My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Jason Eady

Classic Rewind: Jason Eady – ‘AM Country Heaven’

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Occasional Hope’s favorite albums of 2018

It seems harder and harder to find great new music as the mainstream gets more pop oriemnted. However, some good music is still out there, and here are my favorite full-length albums this year.

10. Junior Sisk – ‘Brand New Shade Of Blue

My favorite bluegrass album this year. Sometimes witty, sometimes lonesome, but a great listen.

Download now: ‘By Now I Would Be Dead’, ‘Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That’, ‘The Whiskey & The Guitar

9. Josh TurnerI Serve A Savior

The best religious album of the year.

Download now: ‘I Saw The Light’, ‘Great Is Your Faithfulness’, ‘I Pray My Way Out Of Trouble’, ‘Me And God

8. Jason Eady – ‘I Travel On

The troubadour takes a bluegrass twist with this year’s fine set.

Download now: ‘She Had To Run’, ‘Below The Waterline’, ‘I Travel On’, ‘I Lost My Mind In Carolina

7. Randall King – ‘Randall King

I’m afraid I didn’t get around to reviewing this promising debut album, but it’s a strong introduction with a 90s neotraditional country vibe.

Download now: ‘Reason To Quit’, ‘Mirror, Mirror’, ‘Dent In It

6. Dillon Carmichael Hell On An Angel

Sometimes sublime, sometimes a bit too heavy on the Southern Rock, this remains the debut of the year.

Download now: ‘That’s What Hank Would Do’, ‘Dixie Again’, ‘Hard On A Hangover’, ‘Natural Disaster’

5. Courtney Patton What It’s Like To Fly Alone

Courtney Patton produced my favorite album of 2015. This year’s follow up was not quite as good, but still extremely rewarding.

Download now: ‘Devil’s Hand’, ‘Round Mountain’, ‘Words to My Favorite Memory’, ‘Red Bandana Blue’, ‘Open Flame

4. Josh Ward – ‘More Than I Deserve

Solid traditional country from Texas.

Download now: ‘One More Shot Of Whiskey’, ‘Say Hello To Goodbye’, ‘The Devil Don’t Scare Me’, ‘More Than I Deserved

3. Adam HarveyThe Nashville Tapes

Great neotraditional country from the deep voiced Australian who was our last Spotlight Artist.

Download now: ‘What A Song Can Do’, ‘When Willie’s Gone’, ‘We’ll Have To Drink Our Way Out Of This’, ‘I’d Rather Be A Highwayman’, ‘Three Rivers Hotel’

2. Loretta Lynn – ‘Wouldn’t It Be Great’

The legend returns with a fabulous mix of sassy growing old disgracefully and emotional ballads.

Download now: ‘Ruby’s Stool’, ‘Lulie Vars’, ‘Another Bridge To Burn’, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Great?

1. Kayla RayYesterday & Me

The Jason Eady-helmed project allos an excellent singer songwriter to shine.

Download now: ‘Once A Week Cheaters’, ‘Things Only Years Can Teach A Woman’, ‘Fair Warning’, ‘Rockport’.

Bonus selection: Tim CulpepperDUI

I omitted this fabulous traditional honky tonk projct as it has only eight tracks. But what there is is outstanding.

Download now: ‘Under The Influence’, ‘Another Way To Try’, ‘She Only Loves Me’, ‘Sad Ole Country Song

Album Review: Kayla Ray – ‘Yesterday & Me’

Singer-songwriter Kayla Ray’s lovely second album was released back in May. This has been such a busy year I haven’t had time to review as much music as I would have liked, but starting to consider my albums of the year I thought this really needed to be covered in detail. Tastefully produced by Jason Eady in traditional country style with plenty of steel guitar and fiddle, the record showcases her rich voice and outstanding songwriting. Growing up in Texas, she spent some time working with legendary fiddler Johnny Gimble, and Johnny’s son Dick plays bass on this album.

