My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Dallas Wayne

Occasional Hope’s top 10 albums of 2016

real-country-musicThere has been some excellent country music released this year, admittedly mostly away from the major labels. Just missing my cut were strong comebacks from Loretta Lynn and Lorrie Morgan; glorious Western Swing from the Time Jumpers; sizzling bluegrass from Rhonda Vincent and her band; and a pair of very promising debuts from Mo Pitney and William Michael Morgan.

10 – Bradley Walker – Call Me Old Fashioned
Traditional country meets gospel from an underrated singer.

Best tracks: ‘His Memory Walks On Water’; ‘Why Me’; ‘Sinners Only’; ‘In The Time That You Gave Me’.

big-day-in-a-small-toen9 – Brandy Clark – Big Day In A Small Town

Like Miranda Lambert’s latest, this album married outstanding storytelling and songwriting, good vocals and overbearing production. But the songs here are so strong that the end result still made it into my top 10.

Best tracks: ‘Since You’ve Gone To Heaven’; ‘Three Kids, No Husband’; ‘Homecoming Queen’.

8 – Cody Jinks – I’m Not The Devil

His deep voices tackles themes of darkness versus light, on some very strong songs.

Best tracks: ‘The Same’; ‘I’m Not The Devil’; ‘Grey’.

7 – Jamie Richards – Latest And Greatest

Warm, inviting vocals and excellent songs with a real gift for melody.
Best tracks: ‘I’ll Have Another’; ‘I’m Not Drinkin’; ‘Last Call’; ‘Easier By Now’.

for-the-good-times

6 –Willie Nelson – For The Good Times: A Tribute To Ray Price

As the veterans of country music continue to pass away, it’s a comfort to see that at 83, Willie Nelson is still going strong. His tribute to the late Ray Price, with the help on several tracks of The Time Jumpers, was a delightful reminder of some of the best country songs ever written.

Best tracks: ‘Heartaches By The Number’; ‘Crazy Arms’; ‘Invitation To The Blues’.

5 – Dallas Wayne – Songs The Jukebox Taught Me

The deep voiced singer’s Heart of Texas debut is a honky tonk joy.
Best tracks: ‘No Relief In Sight’; ‘Eleven Roses’; ‘She Always Got What She Wanted’.

4 – Mark Chesnutt – Tradition Lives

A solid return from the 90s star with some excellent songs. It feels as if the last 20 years never happened.

Best tracks: ‘Is It Still Cheating’; ‘So You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore’; ‘Neither Did I’.

hymns3 – Joey + Rory – Hymns That Are Important To Us

A final heartbreaking labor of love for the duo recorded during the last stages of Joey’s illness. Joey’s beautiful voice and inspirational spirit are showcased for the last time.
Best tracks: ‘Softly And Tenderly’; ‘When I’m Gone’; ‘I Surrender All’.

2 – John Prine – For Better, Or Worse

I adored John Prine’s collection of classic country duets on the topic of marriage, and said when I reviewed it that it was set to be my favourite of the year. I was almost right. It really is a delightful record – great songs, lovely arrangements, and outstanding vocals from the ladies counterpointing Prine’s gruff emotion.

Best tracks: ‘Fifteen Years Ago’ (with Lee Ann Womack); ‘Look At Us’ (with Morgane Stapleton); ‘Color Of The Blues’ (with Susan Tedeschi); ‘Cold Cold Heart’ (with Miranda Lambert); ‘Dreaming My Dreams With You’ (with Kathy Mattea); ‘Mr And Mrs Used To Be’ (with Iris De Ment).

1 – Gene Watson – ‘Real. Country. Music

While Willie Nelson is still great, his voice is showing signs of age. The wonderful Gene Watson is still at the peak of his powers in his 70s, and his skill at picking excellent material hasn’t faltered either. His latest album reminds younger performers what real country music is all about.

Best tracks: ‘Couldn’t Love Have Picked A Better Place To Die’; ‘Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall’; ‘When A Man Can’t Get A Woman Off His Mind’; ‘A Bridge That Just Won’t Burn’; ‘Ashes To Ashes’; ‘She Never Got Me Over You’.

