My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Bon Jovi

Week ending 5/14/16: #1 singles this week in country music history

Charley-Pride_1981-21956 (Sales): Heartbreak Hotel/I Was The One — Elvis Presley (RCA)

1956 (Jukebox): Heartbreak Hotel/I Was The One — Elvis Presley (RCA)

1956 (Disc Jockeys): Heartbreak Hotel — Elvis Presley (RCA)

1966: I Want To Go With You — Eddy Arnold (RCA)

1976: My Eyes Can Only See as Far as You — Charley Pride (RCA)

1986: Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days) — The Judds (RCA/Curb)

1996: You Win My Love — Shania Twain (Mercury)

2006: Who Says You Can’t Go Home — Bon Jovi with Jennifer Nettles (Island)

2016: Somewhere on a Beach — Dierks Bentley (Capitol)

2016 (Airplay): Think of You — Chris Young featuring Cassadee Pope (RCA)

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Week ending 5/7/16: #1 singles this week in country music history

mickey-gilley-041956 (Sales): Heartbreak Hotel/I Was The One — Elvis Presley (RCA)

1956 (Jukebox): Heartbreak Hotel/I Was The One — Elvis Presley (RCA)

1956 (Disc Jockeys): Heartbreak Hotel — Elvis Presley (RCA)

1966: I Want To Go With You — Eddy Arnold (RCA)

1976: Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time — Mickey Gilley (Playboy)

1986: Once in a Blue Moon — Earl Thomas Conley (RCA)

1996: You Win My Love — Shania Twain (Mercury)

2006: Who Says You Can’t Go Home — Bon Jovi with Jennifer Nettles (Island)

2016: Somewhere on a Beach — Dierks Bentley (Capitol)

2016 (Airplay): Confession — Florida Georgia Line (Republic Nashville)

Album Review: Dolly Parton – ‘Blue Smoke’

blue smoke albumI raved about the title track of Dolly Parton’s new album when I first heard it a couple of months ago, and in the time since it has not lost its charms for me. The album is a bit more of a mixed bag in terms of the range of musical styles, but Dolly is still a great singer and songwriter. She sounds enthusiastic and invested throughout, and has written some very good new songs for the project.

‘Miss You – Miss Me’ is an excellent song from the point of view of a child begging her warring and separated parents to reconcile for her sake. A delicately understated arrangement of mandolin, guitar and piano supports Dolly’s vulnerable vocal.

‘Unlikely Angel’ is a sweet love song addressed to someone who has rescued the protagonist from a bad situation. It is very charming, set to a pretty melody with an attractive acoustic arrangement and delicately delivered vocal. The impeccably played and sung ‘If I Had Wings’ has a high lonesome bluegrass feel and a gospel message.

The upbeat and nostalgic ‘Home’, which Dolly wrote with her producer Kent Wells, has a little busier production, as Dolly cosily remembers (a sanitized version of) her childhood, without any mention of the poverty she has written about in earlier (and better) songs. ‘Try’ is an inspirational number which comes across a little too much like a self-help book about overcoming adversity, with intrusive backing vocals, but the intense sincerity of Dolly’s vocals helps to sell it.

Dolly exercises her playful pop-country side with a rebuttal to a potential lover who isn’t in it for the long run, only wanting a temporary ‘Lover Du Jour’. It is wittily written and charmingly performed with Dolly showing off a pretty good French accent, but the poppy production and backing vocals verge on the irritating with repeated listens.

Two duets see Dolly teaming up with fellow veterans. ‘You Can’t Make Old Friends’ is a warm hearted tribute to friendship written by Don Schlitz, Caitlyn Smith and Ryan Hanna King, perfectly sung by both Dolly and Kenny Rogers. The production is fuller than it is on the acoustic numbers, with a string arrangement as well as electric instruments but still tasteful and understated. Another old friend, Willie Nelson helps out on Dolly’s own song ‘From Here To The Moon And Back’, a melodic and tender crooned ballad.

An eclectic selection of covers round out the songlist, with variable results. She has written additional lyrics to the traditional ‘Banks Of the Ohio’ to create a framing narrative with herself as a journalist interviewing the incarcerated killer– an inspired addition to the song. She sings it beautifully, supported by the harmonies of Val Storey and Carl Jackson, the latter also taking the odd solo line. An arrangement featuring acappella sections, Stuart Duncan’s fiddle and John Mock’s harmonica at various points combines with the vocals to make this the highlight of the album and one of my favourite versions of this much-recorded tune.

She makes Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t think Twice, It’s Alright’ sound like one of her own songs, and it gets a pretty acoustic arrangement. Rather less successful is Dolly’s attempt at rock-gospel with a cover of Bon Jovi’s ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’, where the accompaniment is just too loud and drowns Dolly out, although she makes a decent stab at attacking the song vocally until she gets over-excited and starts shouting at the end.

If you get your copy at Walmart, you get four extra tracks, which are generally weaker than those that made the cut for the main release. There is a remake of her ‘Early Morning Breeze’, plus three new songs: the idealistic and inclusive ‘Olive Branch’, the poppy upbeat ‘Get Up, Get Out, Get On’ which I didn’t like, and the Celtic-tinged ‘Angels In The Midst’.