Kayla wrote most of the songs herself. One of the exceptions is the engrossing story song ‘Rockport’, which opens the album and sets the tone. It tells the tale of two lovers whose hard backgrounds in Arkansas overshadow their lives. The other is one of my favorite tracks, a gorgeously steel-laden ultra-traditional Keith Whitley song called ‘Once A Week Cheaters’. It is a duet with Colton Hawkins, who has a great, mournful voice and I would like to hear more from.

My favorite of Kayla’s own songs is the weary litany of ‘Things Only Years Can Teach A Woman’. ‘Fair Warning’, an outstanding introspective story song about an abusive relationship.
Another duet, this time with an older-sounding female vocalist called Tifni Simons, ‘Red River Valley’s Run Dry’ is another absorbing story song with nice fiddle.

‘Magnolias In Springtime’ is a slow ballad about a country singer who has unexpectedly found the joy of love, with a number of song titles quoted.

In the title track she regrets the changes time has brought to a relationship. ‘Camel Blues’ ponders a breakup where fault lies on both sides. The sultry ‘I’m Still A Woman’ is the agonised lament of a troubled woman.

The tempo picks up with ‘Hell Of A Day To Drink All Night’, where Kayla’s tone shifts from its usual mellow warmth to raucous as she rattles her way through a hangover. The rapid paced ‘Pills’ lauds the local pharmacy and prescription medicines, somewhat tongue in cheek.

Finally, ‘1963’ pays a fond tribute to Kayla’s grandparents.

This is an excellent album, leaning to the more introspective side, but pure country in its backings and arrangements.

Grade: A+

Album Review: Jason Eady – ‘I Travel On’

Jason Eady, for some time one of my favorite singer-songwriters, has collaborated with dobroist Rob Ickes and his musical partner Trey Hensley for his latest album, recorded live and acoustic in studio with Jason’s road band providing the rest of the backings. Ickes’ and Hensley’s contributions to the lively, fresh arrangements were completely spontaneously produced in the studio. This music is acoustic, but definitely not stripped down.

The up tempo opener sets the scene, with a lively old time feel as the narrator reflects on what has made him the man he is. There is a similar vibe on the upbeat ‘Now Or Never’. The catchy ‘That’s Alright’ is a relaxed tune about stress-free living, with some very nice fiddle.

The warm, mellow ‘Happy Man’ and the up-tempo ‘Pretty When I Die’ is are about making a good life one can be satisfied with.

‘Calaveras County’, inspired by an incident in Eady’s childhood, is a tribute to the goodhearted people of which is reminiscent to me of Tom T Hall.

‘Always A Woman’ is a slow solemn blues influenced number about the power of a good woman to help a man in trouble.

‘Below The Waterline’ is a fine story song co-written with Jason’s wife Courtney Patton about a flood when a river bursts its banks, with more lovely fiddle.

‘She Had To Run’ is a beautiful sounding bluegrass waltz about a woman fleeing domestic violence who manages to get out just in time:

Nothing could be worse than what she was leaving …
She knew the next time he’d do what he always said he would.

This understated but powerful song is the best on the album.

The vocals are a bit muddy on ‘The Climb’, and I couldn’t decipher it all, but it is a portrait of a man unsure of his future

He’s too low to reach the top
He’s come too far to go back down
He’s not lost, he just don’t know what to do

Finally the title track offers a gentle narrative about being trapped in a travelling life:

I’m out here searching for something I can’t hold

This is a thoughtful and rewarding album which is worth hearing, and might be summarised as in the troubadour tradition with a bluegrass twist, rather than the more traditional country of Jason’s recent work.

Grade: A-

Album Review: Courtney Patton – ‘What It’s Like To Fly Alone’

Courtney Patton is one of the best female versions of the Texas troubadour type of singer-songwriter, producing heartfelt poetic songs with gentle country backings. She produced this latest record herself as well as writing or co-writing every song bar one.

