My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Cary Ann Hearst

Album Review: Jason Eady – ‘AM Country Heaven’

Mississippi-born and Texas-based Jason Eady moves from the Americana hybrid of his excellent last album When The Money’s All Gone to something more deeply rooted in country. Tastefully produced by Kevin Welch, with backings from Austin-based band Heybale and special Lloyd Maines on steel, it is a low key delight with some excellent songs, almost all written by the extremely talented Eady, occasionally with a co-writer. His pleasing, plaintive voice is ideally suited to his material.

The brilliant title track excoriates the state of country radio, when,

They sing about Jesus and they sing about Jones
And they sing of American pride
But they’re all too damn clean
They’re polished like stones and they won’t sing about cheating or lies…

I knew it was over the day that I overheard a record executive cry
“Keep it all simple, don’t get offensive and don’t play songs in three quarter time”

Well Mr Record Man I hope you don’t take offence
But you’re a hell of a joke I can tell
You’re the reason we’re in AM country heaven
And FM country hell

This sets the tone for an album full of real country music, with songs rooted in real lives.

The excellent ‘Old Guitar And Me’ is a possibly autobiographical tale about growing a little older as a struggling musician, and not quite getting anywhere. Fellow singer-songwriter Walt Wilkins sings backing vocals.

Dealing with the consequences of past choices is a common theme for many of the songs here, with a general mood of acceptance. The subdued and somewhat obscure ‘Tomorrow Morning’ compels attention with its quiet determination,

Cannot live in the light alone
There’s no redemption without the sin
And I must go through darkness knowing
Tomorrow morning I’ll begin again

It ain’t an easy road that I have taken
But I will take it til the end
Every day is joy and sorrow
Tomorrow morning I’ll begin again

The downbeat ‘Wishful Drinking’ has Lloyd Maines’s steel supporting the troubled protagonist’s wistful thoughts about a former lover he desperately hopes (and clearly doesn’t really believe) might still be thinking of him. Eady is very good at bring to life this kind of complex emotion, and he does so on the slow and regretful ‘Longer Walk In The Rain’ considers past choices and a former loved one, and their ongoing emotional impact.

‘I’ll Sure Be Glad When I’m Gone’ (written by Jason with Kevin Welch and Roger Ray) tackles the complex emotions combining relief and regret around an impending breakup. The protagonist of the gentle sounding ‘Lying To Myself’ sounds defeated from the start, as he struggles with life and loss and his own responsibility for the failure of the relationship:

I might need forgiving one of these days
But for now I’ll go on living this way
Running and fighting to survive
Lying to myself to stay alive

The unexpectedly sprightly ‘Paid My Dues’ features bright harmonies from Cary Ann Hearst, and is about a man trying to get over various drug habits, and feeling frustrated by the time it is taking to get better.

On a more positive note, Patty Loveless duets on the delightful bluegrass of ‘Man On A Mountain’, a love song between a wild mountain man (and “a mountain of a man” to boot) and the valley town girl he calls his lily of the valley, but he doesn’t want to get married and she won’t “live in sin” with him. They have allowed their differences to come between them but long for one another. Patty is at her mountain best on this charming song, and her presence on this track is likely to bring the album as a whole some much-deserved attention. The song was written by Eady with Matt Powell, Drew Kennedy, and Josh Grider.

The sardonic up-tempo ‘Forget About The Truth’ offers another change of mood as the protagonist is disillusioned about his girlfriend but is prepared to overlook the lies at least for another night together.

‘Sober On The Weekends’ (0ne of two songs not written by Eady, but by Scott Copeland) is a drinking song with a blues groove about a girlfriend who spend her weeks drinking and her weekends with her man getting high on love instead. The other Copeland song, Water Into Wine has tastefully subtle gospel backing vocals from the Trishas’ Jamie Wilson. In this interesting song, a backslider and onetime choir singer takes refuge in the bottle and “earthly desires that consume what’s left of my life”.

