My Kind of Country

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

Classic Rewind: Jon Pardi — ‘Nobody In His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her’

Jon Pardi covers a George Strait classic:

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Classic Rewind: Pistol Annies — ‘Best Years of My Life’

Classic Rewind: Carter Family — ‘In The Pines’

Week ending 1/12/19: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958: City Lights — Ray Price (Columbia)

1969: Daddy Sang Bass — Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1979: Lady Lay Down — John Conlee (ABC)

1989: Change of Heart — The Judds (RCA/Curb)

1999: You’re Easy On The Eyes — Terri Clark (Mercury)

2009: Here — Rascal Flatts (Lyric Street)

2019: Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

2019 (Airplay): Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

Classic Rewind: Shania Twain — ‘Still Under The Weather’

Rare performance of a song from her debut album:

Album Review: Bill Anderson — ‘Anderson’

Bill Anderson released his 72nd album last September. It wasn’t until last weekend when he hosted and performed on a new episode of Country’s Family Reunion on RFD-TV that I was finally inspired to review it.

The song he performed on the show was the album’s lead single, the fantastic “Everybody Wants To Be Twenty-One,” which he co-wrote with Jamey Johnson, who joins him on it. The somber ballad is about the passage of time, with Anderson and Johnson singing:

The young wish they were old and

The old wish they were young

Everybody wants to be twenty-one

“Everybody Wants To Be Twenty-One” begs to be covered by either George Strait or Kenny Chesney, who a few years ago would’ve had a major hit with it. He continues in a reflective mood on “Old Things New,” in which he sings about playing records from the 1950s, calling old friends, and taking photos of his departed wife out of the drawer to put back on display. He’s taking old things and making them new and taking stock of his life as it is in the present moment.

He continues the theme on “Thankful,” a brilliant ballad in which he lists everything that matters to him including his more than fifty years in country music where the universe has allowed him the opportunity to live in Nashville, where he’s been able to write songs that have morphed into standards and become a legend of the Grand Ole Opry. But, in his eyes, those things pale in comparison to the folks he’s been able to entertain all these years:

For without you life wouldn’t mean a doggone thing

And I’d just be a singer with no song to sing

A wounded bird grounded with a broken wing

I’m thankful that none of that is true

cause most of all I’m thankful for you

“Thankful,” which is tastefully presented with beautiful ribbons of steel guitar throughout, is one of three cuts Anderson wrote solo. “Dixie Everywhere I Go” is an intimate conversation between a bartender and a customer, a man who moved to Buffalo from the South. The customer explains to the barkeep how he takes his southern upbringing, Dixie as he refers to it, wherever he travels. Turns out the barkeep also has a Dixie, a woman he loves. The lyric is very good and engaging, although the multiple meanings of the word Dixie are a bit cutesy for my taste.

The third of Anderson’s solo cuts is “Something To Believe In,” a list song about needing the tried-and-true in life. The Harmonica-laced “Dead To You” finds Anderson single, after his woman severed ties, making it clear she never wants anything to do with him again. He clearly wants to win her back, but clearly doesn’t know what to do. He co-wrote the ballad with John Paul White, who has made quite the career for himself in the Americana realm since The Civil Wars disbanded a number of years ago.

The harmonica makes another appearance, this time on “Watchin’ It Rain,” a mournful ballad about a man devastated in the wake of his woman walking out on him. The track is depressing and slow, with a moody bluesy undertone that fits nicely with the lyrics.

He reverses the sad tone on “That’s What Made Me Love You,” a traditional country ballad led by twin fiddles, steel guitar, and a lyric in which he lists all the things that endears him to his woman. Anderson’s vocal didn’t have enough twang for me, but other than that, this is one of the many standout tracks on the album.