Opener ‘Shove’ is a mid-paced song about a woman at a turning point and in need of a little help regaining herself:

The stars are always shining
It’s just sometimes you can’t see em till you pull yourself away from all the lights

It is one of several she wrote solo. The introspective ‘What It’s Like To Fly Alone (The Hawk Song)’ takes its inspiration from a road encounter with a wild hawk and reflects on loneliness and depression. ‘Sometimes She Flies’, about a woman struggling with life, has a deceptively pretty melody.

The most frequent co-writer is fellow-Texan Larry Hooper, and the songs he wrote with Courtney include my favorite tracks. ‘Round Mountain’ is an engrossing confessional story song:

I was lonely when I let another’s husband share my bed
While mine was plowing fields I was breaking vows instead
And I looked down into the darkness
And I looked up and felt it burn
It was hotter than the fires of hell my crimes would surely earn

I knew what I was doing as I climbed up and jumped in
Let the murky water cool me
Let it wash away my sin

The wearied ‘Devil’s Hand’ also muses on sin and guilt. The waltztime ‘Words To My Favorite Memory’ draws on the Haggard record, using it to counterpoint the sudden death of a loved one. Lloyd Maines provides some gorgeous steel. ‘Devil’s Hand’ is an elusively poetic song about sin. The pair’s ‘Open Flame’ is about resisting the temptation to infidelity, set to a very pretty melody:

It may burn but it won’t leave a scar

‘I’ve Got One Waiting’, written by Courtney with Matt Hillyer, is a well-written pure country song about a woman drinking after her undeserving man has left her, not out of sorrow, but perhaps with a little bravado:

You used to tell me quite often
That I was uninviting and cold to the touch of your hand
So I’ve been thinking and you were right
It just hit me tonight
And I should thank you for helping me understand
I might be cold but I’m not empty
And a handle is plenty
To keep me warm when I used to have you
You chose the women
I picked the wine
One’s aged and one’s fine
But both make the bed easy to fall into
I’ll be the life of the party
So don’t even start me
To talking about how fine I am
There’s no need for debating
Gonna start celebrating
Cause I’ve got one waiting

‘This Road To You’, a wintry co-write with Micky Braun about separation on the road from Courtney’s husband Jason Eady, is another strong and thoughtful song.

There is one song which Courtney had no share in writing: ‘Gold Standard’, written by Owen Temple and Kelley Mickwee. This is a graceful waltz about enduring love.

The set concludes on valedictory note with two mournful self-penned songs about the dead. ‘Red Bandana Blue (Kent’s Song)’ is a tender waltz-time tribute to the late Texan bar owner and music promoter Kent Finlay and his influence on Courtney’s career. Even more personal is the album’s closing track. The deeply moving ‘Fourteen Years’ is a delicate reflection on Courtney’s sister who was tragically killed in an accident 14 years ago.

Grade: A

Occasional Hope’s top 10 albums of 2017

While the mainstream sinks further away from country music, I have found some great music this year. It is marked, however, that much of the best music harks back to the past in one way or another. Another difference from radio trends is that half of the top 7 are female artists. Here are my favourite full length albums of 2017:

10. John Baumann, Proving Grounds

An overlooked gem I never got round to reviewing in the summer, this release from a young Texas singer songwriter of the troubadour type was full of high quality songs. Definitely an artist to watch.

Highlights: ‘Old Stone Church’, ‘Lonely In Bars’, ‘Here I Come’, ‘The Trouble With Drinkin’’, ‘Meg’

9. Chris Stapleton, From A Room, vols 1-2

While his music is not traditional country, it is a lot better than most mainstream efforts these days. Chris Stapleton has a great voice and is a superb songwriter, and wife Morgane’s harmonies add the final touch. I am counting these two almost-full length albums as one for the purpose of this list.

