My Kind of Country

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

Monthly Archives: January 2009

Single Review: Wynonna – ‘Women Be Wise’

wynonna1For her new album, Sing: Chapter 1, Wynonna has teamed up with long-time collaborators – and the two most important men to the career of The Judds – Brent Maher and Don Potter.  And the end result is awesome – a strong set of covers sung to Wynonna perfection.  But that’s another review.  We’re going to talk about ‘Women Be Wise’, which is presumably the album’s first radio single.  

Listening to the song, I can visualize Wynonna singing in a smoky blues club – right out of a private eye movie.  The song itself dates back to the 1930s and was written by the ‘Texas Nightingale’ Sippie Wallace & John Beach.  (Wynonna considers this a Bonnie Raitt cover, as most will.)  Sippy Wallace was a blues singer who gained popularity in the ’20s, and whose music dated as far back as Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters.  But, as the legend goes, Wallace was re-discovered in the 1960s by Bonnie Raitt (when Wallace re-recorded the song in 1966), who then subsequently covered ‘Women Be Wise’ causing a resurgence in Wallace’s popularity, that lasted until her death.  Confusing, huh?

The song speaks for itself, so I am only going to comment on the vocal.  I’ve always considered Wynonna one of music’s finest vocalists, and highly underrated.  Here, she shows she’s still at the top of her game, even though her influences are not all country.  Wynonna stays very true to the Raitt recording of the song, growling and trilling in just the right places while remaining crystal clear all the while.  A jazzy piano intro sets the mood, and allows the singer to take over.  She clearly has a grasp on these elements of popular music, as she masters this torch song like few could.  Brilliant.

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Listen to ‘Women Be Wise’ and other songs in the Jukebox section of Wynonna’s official site.

Single Review: Lady Antebellum – ‘I Run To You’

Lady Antebellum

As I usually am when I review singles, I’m really bored. When I posted my poll for the Grammy for Best New Artist (here), I decided to make a playlist on iTunes of the 4 debut albums of the 4 nominees I actually like. Since I was snowed in since Tuesday, I was forced to finish applying for various scholarships. I had to do most, if not all, of the applications on the computer, so I got to listen to that playlist a lot this week. “I Run To You” seemed to turn up a lot… I knew it was a single, and I knew that I liked the song, but I just couldn’t pin down why.

Then it hit me this morning: it’s entirely the vocals. As with all of Lady Antebellum’s material, the lyrics and ideas behind the songs are mostly bland and uninspired, but the two lead vocalists- Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott- usually save the songs from mediocrity. Whether on “Love Don’t Live Here” where Kelley’s distinctive lead vocals are so good that you can’t ignore it, or the fun back and forth banter of “Lookin’ For A Good Time”, these two singers always save the songs. Luckily, this single goes the same way.

In this case, the two sing together, duet-style, mostly in harmony. The premise of the song is about how when “this world keeps spinning faster”, there’s that person that you run to- who saves you. The same idea as Kenny Chesney’s “You Save Me” or The Dixie Chicks’ “Easy Silence”, just to name a few. Just the fact that I can rattle off songs with the same exact idea shows how bland the idea is (With the Chick’s song being the standout; listen to it here). What makes “I Run To You” different is how Kelley and Scott literally sing to each other as a “couple”. As always, Kelley has the superior vocals, with some very nice falsetto, but Scott does a great job as well, and I’m really starting to like her voice. Even better are the harmony vocals that start early on in the song and continue throughout. This song shows how well they really sing together, and I think they would be much better off if all of their songs sounded this good. Read more of this post

Single Review: Gloriana – ‘Wild At Heart’

 

Gloriana

I first heard of this group at Roughstock where Matt B. discussed this same single. Since my computer doesn’t do the audio files that Roughstock uses, I couldn’t hear the song. I saw the picture of this group (The same one posted here) and I instantly thought “Little Big Town knock-off.” I was only partially right.

 

Gloriana is inevitably similar to LBT, with 2 girls and 2 guys and all 4 doing vocals together. However, while LBT is more acoustic rock-country, Gloriana is much more pop-country. LBT sounds more mature, while Gloriana sounds much younger. For a nice analogy:

Gloriana is to Little Big Town as Taylor Swift is to Sara Evans.