“Practice Leaving Town” puts such a clever spin on the traditional breakup song, it’s amazing it hasn’t already been written before. Anderson sings of man in a relationship that’s clearly on the rocks. Neither party has the courage to end things for good, but he knows it’s coming so he fires up his “gettin’ out of dodge pickup” and drives “about fifty miles” before turning around. The relationship may or may not ever officially end, but if it does, he’ll know exactly what he’ll do and where he’ll go.

The album’s brilliance continues on “The Only Bible,” in which Anderson, in a co-write with Tim Rushlow, introduces us to Norman, a man Anderson actually went to college within Athens, Georgia. As he puts it, Norman wouldn’t attend church or go to a bible study because he felt they were full of hypocrites and fools who would talk the talk but wouldn’t walk the walk. Norman wanted people to lead by example every day since “we may be the only Bible someone ever reads.”

The only time the album deviates from its charted course is on “Waffle House Christmas,” which Anderson co-wrote with Erin Enderlin and Alex Kline. The song is a charming and humorous tale about a family displaced on Christmas morning after the tree caught on fire and the turkey burned to a crisp. They check into a motel and venture to the local Waffle House to salvage what’s left of the day. A video, which prominently featured Enderlin and Tanya Tucker, was popular this past holiday season.

“Waffle House Christmas” is an excellent addition to the album and a welcomed change of pace. Anderson typically leans heavy and serious and while it may have benefited from some lighter tunes, it’s a wonderful album of quality country music. I don’t think the majority of the songs lend themselves to repeated listenings for me, many are the “if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it” type of songs, but there isn’t a clunker in the bunch.

In the press materials for the album, Anderson said by album 72, many would assume he’d just mail it in, which he says isn’t the case. He certainly didn’t mail it in at all. The only crime here is that the album has flown so low under the radar it’s all but been overlooked. I highly recommend checking it out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Grade: A

Classic Rewind: Michael Ray, Carly Pearce, and Ricky Skaggs — ‘When You Say Nothing At All’

Two stars from the newest generation, who also happened to just get engaged, are joined by Skaggs on a Keith Whitley classic:

Classic Rewind: Alison Krauss — ‘A Little Past Little Rock’

Alison covers the Lee Ann Womack’s classic at the ASCAP Country Awards, 11/12/18:

In Memoriam: Steve Ripley dies at 69

Ripley was the lead singer of The Tractors. The group is best known for their iconic debut single “Baby Likes To Rock It,” which hit #11 in 1994:

A year later The Tractors released their Christmas album, which featured a holiday-themed take on the song entitled “Santa Claus is Comin’ (In A Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train):”

The album also featured “The Santa Claus Boogie,” written solely by Ripley:

The Tractors are perhaps also known for their spirited cover of the Rolling Stones classic “The Last Time.” which served as the lead single from Stone Country: Country Artists Perform the Songs of the Rolling Stones:

Classic Rewind: Ricky Skaggs and friends — ‘Black Eyed Suzie, Highway 40 Blues, Country Boy’

From the 52nd CMA Awards last November. In honor of his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Keith Urban is filling in for Vince Gill, who was under the weather and had to cancel at the last minute:

Week ending 1/5/19: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958: City Lights — Ray Price (Columbia)

1969: Daddy Sang Bass — Johnny Cash (Columbia)

1979: Tulsa Time — Don Williams (ABC)

1989: Hold Me — K.T. Oslin (RCA)

1999: You’re Easy On The Eyes — Terri Clark (Mercury)

2009: Here — Rascal Flatts (Lyric Street)

2019: Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

2019 (Airplay): Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

 

Week ending 12/29/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958: City Lights — Ray Price (Columbia)

1968: Witcha Lineman — Glen Campbell (Capitol)

1978: The Gambler — Kenny Rogers (United Artists)

1988: When You Say Nothing At All — Keith Whitley (RCA)

1998: You’re Easy On The Eyes — Terri Clark (Mercury)

2008: Roll With Me — Montgomery Gentry (Columbia Nashville)

2018: Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

2018 (Airplay): Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

 

Album Review: The Mavericks — ‘Hey! Merry Christmas!’