Highlights: ‘Up To No Good Livin’’, ‘Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning’, ‘Either Way’, ‘Drunkard’s Prayer’, ‘Scarecrow In The Garden

8. Conway Twitty – Timeless

The recently re-released recordings are a delightful reminder of what country music used to be. Arrangements laden with steel, great songs and Conway’s emotive vocals all contribute to a wonderful album, with only a couple of less stellar moments.

Highlights: ‘Lost Her Love) On Our Last Date’, ’15 Years Ago’, ‘Next In Line’


7. Gene Watson – My Gospel Roots

This only came out on 8 December, just in time to make my year-end list. It is an excellent religious album from one of the best living country vocalists, with an interesting selection of material. The full review will be posted on Friday.

Highlights: ‘Fit For A King’, ‘Help Me’, ‘Old Roman Soldier

6. Charley Pride – Music In My Heart

The legend’s 2017 album is his best music in years. He is in fine voice and the songs are great.

Highlights: ‘Standing In My Way’, ‘I Learned A Lot’, ‘The Way It Was In ‘51’, ‘It Wasn’t That Funny

5. Jason Eady – Jason Eady

A thoughtful, often compelling collection of songs from one of my favorite singer-songwriters.

Highlights: ‘Barabbas’, ‘Where I’ve Been’, ‘No Genie In This Bottle’, ‘Black Jesus’, ‘Why I Left Atlanta’, 40 Years


4. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy

The Texan singer-songwriter released another great record this year, mixing attitude and heartbreak in eqal measures.
Highlights: ‘Bottle By My Bed’, ‘I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight’, ‘Trophy’, ‘Pass The Pain’

3. Alison Krauss – Windy City

Alison Krauss’s beautiful voice on a country leaning collection of standards, beautifully prodiced and exquisitely sung. Flawless.

Highlights: ‘You Don’t Know Me’, ‘River In The Rain’, ‘Losing You’, ‘Gentle On My Mind’, ‘All Alone Am I’, ‘Please Don’t Tell me How The Story Ends’


2. Rhonda Vincent and Daryle Singletary – American Grandstand

A delightful pairing of one of bluegrass’s best female vocalists with country traditionalist Daryle Singletary. Rhonda’s voice blends even better with Daryle than it did with Gene Watson https://mykindofcountry.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/album-review-gene-watson-and-rhonda-vincent-your-money-and-my-good-looks/ a few years ago. Magnificent.

Highlights: ‘We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds’, ‘One’, ‘A Picture Of Me Without You’, ‘After The Fire Is Gone’, ‘American Grandstand


1. Erin Enderlin – Whiskeytown Crier

The singer-songwriter’s latest album is a superb collection of story songs. My only reservation is that several of the songs have appeared upon her previous releases, but this is a truly excellent album.

Highlights: ‘Broken’, ‘Caroline’, ‘His Memory Walks On Water’, ‘The Coldest In Town’, ‘Ain’t It Just Like A Cowboy

Album Review: Jason Eady – ‘Jason Eady’

Jason Eady has been one of my favorite singer songwriters for a while, so I was looking forward to this album. I was delighted to find it is a truly excellent record from start to finish.

‘Barabbas’ is an excellent, thought provoking portrait of the criminal pardoned in place of Jesus, which Jason wrote with the help of Larry Hooper, Adam Hood, and Josh Grider. Jason’s imagined Barabbas is grateful for the opportunity of a second chance in life:

The guilt hangs twice as heavy when its followed by surprise
I’d surrendered, I was ready to give up and do my time
I did not know his name
Did not know why he was there
But on this side of forgiveness we both have our cross to bear

I know that I am free cause they did not like his kind
The man who preaches peace is always looking for a fight

Wife Courtney Patton adds a haunting harmony vocal.

Jason wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs. That exception, ‘Black Jesus’, is a fascinating story song from Channing Wilson and Patrick Davis, which recalls a friendship which develops one summer between a teenage country boy and his workmate, an African American veteran. A lovely arrangement with super fiddle and very nice harmonies adds the final touches.