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Album Review: Dallas Wayne – ‘Songs The Jukebox Taught Me’

songs the jukebox taught meCountry DJ-singer-songwriter Dallas Wayne has a big booming voice which has not been heard on record for a while; his last album was released back in 2009. Now signed to traditionalist label Heart Of Texas Records, his fantastic new album shares some less familiar cover tunes which offer a solid honky tonk reminder of what country used to be.

Willie Nelson duets with Dallas on the lively shuffle ‘Your Time’s Comin’’, which was a #4 hit for Faron Young in 1969, and was written by Kris Kristofferson and Shel Silverstein. The cynical lyric relates a hookup with a woman who claims to be a neglected wife, but turns out to be an unrepentant serial cheater:

Just as I got up to leave
He walked through the door
And I guess that I thought he’d be surprised
But he looked at me as if to say
He’d been there before
And he offered me this word to the wise

He said, “you know she’s a cheater, son
But you believe that you’re the one
Who’s got a lot of what it takes to change her
And I’ve no doubt that you can get her
You ain’t much but that don’t matter
Nothing suits her better than a stranger
And the stranger man, the better
The chances are she’ll set her eyes on you
The next time she goes slummin’
So just sit back and wait your turn, boy
You got lots of time to learn, boy
Cool it while you can,
‘Cause your time’s comin’

Well, it happens that in time
It happened just like he said
And soon enough her shoes
Were sittin’ under my bed
And I’ll confess I did my best
To prove that man had lied
But nothing short of suicide
Could keep her satisfied

He ends up passing on the same advice to his successor.

Another Faron Young hit, ‘Three Days’ was written by Young with Willie Nelson. This has a loungier feel to the vocal.

Another enjoyable shuffle, ‘A Dime At A Time’, is about someone who is both broke and broken hearted, killing time one jukebox tune after another. It was a #12 hit for Del Reeves in 1967.

The mournful ballad ‘Who’ll Turn Out The Lights In Your World Tonight’ (a top 40 hit for Mel Street in 1980 and recorded by many other artists including George Jones and neotraditionalist Ricky Van Shelton) is loaded with steel and an emotional vocal does it justice.

The Nashville sound gets represented as well as the hardcore honky tonkers, with a string-laden version of Vern Gosdin’s 1977 top 10 hit ‘Yesterday’s Gone’. Willie Nelson’s daughter Paula guests on this, taking the part Emmylou Harris did on the original. It can’t match the exquisite original, but is still a nice recording with a strongly emotional reading.

‘No Relief In Sight’ is a stellar lost-love ballad which has been recorded a number of times, and is done well here. The sentimental Hank Jr ballad ‘Eleven Roses’ is also beautifully sung, with the song’s co-writer Darrell McCall’s wife Mona providing a harmony vocal.

‘It Just Doesn’t Seem To Matter’ was written by Jeannie Seely for herself and duet partner Jack Greene. She lends a hand on Dallas’s version, and while her voice is not what it was in her youth, the song itself is a fine one. ‘She Always Got What She Wanted’, another Seely composition, is a deeply sad ballad:

In more ways than one way I was her clown

She always got what she wanted
She got what she wanted for free
She always got what she wanted
Lord I wish that she wanted me

‘Sun Comin’ Up’ is a Nat Stuckey song I hadn’t heard before, but I was struck by the tune’s strong similarity to that of Randy Travis’s ‘Diggin’ Up Bones’. The upbeat feel of the melody is belied by a remorselessly dark lyric depicting a homeless alcoholic:

It’s that time of the mornin’ when the sun starts comin’ up
And I’m standin’ on the corner with my guitar and my cup
And I’m waitin’ for some people to come by and fill it up
But the sun ain’t come up yet this morning
I spend nights in the barrooms for the small change I can make
But the money don’t repay me for the things I have to take
Somebody buys me liquor, then they laugh at how I shake
But it makes my sun come up each morning
See that man with the spit-shine on his shoes, I know him well
He’ll slip me half a dollar, walk on by me, turn and yell
“Hey, that five spot ain’t for liquor!”
Well, he can go to hell
‘Cause he just made my sun come up this morning