Grade: A

EP Review: Chris Young – ‘Voices’

It’s no secret that I have been deeply disappointed for the most part with the direction that mainstream country music has taken in the past few years. There has been little regard for tradition among artists and radio programmers alike, as the genre has moved slowly but steadily away from its roots and closer and closer towards mainstream pop. “Who’s gonna fill their shoes?” asked George Jones, about country music’s legends, back in 1985. At the time and for quite a few years thereafter there seemed to be plenty of able singers waiting in the wings to carry on the tradition, but one by one they disappeared from the limelight and from radio playlists. From the famed Class of ’89, only Alan Jackson maintains a regular presence on country radio.

It’s enough to make a hardcore country fan give up altogether on the mainstream and retreat to the Americana camp or make do with listening to oldies for entertainment. But just when it all seems like a lost cause, there appears a glimmer of hope. Chris Young has been one of the few promising prospects in recent years. He won Nashville Star in 2005, which led to a record deal with RCA. His 2006 debut album, though solid, didn’t garner a lot of attention from radio. His commercial fortunes have improved considerably, though, with his sophomore effort, which has produced two #1 hits so far, including this week’s chart-topper, “The Man I Want To Be.”

Last week Young released a three-track digital EP called Voices, which pays tribute to some of the artists who influenced him. In an era where country stars are more likely to name Bon Jovi and Fleetwood Mac as influences than Haggard and Jones, it’s a breath of fresh air to hear a young up-and-comer name Keith Whitley, John Anderson, and Vern Gosdin as his musical heroes. Voices contains a track from each of these artists’ catalogs: Whitley’s “I’m Over You”, Anderson’s “Swingin'”, and Gosdin’s “Chiseled In Stone”. All are simple, acoustic arrangements that nicely showcase Young’s powerhouse voice. “Swingin'”, in particular, is a pleasant surprise. Never one of my favorite songs, Young’s stripped-down version is good enough to make me reconsider my opinion of the song. Both “I’m Over You” and “Chiseled In Stone” make a strong case that Young is the rightful heir to Whitley and Gosdin. Let’s hope that he is able to continue to come up with strong material and that radio continues to embrace it. Chris Young just may be the man who will lead mainstream country music out of the pop-flavored wilderness.

Grade: A+

Voices is available exclusively through iTunes and is highly recommended.

Album Review: LeAnn Rimes – ‘Family’

FamilyAt the age of 26, LeAnn Rimes is already somewhat of a veteran in the business. Her first album Blue was released in 1996, when she was only thirteen years old. Her debut single, the traditional “Blue”, a song written for Patsy Cline, showed an incredibly talented 13 year old singing like a forty-something woman who had lived a life of heartbreak and sorrow. The rest of the album did not quite live up to the promise of the debut single however.

Two mediocre albums followed, until 1998’s Sittin’ On Top Of The World came along and showed us an aspiring pop star, with good material to match. 1999’s LeAnn Rimes returned her to a more traditional sound, with no less than five Patsy Cline covers. 2001 gave us I Need You, a mix of ho-hum dance pop and ballads. 2002 gave us the abysmal Twisted Angel, which made me almost lose faith in LeAnn. She returned with one of the very best Christmas albums ever in 2004 however, and to say my faith was restored is to put it mildly. She followed it up with an even better album, the masterpiece that was This Woman. She made a europop excursion with 2006’s Whatever We Wanna, an excellent pop album. This short summary of her career shows that she has been a busy woman, which in her early years affected the quality of her music. Her last four albums however, including this one, were pumped out in four years, one per year, and yet they are still of remarkable quality.

As you can see, LeAnn has experimented with many kinds of music, everything from traditional country to pop; even rock. Family features a bit of everything, which is one of it’s many strengths. It is also the very first album that LeAnn has written or co-written all of the songs for, which shows. LeAnn connects with the songs in a way she hasn’t ever done before. Her voice has also never sounded any better than it does on this album, the album-closer “What I Cannot Change” being the absolute high point for her voice.

Family opens with the title track, a track more rock than it is country. LeAnn sings about the strong bond that a family shares, and she sings it with a passion few artists can match. The lead off single “Nothin’ Better To Do” oozes sex and soul, and it is truly one of the most infectious country-pop singles of later years. She tones it down a notch on “Fight”, one of the more traditional sounding songs on the album, and gives a vocal performance to die for. “Good Friend And A Glass Of Wine” and “Something I Can Feel” follows, “Good Friend….” being the strongest of the two. “Something I Can Feel” is slightly overproduced, but not enough to really drag down the song. A romantic ballad follows, “I Want You With Me”, one of the strongest cuts on the album. LeAnn really connects with the lyrics, and you really feel the words she is singing. “Nothing Wrong” is a steamy duet with Marc Broussard, and his scratchy vocals compliments LeAnn’s perfectly. Hot.

Track #9, “Pretty Things” is my absolute favorite from the album. LeAnn sings about vanity and materialism, and her interpretation of the song raises it above the “ordinary” love ballad it would have been without her masterful vocals to guide it. She rocks it out again on “Upper Hand”, and takes a swing into traditional country again with the superb, retro “One Day Too Long”. The album closer “What I Cannot Change” features one of the finest vocal performances I have ever heard from anyone. The production of the song is a little odd to me, but LeAnn’s soft, almost whispering of the chorus is enough to make even the strongest man emotional.

I will learn to let go what I cannot change
I will learn to forgive what I cannot change
I will learn to love what I cannot change
But I will change, yeah I will change
Whatever I, whenever I can

The album also has two bonus tracks, duets with Reba McEntire and Bon Jovi. They can be found on Reba Duets and Lost Highway respectively.

This is truly one of the best albums in any genre in the 2000’s.

A+

Listen to ‘Pretty Things’.