‘Drive’, written by Jaspn with Jamie Lin Wilson and Kelley Mickwee, is about a man gradually getting over an ex. Fidlder/mandolinist Tammy Rogers joins Courtney in providing harmonies on a track which might be described as muscular bluegrass with his loneseome wail and rhythmic banjo-led groove.

Vince Gill guests (though not very audibly) on the gorgeous steel-laced ballad ‘No Genie In This Bottle’, a deeply sad song about regret for past choices and the protagonist’s fruitless recourse to drinking as a solution for his pain:

If I had three wishes my first would be for a second chance
To do all those little things I didn’t do
Take the poison off my tongue
Stand strong when I cut and run
And be a better man than the one you knew

There ain’t no genie in this bottle
And I’ve been looking with every pour
As I get closer to the bottom
I find it just as empty as the one before

Jason wrote this one with Josh Grider.

Even better, and perhaps my favorite track, is ‘Where I’ve Been’, an incisive look at a troubled relationship on the verge of ending, set to a gentle melody.

She said “I haven’t been thinking ‘bout leaving
As much as I used to
In fact I haven’t been thinking too much at all
And I sure ain’t been thinking about you”

This is not what I wanted
I’d rather be home but a home takes more than me
So if you ever get tired of lonely
I’m only as gone as you want to be

She said “You ain’t been giving me the kind of love I’m needing
And you just ain’t been living like the man that I once knew”

So I’m giving up and giving in
Taking what I need every now and then
And if you ever decide you ever want to try again
Well, I’ll be here in the morning
Just don’t ask me where I’ve been

‘Why I Left Atlanta’ is a breezy story song about running away from the end of a relationship. ‘Waiting To Shine’ is an upbeat tune about finding inspiration as a songwriter. ‘Rain’ sounds like a mixture of Celtic, bluegrass and blues influences and has a hypnotic feel.

‘Not Too Loud’ is a touching and very personal song about fatherhood as Eady’s teenage daughter heads off to college. It has a beautiful steel dominated arrangement.

The album closes with ’40 Years’, another excellent song about experience, life, and the lessons learned so far, supported by a lovely fiddle line.

The past will leave you burning
If you don’t let it go
Tomorrow’s what you make it
You really do reap what you sow

This is an extremely good album, which I highly recommend to anyone who appreciates thoughtful country singer-songwriters.

Grade: A+

Album Review: ‘Bruce Robison & The Back Porch Band’

The tagline for Bruce Robison’s first solo in eight years reads, “recorded on analog tape with no digital shenanigans.” He goes on to say, “I will tell you one thing about this project…I wanted to leave in just enough mistakes so it sound live and, well, mission accomplished.”

Bruce Robison & The Back Porch Band came about as a result of the time he spent working on The Last Waltz, a multi-media website that acts as a “virtual social house” of music, videos, and interviews with the cream of the crop of today’s songwriters and musicians. As a result, Robison was inspired to form his own band to record a nine-track album featuring his own interpretation of originals, co-writes and covers.

Our first taste of the project, Joe Dickens’ “Rock and Roll Honky Tonk Ramblin’ Man,” about a guy refusing to cave into society’s pressures for him to suppress his rebel spirit, is an excellent infectious mid-tempo number drenched in fiddle.

Another preview track, which Robison wrote solo, is the brilliant ballad “Sweet Dreams.” The song centers around the age old tale of a small-town boy who never got out into the world, despite watching all the girls he dated take off and fly. The theme may be well worn but it never sounded sweeter than in Robison’s hands, accented with lovely heapings of mandolin and steel guitar. He also solely composed the slow-burning “Long Shore,” which rests on the nakedness of his gravely vocal.  “Long Time Comin,’” a Robison co-write with Micky Braun, is a gorgeous folk-leaning ballad with an ear-catching lyric.

