My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Charlie Robison

Single Review – Kenny Chesney – ‘El Cerrito Place’

There’ve essentially been two Kenny Chesneys of late – the artistic mastermind (“You and Tequila,” “Somewhere With You”) and the commercial lightweight (“Live A Little,” “Feel Like A Rock Star”) with each coexisting somewhat seamlessly amongst each other. After three singles categorized as lightweight, it was time for his artistic side to rear its head. But when I heard said single was Keith Gattis’ “El Cerrito Place” I was nervous.

I’ve been a big fan of Charlie Robison’s 2004 reading, with Natalie Maines providing gorgeous backing vocals. Their voices melt together like a pure Texas dream, while the production smartly stays out-of-the-way allowing both to shine. More importantly there’s grit in Robison’s voice that allows him to convey the nuances in the story so that you believe him as the song’s protagonist.

But after ten years of stadium tours and album after album of odes to beachfront life, Chesney has lost the sense of how to appropriately covey a song like this. He sounds completely foreign singing in his lower register, like a comedic actor trying to show dramatic range. He finally morphs into the Kenny Chesney we’re all familiar with by the first chorus, but Buddy Cannon frames him with a bombastic production that turns “El Cerrito Place” into the typical generic single, not the emotionally wrought tale it was in Robison’s capable hands. Even the female backing vocals, reuniting Chesney with his “You and Tequila” partner Grace Potter, are lost in the sea of sound.

It’s all a shame because Gattis’ song is wonderful, and I was so looking forward to Chesney turning in a killer recording that would help to elevate the standards of country radio for the time it was in heavy rotation, in much the same way Tim McGraw and Faith Hill did with “Angry All The Time” in 2001. He’s shown he’s fully capable of turning in phenomenal performances on this type of emotionally wrought material in the past, but I guess those days are firmly in the rearview mirror.

Grade: C+ 

Year In Review: J.R. Journey’s Top 10 Albums of 2009

As with my favorite singles of the year list, finding ten albums from 2009 that I really loved wasn’t as big a task as I first expected it to be, but narrowing it down and placing them was the real chore.  I’ve certainly been more influenced by the various blogs and sites I read this year than I ever have before – the influence of sites like The 9513, Country Universe, The Gobbler’s Knob, etc. are definitely showing here.  Not to mention, I’ve picked up lots of great music from the suggestions of my fellow writers here at My Kind of Country.  In case you missed any of them, they’re all worth adding to your collection, and here my ten favorite albums from the past twelve months.

10. EP – Caitlin & Will (Sony)

The debut release from the winners of CMT’s Can You Duet turned out to be a six-song digital EP instead of a full album in CD form.  A varied collection of songs that, in my opinion, is very focused, especially for two singers who were thrown together on a reality show.  Caitlin’s crystal clear vocals provide the perfect balance to Will Snyder’s husky delivery.  There were several great songs on here, and no throwaways.  Check out ‘Even Now’, ‘Leaves of September’, and ‘Dark Horse’.

9. Live On The Inside – Sugarland (Mercury)

Sugarland’s recent live set follows the CD/DVD combo form.  I was a little disappointed that the full show with all their hits wasn’t also the audio CD.  The DVD serves the live album’s purpose – to capture their hits in concert, and the result is a full-blown Sugarland show, complete with all their hits, hamster balls and all.  Rather than being an audio form of that show, the CD features several tracks not found on the DVD, mostly all covers of pop and rock songs from the past 20-something years.  Some I could do without, but the real gems like ‘Circle’ and ‘Better Man’, where Nettles puts her own distinctive vocal stamp on these rock hits, are a real treat.  Their country spin on Beyonce’s ‘Irreplaceable’ is more enjoyable than it probably should be and Kristian does a fine job when he takes a turn at lead on ‘The One I Love’.

8. Twang – George Strait (MCA)

The latest offering from King George finds him stepping outside his comfort zone with off-beat tracks like ‘Arkansas Dave’ and the all-Spanish ‘El Rey’.  Showing up as a co-writer on 3 of the album’s tracks is also a fairly new development for Strait, but judging from the quality of the material he wrote with Dean Dillon and his son, Bubba Strait, I’m hoping George picks up his pen more often, and also takes more chances musically, with his next album.  For now, I’m still enjoying spinning this one.

