoustic-ish AOL session video:
It's not about the man, but the memories associated with the songs. Really, it's just a great kick-back, memory kind of song. There's this light hearted piano in the background, just hitting notes that spark of memory. The guitar's pretty simple, hitting the regular chords to keep it moving. There's nothing fancy here, just goodness.
"I'm Gettin' Stoned" brings me back to the "Smoke a Little Smoke" Eric Church. Heh, yeah, it's everywhere. Good ol' boys aren't always, by definition, so "good." Ah the joys of heartbreak. Hey, sometimes you drink, sometimes you wallow in other ways.
"Over When It's Over" is the final song to the album, and it's a decent close out. It maintains that country beat throughout, and is chock-full of confusing heartbreak. It's a well-done piece and includes this female overlay voice that gives the sound as a whole a beautiful roundness.
Stuff I Wouldn't Mind Hearing Again:
Am I snobby for being partial to the singles here? Maybe, or maybe his management has a good ear for what will hit home the best with listeners.
I think guys like this and Jason Aldean and the like are making a whole new sub-genre of country music, and maybe re-defining country rock as a whole. They bring in elements of hard rock and rap that have helped transcend the genre to new listeners. While not every song is appealing, when Eric gets it right, he knocks it out of the park.
New Music Tuesday!!!
(still playing catch up, hush.)
Taking a break from the Grammy nominations to bring you something totally new. Anyone else wonder, like I do, where Norah Jones goes when she's gone? Welp, this is her country side project that I am just now getting educated on.
This album is, as David Letterman will describe it in one of our videos, "a country album with a collection from The American Songbook." This is all covers, but all their own arrangements. And the songs they picked to record? Whew, no, these are not necessarily the hits, but maybe they should have been.
This is actually their second album, but it's been a decade for them overall. The fact that these guys can still come together and just do this out of wanting to enjoy it and have a good time together is awesome.
Here's the EPK they posted. Really cool getting to know them and how they work together.
The first track is Ralph Stanley's "I Worship You," and this is the Dave Letterman video I was talking about - their performance from it. Just listen and get a taste.
Gah, okay, I've got to say, it's a little hokey, but that was fun. Really a hugely different sound then I would have ever expected from her, but really cool to hear her voice's take on this.
Next up is Scott Wisemann's "Remember Me." Norah lends her smooth bluesy voice to this, bringing country back to a place we used to know long ago. This isn't the stuff you hear on country radio or see on CMT anymore. It's very simple and classic, allowing the instruments and voices to do their jobs in their own ways.
"Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves," originally from Cal Martin, is supposed to the be fun song on the album. While it does possess this Beverly Hillbillies sound, it is really a well done song. The lead male vocals take control in telling the story, while Norah takes on this echo of the woman's response to the happenings.
For the next track, I pulled this cool performance video from NYC. It's pretty raw and I think y'all will enjoy it:
Cliff Friend and Irving Mills' "Lovesick Blues" is pretty much everything you'd expect. There's a slight yodel added in to parts to really draw out the pain. It's really just a straight forward love blues song without any twists about it. The whole number feels entirely natural.
"Tommy Rockwood" from the band's very own Jim Campilongo is the song that Dan mentioned earlier he wanted to arrange as an instrumental for the band. You can tell that this is solely a number for them to jam out to and enjoy their time together on. It just keeps moving and building altogether without the slightest bit of jarring.
The lovely Loretta Lynn's got a song next, "Fist City." She's always had a little bit of badass to her and a rock feel to her music, and Norah takes on this one in a great way. This has the potential of the girl without the piano just being able to rock on stage and tell him off, whoever "him" is. This was definitely a sleeper chick-rock song that any indie girl out there would get a great kick out of.
"Permanently Lonely," originally from Willie Nelson, is such a classic. This group gives it just enough of its own sound that it's just right for today and still a great tribute. It remains simple with the piano taking lead and a very light drum backing. For as sad as it sounds, it's such a good empowerment song, even if it may be getting sung out of denial. Ah the tangles of love.
I would have sworn they were the White Stripes on "Fowl Out On The Prowl" from Quincy Jones, Alan Bergman, and Marilyn Bergman. There's that weird dark sound to it without being evil. They've got great control over their own voices and setting the tone of the song completely. The Pink Panther-like instrumentals just make it a great, mysterious number.
"Wide Open Road" from good ol' Johnny Cash is just right. Listen to that music break in the middle - it's classic. It's country. It's perfection in terms of what this calls for. Notice that none of this album is whiney or too honkey-tonk. It's a tribute without loosing what makes this band enjoyable on their own merit.
The legend, Kris Kristofferson, wrote the title track, "For The Good Times." I remember him winning a lifetime achievement award at the CMT awards while I was in the audience, and not knowing who the heck he was. Then I did some research, and this guy's got some chops. The Little Willies do him great justice in this sad, but moving song of remembrance. It's hitting a little hard.
"If You've Got The Money I've Got The Time" is from Lefty Frizzel and Jeff Beck, and this is maybe a little honkey, and I have a hard time when comparing people to Jeff Beck. It's a good song though, a really good job done by the band. It's fun and serves that purpose as it should.
Who ever expected Dolly Parton to have a dark sounding song? We end the album with a cover of her classic, "Jolene" which the band has posted with this retro sweet performance video:
How they are classified as country is a mystery to me, but if that's the case, man, they have taken it in a totally different direction than expected. This is so classy and and gorgeous, with such dark tones. Excellent homage to Dolly and a nice way to round out the album as a whole.