What I love about The Mavericks is you always know what to expect from their music. You’re always going to get something radically different than you could even imagine, which has been even more true with their most recent albums. Hey! Merry Christmas! is no exception, and only proves, once again, that Raul Malo can sing anything and everything, regardless of style.

The album opens with a joyous ode to the season, “Christmas Time (Is Coming ‘Round Again),” with follows in the company of “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” and “Happy Holidays.” The listener is transported to another place and time, in classic Mavericks’ style.

“Santa Does” and “I Have Wanted You for Christmas” are both excellent in their own ways, whether celebrating the omnipresent one in the red suit or tributing a love that has endured through the generations. The album’s first ballad, the beautifully sparse “Christmas For Me (Is You)” is a revelation, with Malo committing to record a spellbinding R&B and jazz style vocal you have to hear to believe.

The R&B and jazz influence continues on “Santa Wants To Take You for a Ride,” a sensual and slinky double entendre that works, despite objectification. The mournful “Christmas Without You” is in more of a traditional Christmas style and finds Malo engulfed in Christmas cheer he can’t enjoy while also mending a broken heart. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” is a cover of the classic, which is well executed, but a bit too bombastic for my ears.

The title track, which appears next, swerves the album out of its detour into the emotional wrought and back into the light. It’s not my favorite song on the album, but it is very, very well done. “One More Christmas” is unremarkable at best, while the closing number “Happy Holiday,” which Andy Williams made famous, has been given the most eccentric treatment I’ve ever heard. The song, which typically exudes brightness and joy, has been stripped bare to reveal an almost suicidal underbelly I can only regard as interesting.

In my time as a Mavericks fan, I’ve come to enjoy their 1990s output more than their more recent stuff. Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of Don Cook’s signature production style or I just like their country stuff better, but I’ve had a difficult time embracing their latest works. But I have to say I really enjoy Hey! Merry Christmas! There are some excellent original tracks on here that add a bit of punch to the holiday music market and make this album well worth checking out if you haven’t heard it yet.

Grade: B+

Week ending 12/22/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958: City Lights — Ray Price (Columbia)

1968: Witcha Lineman — Glen Campbell (Capitol)

1978: The Gambler — Kenny Rogers (United Artists)

1988: When You Say Nothing At All — Keith Whitley (RCA)

1998: Husbands and Wives — Brooks & Dunn (Arista Nashville)

2008: Roll With Me — Montgomery Gentry (Columbia Nashville)

2018: Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

2018 (Airplay): Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

 

Week ending 12/15/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958: City Lights — Ray Price (Columbia)

1968: Born To Be With You — Sonny James (Capitol)

1978: The Gambler — Kenny Rogers (United Artists)

1988: A Tender Lie — Restless Heart (RCA Nashville)

1998: Let Me Let Go — Faith Hill (Warner Bros.)

2008: Chicken Fried — Zac Brown Band (Atlantic)

2018: Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

2018 (Airplay): Best Shot — Jimmie Allen (Stoney Creek)

Album Review: Aaron Watson — ‘An Aaron Watson Family Christmas’

Country traditionalist Aaron Watson has been promising his fans a family Christmas album for a while now, and in 2018 he finally got it released. The ten-track album, which features Watson singing with his wife and three children, mixes eight holiday standards with two original songs.

One of those originals, “Lonely Lonestar Christmas” is the only song Watson wrote for the album. The mid-tempo ballad, about a sad sack who is facing Christmas alone, has a surprisingly humorous tone for the subject matter. The fiddle and mandolin prominently featured throughout is a nice touch, too.

The second original, “She Starred At Him All Night” comes from the pen of Drew Womack, who rose to fame with Sons of the Desert in the late 1990s. The song retells the familiar story of Mary and Jesus Christ, with Mary in awe of this miracle boy she created. The track has good bones and a pretty melody. The lyric, which Womack drowns in lazy repetitiveness and Christmas signifiers, leaves much to be desired.

