My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Montgomery Gentry

Album Review: Tracy Byrd – ‘The Truth About Men’

truthaboutmenBy 2003, Tracy Byrd was struggling to remain commercially viable so he and co-producer Billy Joe Walker, Jr. took a three-pronged approach for his RCA swan song,The Truth About Men, which combines the neotraditional sounds for which he had become well known with more contemporary material and a pair of novelty songs that they hoped would allow them to further capitalize on the success of the prior year’s #1 hit “Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo”.

First out of the box was the tongue-in-cheek but blatantly honest title track that bravely declares how men (allegedy) really feel: “We ain’t wrong, we ain’t sorry, and it’s probably gonna happen again.” Written by Paul Overstreet with Rory Lee Feek and Tim Johnson, and with guest vocals provided by Andy Griggs, Blake Shelton and Montgomery Gentry, “The Truth About Men” didn’t reach the lofty heights of “Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo”, peaking at #13. And no doubt everyone involved had some explaining to do to their wives. Novelty tunes tend to wear thin after repeated listenings, but this is a fun song that I’ve always enjoyed. The follow-up single, “Drinkin’ Bone”, which is one part novelty tune and one part party song, fared much better. It landed at #7, marking the last time that Byrd would chart inside the Top 10. Playing it safe and pandering to radio’s growing interest in less substantive songs, RCA released the Carribbean-flavored “How’d I Wind Up In Jamaica”. The production is a bit cluttered on this one and by the time of its release, Byrd was on his way out at RCA, so the single received little promotion and stalled at #53. A missed opportunity was the Rodney Crowell composition “Making Memories of Us”, which should have been released as a single. Byrd’s version is much better than the version Keith Urban took to #1 two years later.

The rest of the album is a mixed bag. The steamy “You Feel Good” is my least favorite song on the album. I admit to being put off by the reference to Byrd sleeping in the nude in the opening line, and that made me really not want to listen much to the rest of the song, but the real problem is that it requires a more soulful performance than Byrd delivers. Conway Twitty could probably have made this song work. “That’s What Keeps Her Getting By” and “When You Go” are attempts to move along with the musical times but both are forgettable filler, as is the power ballad “Somewhere I Wanna Go”. On the other hand, I quite enjoyed the Keith Stegall-penned “Tiny Town” and “Baby Put Your Clothes On”, which was written by Paul Overstreet, Bill Anderson, and Buddy Cannon. Not surprisingly, Byrd is at his best when he’s singing more traditional songs.

The album closes with a live version of “Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo”, which not surprisingly works well in a concert setting.

The Truth About Men marks the end of the major-label phase of Tracy Byrd’s career. It was a modest success, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart but it failed to earn gold certification. It isn’t his very best work, but it contains enough worthwhile songs to warrant purchasing a cheap used copy.

Grade: B

Week ending 7/5/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

vern1954 (Sales): I Don’t Hurt Anymore — Hank Snow (RCA)

1954 (Jukebox): Slowly – Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): Even Tho — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1964: My Heart Skips A Beat — Buck Owens (Capitol)

1974: Room Full of Roses –Mickey Gilley (Playboy)

1984: I Can Tell By The Way You Dance (You’re Gonna Love Me Tonight) — Vern Gosdin (Compleat)

1994: Wink – Neal McCoy (Atlantic)

2004: If You Ever Stop Loving Me — Montgomery Gentry (Columbia)

2014: : Play It Again — Luke Bryan (Capitol)

2014 (Airplay): Lettin’ The Night Roll — Justin Moore (Valory)

ACM Award predictions

The Academy of Country Music is announcing its annual awards live on TV on Sunday. Here are our predictions and hopes for the ceremony:

Entertainer of the Year

Jason Aldean
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton
Taylor Swift

Jonathan: First off, let the Carrie Underwood backlash begin. And end. I agree with the fans who love her, but she didn’t make enough of a splash in 2011 to be considered here. At least you need to release a solo single. I agree with this list as it features most of the big players in country music right now. I would’ve included Zac Brown Band here as musicianship should win out over star power. But I can’t say any of these artists don’t deserve it from a numbers perspective.
Will Win: Taylor Swift – it’s still a fan voted award and she has the largest fan base for these kinds of contests.
Should Win: Blake Shelton – not because of his radio hits but because he’s the only one here to ascend to the next level in 2011. He makes country music look cool on The Voice, too. He may not have a strong catalog of singles but we could do far worse in Hollywood’s ideal of country music.

