My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Emily West

J.R. Journey’s Top 10 Singles and Tracks of 2010

Country radio must be getting better.  My favorites list this year include more actual radio hits than ever before.  Of the ten songs below, two were #1 hits, five more (including my top pick) hit the country top 40.  Still, two more songs were released as radio singles and enjoyed very little success, and yet another is just an album cut that was never sent to radio.  So there’s room for much more improvement. Read on to find out why I picked them as the best of the year, and click on the links to read my own single reviews when available.

10. Jewel – ‘Satisfied – I had been consistently unimpressed with Jewel’s country offerings until ‘Satisfied’ hit the airwaves. The singer uses her big, emotive voice to full effect in this power ballad that centers on the theme of letting your love show. It didn’t storm up the country charts, but it made me finally sit up and welcome the Alaskan farm girl to the country fold.

9. Emily West feat. Keith Urban – ‘Blue Sky’ – Here, West delivers a stunning vocal with Keith Urban providing a gentle harmony, on this track that finds the narrator rebuffing the swinging door policy this guy has set up for himself. This kind of smart, elegant ballad is the kind of song that brought me to country music

8. Miranda Lambert – ‘House That Built Me’ – Arguably, the biggest country hit of the year – and certainly it will be the best-remembered when most everything else are just numbers in record books – the magnum opus of Lambert’s Revolution album, and her career so far, was a major hit because it resonated so well with so many people. Universal emotions, like sentimental attachment to the house where you grew up, never fail when they’re delivered this brilliantly.

7. Zac Brown Band – ‘Highway 20 Ride’ – The first time I heard this song, I thought it would fit neatly with Alan Jackson’s own music-industry/life-on-the-road songs. As with Jackson’s many like-cuts (‘Job Description’, ‘To Do What I Do’, ‘Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow’), ‘Ride’ features a tight lyrical structure, smooth melody, heartstring emotions, and a fitting vocal from Brown.

6. Keith Urban – ‘Til Summer Comes Around’ – Not since ‘You’ll Think Of Me’ hit in 2004 has Keith Urban impressed upon me so much with a single release. In this reminiscent tale of a Summer fling, the singer is paying a Wintertime visit to the carnival where his love affair started. Full of imagery and melancholy, it maintains the feel of the best of Urban’s moody ballads.

5. Sugarland – ‘Little Miss’ – Like most everybody else, I was disappointed with the bulk of Sugarland’s The Incredible Machine. But, one track stands out as a throwback to the sound they offered just 2 short years ago. ‘Little Miss’ features the acoustic, harmony-driven sound that had become their staple. In this, the duo try their best to appeal to everywoman, and with a laundry list of ‘little miss this and that’, I don’t think they could have left many out.

4. Trace Adkins – ‘This Ain’t No Love Song’ – This is a great song with a fresh idea and nothing overbearing or in-your-face about the production. With it, Trace Adkins may have struck the perfect balance between his up-tempo ditties and the memorable ballads that dot his catalog.

3. Chely Wright – ‘Notes To The Coroner’ – I could have chosen at least 4 tracks from Chely Wright’s Lifted Off The Ground to list among my favorites of the year. The disc has certainly gotten more mileage than any other album in my player this year. But it was this one clever, biting goodbye from a lady befelled by her own heartbreak that stands out as the centerpiece of a five-star album.

2. Mary Chapin Carpenter – ‘I Put My Ring Back On’ – It’s always great to get new music from someone like Mary Chapin Carpenter. It’s even better when she returns to the infectious melodies of her signature 90s sound. Making up after a fight makes up the basis for this track, and with its rocking guitars and rolling drums, it recalls Carpenter at her own rocking best vocally.

1. Sunny Sweeney – ‘From A Table Away’ – One of my favorite new artists, Sunny Sweeney failed to make much more than a ripple on the mainstream circuit with her first Big Machine album, the excellent, ultra-traditional Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame. Her first single for an upcoming sophomore release has fared much better, fueled mostly by a perfect marriage of modern Nashville and Sweeney’s undeniable Texas twang. Here, she plays the other woman who spies her love interest in a romantic situation with his wife. He has of course made all kinds of promises to her about their future together.  The scene brings home that he has no intention of leaving, and it’s at that moment she realizes she’s been his fool. This is the stuff great country music is made of.