Watson’s take on “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” is charming, with his children (Jake (age 12), Jack (age 10) and Jolee Kate (age 8)) adding a nice assist to keep the song playful and fun. Jolee Kate takes the lead on “Christmas Time Is Here,” a traditional ballad, while her brother Jack joins in for a nice recitation about halfway through. Jake joins his dad for a fun rendition of “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.”

Watson’s wife Kimberly joins him on two songs. The first is the oft-covered and recently ridiculed  “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which has always grated on my nerves. The other, “Jingle Bells,” is an excellent take on the song. Kimberly’s breathy vocal doesn’t work for me on the duet at all, but she adds some nice harmony to the latter.

The family comes together for ‘A Watson Family Greeting’ to close the album. It’s their take on “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” which is elongated by instrumental beds of lovely ribbons of fiddle. Watson does much of the heavy lifting himself, with his kids joining in by the end. It comes complete with a ‘hidden track,’ a recitation by one of his sons.

Watson handles the final two songs solo. “The Christmas Waltz” and “Silent Night” are both excellent and two of the album’s highlights.

Watson describes the album as “Sinatra on the farm,” which fits the album perfectly. He sticks to his wheelhouse wonderfully, resisting the temptation to veer into big band territory. I highly recommend checking this one out, as it has its considerable charm, although I probably won’t be revisiting it much. Don’t get me wrong, I love it for what it is, but the contributions by kids, while cute, don’t really lend themselves to repeated listenings, year-after-year.

Grade: B+

Week ending 12/8/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958: City Lights — Ray Price (Columbia)

1968: Stand By Your Man — Tammy Wynette (Epic)

1978: On My Knees — Charlie Rich with Janie Fricke (Epic)

1988: If You Ain’t Lovin’ (You Ain’t Livin’) — George Strait (MCA)

1998: It Must Be Love — Ty Herndon featuring Sons of the Desert (Epic)

2008: Chicken Fried — Zac Brown Band (Atlantic)

2018: Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

2018 (Airplay): Lose It — Kane Brown (RCA Nashville)

My Kind of Country turns 10

Do you remember where you were exactly ten years ago? Barack Obama has just defeated John McCain to win his first of two-terms as our 44th President. The United States was beginning to feel the effects of the Great Recession. On our radios, a hot new group out of Georgia was dominating the charts. This week in 2008, Zac Brown Band logged their first of two consecutive weeks at #1 with their debut single “Chicken Fried.” On the album’s chart, it was Taylor Swift’s just-released Fearless, logging its third consecutive week at #1, with no signs of slowing down.

In the country blogosphere, J.R. Journey launched My Kind of Country. Our little blog was born ten years ago tomorrow on Dec. 8, 2008. On that day, J.R. wrote:

Welcome to the My Kind Of Country blog.  Here, you will find reviews, editorials, and discussions about the country music we love – our kind of country.  The idea is simple:  rather than write lots of negative reviews about the new music that’s coming out – because let’s face it, much of what comes out of Nashville and your country radio dial is crap – we are going to write about the music we love.  The music that moves us, drives us, and makes us laugh and cry; the music that touches us.  Not that we will spend our time posting fangirl gushes about a select group of artists that are among our favorites.  To the contrary, we intend to post about the music we love and tell you why we love it, and of course, how we think it could be improved upon.

It’s been an ambitious mission from the start. Erik wrote our first album review, a glowing critique of LeAnn Rimes’ Family, on Dec. 10. Our first spotlight artist? Oh, that was Miss Leslie and her Juke-Jointers in January 2009. Through the years we’ve seen many writers retire their individual perspectives on country music, from our friends Erik, Rainbow, Chris Dean, Megan Morrow, and Razor X to our fearless leader himself, J.R.

