My Kind of Country

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

Christmas Rewind: Joey + Rory – ‘Let It Snow (Somewhere Else)’

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Christmas Rewind: Sara Evans – ‘At Christmas’

Christmas Rewind: Mark Chesnutt – ‘Bells Will Be Ringing’

Christmas Rewind: Suzy Bogguss – ‘You’re A Mean One Mr Grinch’

Occasional Hope’s top 10 albums of 2017

While the mainstream sinks further away from country music, I have found some great music this year. It is marked, however, that much of the best music harks back to the past in one way or another. Another difference from radio trends is that half of the top 7 are female artists. Here are my favourite full length albums of 2017:

10. John Baumann, Proving Grounds

An overlooked gem I never got round to reviewing in the summer, this release from a young Texas singer songwriter of the troubadour type was full of high quality songs. Definitely an artist to watch.

Highlights: ‘Old Stone Church’, ‘Lonely In Bars’, ‘Here I Come’, ‘The Trouble With Drinkin’’, ‘Meg’

9. Chris Stapleton, From A Room, vols 1-2

While his music is not traditional country, it is a lot better than most mainstream efforts these days. Chris Stapleton has a great voice and is a superb songwriter, and wife Morgane’s harmonies add the final touch. I am counting these two almost-full length albums as one for the purpose of this list.

Highlights: ‘Up To No Good Livin’’, ‘Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning’, ‘Either Way’, ‘Drunkard’s Prayer’, ‘Scarecrow In The Garden

8. Conway Twitty – Timeless

The recently re-released recordings are a delightful reminder of what country music used to be. Arrangements laden with steel, great songs and Conway’s emotive vocals all contribute to a wonderful album, with only a couple of less stellar moments.

Highlights: ‘Lost Her Love) On Our Last Date’, ’15 Years Ago’, ‘Next In Line’


7. Gene Watson – My Gospel Roots

This only came out on 8 December, just in time to make my year-end list. It is an excellent religious album from one of the best living country vocalists, with an interesting selection of material. The full review will be posted on Friday.

Highlights: ‘Fit For A King’, ‘Help Me’, ‘Old Roman Soldier

6. Charley Pride – Music In My Heart

The legend’s 2017 album is his best music in years. He is in fine voice and the songs are great.

Highlights: ‘Standing In My Way’, ‘I Learned A Lot’, ‘The Way It Was In ‘51’, ‘It Wasn’t That Funny

5. Jason Eady – Jason Eady

A thoughtful, often compelling collection of songs from one of my favorite singer-songwriters.

Highlights: ‘Barabbas’, ‘Where I’ve Been’, ‘No Genie In This Bottle’, ‘Black Jesus’, ‘Why I Left Atlanta’, 40 Years


4. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy

The Texan singer-songwriter released another great record this year, mixing attitude and heartbreak in eqal measures.
Highlights: ‘Bottle By My Bed’, ‘I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight’, ‘Trophy’, ‘Pass The Pain’

3. Alison Krauss – Windy City

Alison Krauss’s beautiful voice on a country leaning collection of standards, beautifully prodiced and exquisitely sung. Flawless.

Highlights: ‘You Don’t Know Me’, ‘River In The Rain’, ‘Losing You’, ‘Gentle On My Mind’, ‘All Alone Am I’, ‘Please Don’t Tell me How The Story Ends’


2. Rhonda Vincent and Daryle Singletary – American Grandstand

A delightful pairing of one of bluegrass’s best female vocalists with country traditionalist Daryle Singletary. Rhonda’s voice blends even better with Daryle than it did with Gene Watson https://mykindofcountry.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/album-review-gene-watson-and-rhonda-vincent-your-money-and-my-good-looks/ a few years ago. Magnificent.

Highlights: ‘We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds’, ‘One’, ‘A Picture Of Me Without You’, ‘After The Fire Is Gone’, ‘American Grandstand


1. Erin Enderlin – Whiskeytown Crier

The singer-songwriter’s latest album is a superb collection of story songs. My only reservation is that several of the songs have appeared upon her previous releases, but this is a truly excellent album.