I think that’s accurate, as Sara tends to incorporate at least some country sound into her music and isn’t incredibly popular right now, while Taylor Swift is super-young and full on pop.

Anyway, back to the song. I like it, obviously, or it wouldn’t be here at all. Unfortunately, I feel like future songs from Gloriana might be overly happy and young-sounding, which could get very annoying. I just can’t see Gloriana doing any remotely sad songs, which is definitely a turn-off for me. However, this song is too much fun to resist!

The song starts with hand claps and some mandolin by Cheyenne Kimball (The pictured blond girl who already had a record deal in 2006). One of the guys (I honestly have no idea which one…) sings almost all of the lead vocals in the verses, that all build up to a large 4-part harmony chorus. The chorus is where the song gets really fun- and it’s impossibly catchy. It’s really poppy, but still has just enough twangy instruments to keep it in mainstream country, but beyond that, it’s a pop song. Read more of this post

Snowed In…

I live in Ohio, and let’s just say that it’s been snowing for a while now, with freezing rain and ice and all around bad weather.

My car- really.

My car- really.

As a result, I’m bored. No school yesterday, no school today, with no homework. Our Satellite TV isn’t working, and the internet almost broke (I almost had a nervous breakdown until I saw the router was unplugged)… So I’m working on scholarship essays, and listening to music of course. I’ve listened to everything from “That’s Not My Name” by The Ting Tings to “Spotlight” by Jennifer Hudson. However, it’s very cold and dreary and I haven’t left the house since Monday.

So I have a simple question:

What songs do you listen to when it’s cold and snowy? Or what songs do you think I should listen to in order to warm up?

Right now I’m on a varied playlist with artists like Patty Loveless, Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Beyoncé, the Dixie Chicks and Coldplay- but it’s just not doing it for me… I want some good music for bad weather, so give me some recommendations!

PS: That really is my car. I took the picture this morning…

PSS: Martina McBride revealed her new cover art for Shine on her Myspace:

Shine, by Martina McBride

Shine, by Martina McBride

Very cool cover! What do you guys think?

Poll – Grammy For Best Female Country Vocal Performance

grammy1Here we have another entry in our Grammy poll series, this time for best female country vocal performance! In my opinion, this is a fairly strong category. I apologize for having so many polls close together, but the Grammys are fast approaching and there are still some country categories left!

As usual, check out the Grammy Flashback over at Country Universe!

Here’s the poll:

One annoying thing I see is the inclusion of “Last Name” over “Just A Dream”. With “Last Name”, Carrie has no chance, or at least doesn’t deserve the award at all. I liked “Last Name” at first, but I quickly got tired of the scream-fest. I hope she gets better material, or at least learns how to interpret songs better because she has so much potential.

Next, Martina’s song is good, but not amazing. It’s a nice song, but not Grammy worthy, in my opinion. It’s one of my favorites from Waking Up Laughing, but I think “Love Land” and “House Of A Thousand Dreams” were much better in every way- they deserved to be singles instead.

That leaves the last three nominees- three stellar ladies singing three superb songs. One of those three will win, but I prefer Trisha or Womack, but I would be satisfied with LeAnn winning as well. “What I Cannot Change” is LeAnn’s best vocal performance, up with “Probably Wouldn’t Be This Way” as her best overall. She sings well, and the song has a great message and perfect production.

So which is my favorite? If my 2008 singles list was any indication, I love “Last Call” to a fault, it being the song that got me to like Lee Ann Womack in the first place. I love the story, the production, the emotion, and most of all, Lee Ann’s performance. It’s one of my absolute favorite songs, and definitely my favorite Lee Ann Womack song. It is more than deserving of a Grammy.

But the Yearwood single? It’s another amazing song, and is right up there with “Last Call”, so I really wouldn’t mind if it won either, and it probably will win. I would also be OK with LeAnn winning, so I really like this group of songs (except “Last Name”).

So what do you think? Make sure to vote and then post why!

Video Review: Martina McBride – ‘Ride’

 

The billboard that saved the day.

The billboard that saved the day.