Lord, I wish I could remember how it feels to be a man
To get knocked down and have the guts to get back up again
And know that I don’t really need this bottle in my hand
To make my sun come up each morning
I guess the devil knows he’s got me when the bottle does me in
Hell can’t be no worse than places I’ve already been
And I don’t wanna go to heaven
‘Cause I hear there ain’t no gin
To make my sun come up each morning

Dallas is very believable on this, and also on another powerful anti-alcohol anthem, ‘Devil In The Bottle’, a 1974 chart topper for T G Sheppard. The social commentary of ‘Skip A Rope’ still hits home, too.

‘Sea Of Heartbreak’ is delivered briskly and is pleasant but inessential listening, at least in comparison to the rest of the album. ‘Stop The World And Let me Off’ balances pace and emotion more effectively and is rather enjoyable.

Overall, this is an excellent reminder of what real country music sounds like. I thoroughly recommend it.

Grade: A+

Some hidden treasures of the decade

At the end of last year, I shared a list of my favorite 50 singles of the decade. Some of them were big hits, others more obscure, but at least in theory they got some attention at the time. Now that the decade is well and truly over, I thought I would mention some hidden treasures – album tracks that you probably only heard if you’re a fan of the artist, and purchased the full album. Some of them are from albums and artists that were more successful than others. I’ve omitted anything that made it to radio (even if it wasn’t a hit) as I considered those for my last list, and I have also left out anything from an album which made our collective Albums of The Decade list, although I have included tracks from other albums by artists who appeared on both of those lists. I have restricted my list to one track per artist named.

40. ‘Cold All The Time’ – Irene Kelley (from Thunderbird, 2004)
Songwriter Irene Kelley has released a couple of very good independent albums, showcasing her own very beautiful voice as well as her songs. This is a gently resolute song about a woman stuck in a bad relationship, summoning up the courage to make a move.

39. ‘All I Want’ – Darius Rucker (from Learn To Live, 2008)
There is still a chance that this might make it to the airwaves, as Darius’s platinum country debut is his current release. As a whole, the material was a little disappointing, but this great song is definitely worth hearing, and not only because it’s the mos country song on the album. It’s a jaundiced kiss-off to an ex, offering her everything as “all I want you to leave me is alone”.

38. ‘I Met Jesus In A Bar’ – Jim Lauderdale (from Country Super Hits Volume 1, 2006)
Songwriter Jim Lauderdale has released a number of albums of his own, in more than one country sub-genre, and in 2006 he issued two CDs on one day: one country, the other bluegrass. This great co-write with Leslie Satcher, a melancholy-tinged song about God and booze, also recorded by Aaron Watson, comes from the country one.

37. ‘A Train Not Running’ – Chris Knight (from The Jealous Kind, 2003)
Singer-songwriter Chris Knight co-wrote this downbeat first-person tale of love and a mining town’s economic failure with Stacy Dean Campbell, who also recorded a version of the song.

36. ‘Same Old Song’ – Blake Shelton (from Blake Shelton, 2001)
These days, Blake seems to attract more attention for his girlfriend Miranda Lambert and his Tweeting than for his own music. This song, written by Blake’s producer Bobby Braddock back in 1989, is an appeal for country songs to cover new ground and real stories.

35. ‘If I Hadn’t Reached For The Stars’ – Bradley Walker (from Highway Of Dreams, 2006)
It’s probably a sign of the times that Bradley Walker, who I would classify as a classic traditional country singer in the Haggard/Travis style, had to release his excellent debut album on a bluegrass label. This love song (written by Carl Jackson and previously recorded by Jon Randall) is all about finding happiness through not achieving stardom.

34. ‘Between The River And Me’ – Tim McGraw (from Let It Go, 2007)
Tim McGraw is not one of my favorite singers, but he does often have a knack for picking interesting material. It was a travesty that the best track on his 2007 album was never released as a single, especially when far less deserving material took its place. It’s a brooding story song narrated by the teenage son of a woman whose knack seems to be picking the wrong kind of man, in this case one who beats her. The son turns to murder, down by the river.