OH: I think I would also lean to Blake Shelton here. Chesney, Aldean and Swift have all had bigger tours and more impressive sales, but Blake has been representing country music to a mass audience thanks to his TV exposure. However, this being a fan-voted category, I think Taylor Swift will be Sunday’s winner, with only the fast-rising rocker Jason Aldean likely to challenge.

Razor X: Taylor Swift has this one in the bag, as it’s fan voted again this year.

Note: Voting is still open for anyone who wants to make their contribution. Read more of this post

Single Review: Terri Clark – ‘Girls Lie Too’

One of Terri’s biggest hit singles never appeared on a studio album, but was one of the new tracks included to persuade fans to purchase a Greatest Hits compilation in 2004. It can now also be downloaded individually. It was her second #1, but sadly her last really big hit single.

Answer songs have a long tradition in country music, but have fallen out of favor in the past 20 years. But at least thematically, this hit single was definitely an answer song to Tracy Byrd’s hilarious 2003 hit ‘The Truth About Men’ (written by Paul Overstreet, Rory Lee Feek and Tim Johnson), which revealed some of the white lies employed to keep gender relations on an even keel within a romantic relationship.

Written by Connie Harrington, Kelley Lovelace and Tim Nichols, this sardonic response putting the feminine point of view is a bit heavy-handed in comparison, and has a less interesting tune and rather loud production. Where the original didn’t take itself altogether seriously, but combined a self-deprecating sense of fun with a grain of truth which most men and women would recognise, this song feels as though it is trying a little too hard to prove a point. Terri’s energetic and committed vocal helps to sell the song, perhaps better than anyone else could have done, but despite being one of her biggest radio successes, it is not one of her best moments on record.

Byrd’s record recruited Blake Shelton, Andy Griggs and Montgomery Gentry to help out, and perhaps Terri’s song would have worked better with a similar playful chorus of female stars.

Grade: B

But the song at amazon.

CMA award nominees, 2010: setting the stage

It’s awards time again, with this year’s CMA awards being announced next week. We’ll share our predictions on Monday, but meanwhile here’s a reminder of who is nominated and why. The nominations this year have a few new faces showing up in unexpected places. The big questions of this year’s show will be whether Miranda Lambert will dominate the night as she has the nominations list. Whatever happens, outraged fans are likely to complain that their favorite has been “snubbed”, or someone else has won undeservedly.

Entertainer of the Year
Lady Antebellum
Miranda Lambert
Brad Paisley
Keith Urban
Zac Brown Band

Last year’s controversial winner Taylor Swift was snubbed altogether in this category this year – perhaps partly because of the backlash after her clean sweep last time, but also because she released little during the nomination period. Instead, the category sees no less than three first-time nominees: critical flavor of the month Miranda Lambert (who leads nominations overall), and the two hottest bands of recent years, Lady Antebellum and the Zac Brown Band, who are among the few current artists to be selling in the millions. They join Keith Urban (the only former winner to be in the running this time) and our own current Spotlight Artist Brad Paisley, who has been nominated every year since 2005 but is so far without the trophy.