7. Beautiful Day – Charlie Robison (Dualtone)

When Charlie Robison and Dixie Chicks banjo-playing, multi-instrumentalist Emily Irwin Robison divorced in 2008, the Texas singer/songwriter poured his misery into this collection of songs.  Robison sings here of regrets, heartache, and moving on, all with a tinge of sadness and even a touch of reluctance.  Favorite tracks include ‘Down Again’ and ‘Reconsider’.

6. Sing: Chapter 1 -Wynonna (Curb)

Since leaving The Judds and going solo, Wynonna’s sound has changed a lot over the years.  We’ve heard her incorporating sounds from R&B, pop, rock, jazz, and everything in between.  A collection of classic songs from several genres, with one new song in the way of the title track written by Rodney Crowell, Sing is an interesting and at times inspired collection. Wynonna’s ferocious delivery is front and center the entire time, always reminding us that Wynonna Judd is the owner of one of the finest voices of our time.

5. My Turn – Tanya Tucker (Saguaro Road)

I rightly called 2009 ‘the year of the tribute’ earlier in the year, and looking over my top albums of the year list, I think I made a justifiable generalization since so many of my favorite artists released albums looking back and paying tribute to the classic songs that country music was built on.  Tanya’s covers album was just a step above Wynonna’s mostly for the arrangements behind the songs.  While Wynonna took the songs, changed them up, and made them something different, Tanya took a straightforward approach, and simply infused her patented vocals into these tried and true songs, injecting her personality into them at the same time.  I find myself playing this one more than I expected to, especially ‘Love’s Gonna Live Here’ and ‘You Don’t Know Me’.

4. Keep On Loving You – Reba (Valory)

I admit this is an album that took time to grow on me before I really loved it.  After the first couple listens to Reba’s first album for her new record label, I was a bit disappointed.   I expected more in the way of going back to the classic Reba sound.  But Reba has never been an artist to look back, but instead forges ahead with the trends of the day.  She reminded us why she’s one of the most successful and respected singers in country music’s history with this release, and tracks like ‘Over You’, ‘Maggie Creek Road’, and the chart-topping second single, ‘Consider Me Gone’, are throwbacks to the time when Reba music was golden, and her vocal performances throughout the album are engaging.  This is certainly an album with lasting power in my own library.

3. The List – Rosanne Cash (Manhattan)

The idea behind this album is fascinating in itself.  An eighteen year-old Rosanne, whose father was a bonafide superstar in country music, didn’t seem to know much about its history.  Being a good father, Johnny Cash set out to correct this, making his daughter a list of 100 essential country songs.  The entire list still hasn’t been made available for the public to see, but Rosanne did record twelve of them for her latest offering, simply titled The List.  Cash weaves through these country classics with ease and gives a contemporary interpretation to them, with the help from some of her superstar New Yorker friends like Elvis Costello, Rufus Wainwright, and Bruce Springsteen.  Choice tracks include ‘Sea of Heartbreak’ (with Springsteen), ‘Long Black Veil’, and ‘Girl From The North Country’.

2. Revolution – Miranda Lambert (Sony)

On her third studio album, Lambert has finally come into her own as an artist, and in my opinion, has reached a peak in her evolution as an artist.  Note that I said ‘a peak’ and not ‘the peak’.  While it doesn’t pack the power punch her last album, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend did, and doesn’t seem to have as clear a vision, Lambert has never been stronger as a writer or a vocalist than on Revolution.  She wrote most of the album, but she also had the good sense to draw from the wealth of material coming out of Music City and other places, and a quick glance of the liner notes shows names like Ashley Monroe, John Prine, and Julie Miller, among Lambert’s own many writes and co-writes, a couple with boyfriend Blake Shelton.  Of particular note are ‘The House That Built Me’, ‘Heart Like Mine, and ‘That’s The Way The World Goes ‘Round’.