A whole lot happens in these three minutes, fifty seconds. Or does it? Martina McBride’s video for her latest single ‘Ride’ is very rapid, and really pleasing to the eyes. There’s certainly a story-line unfolding here, but it seems there are so many things going on at once that it’s hard to get a handle on it – not that any of it really makes sense.

The video opens with several people on a city street in a traffic jam. This is setting the scene for the message of the song: that even when you’re having a bad day, to keep your chin up – and ‘hold on tight to what you feel inside’. These people have apparently not heard any of Martina’s music, because they are not happy. Especially the middle-aged woman who gets out of her car, looking around. She is seriously pissed. Eventually, everyone is out of their cars to see what’s going on. And out of nowhere, when the first chorus begins, there is Martina on a billboard singing ‘Life is a roller coaster ride/time turns a wheel and love collides’. Like magic, her crooning makes all the anger disappear and a virtual street party begins. The bickering people begin shaking hands and then commence to dancing in the streets.

Verse two finds the obligatory love story being interjected as a young couple in adjacent cars gaze at each other. Then, the boy writes ‘Hi’ on the window using the steam from his breath. How romantic. Meanwhile, a full-blown celebration is going on in the streets around them as someone gets out the football for a game of catch and another brings pizza to the street soiree. About this time, our young couple – remember them from the obligatory love story? – are out of the cars and getting more acquainted. Read more of this post

Vote!

The 9513 1st Annual Country Music Awards

This is the last day to be heard, so be sure to cast your vote for The 9513′s 1st Annual Country Music Awards.  Just click the icon above.  And be sure to read the rules, and remember, you only get one vote, so make it count.

Update:  Your votes have been counted, and you can check out the results over at The 9513 blog.

Poll – Grammy For Best New Artist

Well I know you guys don’t like non-country artists, but I wanted to go along with my recent theme of Grammy categories. If you haven’t noticed, Lady Antebellum is nominated for the Best New Artist against some steep competition and the Jonas Brothers. Now you’re probably wondering “So what?” grammy1

Well, the other three competitors in the category are three of my favorite artists, who I have discovered through iTunes free singles, namely Duffy, Adele and Jazmine Sullivan. I got all of their respective free singles over the course of 2008, and then followed them to get their debut albums throughout the year, and I love all three of them.

Adele and Duffy are both considered neo-soul singers, compared to Amy Winehouse, while they have no resemblance to her in any way. Adele is a singer-songwriter with a blusey voice who comes from England, while Duffy sounds like she traveled through time straight from the 60′s, while she really came from Wales. Jazmine Sullivan sings R&B and hails from Philadelphia- tutored by Missy Elliott and she has had much success in the U.S.

About their songs, Duffy has her international hit “Mercy” (Nominated for the Grammy for Best Female Pop Performance), Adele has the hit “Chasing Pavements (Nominated for 3 Grammys including Record and Song of the year) and Jazmine has her R&B #1 “Need U Bad” (And is nominated for various R&B awards).
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Favorite Overplayed Country Songs

FYI, I found this site called Plinky.com, and they basically give you prompts that you can share with your blog, so I’m playing around with it. Here are 3 overplayed country songs that I still like. Next, I want to know yours!

Love Story by Taylor Swift

I love the story and the optimism, as well as the great banjo and "fiddle" that's spaced throughout it. It's age-appropriate, even though the reference to the Scarlet Letter is so odd.

All I Want To Do by Sugarland

I love the chorus, it's so much fun and never gets old. I know some people find it incredibly annoying, but I just love it and sing along!

Online by Brad Paisley

It's a funny story, and this is one of those songs I can really laugh at.

Country Music Isn’t Dead: An Interview With Miss Leslie

missleslie21Leslie Sloan aka Miss Leslie has been playing country music for over 20 years. Last year, she released her first album of all original material – and all of it self-written. When I interviewed her, I found a woman who truly loves traditional country and has made it her goal to get that music out to as many people as possible.  Here, she tells us that country music isn’t dead – you just have to seek it out. Miss Leslie’s kind of country is a wonderful meld of cheating, drinking, and heartbreak songs, all performed with heavy doses of twin fiddles and steel guitar.  And she points us in the direction of several artists who are recording her kind of country, so we too can hear the moan of the steel and the cry of fiddle.