Male Vocalist
Dierks Bentley
Brad Paisley
Blake Shelton
George Strait
Keith Urban

Brad Paisley has won this award for the past three years, and Keith Urban took it home for the three years prior to that. Both men are still scoring regular #1 hit singles and selling well, but is it time for another change at the top? There are two first-time nominees, Dierks Bentley, rewarded by the CMA for his artistic ambition even though country radio has been reluctant to embrace the singles from his bluegrass-inspired Up On The Ridge, and Blake Shelton, who is becoming a regular fixture at the top of the charts. The evergreen George Strait, meanwhile, seems to be nominated virtually every year, but hasn’t won since 1998 (his third year in a row – he also has a couple of trophies from the 80s).

Female Vocalist
Miranda Lambert
Martina McBride
Reba McEntire
Taylor Swift
Carrie Underwood

Last year’s winner Taylor Swift gets another nod, recognizing her commercial preeminence despite a series of woeful live TV performances – including at last year’s CMA awards show. She faces pop-country queen Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert, who had a massive breakthrough this year, and is the only one of these ladies to be nominated in the Entertainer category. Reba McEntire, the oldest nominee, is still contending on the charts, but the fifth nominee, Martina McBride, seems to be merely filling out the category, as she has not had a good year commercially or critically.

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The truth behind the music

A few pieces of news struck me last week. Apparently the new biography of Buck Owens paints him as a sometime-unscrupulous businessman, and Sugarland lead singer Jennifer Nettles’ comments on former band member Kristen Hall’s contributions to the band make her sound more than a little arrogant. A little earlier in the week, John Berry admitted to having been “a rude and arrogant individual who wasn’t much of a team player, I’m afraid. It was my own fault that they dumped me off the label”. Much as I would like to believe all my favorite artists are nice people, I fear he is unlikely to have been unique.

So that conjunction led me to think about how our perception of an artist’s personality affects our appreciation of their music. My gut reaction was that art is not an aspect of morality, but thinking about it more seriously -and honestly – it is a more complex issue. For me, it depends in part on how much I liked the music to start with.

Both George Jones and Keith Whitley were destructive alcoholics who must have been very difficult to live with in real life. Knowing that does not affect my love of their often sublime music at all. George in particular actually used his alcoholism to create great music many times, in classic songs like ‘A Drunk Can’t Be A Man’, right up to ‘Ol’ George Stopped Drinking Today’. After he sobered up he even felt able to refer back jokingly to that period in songs like ‘No Show Jones’ and the video for ‘Honky Tonk Song’.

In contrast, I’ve never been able to think kindly of Troy Gentry since the tame bear-killing incident. But I was never a big fan of Montgomery Gentry to start with – I quite liked some of their singles but they never made it to my purchase list. Their chart success does not seem to have been much affected by the controversy – unlike the reaction of some Dixie Chicks fans to their political storm.

It has been suggested that Sara Evans’ messy divorce contributed to her slowing career in the last few years, and the breakdown of LeAnn Rimes’ marriage, and that of her new boyfriend, has attracted a lot of online opprobrium. Only a minority of country stars seem to find divorce hurts them professionally; perhaps it depends on the level of publicity, and who is perceived to be at fault, or perhaps it depends partly on their fans’ level of investment in their public persona?

Country music is so often rooted in real experience that sympathising with an artist’s real-life tribulations often feeds into our appreciation of their music – think of Loretta Lynn’s autobiographical songs about living with a philandering husband and Tammy Wynette’s many tales of marital breakdown which mirrored her own chequered marital career. There is an added frisson listening to Vern Gosdin’s deeply sad Alone album knowing it was largely inspired by the collapse of his marriage. Hearing that an artist wrote a particular love song for his or her spouse (for instance, when Trace Adkins wrote ‘The Rest Of Mine’ for his wedding) often makes it strike home with a little more emotional force. But then if the relationship fails, does the song stand on its own? I confess personally to finding Vince Gill’s ‘I Still Believe In You’ less resonant as a love song after he left his first wife (for whom it had been written) – but my own reaction is also colored by that song’s conection for me with a failed relationship of my own. Many years later, I can appreciate the song’s beauty again in its own right.