I won’t begin to assert I’m an historian on all things MKoC. I joined the team in June 2011 after I had become enamored with their Spotlight Artist coverage of Emmylou Harris in April. After reading a few of their reviews, I digitally downloaded her solo albums from the 1970s and composed a post on my own blog, entitled “New Artist Obsession: Emmylou Harris.” I had included a link to their coverage, which garnered the attention of J.R. and Razor X. I had no idea how impressed J.R. would be with my work, nor was I gunning for anyone’s attention. Shortly thereafter he sent me an email and asked me to join the team, an honor I accepted happily and excitedly. My first post was a single review for Julie Roberts’ “NASCAR Party” that ruffled a few feathers with her publicity team. I then contributed two single reviews to their Randy Travis coverage that month, among other reviews, and was off to the races.

But this isn’t solely about me. My Kind of Country has and always will be about a passionate group of fans sharing their thoughts and perspectives on country music with a critical ear. Two of our longest contributing writers, Razor X, and Occasional Hope, became members of the team in Feb. 2009. Razor’s first post, “Rediscovering Forgotten Gems” found him taking a look back at albums, with a focus on Randy Travis, he had the urge to revisit. Occasional Hope introduced herself to readers through “Finding Country,” in which she shared how she came to love country music. Paul W. Dennis joined just before I did in 2011. The 9513 had just shuttered and J.R. asked him to continue his Country Heritage series with us. His first post was “Country Heritage: Gary Stewart – A Short Life Of Trouble (1944-2003).”

A while back, a friend had asked me if they could take a look at work on MKoC and even proceeded to print it out in order to read it (yes, I also thought that was strange). In doing so, he made a comment I’ve never forgotten. He said the blog had a really great title and I instantly knew what he meant. He didn’t say it, but he was referring to the idea that as a group of writers we’re each sharing the country music we love individually, writing pieces that reflect our love of the genre, not just getting assigned albums and singles we may or may not care enough about to compose a thoughtful post. I hadn’t looked at it that way, but he was correct in every sense of the word.

I also often think about how hard it is to keep a blog going and just how many have come and gone in the ten years we’ve been alive. It’s easy for readers to overlook the fact that our positions as staff writers aren’t our full or even part-time jobs. MKoC is a labor of love we create out of passion for country music. It takes a village to keep a blog vital, which is why The 9513 and Country California have ceased publication. Engine 145 only ended once Juli Thanki received a prestigious position with The Tennessan, which has led to exciting opportunities for her in 2019. Ken Morton, Jr’s That Nashville Sound is still going strong and  Country Universe is still around, after 14 years, albeit in an abbreviated form.

Little did J.R. realize in his inaugural post when he wrote: “much of what comes out of Nashville and your country radio dial is crap.” He never could’ve known the assault on the very ideals of commercial country music that was coming down the line with bro-country and whatever the heck you call what’s followed in its wake. It’s ironic, at least to me, that the peak years for country blogging have coincided with the continued release of literally the worst music our beloved genre has ever produced. At least we’ve learned there are alternatives and still some pretty awesome music being made if you know where to look.

I know this post is long, but heck, you only celebrate your tenth anniversary once. We would not be here if it wasn’t for our continued passion for country music, but even more importantly, our readers. Thank you for continuing to make us and our writing a part of your lives. Please continue to comment and engage with us on our posts. We always love reading and responding to whatever you have to say.

Onward.

Week ending 12/1/18: #1 singles this week in country music history

1958: City Lights — Ray Price (Columbia)

1968: Stand By Your Man — Tammy Wynette (Epic)

1978: I Just Want to Love You — Eddie Rabbitt (Elektra)

1988: I Know How He Feels — Reba McEntire (MCA)

1998: Wide Open Spaces — Dixie Chicks (Monument)

2008: Love Story — Taylor Swift (Big Machine)

2018: Speechless — Dan + Shay (Warner Nashville)

2018 (Airplay): Best Shot — Jimmie Allen (Stoney Creek)

Classic Rewind: Johnny Cash and Shel Silverstein — ‘A Boy Named Sue’