My Kind of Country

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

Classic Rewind: Jeannie Seely & Lorrie Morgan – ‘End of The World’

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Classic Rewind: Dottie West — ‘Every Word I Write’

Album Review: Jason Boland and the Stragglers – ‘Hard Times Are Relative’

Jason Boland and the Stragglers are usually reliable purveyors of country music infused with a little Red Dirt attitude.

The opening ‘I Don’t Deserve You’ is a pretty good midpaced love song. Sunny Sweeney’s harmony vocal adds charm.

The lovely title track is a sweet story song about a pair of orphaned siblings looking out for one another in the 1930s. This is the best song on the album.

Also great is the solid honky tonker ‘Right Where I Began’, with a protagonist taking refuge in country music and a one night stand for temporary relief from his heartbreak:

Ol’ George sings a leaving song where the cowboy rides away
Hey, Ronnie’s got me figured out
She’s back on my mind to stay
And old Jones said “He stopped lovin’ her”
I hope that ain’t today
So I’ll sit back down on the stool and let the jukebox play

I got Jack Daniels by the handle
My best Bud’s in the can
Some Wild-ass Turkey sittin’ next to me
Talkin’ ’bout the plan
But I’ll find a wife for the night and I’ll be her lovin’ man
Then tomorrow morning I’ll take her home and I’ll be right where I began

My next favorite is nostalgic waltz ‘Do You Remember When’, which reflects on “progress”:

Folks might still waltz around dusty dancefloors
But three quarter time’s never played anymore
And shameless promotions may get the place full
So drunk girls can ride a mechanical bull

Everyone talks about good old dancehalls
Then make for the tourist traps and shopping malls
Oh, how I wish this was all a bad dream
We’d wake up and Bob Wills would still be the King

Who would’ve thought it could happen so fast –
The reckless abandonment of all our past?
In one generation forget who we are?
So let’s talk politics and religion in bars

‘Predestined’ is a nice philosophical song with a soothing melody and somewhat unclear lyrics, and ‘Going Going Gone’ is also pretty good.

‘Searching For You’ has a jazzy feel with slightly haphazard doo-wop style backing vocals which is quite catchy but not entirely to my taste. ‘Grandfather’s Theme’ is rather more progressive jazz, and sounds a bit weird to be honest. The musicianship is impressive, but it feels self indulgent. ‘Dee Dee OD’d’ is a rocker which is apparently about the punk band the Ramones. ‘Tattoo Of A Bruise’ is not very interesting and is also quite rock influenced. The set closes with a cover of Van Morrisons folk-rock ‘Bulbs’.

Overall, there is about half of an excellent album, and half one I’m not especially interested in.

Grade: B

Classic Rewind: Brother Oswald and The Smoky Mountain Boys — ‘Mountain Dew’

Classic Rewind: Skip Ewing – ‘Dad’

Classic Rewind: Tanya Tucker and Travis Tritt — ‘Don’t Go Out’

Travis Tritt fills in for T. Graham Brown:

Classic Rewind: Dolly Parton ft Chet Akins – ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You/Poison Love’

Album Review: Josh Ward – ‘More Than I Deserve’

Josh Ward is one of those Texan country traditionalists who are still out there, performing and recording real country music, and enjoying significant regional success which has started to reach other parts of the country. His latest album, his fourth, hopes to continue his success.

The lead single, ‘’All About Lovin’’, is a cheerful up-tempo tune written by Brice Long, Terry McBride and Chris Stapleton. A potentially radio-friendly toe-tapping groove means this could have been a hit if national country radio hadn’t lost the plot; it did hit the top of the Texas country charts.

Josh co-wrote three of the songs. He is a former rodeo rider himself, and the thoughtful ‘A Cowboy Can’ pays tribute to tough lives and those who don’t give up:

The nights get cold
And the highway never ends
Not many folks can live this life
But a cowboy can

I wouldn’t wish this on the faint of heart
‘Cause I know it ain’t for everyone
Some folks might try to look the part
We don’t do this just for fun
It’s every part of who I am
I’ve got no-quit runnin’ through my veins
It ain’t an easy way to make a buck

‘One More Shot Of Whiskey’ is an excellent song, a downbeat depiction of heartbreak:

I’ve been hangin’ with the devil
I’ve been right down on his level
And I drink his wine night after night
I’ve tried Jones and I’ve tried Haggard
Tried to find somethin’ sadder
It helped a little bit but it took too much time
I’ve only found one thing that comes close


If it takes a month of Sundays
I’ll get over you someday
Say the hell with you and I’ll find someone too
But tonight I’m in trouble and I might start shootin’ doubles
Catch a quick-fix buzz and call you up
So as long as Tennessee makes 90 proof
I need one more shot of whiskey

‘Cause I know that’s all it takes for me
To drown out your damn memory
And help my heart not hurt this way
But I won’t know it did the trick until it hits me

The almost-title track, ‘More Than I Deserved’, the last of Josh’s own songs, is a wistfully regretful song about a lost love.

‘Say Hello To Goodbye’ is a lovely ballad with the protagonist offering some sympathy to a friend who, one assumes like himself, has lost in love through his own fault.

Another highlight is ‘The Devil Don’ t Scare Me’, in which losing a loved one is the worst thing he can possibly imagine happening, including death and hell:

Preacher used to preach about fire and brimstone
I was shakin’ in the shoes in the pew I sat on
12 years old
Afraid of where I’d go
Ten years later wonderin’ how I got here
Where neon burns and they sell cold beer
Heaven seems so far away

‘Cause ever since the night she left me
Ain’t a damn thing that can help me
I’ve tried praying
I’ve tried whiskey
It’s livin’ hell wishing she’d missed me
No I ain’t afraid of dying
‘Cause I lost the one thing I was livin’ for
Now the devil don’t scare me anymore

‘Ain’t It Baby’ is a mellow ballad about staying in love, and ‘Loving Right’ is quite pleasant.

In the midpaced honky tonker ‘Another Heartache’, the narrator wants to enjoy himself and a one night stand, and not fall in love to risk the pain of the inevitable pain.

A rapid paced paean to the bar which is the protagonist’s ‘Home Away From Home’ lacks melody. ‘God Made A Woman’ is a bit generic.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable album.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: Teea Goans – ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’

Classic Rewind: Johnny Cash and Jeannie C Riley – ‘Bad News Travels Like Wildfire’

Classic Rewind: Ricky Van Shelton & Patty Loveless — ‘Rockin’ Years’

Patty Loveless steps in for Dolly Parton:

Classic Rewind: Red Foley – ‘Freight Train Boogie’

Classic Rewind: Nanci Griffith – ‘Once In A Very Blue Moon’

Classic Rewind: Pake McEntire — ‘Too Old To Grow Up Now’

Album Review: Kelly Willis — ‘Back Being Blue’

Kelly Willis retreated forty miles south of Austin, Texas to The Bunker, her husband Bruce Robison’s rustic recording studio located on a five-acre plot with a fishing hole, to record Back Being Blue, her first solo album in a decade. The album, produced by Robison, was recorded to analog tape using an old board he frequently has fixed from a trusted source in Nashville.

Back Being Blue consists of ten songs, six of which Willis wrote solo, the most she’s ever contributed to any of her seven albums. She says the songs aren’t deeply personal or autobiographical, nor is the album intended as a showcase for her distinctive singing voice.

Willis instead drew inspiration from the melting pot of influences that first inspired her to make music, from Marshall Crenshaw to Skeeter Davis and Crystal Gayle. But one artist, in particular, guided her way:

“Nick Lowe was a real north star for me on this record. Like, ‘What would do Nick Lowe do?’ He was able to write modern songs that were like old songs—that had a cool soul/R&B/Buddy Holly kind of a thing that had sounds from that early rock and roll era—but that felt really fresh and exciting and now. I just love the A-B-C’s of rock and roll. Before everybody had to start piling on different things to make it sound different, it had all been done. With this record I was trying to go with the styles of music that have really impacted my life, especially when I moved to Austin as a teenager, and make it country-sounding like Austin used to sound.”