In parallel with these thougts about whether an artist’s bad behavior affects how their music is perceived, I have noticed that many younger fans appear to believe that their special favorite should be immune from criticism because of that artist’s sterling character. Personally, I think being either a nice person or a total jerk does not affect musical ability – although either may conceivably limit someone’s ability to convey a full range of emotions in a song. But what we know about the background does often affect us, sometimes subliminally.

What do you think? Have you ever soured on an artist because of their offstage actions?

ACM Awards: My Kind Of Country’s predictions

It’s award time again, with the Academy of Country Music due to hand out its trophies for achievements during 2009 on Sunday April 18. Here are our predictions of the likely winners:

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
This category is fan-voted this year (as it has been for the last couple of years). This year, though, the number of nominees has been substantially increased.

Kenny Chesney
Toby Keith
Brad Paisley
George Strait
Taylor Swift: our unanimous pick
Carrie Underwood
Keith Urban
Zac Brown Band

Occasional Hope: Fan-voted. No further comment required.
Razor X: Since this is a fan-voted award, the only two serious contenders are Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. Underwood won last year, and since Swift has had a more successful year, I’m going to predict that the momentum is in her favor.
J.R. Journey: I think she’s ahead of the pack in this race by a large enough margin to safely call her the early winner. With it being fan-voted yet again, Taylor’s younger, internet-savvy fan-base would give her the edge even if she didn’t already have it.
Meg: Taylor will get it due to fan voting, and it’s not as though she hasn’t worked equally hard as the other nominees, or harder.

TOP MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley: J.R., Meg
Darius Rucker: Occasional Hope
George Strait: Razor X

Keith Urban

Meg: Brad’s got this one. He’s come into his own as a performer, writer, and entertainer with great musicianship and great vocals.
J.R.: Major tours, a critically acclaimed album and an impressive run of chart-topping singles are just Brad’s commercial qualifications for his victory here. When he wants to be, he’s also a mighty fine statesman and torch-bearer for traditional country.
Razor: After three consecutive wins in this category for Brad Paisley, I’m guessing that the Academy will want to give this award to someone else this year. Urban is the only serious competition.
OH: If Darius wins it will be seen as a surprise victory, but I think he just could get it. He does have an interesting tone, has scored some big radio hits, and sold exceptionally well. And it all seems to be about commercial impact these days. Plus, you need at least one surprise at any award show.

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Decade in Review: Occasional Hope’s Top 50 Singles

Inevitably, anyone’s list of their favorite singles of the decade is going to be more mainstream-oriented than one of the best albums over the same period, just because independent artists are less likely to get their singles played on radio, and they tend to release fewer. My list doesn’t consist solely of hits, but a good proportion did get the success they deserved.

50. I Still Miss Someone - Martina McBride featuring Dolly Parton.
Martina recruited Dolly Parton to sing harmonies on her cover of this Johnny Cash classic on her Timeless album in 2006. It didn’t appeal to country radio, but it is a lovely recording.

49. How Do You Like Me Now?! - Toby Keith
The only song where Toby Keith managed to exercise his giant ego yet seem appealing at the same time. This #1 hit from 2000 is meanspirited but somehow irresistible. The video’s a bit heavy-handed, though.

48. I Hope You Dance - Lee Ann Womack
The enormous crossover success of Lee Ann’s signature song in 2000 set her on the wrong path musically for a while, but that doesn’t detract from the song itself, a lovely touching offering to LeeAnn’s daughter, featuring additional vocals from the Sons of the Desert.

47. You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This - Toby Keith
Toby is a very hit-and-miss artist for me, but he makes his second apearance in this list with my favorite of his singles, the tender realization on the dancefloor that a friend might be turning into a romantic interest. It was another #1 hit, this time in 2001. It has another terribly conceived video, though.

46. The Truth About Men - Tracy Byrd
Tracy Byrd recruited Blake Shelton, Andy Griggs and Montgomery Gentry to sing on this comic song about gender differences. Of course it’s not universally true – but it’s quite true enough to be funny. The single was a #13 hit in 2003, and is one of the few singles of recent years to inspire an answer song – Terri Clark’s ‘Girls Lie Too’, which was an even bigger hit the following year but has worn less well.

