My Kind of Country

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

Category Archives: Everything Else

Album Review: Heidi & Ryan – ‘Heidi & Ryan’

Hedid & RyanThis is a new duo whose sound is based around Heidi’s voice, which has a really beautiful tone. Heidi and Ryan Greer met at a bluegrass festival in 2010, and their music is bluegrass with a strong gospel focus. She plays some lovely fiddle too, throughout the album.

They open with the charmingly nostalgic ‘Grandma’s Knee’, which reflects on childhood listening to stories and songs. ‘Pictures’ draws on the same theme.

The emotional ‘Come To Jesus’ is not the Mindy Smith song, but a beautiful account of finding God. The serious ‘Money Won’t’ is a beautifully sung ballad about the limitations of material desires. The pacy ‘Fire Down Yonder’ warns against damnation.

‘The Darkest Day’ is a somber first person account of the Crucifixion and Resurrection from the viewpoint of one of the men crucified with Jesus. The emotive and demanding ‘Will You Be Ready’ moves from Easter to the Second Coming.

The delicate ‘Sometimes Love Hurts’ is a moving story song about the limits of love. First we meet a dedicated overseas (probably missionary) doctor who gets no thanks for his untiring labours, then a woman who selflessly supports the husband who has let her down, and finally Jesus:

Mocked and laughed
Bout the one he loves the most
Love isn’t always a two way deal
You can’t judge it by the way you feel
Sometimes love hurts

They use the Alison Krauss arrangement for a cover of ‘Oh Atlanta’, which is nicely done but my least favorite track.

While Heidi sings most of the lead vocals, Ryan takes over on the earnest ‘Sowing Seeds’. While he is not as exceptional a vocalist as she is, his warm voice is more than listenable and the song is nice.

The set closes with a really beautiful version of ‘Somebody’s Praying’ which Ricky Skaggs recorded on his My Father’s Son album in 1991. This is another highlight.

This is an excellent debut album from a very promising new act.

Grade: A+

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Album Review: Little Texas – ‘Missing Years’

mi0001766288After their eponymous album failed to reignite their career Little Texas all but disappeared. Tim Rushlow joined Brady Seals in perusing a solo career, riding high with the #8 “She Misses Him” when Atlantic shuttered its Nashville division in 2001 (which, if you may remember, also displaced Craig Morgan). Seals, despite multiple attempts, never gained traction with any of his solo recordings.

Duane Propes, Del Gray, Porter Howell, and Dwayne O’Brien resurrected Little Texas in 2004 with pushback from Rushlow, who sued in an attempt to block them from using the ‘Little Texas’ name. His attempts were unsuccessful and the band signed with Montage Music Group in 2007. The band’s first new release in ten years was The Very Best of Little Texas: Live and Loud, a concert album with Powell at the helm.

The band returned a month later with Missing Years, a proper studio recording produced by Anthony Martin. Little Texas hardly had a prayer of a legitimate resurgence, although it didn’t deter Montage from pushing ahead with three singles from the album.

They led with “Your Woman,” an awful and generic electric rocker, which didn’t chart. The title track was a slight return to form, a pop ballad, that miraculously peaked at #45. Final single “Party Life,” another generic rocker, also failed to chart.

Missing Years is nothing short of a disaster with zero tracks worth highlighting. The biggest misstep in this album specifically is using Howell as the lead singer. The man may have some talents but they aren’t his voice, an unlistenable mix of growly gruff. Martin places him in the grunge rock style run into the ground by Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert, which suits him, but not the audience.

I understand that spotlighting Little Texas wasn’t a popular choice amongst our readers and I can fully understand how they’d unnerve those who prefer a more pure take on country music. But I’ve always enjoyed both Seals and Rushlow and the contributions they brought to the band. Missing Years proves they were the band. Without either of them, Little Texas is nothing more than a waste of space. I have no problem with the band reuniting, but I’m with Rushlow in wishing they didn’t use the Little Texas name for this wasted second act. It doesn’t matter, though, as no one truly cared if they reunited or not. Certainly not those fans who pushed Big Time past double platinum.