33. ‘Three Sheets In The Wind’ – Randy Archer (from Shots In The Dark, 2005)
In the early 9s, Randy Archer was one half of the duo Archer Park,who tried and failed to challenge Brooks & Dunn. His partner in that enterprise is now part of The Parks. Meanwhile, Randy released a very good independent album which has been overlooked. My favorite track is this sad tale of a wife tearing up a husband’s penitent note of apology and leaving regardless.

32. ‘It Looked Good On Paper’ – Randy Kohrs featuring Dolly Paton (from I’m Torn, 2007)
A forlorn lost-love ballad from dobro player Kohrs featuring exquisite high harmonies from Dolly. the ret o the record is very good, too – and you can listen to it all on last.fm.

31. ‘Mental Revenge’ – Pam Tillis (from It’s All Relative: Tillis Sings Tillis, 2002)
After her mainstream stardom wound down, 90s star Pam Tillis took the opportunity to record a real labor of love: a tribute album to her father Mel. This bitter diatribe to an ex is my favorite track.

30. ‘You Don’t Love God If You Don’t Love Your Neighbour’ – Rhonda Vincent (from The Storm Still Rages, 2001)
A traditional country-bluegrass-gospel quartet take on a classic rebuke to religious hypocrites, written by Carl Story. The track isn’t the best showcase of Rhonda’s lovely voice, but it’s a great recording of a fine song with a pointed message.

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Year In Review: Occasional Hope’s Top Ten Albums of 2009

It hasn’t been a great year for mainstream releases, and none of my top 10 appeared on one of the major labels. There have been some fine albums released across the genre, although this year’s list is more bluegrass-oriented than would have been the case in years past.

10. Benefit Of Doubt – Pam Gadd
A joyful mixture of acoustic country and bluegrass, with duets with Dolly Parton and Marty Raybon. I reviewed it in March, and you can listen to the album on last.fm.

9. 30 Something And Single – Tammy Cochran
This album strikes an almost-perfect balance between contemporary and traditional country, with a sense of humor to boot. I reviewed it in the summer, and you can listen to clips and buy the album at CDBaby.

8. Bigger Hands – John Anderson
John was our Spotlight Artist in July, and his new album (which I reviewed then) found him in great voice with some interesting material, including the apocalyptic title track, and Anderson’s magisterial version of his co-write with John Rich, ‘Shuttin’ Detroit Down’.

7. Mister Purified Country – Shane Worley
There is still great traditional country music being made, and this fine independent CD in the Merle Haggard tradition is an excellent example -with some incisive criticism of the mainstream in the title track as an added bonus. I reviewed it in September, and you can listen to clips and buy the album at CDBaby.

6. When The Money’s All Gone – Jason Eady
Poetic singer-songwriter Jason Eady is more on the Americana side of things, with country, folk and blues elements. This album is full of interesting material, and repays close listening. I reviewed it in September, and you can listen to lips and buy at Amazon.

5. I’ll Take The Fifth – Dallas Wayne
With a voice as distinctive as John Anderson’s, I acclaimed this as my favorite of the year to date when I reviewed it back in March, and it hasn’t slipped that far down the rankings in the ensuing nine months. Buy it here.

4. The Reason That I Sing – Kim Williams
This delightful record is the one I’ve found myself singing along to more than any other this year. Songwriter Kim isn’t technically a great vocalist, but that really doesn’t matter, as he brings a warmth and honesty to his songs. I reviewed it in August, and you can now listen to it on last.fm.

3. Hillbilly Goddess – Alecia Nugent
Alecia has been recording for some years, but it was with this excellent album that she came of age artistically. Very much in the bluegrass/country zone, the youngest of the artists in my top 10 proved herself as a first-rate vocalist with some great material. I reviewed it in May, and you can hear clips and buy at Amazon.