45. I Wish - Jo Dee Messina
Jo Dee Messina’s glossy pop-country was very accomplished but not always to my taste. But I did love this relatively subdued ballad which appeared only on her Greatest Hits album in 2003, and reached #15 on Billboard, with its neat twist as the protagonist bravely wishes her ex best, before admitting, “I wish you still loved me”.

44. Does My Ring Burn Your Finger - Lee Ann Womack
This biting reproach to a cheating spouse, written by Buddy and Julie Miller, was the best moment on Lee Ann’s bigselling I Hope You Dance. It was the least successful single from it, however, only reaching #23 in 2001.

43. Long Black Train – Josh Turner
Josh is one of the few traditionally oriented artists currently on a major label, although he has often recorded material which is not quite worthy of his resonant deep voice. His debut single was a heavily allusive religious song about sin which, although it only got to #13 in 2003, really established him as a star.

42. One More Day – Diamond Rio
A #1 hit from 2001 about bereavement and longing for more time with the loved one who has been lost, this touching song has heartfelt vocals and lovely harmonies from one of the best groups in country music over the past 20 years.

41. Another Try – Josh Turner and Trisha Yearwood
A classy ballad about hoping for better luck in love from two of the best mainstream singers around, this reached #15 in 2008, but should have been a #1.

40. I Still Sing This Way – Daryle Singletary
In 2002 Daryle had a single out called ‘That’s Why I Sing This Way’ (written by Max D Barnes) declaring himself a real country singer (“Mama whupped me with a George Jones record, that’s why I sing this way”). Five years later Daryle himself co-wrote this sequel, which I like even more, as he looks wryly at the music industry’s demands for glitz and glamor. He tells his manager he’s fine with a change of image – but he can’t change the way he sings.

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Album Review: Brooks and Dunn – ‘Tight Rope’

Tight RopeThe duo’s sixth studio album, 1999’s Tight Rope, saw them in bit of a rut. After a string of multi-platinum sellers, this album remains their only studio effort to date (apart from their latest, Cowboy Town) not to be classified platinum, and none of the three singles was a really big hit. Each of the previous albums had elicited five singles, with all but two making the top ten, with a good proportion hitting the top of the charts, until ‘South of Santa Fe’ had faltered outside the top 40 just before the release of Tight Rope. Poor Kix never got another single released after this catastrophic failure.

This really is an album of two halves. Not only did Kix and Ronnie divide the vocal leads fairly evenly, they contributed six songs each as writers, each singing lead on his own songs, with Ronnie also getting a bonus cover. Furthermore, although the duo are credited as co-producers throughout, one suspects this was a matter of courtesy. Kix’s tracks were co-produced by old friend Don Cook, but Ronnie’s were co-produced by Byron Gallimore at another studio. All the singles came from Ronnie’s half. As a whole the album sounds their most pop-influenced to date.

Only three singles came from Tight Rope, and the first two failed to crack the top 10. ‘Missing You’, a 1980s pop cover, reached #15. The arrangement may have been a little too pop for country radio, with its whispery call-and-response background vocals, but Ronnie’s lead vocal is excellent. The cheerful rocked-up honky tonker ‘Beer Thirty’ barely squeaked into the top 20, despite being in the same vein as many of their past successes, and the chart failure of this must have been a shock. The big declaration of love ballad ‘You’ll Always Be Loved By Me’, their only single released in the year 2000, deservedly did better, reaching #5. This was the song which provided the album title, from the line “trust is a tightrope we all have to walk”.

Ronnie is in great voice on this album. The brooding ballad ‘Hurt Train’ and the sad ‘All Out Of Love’ have a slightly pop feel, but are very well sung. ‘Goin’ Under Gettin’ Over You’, which opens the set is a fairly brisk number about getting resigned to heartbreak, which might have been better with a more subdued vocal. It did actually get a small amount of unsolicited radio airplay.

