My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Gloriana

Single Review – Carrie Underwood – ‘Blown Away’

The modern state of country music finds songs fitting into one of two categories – southern party anthems (usually sung by those unwilling to accept their 20s are long over) or tunes primed for the pop world (usually sung by female artists or acts like Lady Antebellum and Gloriana). Very rarely does a song stand on its own truly as a piece of country music.

“Blown Away” attempts to fit into that third category by resurrecting the long forgotten era of murder ballads, a sub-genre made famous by the likes of Johnny Cash (“Banks of the Ohio”) and Porter Wagoner (“Cold Hard Facts Of Life”) in the 1960s and more recently, Martina McBride (“Independence Day”) in the 1990s and Brad Paisley (“Whiskey Lullaby”) about nine years ago.

This time, a daughter is seeking revenge on an abusive father by keeping him “passed out on the couch” during what appears to be a very strong tornado, powerful enough for her to “lock herself in the cellar” and wait it out.

Unfortunately, the similarities end there, with “Blown Away” underscoring Underwood’s grave failure as a storyteller – her inability to grasp the art of subtlety. She, and producer Mark Bright, mistakenly turn the song into a pop power ballad, where the overwhelming production and bombastic vocal become the focus instead of the fabulously dark storyline.

How many people, in the times “Blown Away” has been given television exposure in the past two months, actually know what the song is really about? The tune’s presentation, complete with a distracting wind tunnel and falling debris, only manages to dilute the overall storyline and water down what could (and should) be one of the greatest country singles of the year.

For a lyric this promising, I only wish it had been given more room to be the star.

Grade: B

ACM Awards: My Kind Of Country’s predictions

It’s award time again, with the Academy of Country Music due to hand out its trophies for achievements during 2009 on Sunday April 18. Here are our predictions of the likely winners:

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
This category is fan-voted this year (as it has been for the last couple of years). This year, though, the number of nominees has been substantially increased.

Kenny Chesney
Toby Keith
Brad Paisley
George Strait
Taylor Swift: our unanimous pick
Carrie Underwood
Keith Urban
Zac Brown Band

Occasional Hope: Fan-voted. No further comment required.
Razor X: Since this is a fan-voted award, the only two serious contenders are Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. Underwood won last year, and since Swift has had a more successful year, I’m going to predict that the momentum is in her favor.
J.R. Journey: I think she’s ahead of the pack in this race by a large enough margin to safely call her the early winner. With it being fan-voted yet again, Taylor’s younger, internet-savvy fan-base would give her the edge even if she didn’t already have it.
Meg: Taylor will get it due to fan voting, and it’s not as though she hasn’t worked equally hard as the other nominees, or harder.

TOP MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley: J.R., Meg
Darius Rucker: Occasional Hope
George Strait: Razor X

Keith Urban

Meg: Brad’s got this one. He’s come into his own as a performer, writer, and entertainer with great musicianship and great vocals.
J.R.: Major tours, a critically acclaimed album and an impressive run of chart-topping singles are just Brad’s commercial qualifications for his victory here. When he wants to be, he’s also a mighty fine statesman and torch-bearer for traditional country.
Razor: After three consecutive wins in this category for Brad Paisley, I’m guessing that the Academy will want to give this award to someone else this year. Urban is the only serious competition.
OH: If Darius wins it will be seen as a surprise victory, but I think he just could get it. He does have an interesting tone, has scored some big radio hits, and sold exceptionally well. And it all seems to be about commercial impact these days. Plus, you need at least one surprise at any award show.

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Single Review: Jessica Harp – ‘Boy Like Me’

Jessica Harp

In case you don’t know, Jessica Harp was the not-Michelle-Branch-half of The Wreckers, a country duo on hiatus currently (Although they seem to still get nominated for stuff for some odd reason…). If you still don’t remember, they had the hits “Leave The Pieces” and “My, Oh My”, two great songs from their partially disappointing debut album.

This song finds Harp trying to start her solo career in country music, and it’s a pretty good song! First of all, the song rocks just enough for mainstream radio, but has enough twang to still be country. It has a good balance. It doesn’t hurt that Keith Urban is playing the guitar throughout, and it really reminds me of his hit “I Told You So”. (Rumor has it that Urban was going to record “Boy Like Me” as “Girl Like Me” but decided not to, so he contributed to Harp’s version instead.) It has a great mix of electric guitar and more traditional country sounds, not to mention Harp herself, who proves herself as a vocalist.

I never knew she could sing on her own! She was always the harmony half of The Wreckers, so it’s nice to hear her great voice, and she sounds engaging here. She has just enough grit to make this song believable, and she’s very entertaining. She doesn’t belt, but sings like she really wants that boy who’s just like her. She can also make her voice big enough to handle the chorus. Luckily, she never has to stretch, but sounds very comfortable in this song.

The song is very frivolous, but not in the annoying and mindlessly catchy way that the recent “Chicken Fried” is. Harp sings about how she wants a boy like her who wants to be more… rebellious… than I will ever be in my life. She wants that guy who will “lead her down the wrong road”, and she makes it sound fun! Most of the lyrics are fairly nondescript, but there are some fun parts like where she sings, “You’re the kind of boy who likes the kind of girls who like to fool around with the boys on the first date.” There are parts with some fun tongue-twisters that just sound like pure fun, but none of it is groundbreaking in any way.

It’s interesting to contrast this song with a single I reviewed last month, Gloriana’s “Wild At Heart”. While that fun song is way too saccharine (I’ve stopped liking it since I wrote my review), this song is just rough enough to make it appealing to most of mainstream country radio. Still, a really fun song. I hope her solo album keeps up this kind of quality.

Grade: A-

Written by Jerry Flowers

Listen to “Boy Like Me” on Jessica’s Myspace here.
Buy here from iTunes.

Single Review: Gloriana – ‘Wild At Heart’

 

Gloriana

I first heard of this group at Roughstock where Matt B. discussed this same single. Since my computer doesn’t do the audio files that Roughstock uses, I couldn’t hear the song. I saw the picture of this group (The same one posted here) and I instantly thought “Little Big Town knock-off.” I was only partially right.

 

Gloriana is inevitably similar to LBT, with 2 girls and 2 guys and all 4 doing vocals together. However, while LBT is more acoustic rock-country, Gloriana is much more pop-country. LBT sounds more mature, while Gloriana sounds much younger. For a nice analogy:

Gloriana is to Little Big Town as Taylor Swift is to Sara Evans.

I think that’s accurate, as Sara tends to incorporate at least some country sound into her music and isn’t incredibly popular right now, while Taylor Swift is super-young and full on pop.

Anyway, back to the song. I like it, obviously, or it wouldn’t be here at all. Unfortunately, I feel like future songs from Gloriana might be overly happy and young-sounding, which could get very annoying. I just can’t see Gloriana doing any remotely sad songs, which is definitely a turn-off for me. However, this song is too much fun to resist!

The song starts with hand claps and some mandolin by Cheyenne Kimball (The pictured blond girl who already had a record deal in 2006). One of the guys (I honestly have no idea which one…) sings almost all of the lead vocals in the verses, that all build up to a large 4-part harmony chorus. The chorus is where the song gets really fun- and it’s impossibly catchy. It’s really poppy, but still has just enough twangy instruments to keep it in mainstream country, but beyond that, it’s a pop song. Read more of this post