1. The Long Way Home – Terri Clark (Bare Tracks)

Taking the top spot on my list is Terri Clark’s first independent release after freeing herself from big-label politics.  Terri had taken a sabbatical to her native Canada to care for her mother and write songs when she headed to Nashville earlier this year and recorded this set in three takes.  The result is one of the most focused albums I’ve ever heard.  Whether it was intentional, or just a facet of her state of mind at the time, Clark has taken on a more mature aura to her music and herself, imparting the sort of wisdom that only comes from experience.  ‘A Million Ways To Run’ is a beautiful and telling narrative about running from your problems.  ‘Merry Go Round’ talks of slowing down, enjoying life, and taking stock, while ‘If You Want Fire’ warns and coaches you on the ups and downs of a red-hot love affair.  Clark has never sounded better, nor has her writing been as sharp than on this introverted collection of songs.

Year In Review: J.R. Journey’s Top 10 Singles

The consensus among country bloggers and critics alike seems to be that 2009 was one of the weakest years in country music history.  I admit that I didn’t have to whittle my list down as much as I did last year, but it was still easy enough to find ten top-rate songs to call my favorites of the year.  My biggest problem was where to rank them, since I love all these songs.  I kept my list to songs that were released as singles this year – whether they charted or not.  Here’s hoping some of these are your kind of country too.

10. ‘Toes’ – Zac Brown Band

The feel-good hit of the Summer of 2009, the Zac Brown Band really won me over with this fun release.  I had already bought the album for ‘Whatever It Is’, but this third single from the group made me a huge fan.  It’s just not often we hear a fresh sound in country music these days, or acts willing to take chances with their lyrics.  With ‘Toes’, the Zac Brown Band did both, and delivered a mighty fine tune.

9. ‘Need You Now’ – Lady Antebellum

With its infectious melody and oh-so relatable lyric, Lady Antebellum had their biggest hit of the career so far with this song.  I’ll agree with the consensus that there’s not anything traditional about it, but country music has always had a place for the adult contemporary sound.  And I have too, as long as it’s quality music.  And this is quality music.

8. ‘Consider Me Gone’ – Reba

Reba’s 23rd Billboard #1 hit – and 34th overall – is a throwback to the classic 90s hits that made her a superstar.  The theme is a little tried and true, but the chorus still gives us some great lines and Reba delivers nothing less than a brilliant vocal.  This has fast become one of my favorite songs in her immense catalog.

7. ‘Reconsider’ – Charlie Robison

This dark chronicle of a relationship crumbling, which finds the narrator wondering if he’d done things different, would his lover still be with him comes from Robison’s ‘divorce album’, Beautiful Day – he was married to Dixie Chicks member Emily Irwin-Robison.  Though this track never charted on the country charts, it was released, and it’s a shame radio wouldn’t play it.  We sorely need deep, cerebral songs like this to balance out the top 40 playlists.

6. ‘Sing’ – Wynonna

The title cut, and only new track, on Wynonna’s most recent covers album, this Rodney Crowell-written tune sounds like it was written specifically for the singer.  It’s message of hope and looking on the bright side fits Wynonna’s daily platitudes for living lifestyle perfectly, while lines like ‘Sing it like you hear it/Like you have no need to fear it now’ remind us it’s from the pen of a master.

5. ‘Keep The Change’ – Holly Williams

Everybody loves ‘Mama’, the universally-acclaimed track from Williams’ critics-favorite Here With Me album.  I have to admit I was highly impressed and very surprised that I liked the album so much.  I just didn’t expect this much in the way of an alt.country album from the granddaughter of Hank Williams.  Guess I shouldn’t have underestimated that Williams bloodline.  Getting back to the song at hand, I was drawn more to this track than any other on the set because of its message of I’m-hitting-the-road.  The entire chorus is worthy of quoting, but I’ll just leave you with ‘It’s been a long time comin’/I’m jumpin’ off this reckless pity train‘ and hope you want to hear more.

4. ‘Even Now’ – Caitlin & Will

I just knew these two were destined for stardom when Sony released ‘Even Now’ to radio.  It was smart, well-performed, and had actual adult fare. Before it had a chance to climb, the duo was out on a radio tour promoting the single, when radio programmers supposedly flipped over the song ‘Address In The Stars’ a syrupy three-act story song about, you guessed it, death.  This prompted the label release that instead.  Too bad, since ‘Even Now’ was one of the best singles of the year, and one I think could have really made a name for the Can You Duet-winning duo.  Fate wasn’t on their side I guess, as even the second single – the one radio programmers flipped over – didn’t get any airplay either, and thus ended their recording career.  We haven’t heard anything from them since – and a quick glance at their website and MySpace page shows no news.