Single Review: Emily West feat. Keith Urban – ‘Blue Sky’

Emily West is one of my favorite new faces to country music.  Unfortunately, her material hasn’t matched her talent on her past releases.  Fortunately, that’s not the case here.  This biting goodbye ballad is not only a stunning vocal, but also a brilliant lyric.  West co-wrote the song with Nashville hit-machine Gary Burr.

Turning in her finest vocal to date, West shines throughout the song.  She did a fine job on this song on her digital EP release, but I think she just nails it here. Keith Urban is featured mostly as a soft harmony singer in the latter half of the song.  Urban has made a habit of blending his voice wonderfully with some of the most distinctive voices in contemporary country.  West adds her name to the list that includes Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood, and Lee Ann Womack, among others.  When the strings swell on the bridge, and the song goes into full power ballad mode, West proves she’s capable of reaching for the ceiling with the best of them.

A faint piano opens with West’s subdued emotive vocal.  The piano is the driving instrument in the song throughout this tale of a woman saying her final goodbyes to a man who’s not treating her right.  The lyrics are too vague as to describe an abusive relationship, but the implications are there, leading the listener to draw their own conclusions.  The first verse finds the man returning, hat in hand.  He’s ready to say he’s sorry, but the narrator has only one thing to say, and that’s goodbye.  She won’t be a shoulder to lean on, and she won’t be taking in anymore.

It was these kinds of smart, elegant ballads that drew me to country music.  I wish we had more of them.  In the meantime, these nearly four minutes of audible candy are a gentle reminder of why I love country music.

Grade: A

‘Blue Sky’ is available digitally at iTunes. Watch Emily perform the song (sans Urban) at the Grand Ole Opry here, or listen to the single at Emily’s MySpace page.

Year In Review: Chris Dean’s Top 10 singles of 2009

Sure, I love ‘Busted’ by Patty Loveless- it’s an awesome song.  However, it never had a chance at radio, everybody knows that. For my list, I tried to stick with songs that either were radio hits or were put out by acts that had potential to be radio hits. I love more obscure music, but I think looking at the commercially successful songs, there’s quality to be found there, and I hope I’ve found most of it.

10. StrangeReba McEntire
Of the two hits Reba has had this year, this one’s my favorite because it doesn’t have the been there done that feeling of ‘Consider Me Gone’. It also has a catchy melody- in a good way of course.

9. That Kind of HappyEmily West
I wish I could sue someone for the fact that Emily West isn’t a star; this song manages to be exactly what radio wants while being fresh and creative. Hopefully’Blue Sky’, her new single with Keith Urban will change that, but I doubt it.

8. Living For The Night George Strait
I’ve never really been a Strait fan, but this song is just so heartbreaking it caught me. At least Strait brings some real country music to the radio.

7 .Only You Can Love Me This Way Keith Urban
A little saccharine, but an honest ode that rings true. Urban is such a great singer, and I love the acoustic-ness of this song. I wish I could play the guitar like him…

6. Play The Song – Joey + Rory
I’m so surprised this never got played! Sarcasm aside, this was a daring single that is a good song, but was obviously doomed for failure. They should have given ‘Sweet Emmylou’ a chance- at least it doesn’t lambast the music industry!

5. JoeySugarland
Sugarland’s only non-number 1 from Love On The Inside, this song is still pretty good. A weak chorus drags it down, but the story is solid and told in an unexpected way. If only they hadn’t cancelled the release of ‘Keep You’… Now they don’t have a single at all.

4. Welcome To The Future Brad Paisley
Witty and meaningful- a tactic Brad Paisley employs well here. Since I like it so much, no wonder it’s his first single in years to not hit #1…

3. Need You NowLady Antebellum
Smooth pop-country (emphasis on the pop) has never sounded so good or been this sad. Props to this promising duo for bringing the sad back to the radio.

2. White LiarMiranda Lambert
My second favorite song from Revolution, this single is climbing in the top 10, and actually has a chance at the top spot! With a fun story and a great, but simple turnaround, this song is quality country music from a real entertainer.

1. Solitary Thinkin’ Lee Ann Womack
This song wasn’t quite the masterpiece ‘Last Call’ was, but it’s by far the most relaxing song I’ve ever heard- it always makes me unwind with a twinge of loneliness. If I drank, this would be my favorite drinking song for sure.

Single Review: Emily West – ‘That Kind Of Happy’

that-kind-of-happyI love Emily West – “Rocks In Your Shoes” was a great find for me, and should have been a huge hit, but it wasn’t. Emily’s label, Capitol Records Nashville to be exact, has been testing the waters with her singles for nearly a year and a half now, with “Rocks” peaking at #39. As a result, the label hasn’t released an album yet, only 1 EP and now the new single, “That Kind Of Happy”.