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Spotlight Artist: Brooks & Dunn

brooks & dunnIn addition to hosting the show in 2004-2006, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are also the two winningest artists in CMA Awards history. As a duo, they have collected 18 trophies, a tie with Vince Gill. But Ronnie Dunn’s solo win in 2006 for ‘Believe’ as Song of the Year tipped his total wins to a very impressive 19 total, making him the artist with the most CMA Awards. Brooks & Dunn have also won more accolades from the Academy of Country Music than any other artist in the organization’s history, as well as countless awards from Billboard, the American Music Awards, as well as two Grammy’s.  But all this came only after two unlikely partners were put together by one shrewd record executive.  Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks had been paying dues for years to reach that level of superstardom.

A teenager from a long line of church dignitaries, Ronnie Dunn first believed his true calling was in preaching the word of God around the West. He began attending Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas in 1974. It wasn’t long before his desire to play music took over and the psychology major soon found himself fronting a band playing clubs around the Abilene area. This wasn’t looked upon favorably by the University, who gave Dunn an ultimatum: stop appearing the clubs or leave the school. Ronnie Dunn soon moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he played for several years, honing his songwriting and singing in the smoky Oklahoma dives. It was after winning a singing competition sponsored by Marlboro that Dunn became serious about his music career and moved to Nashville.

Leon ‘Kix’ Brooks began his life in Shreveport, Louisiana, surrounded by the honky-tonk sounds of the Louisiana Hayride and the Cajun music scene. It was Kix’s neighbor, Johnny Horton – who died when Kix was just a boy – that he learned to appreciate country music and dream about what he could achieve. Seeing all the gold records and awards Horton has acquired set a fire inside the young man to do the same, and he was soon performing with Horton’s daughter, Nina. After brief stints in Alaska and Maine, working various trade jobs, Kix returned to Nashville in the early 1980s at the urging of his father. Kix would spend the rest of the 1980s as a staff songwriter for Tree Publishing before releasing a solo album on Capitol Records in 1989, which didn’t yield any success.

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Single Review: Montgomery Gentry – ‘Long Line of Losers’

montgomery_gentryDriving home late from work the other day, I heard a song on the radio and I was shocked — it sounded country! I heard some wonderful dobro work and what sounded like Montgomery Gentry, and I recognized it as their new single, “Long Line Of Losers”. Even further, I liked the song! Coming off their induction into the Opry, this single is one of their most country sounding singles yet.

Their last single, “One In Every Crowd,” was an annoying repeat song that I hated, so I was surprised to like this one. There have been a lot of singles about family misdeeds (“Family” by LeAnn Rimes, just to name one) and it can be difficult to make the idea sound fresh, but Montgomery Gentry pulls it off here. The anecdotes about their fictional family are amusing from the moonshining grandpa to the mom that was sleeping with the preacher. The narrator admits his family is messed up. Then he admits his family made him the way he is, and he sounds proud of it. It sounds good, with a good melody and lyrics that give a great sense of family pride.

Nobody’s family is perfect and while nobody has a family quite like this, it’s an easily relatable song that gives people pride in their own family’s imperfections. It’s also believable coming from Montgomery Gentry, even though the song was written and performed by Kevin Fowler for a while. This song is sure to be a hit, and for once it may deserve the success it gets.

Grade: B+

Written by: Kevin Fowler and Kim Tribble

Listen here at Last.fm.

Single Review: Sugarland – ‘Joey’

SUGARLAND1Sugarland seems to be easing into their role as country’s new “it duo”, slowly but surely edging out Brooks & Dunn and Montgomery Gentry via both album sales and radio success (Don’t believe me? Check out Country Universe’s Album Sales Update). They make random videos for non-singles (“Love”), don’t release any video for their latest chart-topper (“It Happens”) and they perform whatever song they want to on every awards show (“What I’d Give”). It’s like they don’t even have to promote their singles anymore, they just do whatever they want and are successful. Unlike fellow singers Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood, they really have the material that I feel deserves this success.