3. ‘Drunk Dialer’ – Miss Leslie

Miss Leslie has been one of my favorites since I got my copy of her last album, Between the Whiskey and the Wine.  This year, she didn’t release an entire album of new material, but she did give us this excellent tune about the friend who always calls you up, repeatedly, ‘begging you to join her at the local dive’.  Some of us relate as the dialing friend, and some as the friend on the receiving end of the calls.  Either way, it’s a great listen, and one of my favorites of the year.

2. ‘If You Want Fire’ – Terri Clark

Terri gave us one of the best albums of the year, so it’s only natural one of the singles from that release would find its way to the upper reaches of my singles list.  This melody-driven tune, released only in Canada, is just a real lyrical treat with a great hook. Spoken like someone who’s been burned a time or two herself, Terri imparts a bit of wisdom she’s picked up, ‘If you gotta have it, all that madness and  passion, then you’ll learn/If you want fire, it better be worth the burn.’

1. ‘Breaking Apart’ – Chris Isaak (with Trisha Yearwood)

The ‘rock star next door’ released his 13th album this year, titled Mr Lucky.  The finest track on that set is a sweet duet with Trisha Yearwood called ‘Breaking Apart’.  This also got zero love from country radio, but is as fine a country song as I’ve heard the past 12 months.  Yearwood’s smooth and always pitch-perfect harmonies compliment Isaak’s own, whether he’s in tenor or falsetto.  As the pair take turns trading lines on the verses, we find Yearwood in the company of the best duet partner she’s ever taken on IMO, and I’m sure the same can be said for Isaak.

Super Summer Giveaway

Update: We hope everybody enjoyed our John Anderson coverage for July and hope you’ll be sticking around as we sort through Reba’s catalog this month.  And thanks to everybody who entered our giveaway.  A chance to win Reba’s new album is just around the corner.  The winners names are next to the album you won below.  Congratulations and check your inboxes soon!

The dog days of Summer are here.  The mercury is shooting up and the only place to be is ‘on a creek bank layin’ in the shade’.

In hopes of making the sticky Summer a little more pleasant for you, My Kind of Country is announcing our Super Summer Giveaway.  We’ve put together a prize package of seven great country CDs to give away to seven lucky winners.  Thanks to various means, we have hits packages from George Jones and our spotlight artist John Anderson as well as the latest albums from Charlie Robison and Adam Hood.

giveaway-JAsuper dale schmucker John Anderson - Super Hits … This Sony release contains most of John’s hits from his 1990s comeback like ‘Straight Tequila Night’, ‘Seminole Wind’, ‘I Wish I Could Have Been There’, and more.  His biggest hit to date is also included, a re-recording of 1982′s ‘Swingin’.

giveaway-JAgreatest Kathy P John Anderson – Greatest Hits … John Anderson’s career with Warner Brothers is highlighted here.  ‘She Just Started Liking Cheating Songs’, ‘Wild and Blue’, and ‘Black Sheep’ are just a few of the stone-country classics on this set.

giveaway-AHdifferent Jessica, Jordan Stacey Adam Hood - Different Groove … Adam wrote or co-wrote each of the 10 songs on this set, 5 of them with producer Pete Anderson.  Tight playing and clever lyrics drive this sophomore set from the Alabama native.  Two winners will each get a copy.

giveaway-CRbeautiful Amanda, plain_jo Charlie Robison – Beautiful Day … The latest from the Texas music titan chronicles his divorce from Dixie Chick Emily (Irwin) Robison. Read The 9513′s review. Two winners will also get a copy.

giveaway-GJsuper Melvyn George Jones – Super Hits …  Finally, to round out our giveaway, these are The Possums’s best -loved hits.  From ‘White Lightning’ to ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ to ‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes’, this is George Jones at his apex.

What’s your favorite Summer memory?  Or your favorite song about the Summer time.

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