I’m fascinated that your introduction to music was through classical music and violin lessons. Your bio says you studied classical and bluegrass at the same time. At what point did you change directions toward the hard honky tonk of your music today?

I think that the 1980s turned my head towards country.  I fell head over heels in love with Ricky Skaggs’ country stuff.  I already loved his bluegrass albums with Ralph Stanley and Tony Rice.  But I fell in love with country when Ricky Skaggs went in that direction.  I was especially in love with Bobby Hicks’ fiddle playing.  He was … is amazing.  And that love affair just continued on - through George Strait and Randy Travis and the early Reba stuff.  And all of that led me back to classic country – which is where I had to stay when the 90s came along and the traditional movement went “Gone With the Wind” with Shania and the rock-n-roll country movement.

You hit the Texas honky tonk scene at 14 in a family group with your parents and brother and sister. What was that like?

I loved being onstage but I think that I didn’t fully appreciate everything.  I wanted to be a typical teenager and have weekends with friends but looking back, I’m glad I had the experience. I am one of the few people that can say that I shared my music onstage with my family.  And we still do today. That’s pretty cool.

And what would you say is the most valuable lesson you learned from that time?

At the time, I thought that music was about practicing and playing the “right notes” and having good technique.  Looking back, I now know that music is something that comes from a more genuine place inside – it is a way of expression.  People always tell me that they wish their parents would have made them play an instrument. I strongly disagree. Music should come from inside of you. If it doesn’t and you don’t have a pull towards it, then it means you’re supposed to be pulled towards something else.

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Album Review: Miss Leslie – ‘Between The Whiskey And The Wine’

Between The Whiskey And The WineMiss Leslie is the real deal. There is no doubt whatsoever if she’s hardcore honky tonk or not. Hard fiddles, loads of steel, and lyrics that involve either alcohol or heartbreak. Usually both.

The set kicks off with the “My Give A Damn’s Busted”-esque tune “I’m Done With Leaving”, which is the perfect kiss-off tune. Miss Leslie’s songwriting is sharp, and the conviction in her voice even sharper. The second track, which is the title track, is a song that describes the entire country genre, particularly the older, more traditional part of it: no happiness, no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope, all heartbreak, and all alcohol. Miss Leslie sounds genuinely “I’m never gonna heal”-heartbroken. She’s still depressed and still drinkin’ like hell in the next cut, “I Can Still Feel”, which could be the direct continuation of the title track. The next track, “Hold Back The Tears” could be another chapter to the two previous cuts, only this time we’re taken several years into the future, where the narrator has been sitting on that same bar stool for several years, and she’s still drowning her sorrows. Miss Leslie delivers this one perfectly, with just enough strength, and just enough of that ‘I gave up many years ago’ feeling in her voice.

What’s this? On “I Can Get Over You”, Miss Leslie convinces herself that she can get over the man who’s leaving her, and even though she thinks it may take years, she still sounds certain that she will eventually get over him. She apparently changed her mind on the next track, because she’s pulled out the bottle again, and sounds completely void of hope on “To Get Through This Day”.

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Poll – Grammy For Best Male Country Vocal Performance

grammy1Here is our second poll about the upcoming Grammys, this time for the Best Male Country Vocal Performance category! I have to say, as it seems to be normal for this year, these are some very strong nominees. As always, check out all the past winners at Country Universe!

I have to say, these are some good songs. The Paisley track is one of my favorite Paisley songs, while the Strait track convinced me to buy its respective album. The Adkins one is good, and the Otto one is a great debut single, if a little annoying after a while.

However, “In Color”? It has to win- no questions asked. It’s a clever song, with a great story, an amazing hook, and it’s one of the best country songs I’ve heard in a while. It even has great characters and perfect production! I didn’t care for it at first, but I have been won over lately. Add in the stellar chart success and it spells pure win-ness for this category. I like the other songs, but “In Color” is just so much better.

Does anyone disagree? Make sure to post why you voted for who you voted for!

Make sure you vote!

Poll – Grammy For Best Country Album

grammy1So I figured out how to make and post polls here, so I thought I would start with this one:

Simple, but probably a tough choice for most people. My personal choice? I’m not quite sure, but Trisha edges out to the front for me with Loveless next, then Johnson, then Strait. The Travis album is the only one I don’t own, so I bet’s it’s good, I just don’t have it yet.