Now we know their upcoming single, “Joey” will be a success hot on the heels of three #1 hits, but is it any good? Well it’s a little bit of a mixed bag. The premise of the song is a good idea, of all the questions one asks when a loved one dies, wondering what could have happened differently:

What if I said yes?
What if I’d gone out that night?
What if you turned left, and everything would’ve turned out alright?
What if I spoke up?
What if I took the keys?
What if I had tried a little harder, instead of always trying to please?

The lyrics get a little repetitive but they get across the point, all the “what if”s that follow a tragedy. It’s an interesting concept and a cool way of not spelling out what happened. From what I can gather, Joey is the boyfriend of the narrator, and he dies in a car accident, possibly from being drunk and driving, but it’s not clear. One problem appears: it’s too vague. The writing of the song doesn’t tell us major details of what happened, we just get the grief of the narrator! We get little pieces of the story, but not all of it. Luckily this single should get a music video to illustrate more, but that really shouldn’t be necessary.

Unfortunately this song is a little repetitive with a chorus that gets the message across, but a little too simplistically. At the end of the song where it breaks down into “Joey/I’m sooooooo sooooorry…” over and over again, which is a little too much repetition for me. Luckily, the verses are meant to be the showcase of the song, not the chorus so it’s not a huge problem, but it’s still there.

Sonically, I love this song. Jennifer sings wonderfully with a less pronounced accent, and the pain of her performance really shines through. Unlike “Already Gone”, this song has a lot of harmony from Kristian, and it really works. The production is just right, with a great melody accentuated by the plucking guitar and medium drums in the background- just a great sounding song all together.

This song is different enough from Sugarland’s past 3 singles in theme and mood to really show off the sadder side of Love On The Inside, now they just need to release “Very Last Country Song” next… (If you haven’t heard “Very Last Country Song” yet, hear it now, here) Whatever they do, they can’t go wrong with their next single unless they choose “What I’d Give”- but this song is still great.

Grade: B+

Written by: Bill Anderson, Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles

Listen to “Joey” here.

Single Review: Reba – ‘Strange’

reba_strange-single-coverFor her first solo single since 2005, Reba returns offering up an irresistible up-tempo strong woman anthem.  The self-described ‘sexy sassy’ sound of her new single ‘Strange’ is filled with the spunk that has been missing from Reba’s singles for over a decade.  My only complaint with the production is that the backing vocalists are too loud at times.

The song begins with a slightly recycled guitar riff.  This makes it unrecognizable at first on country radio, as the intro could belong to anybody from Montgomery Gentry to Shania Twain (her earlier recordings, of course). However, as soon as the vocal begins, it’s then that the song takes on its identity. Reba injects her patented vocal acrobatics into the lyrics, even pulling out some vocal tricks we haven’t heard in a while from the songstress like growling certain words; and there’s a general friskiness in her voice.  

We haven’t heard Reba so rollicking since 1996’s What If It’s You, an album this song would sound perfectly at home on.  While What If It’s You is easily Reba’s most fun and sunniest album, it still doesn’t fit the Martina McBride kind of sunny.  Reba’s sunny days still have some clouds in the sky. That’s apparent here: this is a song about lost love. But when the fiddles cry and the chorus starts, it’s hard to tell when Reba sounds this genuinely happy to be rid of her ex, much to her surprise, too.  The second verse even includes a bit of a tongue-twister. Still, the line ‘Got half a mind to spend my whole paycheck on one of those dresses/Those strapless black ones/That are so famous for teaching lessons’ seems to roll effortlessly off her tongue.