2. Mountain Soul II – Patty Loveless
The only album on my top 10 list I didn’t review, but Razor X rightly called it a triumph of artistry in his review. Sometimes raw-sounding, always authentic and impressive, Patty cemented her credentials as one of the finest singers in country music in her sequel to her first bluegrass-inspired album Mountain Soul. My favorite tracks are the revival of the classic ‘Busted’, with the original coalmining lyrics heard for the first time; Jon Randall’s ‘You Burned The Bridge’; and the new version of ‘Feelings Of Love’. For clips, and to buy it, go to Amazon.

1. Taste Of The Truth – Gene Watson
Honey-voiced Texan Gene is a veteran of the music business, but he is still producing some of the best music out there. This year, in fact, he produced my #1 album, with the lovely Taste Of the Truth. I called it a masterclass in singing country music when I reviewed it in August, and you can hear it for yourself at last.fm.

Album Review: Dallas Wayne – ‘I’ll Take The Fifth’

Dallas Wayne, I'll Take The FifthDallas Wayne is probably best known these days as a satellite radio DJ, but over the past ten years he has produced a handful of excellent country albums of his own.  The latest is I’ll Take The Fifth, released with little fanfare on March 3rd by Smith Entertainment, which seems to be basically a self-release with distribution.  Dallas has a deep, booming bass-baritone voice which is very distinctive, and his approach is pretty solid honky-tonk country with an edge.  He is also an excellent songwriter, who has composed all the songs on this release, more than half of them solo.  They vary from good to great, although perhaps none is as unforgettable as the controversial title track of Dallas’ last album, ‘I’m Your Biggest Fan’. If I have a complaint concerning the material, it is that several of the tracks on I’ll Take The Fifth have appeared on previous albums.

One of these is probably the track most likely to attract outside attention, as Dallas reinvents the thoroughly enjoyable ‘Straighten Up And Lie Right’, previously recorded on 1998’s The Invisible Man, as a duet with Sunny Sweeney.  The song works perfectly as a duet with Sunny cast as the sceptical wife (threatening to “loosen up those teeth you’ve been lying through”) and Dallas as the guy failing to offer an imaginative alibi if he can’t manage a convincing one, and the two singers’ voices contrast very effectively.  ‘I’m Gonna Break Some Promises Tonight’, another excellent honky-tonker, has a slightly heavier production here than it did on 2001’s Here I Am In Dallas, with sax and horns.  I like the pacy swinging feel of ‘If These Walls Could Cry’ from the same album (and it’s a well-constructed lyric), but redoing it feels a little pointless.  ‘Invisible Man’ is probably the most dispensable re-cut here, as it drags melodically, but even this has some good lines (by leaving, “I’ve finally found a way to make you happy, funny, I’ve been tryin’ for years”).

The other misstep comes with the closing track, ‘Something Inside’, where Dallas overdoes the deep growl of his bottom register, taking it a key too low and sounding flat.  It was probably a deliberate choice, to give a doom-laden feel to a rather depressing song, but I didn’t care for the effect.

A number of the songs (including the aforementioned ‘Straighten Up And Lie Right’) are co-written with alt-country artist Robbie Fulks, who produced one of Dallas’s earlier albums, and these are among the best songs on this record.  My favorite was ‘I Never Did Like Planes’, which sees the protagonist literally flying away from a failed relationship in Tennessee, with some beautifully observed lyrics and a very singable tune.  The chorus runs, “I never did like planes, but I’m not afraid to fly, I guess we’d all have wings if God loved goodbyes, I can’t believe that we’re all through, I never did like planes but I sure (still) love you.”  This could easily be a hit single for a traditionally-minded artist.  The pair’s ‘Crawlin’ Is Easy’ is another very good song as a husband sees the error of his ways (“when a man is wrong he knows he’s wrong”), with a solid hook (“when you ain’t got a leg to stand on”) and good tune.  ‘Fixin’ To Fall’ is the least remarkable of the collaborations with Fulks, with some rather silly lyrics and forced rhymes (“I’m fixin’, to fall head first for a sweet little vixen” is not even the silliest line) but it has a nice groove and is fun.

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