Grade: D

Classic Rewind: Steve Wariner – ‘One Bright Star’

Christmas Rewind: Skeeter Davis – ‘C H R I S TM A S’

Christmas Rewind: Jim Ed Brown – ‘An Old Christmas Card’

Christmas Rewind: Terri Clark – ‘O Little Town Of Bethlehem’

In Memoriam: Mark Gray (1952-2016)

Singer/Songwriter Mark Gray has passed, aged 64. The onetime member of Exile wrote ‘The Closer You Get,’ which was recorded by Alabama and hit #1 in 1983. Another notable recording, ‘Sometimes When We Touch’ paired him with last month’s spotlight artist Tammy Wynette. The song peaked at #6 in 1985. It would be her final Top Ten charting single. His biggest solo single, “Please Be Love” peaked at #7 the same year.

 

In Memoriam: Curly Putnum (1930-2016)

Legendary songwriter Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr passed away yesterday at age 85. Along with Bobby Braddock he co-wrote the country classics ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E‘ and ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today.’ The latter is often considered the greatest country song ever written.

Putnum’s other iconic songs include:

Porter Wagoner, ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ (#4, 1965):

Tammy Wynette and David Houston, ‘My Elusive Dreams’ (#1, 1967):

Tanya Tucker, ‘Blood Red and Going Down’ (#1, 1973): 

In Memoriam: Jean Shepard (1933-2016)

This morning we mourn the loss of the legendary Jean Shepard, who passed away at age 82. Her importance to the history of country music, as Paul W. Dennis pointed out, cannot be overstated. She was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame, along with Bobby Braddock and Reba McEntire, in 2011.

Second Fiddle (To An Old Guitar) (#5, 1964):

Slippin’ Away (#4, 1973):

 

 

 

Classic Rewind: Trisha Yearwood – ‘Wrong Side Of Memphis’

Classic Rewind: Emmylou Harris – ‘All My Tears’

Single Review: Dierks Bentley – ‘Somewhere On A Beach’

dierks-bentley-somewhere-on-a-beach-single-coverWe’ve been down this road before. Dierks Bentley releases something intelligent to country radio and it fizzles. He responds with a horrid piece of tripe just ripe enough to please the powers that be without completely alienating the fans who still consider him one of the last remaining good guys in modern country music. So why does the road look and feel so different this time?

It’s because “Somewhere On A Beach” is Bentley’s most shameless attempt yet at fitting in with the cool crowd. He’s been the sideways, drunk on a plane and bat shit crazy. But he’s never gone as far as to literally have sex in the sand. We’ve come a long way from the days when all it took was a white tank top to get him hot and bothered.

But this isn’t solely about Bentley and his image. It’s about a song that’s nothing more than a pile of dog dung left on the side of the road by an owner to lazy to bend over and pick it up. It’s about a brazen attempt at marrying bro and beach bum-country signifiers. It’s about a marriage made in the deepest depths of hell.

Worse, “Somewhere On A Beach” is about a genre where lines like ‘she’s got a body and she’s naughty’ are liquid gold. Where ‘I’m getting sun, getting some, and I ain’t slept in a week’ passes as a good time. Where the theme of summertime has been grossly exploited growing more blatantly graphic with each passing song.

The genre has been changing – the likes of Jason Isbell, Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard and Aaron Watson did score number one albums last year. The phenomenon that is Chris Stapleton is unstoppable. It makes one wonder, is the ‘cool crowd’ the country music fans or the gatekeepers pushing drivel like this on the unsuspecting public?

Like other reviewers, I don’t blame Bentley for this atrocity. He may be co-hosting the upcoming ACM Awards with Luke Bryan, but he knows quality music. I’d be shocked if his new album, Black, fails to deliver. It better live up to expectations.