This song is just so happy, as the title suggests, and it takes the listener on a wild ride – and you can tell Emily’s having a blast. It has tempo, fiddle, guitar and happiness – everything that radio seems to be embracing, but this song is more than just filler. This song manages to be creative and intelligent at the same time! I also like how in the production, it’s possible to hear some country elements, like the really fast fiddle that is sprinkled throughout.

Emily sings about the dark side of reckless love, singing:

There was a time when love swept me off my feet
I never thought I’d have to come to grips with gravity
Now fallin’ in love is still the sweet, crazy thing to do
But when I take that leap again I’ll have a parachute
You can’t call it fallin’ when you’re on your knees and crawlin’

While many singers sing the same old song about falling in love, Emily decides she doesn’t want a love that will leave her sad, she wants real love. It’s not often today that female singers talk about not wanting to fall in love, so this song comes off as even more unique. It reminds me of the strong woman mentality that Reba does so well (Case in point: her new single “Strange”), as well as so many of the female greats. I just see female artists talking about always needing to be in love, or to get back with a lover or other songs like that – but here Emily is strong and independent of falling in and out of love constantly.

The song has an infectious melody that works with the contemporary production and makes for a very fun listening experience. It has a heavier base line than I’m used to for a country song, but instead of being distracting, it drives the energy of the song. Adding to it is Emily’s voice which is in top form as always.  She’s just really convincing! She sings a complicated melody while making it look really easy, something that very few of her peers can do.

Some people might get turned off by the intense production, but this risky single really pays off by being what contemporary country could be: smart, fun and fresh all at the same time — all things that almost all songs on the radio today are not. Hopefully radio will hear that Emily is different and they’ll latch on for dear life – that would make me that kind of happy! (Sorry, I had to make some kind of pun …) If they don’t, I’ll sure be angry because Emily is something special.

Grade: A-

Listen to Emily’s songs on her myspace. (I highly recommend “Blue Sky”, “Rocks In Your Shoes” and “Bad Boyfriend”)
Buy “That Kind Of Happy” on iTunes. (Please buy it if you like it!)

Promoting new acts in the digital age

 

Emily West

Emily West

Contrary to conventional wisdom, I do not think that the CD is going to die anytime soon. It is inevitable, however, that CD sales will continue to decline as digital sales increase, and at some yet-to-be-determined point, both will level off and stabilize.

Digital downloads have been a tremendous marketing tool for developing acts and independent labels, who can now release their music to their target audiences without the expense of having to put out a physical product.

That being said, I find the use of digital-only promotion by some of the major labels to be a little questionable. One has to wonder why huge, well-established major labels like Capitol and Sony have chosen to introduce mainstream acts like Emily West and Caitlin & Will via digital EPs, rather than releasing full-length albums on CD. Country music is still at the point where fans who get most of their music from mainstream radio are used to buying CDs at Walmart, instead of downloading them from Amazon or iTunes. While going the digital EP route may make perfect sense for non-mainstream or indie artists, when Capitol or Sony does it, it seems to say that the label lacks faith in the artist’s ability to sell albums.

What’s your take — are digital EPs the wave of the future for new acts, or are major labels doing their artists a disservice by failing to put out a physical product?

Chris’s End of 2008 List: Top 30 Singles

This is my 2008 top-30 singles post! First, about my singles list, I attempted to avoid songs that could still impact the charts more, songs like Miranda Lambert’s “More Like Her” or Little Big Town’s “Good Lord Willing”. I made some exceptions as you’ll soon see, but I tried to keep it to songs that peaked on the charts in 2008. Anyway, here are my top 30 singles of 2008! If you read my albums post, I’m warning you, this post is even longer…

That Don’t Make Me A Bad Guy

30. “She Never Cried In Front Of Me” – Toby Keith

– It’s not very country sounding, but Toby gives a great performance to a very good sad song. It’s probably my favorite song from him.

Long Trip Alone

29. “Trying To Stop Your Leaving” – Dierks Bentley

– Dierks is doing what he does best, it has energy, but still has meaning and great singing. A very solid single from a great album.

Fearless

28. “Love Story” – Taylor Swift

– Yeah, I did it, Swift’s on my list! I actually love this song, it’s creative and different from other artists, but I’m young so I may be biased. I also love the sound, especially the fiddle near the end that I find myself whistling. 

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