I think I like Trisha’s the most because of the amazing song choice, and it never loses my attention. Sometimes I get tired of albums, but I’ve never gotten tired of Heaven, Heartache And The Power Of Love ever!

So vote, and we’ll see who gets the top place!

If you want, post here why you picked who you did.

For an in depth history of this category, visit Country Universe!

Single Review: Andy Griggs – ‘Cutthroat, Montana’

The single Cover

The Single Cover

I opened my e-mail the other day, and I found this song waiting for me in my inbox! Now, I vaguely recognized the name Andy Griggs, but I couldn’t think of any of his songs. After a quick trip to his Wikipedia discography, I saw nothing that even sparked any recognition at all, so I listened to this new single, and let’s say I got a good impression.

Now this may sound weird, but “Cutthroat, Montana” reminds me of Sugarland’s “Stay”  Let me explain myself. First of all, it’s even more sparse, just Andy and his acoustic guitar playing (“Stay” has an organ plus a guitar). His voice shines through, and he gives a great performance; although not as good as Jennifer’s respective performance on “Stay”, it’s still impressive. It’s hard to find these rough performances in modern singles, so I was surprised.

Second, “Cutthroat, Montana” and “Stay” both revisit classic country stories that have been sorely lacking from most mainstream country today. While “Stay” is a great spin on a cheating song, “Cutthroat, Montana” is a song that involves fighting and some death, something rare in the sterile radio feel-good stories of today’s mainstream country.

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Free Download! Neko Case – ‘People Got A Lotta Nerve’

You have probably seen this on The 9513, but here is a free download of Neko Case’s new single, “People Got A Lotta Nerve”.

From Neko’s Myspace page:
“The promotion will run from January 13 to February 3, 2009. Five dollars will be donated [to the Best Friends Animal Society] for every blog post and one dollar for every user of iLike that adds the song to his/her profile.”

Neko Case's upcoming album, Middle Cyclone

Neko Case's upcoming album, Middle Cyclone

Personally, a friend recommended her to me, and I’ve been planning on getting her new album Middle Cyclone, that comes out on March 3rd, mostly because of the cover.

I have to say, this song has convinced me I do like her, since I haven’t really heard any of her music before this. She’s not very country, but it’s here anyway, just because it’s for a good cause and it’s good music. Any song that mentions Killer Whales and Elephants and still makes sense is a good song in my book. (It’s a very small book.) Her album also gets my “Coolest Album Artwork” award, mostly for the sword.

Download here!

Enjoy!

News: Reba’s New Album

reba3Special thanks to The Boot‘s Vernell Hackett for the heads-up on what’s happening with the new album by Reba McEntire – her debut for the Valory Music Comapny.

Reba McEntire has a tried-and-true philosophy when it comes to recording a new album. “I always try to find the best songs I can,” she says.

Reba is especially delighted with the songs she is recording for a new project, her debut on new label home, Valory Music Co.  The country superstar has enlisted her old pals Tony Brown and Mark Bright to co-produce the project.

“I think getting to work with these two talented producers will just make the album twice as good,” she says. “I hope the fans like the new songs and will be as delighted as I am with the project.”

Reba says she “always has a blast” with Brown, and she brought in Bright because she thinks it’s important to listen to new ideas. “Mark brought in some great songs for me,” she says. “He also brought in some studio musicians that I hadn’t worked with before.  I love the way he communicates with the musicians and I’ve really loved working with him.”

Reba’s new single is expected this spring, with the full album to follow in the summer.

Some of you will recognize the name Mark Bright as the producer of Carrie Underwood’s albums. He has also produced hit songs for Lonestar and Sara Evans, among others.

Interpret That Tune

mcc21While country songs tend to be more direct than those in other genres, the format is not at all void of the abstract lyric. And sometimes those are my favorites. Sugarland’s latest album is a perfect example of brilliant lyrics that are left up to the interpretation of the listener. We don’t always need to be hit with a heart-string line to feel the emotion from the music.