Lowe may have inspired the album as a whole, but it’s Gayle’s influence driving the sublime title track, which kicks off a trifecta of songs about men, and their inability to treat women with the respect they deserve. A mellow guitar-driven melody framing Willis’ biting and direct lyric:

She’s back in my baby’s arms

And I’m back being blue

The percussion-heavy “Only You” finds a man using the excuse that’s what lovers do to justify his consistently inconsistent behavior — he loves his woman one day than ignores her the next. “Fool’s Paradise,” which beautifully blends fiddle with Urban Cowboy-era guitar riffs, finds a man thinking he can emotionally manipulate a woman who sees him coming from a mile away:

I’m not riding this town

You’ll tell me again if you come back around

All that ache in your voice, like I don’t have a choice

It’s a fool’s paradise

Willis wrote the barnburner “Modern World” to vent her frustrations about how cell phone use has led to a society that’s less engaged. The fiddle returns on the gorgeous “Freewheeling,” about the wish to let go of old anxieties and live a less mentally-stressful life. She’s back in a mournful state of mind on “The Heart Doesn’t Know,” a striking ballad about that feeling of knowing a relationship is over, yet unresolved feelings still remain.

For the remaining four songs, Willis sought contributions from other writers. “Afternoon’s Gone Blind” is a sonically stunning slice of traditional country written by Eric Brace and Karl Straub about an individual having a difficult time with the end of a relationship.

The most eccentric number on Back Being Blue is “I’m A Lover (Not A Fighter),” which was originally released as a single by Davis in 1969 when it peaked at #9. The song exudes a lot of charm, and has an engaging melody, but threw me with the dated reference to Cassius Clay. Willis says she did entertain the idea of swapping out the late boxer’s name for the more contemporary Sugar Ray, but ultimately decided the song should stand as written. It’s growing on me, but it’s not my favorite song on the album, especially with the heavy reverb casting a film over the recording.

It’s no surprise one of the album’s most well-written numbers comes from the pen of Rodney Crowell. He recommended she cut “We’ll Do It For Love Next Time,” a romantic yet risqué ballad about a couple going to second base. Willis handles the song, which features a nice dose of mandolin throughout, with the ease she’s brought to her most stellar recordings over the last 28 years.

Willis closes Back Being Blue with Jeff Rymes and Randy Weeks’ “Don’t Step Away,” a song sent to her by her hairdresser, who recommended it after Willis said she needed one or two more songs to finish the album. The song is bristling with Austin funk, and a fair amount of guitars to bring up the tempo.

When I first listened to Back Being Blue I thought it was less than the sum of its parts. I hold Kelly Willis in the highest esteem and this just wasn’t making it for me. My opinion only changed when I dug into the context behind the album and understood what Willis was going for with the vibe and her relaxed vocals. Back Being Blue is a great album, even if some of her compositions feel unnecessarily repetitive. I’m glad she’s back and steering the conversation in her direction again.

Grade: B+

Classic Rewind: K.T. Oslin — ‘I Saw The Light’

K.T. Oslin covers the Hank Williams classic on the 1988 ACM Awards:

Classic Rewind: Connie Smith – ‘How Great Thou Art’

Week ending 7/7/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958:  Guess Things Happen That Way / Come In Stranger — Johnny Cash (Sun)

1958 (Disk Jockeys): Guess Things Happen That Way — Johnny Cash (Sun)

1968: D-I-V-O-R-C-E — Tammy Wynette (Epic)

1978: I Believe In You — Mel Tillis (MCA)

1988: Fallin’ Again — Alabama (RCA)

1998: If You See Him/If You See Her — Reba McEntire/Brooks & Dunn (MCA Nashville/Arista Nashville)

2008: Better As A Memory — Kenny Chesney (BNA)

2018: Meant To Be — Bebe Rexha featuring Florida Georgia Line (Big Machine)

2018 (Airplay): Tequila — Dan + Shay (Warner Bros. Nashville)

Cassic Rewind: Hank Williams Jr, Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart – ‘Outlaw’s Reward’

Classic Rewind: Vince Gill – ‘If My Heart Had Windows’

Vince pays tribute to George Jones.