Grade: F

Christmas Rewind: Chris Young – ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’

Classic Rewind: Dolly Parton – ‘I Wish I Felt This Way At Home’

Classic Rewind: Martina McBride and The Chieftains – ‘I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight’

Classic Rewind: Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn – ‘Feelings’

Week ending 6/20/15: #1 singles this week in country music history

linda-ronstadt1955 (Sales): In The Jailhouse Now — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1955 (Jukebox): In The Jailhouse Now — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1955 (Disc Jockeys): Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young — Faron Young (Capitol)

1965: Ribbon of Darkness — Marty Robbins (Columbia)

1975: When Will I Be Loved — Linda Ronstadt (Capitol)

1985: Country Boy — Ricky Skaggs (Epic)

1995: Summer’s Comin’ — Clint Black (RCA)

2005: Making Memories Of Us — Keith Urban (Capitol)

2015: Girl Crush — Little Big Town (Capitol)

2015 (Airplay): Sippin’ on Fire — Florida Georgia Line (Republic Nashville)

Classic Rewind: Tim McGraw ft Martina McBride – ‘Angry All The Time’

Classic Rewind for April: Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers – ‘New Star Over Texas’

Review: the early singles of Dean Dillon

gary stewart dean dillon 2 for 1Dean Dillon was signed to a singles deal with RCA in 1979. He released half a dozen singles for the label. Although there was no album, the recordings from this period were made available on a CD release in 2005 with his duet albums with Gary Stewart, which we will also be reviewing.

His debut single, a co-write with Steven Abbot, was released in 1979, and reached #30 on Billboard. ‘I’m Into The Bottle (To Get You Out Of My Mind)’ is a typical honky tonker of the period with Dillon’s unbridled vocal sounding influenced by his future duet partner Gary Stewart. The production sounds a bit dated now (particularly the backing vocals), but the song is solid. The B-side, ‘Tonight’, about going out and getting drunk is more fillerish.
Grade: B

The next single. ‘What Good Is A Heart’, a solo composition, made it two places higher in 1980. It is a pleasant but not very memorable mid-tempo tune about heartbreak with obtrusive backing singers. It was backed with ‘He’s Number One’, a ballad (co-written with Kent Robbins) in which the protagonist looks wistfully on as his beloved is happily in love with another man, “but I love you too”.
Grade: C

The third single was the original version of Dillon’s superb ‘Nobody In His Right Mind (Would’ve Left Her’), a classic in the making. George Strait’s hit version is better, of course, and Keith Whitley’s cut is worth hearing too, but Dillon’s version is sung with a melancholic precision of feeling which is very convincing. This was to make Dean’s best ever chart position as an artist, with a peak at #25. Perhaps it’s lucky it didn’t make more of a splash, as it left George Strait the chance to do so. The B-side, ‘Smelling Like A Rose’ was pretty good too, a lonesome ballad about a breakup.
Grade: A

The follow up was ‘They’ll Never Take Me Alive’, which he wrote with Frank Dycus. A dramatic outlaw-themed lyric about hiding from the memory of lost love is well written, but the vocal lacks dynamics and the result is not as interesting as it should be. Radio programmers, evidently agreed, and the single was not a success. The B-side, the more subdued ‘Tonight One Of Us Is Going Out Of My Mind’, is actually a much better song about battling with a memory.
Grade: C (flipped, it would be A-)

There was a final attempt at selling Dean as a solo act on RCA, with ‘Jesus, Let Me Slide’, which he wrote with Frank Dycus and Al Gore. This is an excellent song about a man torn between sin and salvation, and not quite ready to take the strait and narrow path. He passes that open bar going home in the early hours of Sunday morning and ends up staying there until it’s too late for church.

Jesus, let me slide one more time
My cup runneth over with the wine
That old slick tongued talkin’ devil’s
Got me out of my mind
Jesus, let me slide one more time

I think this was just a promotional single, with no B-side.

Grade: A

After this, RCA teamed Dean up with the older honky tonker Gary Stewart.

‘If You’re Going Crazy (I’m Headed That Way)’ is a good song in conversational vein, which I believe was never released at the time, but is included with the singles in the 2005 CD. It has a 1982 copyright date, so was probably cut after the duo broke up, and was written with Frank Dycus. It is nicely produced with lots of steel underlining the downbeat mood.

In 1983 RCA released another future classic in the form of Dillon’s original take on the masterpiece ‘Famous Last Words Of A Fool’, which he wrote with Rex Huston. This is the best of the Dean Dillon solo singles, with a very tasteful pure country production and a sensitive vulnerable vocal, although it is inevitably now overshadowed by the Strait cut.
Grade: A

By this point, Dillon’s songwriting career was already much more successful than his singing, and he took a break from the performing side for the next few years.