Stuff I Wouldn't Mind Hearing Again:
This was really well done. Seriously, the entire album felt like a jam session, which is basically how the band describes it. Everything was so simple, yet heartfelt, with a raw power that you don't get to hear in over-produced albums. What an excellent side project for them all, and how lucky we are to get to experience it.
I was, admittedly, a big Kid Rock fan back in the day. In fact, I can't think of his name without hearing it the way they yell its in "Cowboy."
I knew dude was taking a turn in the last few years with the songs he's done with Uncle Kracker and Sheryl Crow, and I mean, good for him - he's trying out different things, maybe even growing up a little. He is 40 years old after all... But I may need to listen to "American Badass" to remember why I loved this guy years ago.
This is his 8th album and the very first to not bear a "Parental Advisory" sticker on the front. There is absolutely no need.
You'll see what I mean as we go through the track-by-track:
"Born Free," the title track, kicks things off. And immediately, you hear that this is going to be much more southern-American-rock than what we're used to from this guy. The lyrics speak of the big ticket items we think of in the USA, and the guitar screams Fourth of July. Woo. You embrace those roots buddy. All the way from Detroit. Here's the video:
We continue on this southern piano rock ride with "Slow My Roll." The only thing classic Kid about this is the voice itself, with it's really scratchy strained nature that makes him him. This is a sweet song, but I think it may be his explanation for the different sound in this album than the previous ones. He's definitely slowing things down for a different kind fo audience now, in a different kind of mindset.
I've heard this before somewhere, and really like it: "Care (feat. Martina McBride & T.I.)." There's a few things I love here: the gentle nature of the song lends itself to all settings, even a slower moment in one of his older concerts; Martina is a powerhouse and wonderful and I would have never seen this duet coming, let alone a trio with T.I.; lyrically, this is so good for today. You want to make a difference? Start by making this your theme. "Well I can't change the world and make things fair; the least that I can do is care." Here's a music video that was release for it, but doesn't include Martina... -_-
Bah. "Purple Sky," you fail to entertain me at all. It's a very highway-rock song, which is cool, but it doesn't have the flair that the greats have. I'm already getting bored with the sound of every song being far too similar here. I know this guy is better than this.
"When It Rains" is a very sad song, using the classic cliche, "when it rains it pours." While it's not one I want to hear regularly, this is one has been added to my new "Hard Times" playlist of music I need for depressing times. Yeah, I know, boo emo kid. But who doesn't need something like this?
"God Bless Saturday" is probably my favorite song on this album. It's the perfect blend of what we loved about this guy back in the early 2000s, and his new attempt at a different sound. And it's a good party song without those damn dance beats from a computer that drive me so crazy. I promise this will be playing next time I'm getting ready to go out on a weekend.
From the best to the worst, next up we have "Collide (feat. Sheryl Crow & Bob Seger [on piano])." I should probably mention that I despise Sheryl Crow for reasons I don't know how to explain. I like a lot of her songs - when they're done by other people. I don't like hearing her though (even though she has a decent voice), and I didn't want to hear her on this album. Regardless, I'll include their official video released for it:
Plus, the song is boring and whiny and I'm over it about 30 seconds in.
"Flyin' High (feat. Zac Brown)" is next. I really like Zac Brown Band on a casual listening basis, and it was nice to hear this familiar voice again. This is kind of an homage to home I guess, and it's a nice laid-back number. Really nicely done and a sweet collaboration.
"Times Like These" is another all-American song, but I like this one better than the others that have been coming up. It's more about working through things and enjoying them for what they are. You've got to embrace what you've got, kind of attitude. "It makes us who we are." Just a generally good message anytime in life.
I was expecting "Rock On" to be pretty old school and get us up and moving and enjoying it all. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. It's the slowest damn song on the album. Please put me to sleep now. Seriously, I just went through and deleted about 20 emails and it's still not over...
"Rock Bottom Blues" is a nice one. I know Rock had been embracing his Southern side in the past couple years, and this is a good display and thank you to all he's learned. It's got a great beat and that old muddy water background group keeping it going. Harmonicas abound. Good times.
Wait, where did this voice come from in "For the First Time [In A Long Time]"? It's way too high pitched, and yet I know it's still Kid singing. I would adore this song if it weren't for the voice range on it. Take it down like 2 octaves and I'd be more comfortable. There's just no reason for it, so I'm confused and unhappy.
"Care (Demo Version)" ends out the album, which I enjoy equally as much as the one with Martina. There's another singer there who has such soul, and gives it a completely different but equally wonderful feel. It's just great all around, again.
Stuff I Wouldn't Mind Hearing Again: (and can actually put on my playlist since this album's on Spotify!)
4/13. Okay, numerically, I didn't enjoy this album much. Hell, altogether I didn't enjoy it all that much. But there are a few gems that I'm really happy I pulled out of the dirt here.
Look, it's not that Kid Rock did anything wrong on this album or by taking a new route. I like a lot of what he attempted here, but a lot of it sounds all the same. I'm just bored by the same sounds over and over, and without lyrics that vary either, you're creating a boring atmosphere for the listener. They need more to grab on to for different states of mind.
And for the love of God Rock, if you're going to take a new musical turn, please wash your hair - it's the one really non-fitting personal trait about this whole venture.
Before you head out for the night, share your thoughts!!!