Highlights: ‘Broken’, ‘Caroline’, ‘His Memory Walks On Water’, ‘The Coldest In Town’, ‘Ain’t It Just Like A Cowboy

Christmas Rewind: Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert – Home (Christmas)

Christmas Rewind: Vince Gill – ‘Christmas Time Is Here’

The song starts at 3.30

Album/EP Review: Jeff Bates – ‘Troublemaker’

I’m a fan of Jeff Bates’ deep voice and strong songwriting, so I was pleased to see he had released a new 7 track recrd, halfway between an album and an EP.

‘If I Get Drunk Tonight’ is an emotional ballad well suited to Bates’ vocal abilities. It is an excellent lost love song in which the protagonist wonders if he can drink away his pain:

If I get drink tonight
Will I find relief?
Will I close my eyes
And finally get sleep?
Will I stop hurtin’,
Or does the whiskey just lie?
I’ll know tomorrow
If I get drunk tonight

This is great, and my favorite track.

Another excellent song, ‘Leaving Town’ is a closely observed look at a dying small town where there are no jobs or futures left.

They built a bypass and it passed us by
All our hopes and dreams dried up and slowly died
We boarded up our memories one window at a time
Now nobody ever comes
Even the river runs from this leaving town

Also very good with a great vocal is the regretful ‘Ain’t Goodbye Good Enough’, about an ex who seems annoyed he isn’t begging her to come back:

You don’t want me, I know
But you won’t let me let you go
You cut me deep and you keep cutting more
You already took your love
Ain’t goodbye good enough?

You’re so angry and I really don’t know why
You’re the one who wanted it this way

The title track, about a hot girl, is disappointing – lacking in melody with too much echo on the chorus and annoying production elements. Also suffering from intrusive production was the otherwise attractive love song ‘Rest Of My Life’.

Much better, ‘Meetin’ My Maker’ is a sweet song about a grandpa with little time for organised religion but who finds God “out in the wild wood”. The set closes with ‘Judging Judas’, a powerful mid-tempo critique of hypocrisy:

Got my religion and I pray religiously
Then I do what I want to
When I get up off my knees
I search my brother and I don’t like what I find
He sees the same thing when he looks into my eyes
And we keep judging Judas while we hang from the same tree
Your sin is greatest cause you don’t sin like me
Reap what we sow and we sow what we reap
And we keep judging Judas while we hang from the same tree

We’re all born innocent then we learn to feel the shame
And then we hide our guilt behind a wall of blame…
We teach love and peace then we take our hate to war

It’s a shame this is not a full length album, but with the exception of one or two tracks it is worth catching up with.

Grade: A-

Christmas Rewind: Kenny Rogers – ‘Children Go Where I Send Thee’

Classic Rewind: Alan Jackson – ‘Let It Be Christmas’

Classic Rewind: Paulette Carlson – ‘Whiskey If You Were A Woman’

A Highway 101 hit:

Classic Rewind: Bellamy Brothers – ‘If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body’

Album Review: The Bellamy Brothers – ‘You Can Get Crazy’

Released in 1980, the Bellamy Brothers’ fifth studio album does not sound very country and is certainly a long way from traditional, but appealed to radio and record buyers in the urban cowboy era, and cemented their star status.

Both the single hit #1 on the Billboard country charts. I did not like the lyrics of ‘Sugar Daddy’ at all, although it is quite pretty melodically with an attractive arrangement. ‘Dancin’ Cowboys’ has a pleasant lilting melody and a steel drum effect, and is one of the duo’s better remembered songs.

There are a few more country moments. ‘Comin’ Back For More’ is a lovely ballad about the ups and downs of a relationship which is strong at its core. ‘Let Me Waltz Into Your Heart’ is a gentle love song ornamented with steel guitar, which is my favorite track.

‘Dead Aim’ is very pop-influenced and not very interesting. I strongly disliked ‘Naked Lady’, another very pop number.