There are some songs I’ve had to listen to several times before I could get the gist of what the writers were trying to say to me – and not because the singer lacked interpretation, but simply because the lyrics are more hypothetical than factual. There are other tunes that I’m still not sure what they’re trying to tell me. And I don’t think I am alone – surely there are others out there who just don’t understand certain songs. And to help those of us out, I think a discussion topic is needed.

So, in what will be the first of a new series at My Kind of Country, here is the very first Interpret That Tune topic. And a special thanks to SD for the suggestion in their comments on our My Favorite Songs Ever… post.

To start us off, I tried to select a song I think everybody will be familiar with, and ask you your take on the lyrics. What do you think the message behind the song is? What do you think the narrator or the songwriter(s) is trying to tell us? Spell it out in the simplest terms you can. And rather than muddy your interpretation with my own take on the song, I am going to let you go first, then chime in with my opinion later. So, let’s try this, shall we?

This week’s song: Mary Chapin Carpenter – ‘He Thinks He’ll Keep Her’.

You can also watch the music video, which features Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea, Trisha Yearwood, Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, and Suzy Bogguss.

Country First

2008-weblong-awardsThis is a reminder that everybody’s favorite country music blog is representing country music as a finalist in the 2008 Weblog Awards. Don’t forget to go vote for them here, and then go back every 24 hours and do it again. The 9513 was my introduction to country music blogs and how great they can be. Their site also lead me to other now must-read sites like Country 9513Universe, Country California, PhotoCrap, the GG Column, and at least a dozen others.

Single & Video Review: Shawna Russell – ‘Should’ve Been Born With Wheels’

That’s right, a double review of a single AND its video! I’m feeling adventurous today I guess.

So I was looking at the CMT blog just now, and they posted one of their usual video posts (Click here for the video), and I saw the video for Shawna Russell’s new single, and I was very impressed.

Goddess, by Shawna Russell

Goddess, by Shawna Russell

First, I’ll start with the song itself. Shawna is telling about how since she was young she knew she would have to leave and hit the road in a car:

I never could’ve learned in college
 Couldn’t keep my mind in gear
 So I took the wheel with both hands
 And learned to steer”

She goes on to say that since she has to keep moving on she “Should’ve Been Born With Wheels”, hence the song title. It’s a very solid lyric, if on a topic that’s overused. I also think that the title is a little too long, seeing as it could have just been “Born With Wheels”. It gets the same message across, but rolls off the tongue easier. Anyways, I like the lyrics.  They aren’t really that special, but they are solid. It’s her voice that blew me away. Oddly enough, it flew to my mind that this is the kind of song I imagined for Crystal Shawanda, rather than the many dull songs that she’s stuck with.

Shawna infuses this song with a jolt of energy through her great performance, helping the song to go from just normal to being very good to hear. Shawna sings strong without screaming, and shows off her voice very well, giving this song just the right kind of roughness. She has such a great voice, and uses it very well here.

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Single Review: Little Big Town – ‘Good Lord Willing’

So yeah, I know J.R. reviewed the video for this song, and it’s been out for a few weeks, but I thought now was a good time to really review the song itself. Why, you ask? Mostly because now that all the Christmas songs are gone, it has returned to the country charts this week, entering at #46, which is one of the highest positions of all the returning songs.

Anyway, for some background, this song is one of three brand new tracks on the band’s re-release of their stellar album A Place To Land. This song seems very similar to Dierks Bentley’s hit “What Was I Thinkin’ “, and indeed it is, plot-wise. It’s an uptempo song about a wild and dangerous night/morning being chased by the police and later on the boyfriend of the narrator’s “date”. The title basically means that they hope they don’t get in any more trouble. Simple enough right?

While the plot of the song is not really novel in anyway, it’s the group’s harmonies that elevate this song, as is usually the case. The song starts with a cool acoustic little intro, then it kicks into high gear, and doesn’t stop. There are two/three part harmonies in the verses, with Jimi Westbrook singing lead, but the chorus is full-on four part harmony. Let me tell you, it rocks. All four of the group sing with all they have, and it ends up as a cool sounding and catchy rocker of a single. It’s even mostly acoustic, like their latest album, which adds to the uniqueness of the band in today’s popular country music. The production is strong, engaging, fun, and remains more country than pop, which is rare in mainstream groups like this.

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