This is one of those rare albums where there really are no weaker tracks. If you like this, I’d also recommend downloading the excellent ‘Promises In Pieces’ and ‘Cry Pretty’ from When The Money’s All Gone, which are on similar stylistic lines and great songs.

Grade: A

There’s a short interview with Jason Eady over at Country California.

Album Review: Hayes Carll – ‘KMAG YOYO (& other American stories)’

Texas singer-songwriter Hayes Carll made a big impact with 2008’s critically acclaimed Trouble In Mind and the unforgettable single ‘She Left Me For Jesus’. His latest album bears the fruits of the last couple of years touring and writing. His voice has a limited range, but it has a character which fits well with his often quirky songwriting. Hayes wrote all the material, almost entirely solo, and he has developed impressively as a writer since his last record, good though that was.

He opens with the rockabillyish ‘Stomp And Holler’ of a potential teenage delinquent (“like James Brown but white and taller”) frustrated with a life on minimum wage when he sees others raking it in from crime. Hayes has a gift for portraying marginalized individuals, but I was disappointed with the title track (co-written with John Evans and with band member Scott Davis). Although it has an interesting (if bizarre) storyline, about a teenage soldier with a drug dealing sideline turned experimental drugs subject for the US government, the complete lack of melody (it is sung almost all on one note) makes it virtually unlistenable, and the pace it is rattled out makes it hard to understand without the lyric sheet or until you’ve heard it a few times. Fortunately, everything else here is worthwhile.

A couple of the songs draw on the life of a travelling musician. In the cleverly written ‘Hard Out Here’ he self-deprecatingly plays a washed up musician bemoaning his lot in a bar somewhere, with honky tonk pianoand a room choir of similarly gravelly voices backing him up. Even better is the folky banjo-led ‘Bottle In My Hand’, which features guest vocals from fellow singer-songwriters Corb Lund and Todd Snider on a rambler’s testimony. The lyrics reference country songs ranging from ‘Howling At The Moon’ to ‘Rainbow Stew’. ‘The Letter’ is a love song from the road; the writer is something of a lost soul, but his longing for the one at home seems genuine.

The closely observed and mostly spoken ‘Grateful For Christmas’ is the most obviously autobiographical song here. With an affectionate honesty reminiscent of Tom T Hall at his best, it shows us a family at three Christmases: with the protagonist as a child, as a disgruntled youth, and finally as head of the household. Grandpa dies between the first and second verses, and the protagonist’s father between the second and third. This is outstanding, and feels like a modern standard in the making.

My favorite track is the low-key ballad ‘Chances Are’, which sees a man looking back on a life filled with bad choices but still hopeful that he and the woman he has just met (and to whom the song is addressed) may find some healing together. This is beautifully put together and heartbreakingly interpreted, with sympathetic steel guitar underpinning the mood:

Chances are I took the wrong turn
Every time I had a turn to make
And I guess I broke my own heart
Every time I had a heart to break
And it seems I spent my whole life
Wishin’ on the same unlucky star

The hushed ‘Hide Me’ (also very effective with its quietly gospelly backing vocals making it into a kind of secular hymn) draws from a similar emotional place, with a man tired of

All those years running round
Of flying high and fallin’ down
Well, the time has come at last
To rest my heart and ease my past

The downbeat mandolin-led ‘Bye Bye Baby’ is a quietly crestfallen response to the end of a relationship, when “the drunks have turned to strangers and the stars are out of tune”; this is a another very fine song. More complicated is the relationship depicted in the mid-tempo ‘The Lovin’ Cup’ where a couple break up after “a couple bad years” and then get back together.

‘Another Like You’ is an ironic duet with Cary Ann Hearst which shows a drunken pair of opposites getting together, at least for the night, and unable to keep apart despite constant (often funny) sniping at each other about their political differences. The drawled feel-good ‘Grand Parade’, which sets falling in life against an everyday life backdrop is as engaging, but a little less memorable; co-writer John Evans sings harmony here.

This is an excellent set of songs in the Texas troubadour tradition, and while Hayes does not have the best voice in the world. he is effective at conveying his material.

Grade: A