My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: J. P. Harris and the Tough Choices

Occasional Hope’s top 10 albums of 2014

the way im livinIt’s not been the best of years for mainstream country music, but great music is still out there to be found if you’re willing to hunt it down. There was a plethora of great covers projects, including excellent offerings from Joey + Rory and Gene Watson, and a number of other fine records which just missed the cut in my top 10 selection.

10. Dave Adkins ‘Nothing To Lose
Classic high lonesome bluegrass from a singer with a big, emotional voice.
Best tracks: ‘I Can’t Even Walk’, ‘Don’t Pray That Way’, ‘Mistaken Heart

9. J P Harris & The Tough Choices – ‘Home Is Where The Hurt Is
Authentic retro honky tonk with some great songs.

Best tracks: ‘Home Is Where The Hurt Is’, ‘Truck Stop Amphetamines’, ‘Every Little Piece’

provoked8. Sunny Sweeney – ‘Provoked
Back on an independent label, Sunny Sweeney’s unbridled honky tonk with a modern twist is irresistible.

Best tracks: ‘You Don’t Know Your Husband’, ‘Backhanded Compliment’, ‘Sunday Dress

7. Fayssoux, ‘I Can’t Wait
A lovely mellow folk-country record.

Best tracks: ‘Mama’s Hungry Eyes’, ‘I Made A Friend Of A Flower Today’, ‘Golightly Creek’

6. Randy Travis – Influence Vol 2
The second instalment of Randy’s covers project, fortunately recorded before his recent health crisis was, unexpectedly, even better than the first one.

Best tracks: ‘Set ‘Em Up Joe’, ‘Are The Good Times Really Over’, ‘For The Good Times’

daylight and dark5. Jason Eady – ‘Daylight And Dark
Solid country music from a talented singer-songwriter I like more every tie I hear him. This was one of the year’s first releases, and it hasn’t lost its appeal for me.

Best tracks: ‘Whiskey And You’, ‘Liars And Fools’, ‘Late Night Diner

4. Rhonda Vincent – ‘Only Me
The bluegrass star offers a stellar selection of material. The packaging is a touch gimmicky, with two CDs in one packages, each containing just six tracks. One is billed as straight bluegrass, the other traditional country, but both are wonderful. My only criticism is that it would be nice to hear some new songs of this quality.

Best tracks: ‘I’d Rather Hear I Don’t Love You (Than Nothing At All)’, ‘Teardrops Over You’, ‘We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds’ (ft Daryle Singletary), ‘Beneath Still Waters

3. Jade Jack – ‘Off The Record
I was very impressed by fiddler/traditional country singer Jade’s debut album. Very much in the style of Amber Digby, this is packed full of heartbreak numbers, backed with fiddle and steel. It just squeezes in ahead of Rhonda thanks to the inclusion of original material.

Best tracks: ‘I Can’t Help It If He Can’t Stop Loving Me’, ‘I Had A Husband’, ‘I Can Bring Him Back’, ‘I’m Dynamite’

lucky2. Suzy Bogguss – ‘Lucky
In a year which saw a lot of fine tribute and cover albums, this was the best of the lot. Suzy’s beautiful readings of Haggard songs are exquisite. This record is just lovely. The sensitive vocal interpretations are backed by delicately stripped down arrangements which shows that less is more.

Best tracks: ‘If We Make It Through December’, ‘Sing Me Back Home’, ‘You Don’t Have Very Far To Go’

1. Lee Ann Womack – ‘The Way I’m Livin
I was disappointed by Trisha Yearwood’s return, when she only recorded six new songs. But Lee Ann Womack did not disappoint, with that exquisite voice wrapped around 13 excellent songs. ‘Chances Are’, my favorite, is sublime. She sounds thoroughly revitalised by her move from the major labels and hankering after radio play to Sugar Hill’s focus on artistry. The result is magical.

Best tracks: ‘Chances Are’, ‘Nightwind’, ‘Sleeping With The Devil

Album Review: J P Harris & the Tough Choices – ‘Home Is Where The Hurt Is’

home is where the hurt isI tend to be wary when it comes to the “modern outlaw” kind of country artist; too many of them are a bit too rock-influenced for me. But J P Harris and his band the Tough Choices are not only the real thing, they’re very good indeed. They also have the advantage of some excellent songs on their latest album.

‘Give A Little Lovin’ is a pacy almost rockabilly tune about trying to get a little romance going which makes an entertaining opener.

‘A Breaking Heart’ is even better, a glorious fiddle and steel dominated shuffle about seeking refuge in a honky tonk. ‘One For Every Day’ is another great drinking-to-get-over-her song.

The bitter ‘Every Little Piece’ offers a more vengeful attitude to a cheating ex:

I hate you with every little piece of my broken heart…
Here’s to you dying alone and still crying
Never again feeling loved

‘South Oklahoma’ has a loping Western feel tinged with melancholy.
In the Waylonesque ‘Old Love Letters’ the protagonist decides to burn these tangible reminders of a lost love, but finds it doesn’t help.

The title track is the highlight of a very strong album. The prominent fiddle and steel underline the pain in a classic styled country barroom weeper:

It’s hard being one in a house built for two
No, I can’t stand the silence
I run from your ghost
So I run to the places that you hated most

Sometimes you crave that which hurts you the most
No, I can’t stand the silence
I run from your ghost
So I run to the places that you hated most
From the bottom of this bottle everything looks alright
Home is where the hurt is
So I stay here each night

The quietly resigned ‘Truckstop Amphetamines’ has an unexpectedly pretty melody as he sings about being tired of the weary life of a struggling musician, a theme also tackled by ‘Maria’.

The only track which didn’t do anything for me was the rocking closer, ‘Young Women and Old Guitars’. Everything else is excellent. Harris isn’t an outstanding singer, but he is a very capable one, and his songwriting is of a very high standard, while his band backs him in solid country fashion. This is highly recommended to country fans.

Grade: A