‘Foolin’ Around’ is a midpaced quite catchy rather poppy song about teenagers in love, with a faintly comedic edge – filler, but not bad. ‘I Could Be Makin’ Love To You’ is pleasant sounding about a musician missing his sweetheart, but the hook underwhelms. ‘You Can Get Crazy With Me’ is a nice love song.

‘Fast Train Out Of Texas’ is a pacy story song about a bad boy from Amarillo spending his life running from the side effects of his love life, which is quite entertaining.

This isn’t really a record I would return to, but it was all well done and if you like the Bellamy Brothers in general this would be worth checking out.

Grade: B-

Classic Rewind: John Conlee – ‘Ain’t No Way To Make A Bad Love Grow’

Classic Rewind: Bellamy Brothers – ‘Let Your Love Flow’

The duo’s debut was only a modest country hit but an international pop smash.

Classic Rewind: Lorrie Morgan – ‘Good As I Was To You’

Album Review: Chris Stapleton – ‘From A Room Vol 2’

Chris Stapleton’s second blues-influenced album of the year is broadly similar in mood to the first, but feels a little more consistent and cohesive. Wife Morgane Hayes Stapleton’s delicate harmonies augment Chris’s rougher yet soulful voice, and they could easily be billed as a duo rather than Chris as the solo star.

There are a couple of outside covers bookending the set. Kevin Welch wrote the opening ‘Millionaire’ around the turn of the millennium, and it is a laid back slightly loungy tune about true wealth coming from love. ‘Friendship’ is an old jazzy soul song which works well for Chris.

He wrote the remainder of the material with various partners. A couple of songs were written with Kendell Marvel. ‘Tryin’ To Untangle My Mind’ was slightly more country as done by Marvel on his own excellent album this year, with Chris’s version leaning more bluesy and feeling sleazier. The rock-edged honky tonker ‘Hard Livin’’ is on a similar theme of looking back at a life of hard drinking and wild living with some regret as he grows older.

‘Scarecrow In The Garden’, co-written with Brice Long and Matt Fleener, is a family story song about immigrants coming from Northern Ireland to farm on bad ground in West Virginia, ending with a doomladen picture in the third generation:

There’s a scarecrow in the garden
That looks like Lucifer
I’ve been readin’ Revelation
With my bare feet in the river

I know every single fencepost
Every rock that goes around
I’ve been starin’ at the red oak
Where I know they’ll lay me down

The fields ain’t what they once were
The rains just seem to flood
And I’ve been thinkin’ about that river
Wonderin’ how it turns to blood

I’ve been sittin’ here all morning
I was sittin’ here all night
There’s a Bible in my left hand
And a pistol in my right

A gentle acoustic arrangement allows the song to breathe.

Another highlight is ‘Drunkard’s Prayer’, written with Jameson Clark, an honest confessional with a stripped down acoustic arrangement:

I wish that I could go to church but I’m too ashamed of me
I hate the fact it takes a bottle to get me on my knees
And I hope He’ll forgive
The things you ain’t forgot
When I get drunk and talk to God

Mike Henderson, once a band mate in the SteelDrivers, co-wrote two songs. The subdued, sad ‘Nobody’s Lonely Tonight’ is extremely good, but ‘Midnight Train To Memphis’ is raucous Southern rock which is not to my taste at all.

Morgane’s father Darrell Hayes helped Chris write ‘A Simple Song’, a weary, gentle song about a working class man’s life, suffering in hard times but satisfied by family and home.

As with the previous release, there are only 9 tracks, which is disappointing.

However, while Stapleton is certainly not traditional country, his music is head and shoulders above most of the current ‘mainstream’ crop, and it is well worth seeking out.

Grade: A-

Classic Rewind: George Jones – ‘Just A Little Talk With Jesus’

Classic Rewind: Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton – ‘Lost Forever In Your Kiss’

Classic Rewind: Ralph Stanley – ‘Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine’