My Kind of Country

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

Monthly Archives: January 2018

Classic Rewind: Suzy Bogguss – ‘I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)’

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Classic Rewind: The Statler Brothers – ‘We Were Paid By Cash’

Album Review: Forever My Girl soundtrack

The latest country music themed movie, Forever My Girl, featuring an acting role for Travis Tritt, is really more of a romantic drama. I don’t know what the film is like, although it doesn’t sound particularly good, but my attention was caught by the official soundtrack album. This is already available on iTunes, and includes some new songs by artists including the aforementioned Tritt and Josh Turner.

Most of the songs are co-written by one Brett Boyett, the film’s music director, presumably either to fit emotional moments in the plot, or for the country singer characters to perform. British actor Alex Roe, who plays the country singer male lead in the film, is surprisingly convincing singing a brace of tunes which are presumably his character’s hits. ‘Don’t Water Down My Whiskey’ is typical contemporary pop-country (which is to say not recommended). Rather better is ‘Enough’, quite a nice love song, although it leans AC rather than country. It is reprised at the end of the set as a suet by Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet and Lauren Alaina; their take is glossier and even less country sounding, better sung but somehow with less character.

The best of Roe’s tracks is ‘Smokin’ And Cryin’’, one of the few not written by Boyett. This is rather a good song about a woman undergoing heartbreak, written by Jackson Odell (who also helps with a number of Boyett’s songs here) and Caroline Watkins, with an acoustic arrangement. The worst, ‘Finally Home’, would actually be a decent song if not for the ghastly, out of tune duet vocal from a child actress in the film which is quite unlistenable.

Pop-country starlet Alaina makes a solo appearance with the contemporary sounding ballad ‘Wings Of An Angel’. She has a strong voice, and although it’s not quite my cup of tea it is well done of its type.

The best track is probably ‘Can’t Tame A Fire’, a very good song ruing a heartache, performed by Dan Tyminski. Josh Turner sounds good on ‘Back From Gone’, a fairly strong song but on the more contemporary sounding side.

Travis Tritt has a role in the movie, and sings a new song called ‘Slowing Down’, which Boyett wrote with Paul Overstreet. It’s a good song, but Tritt’s voice is sadly showing the signs of age – very disappointing. Another Overstreet co-write, ‘Who Needs Mexico’, sung by the unknown (at least to me) Mason James, is more effective and I rather enjoyed this.

Another newcomer, Destin Bennett, is pleasant but forgettable on ‘Wild And Free’. Canaan Smith, who was a rising star for Mercury a few years ago but has faltered since, is horribly over produced on ‘Always And Forever’, which is typical of today’s radio hits and provides the film title. Mickey Guyton’s ‘Caught Up In Your Storm’ is blues rather than country.

Producer Boyett takes on one lead vocal himself, and shows on ‘Solid Ground’ he has a rather limited voice, but it is not unsuited to the wearied lyric.

Alongside the new songs, the set includes what is perhaps Miranda Lambert’s worst recording, ‘Little Red Wagon’, and a number of very pop leaning Little Big Town cuts, the best known of which is ‘Little White Church’.

So there are a few worthwhile tracks, but on the whole this soundtrack is not very inspiring.

Grade: C

Classic Rewind: Trace Adkins – ‘Watered Down’

Classic Album Review – Mac Wiseman – ‘Mac Wiseman’

Growing up as a military brat during in the 1950s and 1960s, we didn’t always live in an area where there were full time country music stations. Since Dad had a decent record collection, I was always able to listen to country music, but bluegrass wasn’t really Dad’s favorite subgenre of the music. As I recall, he had one Flatt & Scruggs album and a cheapie album by some non-descript group called Homer & The Barnstormers. Consequently, unless we lived in an area with a country radio station, I really didn’t often hear bluegrass music.

While in college I finally purchased a couple of bluegrass albums. One of the albums, Tennessee by Jimmy Martin, was on Decca. It is a great album that I highly commend to everyone.

The other album, Mac Wiseman, was on the Hilltop label. Hilltop was a reissue album that labels such as Dot, Capitol (and a few other labels that did not have their own cheap(er) reissue label) would reissue older material. Released in 1967, Hilltop JS 6047 consisted of Mac Wiseman tracks licensed from Capitol Records. While I only paid $1.29 for it brand-new, I regard it as one of the true treasures of my record collection.

With tracks recorded between 1960 and 1964, the album features a stellar collection of country and bluegrass musicians such as Ray Edenton (guitar), Benny Williams (mandolin), Joe Drumright and Buck Trent (banjo), Lew Childre (dobro) and Tommy Jackson, Buddy Spicher and Chubby Wise on fiddles.

Since it was on a budget label, the album contains only ten tracks, instead of the customary twelve tracks found on full price albums.

The album opens up with an up-tempo traditional tune “Footprints In The Snow” about a fellow who finds the love of his life by rescuing her from a blizzard. Buddy Spicher and Chubby Wise are featured on twin fiddles on this track and the next two tracks. Everyone from Bill Monroe onward recorded the song, but Mac’s version remains my favorite.

Now some folks like the summertime when they can walk about
Strolling through the meadow green it’s pleasant there no doubt
But give me the wintertime when the snow is on the ground
For I found her when the snow on the ground

I traced her little footprints in the snow
I found her little footprints in the snow
I bless that happy day when Nellie lost her way
For I found her when the snow was on the ground

Next up is “Pistol Packin’ Preacher”, written by Slim Gordon, another up-tempo romp, about a preacher who brought the gospel to the west, while being armed to defend himself and others when necessary.

“What’s Gonna Happen To Me?” is a slower song about a fellow lamenting the loss of love. This song was composed by the legendary Fred Rose with Gene Autry sometimes receiving co-writer credit. I’ve heard Autry’s version but I think Wiseman’s version is slightly better.

The flower of love came to wither and die
Our romance was never to be
No matter what happens I know you’ll get by
But what’s gonna happen to me

I’ll never be able to love someone new
Cause somehow I’ll never feel free
I’m sure you’ll find someone to care about you
But what’s gonna happen to me

“Tis Sweet To Be Remembered” is one of Mac’s signature songs. Originally recorded for Dot Records in 1957, this remake is in no way inferior to the original version. Mac is joined by Millie Kirkham and the legendary Jordanaires Quartet on this number and on the closing track of Side One, “I Love Good Bluegrass Music”.

‘Tis sweet to be remembered on a bright or gloomy day
‘Tis sweet to be remembered by a dear one far away
‘Tis sweet to be remembered remembered, remembered
‘Tis sweet to be remembered when you are far away

Side Two opens up with the lively “What A Waste of Good Corn Likker” about a fellows girl friend who falls into a vat of corn liquor and has to be ‘buried by the jug’. Unfortunately I have no session information at all about this track.

Cousin Cale upon the Jew’s harp
Played a mighty mournful tune
Kinfolks bowed their heads and gathered ’round
Then I heard the parson sing
Drink me only with thine eyes
As we watch them pour poor Lilly in the ground

Oh, what a waste of good corn liquor
From the still they pulled the plug
All the revenuers snickered ’cause she melted in the liquor
And they had to bury poor Lilly by the jug

Now I’m sitting in the twilight
‘Neath the weeping willow tree
The sun is slowly sinking in the west
And I’m clasping to my bosom
A little jug of Lilly Mae
With a broken heart I’m longing for the rest

Next up is the Marty Robbins-penned nostalgic ballad “Mother Knows Best”. Tommy Jackson and Shortly Lavender handle the twin fiddles on this track, and the next track, penned by Cindy Walker –
“Old Pair of Shoes”.

The album closes with a pair of country classics. “Dark Hollow” was penned by Bill Browning and has been recorded by dozens (maybe hundreds) of country and bluegrass artists and even such rock luminaries as the Grateful Dead. Jimmie Skinner, who straddled the fence between the two genres, had a top ten single with the song in 1959. Mac inflects the proper amount of bitterness into the vocal.

I’d rather be in some dark hollow where the sun don’t ever shine
Then to be at home alone and knowin’ that you’re gone
Would cause me to lose my mind

Well blow your whistle freight train carry me far on down the track
Well I’m going away, I’m leaving today
I’m goin’, but I ain’t comin’ back.

The album closes out with Kate Smith’s signature song “When The Moon Comes Over The Mountain”, a nostalgic ballad composed long ago by Harry Woods, Howard Johnson and Kate Smith. Kate took the song to #1 in 1931 and used it as her theme song for her various radio shows and personal appearances.

When the moon comes over the mountain
Every beam brings a dream, dear, of you
Once again we’ll stroll ‘neath the mountain
Through that rose-covered valley we knew
Each day is grey and dreary
But the night is bright and cheery
When the moon comes over the mountain
I’ll be alone with my memories of you

Many of these songs appear to be from previously uncollected singles but whatever the source, Mac Wiseman is in good voice throughout and the band completely meshes with what Mac is attempting to do. Bear Family eventually released these tracks in one of their expensive boxed sets, but for me, this album boils down the essence of Mac Wiseman in ten exquisite tracks. I still play this album often.

Grade: A+

Classic Rewind: Little Big Town ft Vince Gill – ‘Why Me, Lord?’

Week ending 1/27/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958 (Sales): The Story of My Life — Marty Robbins (Columbia)

1958 (Disc Jockeys): The Story of My Life — Marty Robbins (Columbia)

1968: Sing Me Back Home — Merle Haggard (Capitol)

1978: Out of My Head and Back in My Bed — Loretta Lynn (MCA)

1988: Where Do The Nights Go — Ronnie Milsap

1998: Just To See You Smile — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2008: Our SongTaylor Swift (Big Machine)

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

2018 (Airplay): Yours — Russell Dickerson (Triple Tigers)

Classic Rewind: Randy Travis – ‘Once You’ve Had The Best’

Paying tribute to George Jones:

Classic Rewind: Alan Jackson – ‘Someday’

Single Review: Dierks Bentley – ‘Woman, Amen’

It’s no secret that Dierks Bentley is coming off of his most shamelessly commercial era with Black. The album was his worst performing record to date, launching just two number one hits before it faded into oblivion. You’re forgiven if you didn’t even know the title track and “What The Hell Did I Say” were singles. The latter was his worst performing single since “Bourbon In Kentucky” and marks just the second time he’s peaked outside the Top 30 in fifteen years.

Bentley is attempting to reverse these declining fortunes with “Woman, Amen” the first single from his forthcoming album, The Mountain. The record, he says under his newly-grown scruffy beard, is a hybrid of Up On The Ridge and Black with the roots elements shining through a bit more prominently then he had expected.

“Woman, Amen” is a love song dedicated to his wife Cassidy. While the song works within that context, it hardly says much of anything substantive and relies heavily on repetition to flush out its three-minute runtime. I will give Bentley credit for turning in something more aligned within his wheelhouse, but I’m not feeling the personal elements he’s been stressing when discussing the song. “Something That We Do” or even “Tell Lorrie I Love Her,” this most certainly is not, but it’s also 2018 — that ship has long since sailed.

This first taste of the Up on the Ridge/Black hybrid also isn’t pulling any punches sonically. He may lean into elements of roots, but this is straight up rock and intrusively loud, especially on the chorus, where Bentley has to shout in order to be heard.

Most hope the old Bentley will show up this time around. With “Woman, Amen” he seems to be moving in that direction, but I’m not buying it yet. “Woman, Amen” is certainly different from his more recent fare, but he has a long way to go to truly return to form.

Grade: C+

Classic Rewind: Kathy Mattea – ‘Heart Of The Country’

Classic Rewind: Brandy Clark – ‘Since You’ve Gone To Heaven’

Classic Rewind: Jerry Wallace – ‘If You Leave Me Tonight, I’ll Cry’

In Remembrance: Lari White (1965-2018)

This one hurts. Lari White has passed away at the age of 52. She had been fighting a battle with cancer (which became public on January 11) and entered hospice last Friday. She collected a string of hits in the mid-to-late 1990s and had a small but significant role in the 2000 Tom Hanks film Cast Away. White teamed with Toby Keith to produce his 2006 album White Trash With Money. She was married to noted songwriter Chuck Cannon.

One of my favorite tunes of hers, “Now I Know,” was also her biggest hit, peaking at #5 in 1994:

Another favorite of mine is her duet with Travis Tritt, “Helping Me Get Over You.” The song, which appeared on his The Restless Kind album, was written by the pair. It peaked at #18 in 1997:

Single Review: Blake Shelton – ‘I Lived It’

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a Blake Shelton single I actually liked, but here comes this track from his current album Texoma Shore which is his newest radio single. Even more surprisingly, it’s co-written by Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip, Ashley Gorley and Ross Copperman.

A gentle understated melody and arrangement leads into a relective lyric about childhood memories. Things that seemed annoying at the time are seen in retrospect with love as things that made the protagonist who he is today.

There’s not a lot more to it, but the details are specific and lovingly recalled, painting a completely believable picture of a suburban Southern upbringing. Musically, it’s also recognisably country music with no extraneous elements.

This might not be a standout in past generations, but heard today it’s a real step in the right direction.

Grade: a slightly generous A-

Classic Rewind: Merle Haggard -‘Little Ole Wine Drinker Me/Today I Started Loving You Again’

Classic Rewind: Joey + Rory – ‘I Hold The Pen (He Writes The Song)’

A classic Harlan Howard gospel tune.

Week ending 1/20/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958 (Sales): The Story of My Life — Marty Robbins (Columbia)

1958 (Disc Jockeys): The Story of My Life — Marty Robbins (Columbia)

1968: Sing Me Back Home — Merle Haggard (Capitol)

1978: What A Difference You’ve Made In My Life — Ronnie Milsap (RCA)

1988: One Friend — Dan Seals (Capitol)

1998: Just To See You Smile — Tim McGraw (Curb)

2008: Our SongTaylor Swift (Big Machine)

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

2018 (Airplay): I Could Use A Love Song — Maren Morris (Columbia Nashville)

Classic Rewind: Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton – ‘The Sweetest Gift (A Mother’s Smile)’

Classic Rewind: The Whites – ‘Making Believe’