The lyrics are classic Reba as she sings of a strong woman who’s just not as torn apart as she should be.  The high-octane country rock sound  is just the kind of fare radio loves, and this one is even listenable.  I think she is sitting on her 58th top 10 country hit here.  Reba is at the stage of her career where she could record something very bland and ship it to radio, play it safe, and probably have a hit.  Instead, here she takes a great song and makes it even better just by adding Reba.

Written by:  Wendell Mobley, Jason Sellers and Neil Thrasher

A-

Buy the single from the Valory Music Co. or iTunes.

The song can also be streamed for free at cmt.com

Or, click here to watch the ACM performance of the song.

ACM Predictions

acmpromo1Tomorrow night’s Academy of Country Music awards are on everybody’s minds and lips. Reba will be hosting for the 11th time as the Academy hands out the awards on their 44th annual show.  Here then, is our contribution to the ACM Awards media frenzy.  These are the predictions of the My Kind of Country writing staff.

The 44th annual Academy of Country Music Awards airs Sunday, April 5 at 8:00 Eastern time on your local CBS station.

Entertainer of the Year

  • Kenny Chesney  J.R., Chris
  • Brad Paisley   Erik
  • George Strait
  • Carrie Underwood  Razor, Meg, Lisa
  • Keith Urban

Top Male Vocalist

  • Kenny Chesney
  • Toby Keith
  • Brad Paisley   Meg, Lisa, Erik
  • George Strait
  • Keith Urban  Rob, J.R., Chris

Top Female Vocalist

  • Miranda Lambert
  • Heidi Newfield
  • Taylor Swift   J.R.
  • Carrie Underwood   Razor, Meg, Lisa, Erik, Chris
  • Lee Ann Womack

Top Vocal Group

  • Lady Antebellum Lisa, Erik, Chris
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts  Razor, Meg, J.R.
  • Randy Rogers Band
  • The Lost Trailers

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Country Singles Chart Summary – 12/17/08

billboard1Yuletide offerings still dot the lower rungs of the Hot Country Songs chart this week, Montgomery Gentry holds steady to the top spot, Carrie Underwood has the Hot Shot Debut, and nothing much changes at the top of the heap.

Steve Holy enters the chart at #60 with ‘What Might Have Been’ and Faith Hill’s ‘Little Drummer Boy’ beats its way in at #59, while Josh Gracin bows at #58 with ‘Telluride’. The Hot Shot Debut of the week is Carrie Underwood with ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ settling at #54. Sarah Buxton’s ‘Space’ holds its #38 position while still gaining spins. Joey + Rory move up one more spot to #32 with ‘Cheater, Cheater’ while Miranda Lambert ascends 2 to the #26 position with ‘More Like Her’. Also making moves are Taylor Swift’s ‘White Horse’, sprinting to #20, up 6 spots – she is once again the Most Added and has the Most Increased Audience, for the second week.

Lee Ann Womack, meanwhile, falls 3 spots to #23 this week. Brooks & Dunn featuring Reba on ‘Cowgirls Don’t Cry’ also falls 2 spots to #15, but is still increasing in spins and audience. Lady Antebellum’s ‘Lookin’ For A Good Time’ falls one slot to #12, switching places with Blake Shelton’s ‘She Wouldn’t Be Gone’.

Jamey Johnson holds steady to his #10 position – still increasing in spins too. ‘Feel That Fire’, the new tune from Dierks Bentley drops to #9 as it trades with Billy Currington’s ‘Don’t’ – which rises to #8. Alan Jackson’s ‘Country Boy’ holds onto the #7 ranking, and Tim McGraw falls 3 to land at #6 with his latest top 5, ‘Let It Go’. Brad Paisley with Keith Urban go top 5 this week with ‘Start A Band’. Sugarland is still on the rise with ‘Already Gone’, keeping its #4 place. ‘Chicken Fried’ falls one spot to #3 while Rascal Flatts jump 3 positions to #2 with ‘Here’. And Montgomery Gentry rolls into the #1 spot for the second week with ‘Roll With Me’, their second straight chart-topper from their Back When I Knew It All album.

See the entire chart here.

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