Braun co-wrote “Paid My Dues,” an ironic up-tempo about the dark side of making it in the music business, with the always fantastic Jason Eady. The song, which Robison presents as a duet with Jack Ingram, has a wit and infectious melody that drew me right in. If this truly is the dark side, then they’re having way too much binging on cocaine in a cheap motel room.

My favorite track on the album is Robison’s take on Christy Hays’ “Lake of Fire,” a stunning traditionally accented ballad. “The Years,” by Damon Bramblett, is a sweet and endearing waltz concerning the trajectory of love, beautifully framed with gentle percussion mixed with fiddle and steel. Michael Heeney and John Moffat’s “Still Doing Time (In a Honky Tonk Prison)” is a classic country weeper and a brilliant one at that.

The centerpiece of the album is its most famous song, Pete Townshend’s “Squeezebox,” which Robison considers “a great country song by some English dudes.” Robison’s version is great, if cluttered, and has a nice assist from his wife Kelly Willis.

As a whole, Bruce Robison and the Back Porch Band is a welcomed surprise and a nice follow-up to the two excellent duets records he did with Willis in the past few years. I wasn’t expecting so much slower material, but there truly isn’t a sour track in the bunch. Robison’s pen is as sharp as his keen sense of song. His liner notes may begin, “You’re not going to listen to this! It’s a goddamn record!” but to heed his premonition is to miss out on one of the year’s most uniquely satisfying offerings.

Grade: A

Classic Rewind: Jason Eady – ‘ AM Country Heaven’

Album Review: Courtney Patton – ‘So This Is Life’

so this is lifeCourtney Patton, wife of Jason Eady, is a singer-songwriter with an alto voice reminiscent of Holly Williams, but more traditional country inclinations. Fellow songwriter Drew Kennedy produces tastefully, showcasing Courtney’s warm vocals and outstanding songs.

The excellent story song ‘Little Black Dress’ opens the set, and is the first of a series of convincing portraits in song. Set to a stately waltztime beat, it relates the story of a woman going through a disillusioning dating process. Later we meet the wearied wife pondering ‘Her Next Move’ but stuck in a holding pattern.

More personally, ‘War Of Art’ tackles the struggle between pursuing a musical career with life as a wife and mother, possibly inspired by the failure of her first marriage to a non-musician. Written soon after her marriage to Eady, the autobiographical ‘Twelve Days Out’ is about enduring the separation from a touring musician husband, with some sweet lonesome fiddle and quotes from ‘Marina del Rey’ and ‘Little Green Apples’. ‘Sure Am Glad’ is a love song which may also be rooted in real life.

The title track is an agonized dissection of the long drawn out death of her parents’ marriage after over 30 years together. ‘But I Did’, also autobiographical, is more positive in mood as Courtney reflects on her childhood.

The gorgeous steel-drenched waltz ‘Need For Wanting’ (probably my favourite track) is a bar room weeper with the narrator rejecting a man’s advances:

Lately my world has been crumbling around me
And sometimes it scares me to death
So thanks for the whiskey and the lingering glances
But your chances aren’t looking too bright
I’ll entertain you but
Don’t misinterpret my need for wanting tonight

You look like a lesson I learned long ago
And I know more than I care to say
‘Bout how men like you will work on a woman
Till you win or she walks away
So the longer I sit here the more you believe
That you’ve convinced me that it be alright
But I’m leaving alone so you shouldn’t mistake
My need for wanting tonight

But with a cynical little twist by the end of the song and the evening’s drinking, she lets him take her home after all.

The shuffle ‘Killing Time’ sees Courtney satisfied that an ex is paying for his bad behaviour with prison time. ‘Battle These Blues’ is an account of heartbreak, while the thoughtful ‘Maybe It’s You’ reflects gently and rather sadly on struggling with a troubled relationship:

It’s easy to forgive but nowhere as easy to forget
How you were wrong and let it be alright

The one song Courtney did not write, ‘Where I’ve Been’, was contributed by her husband Jason Eady. It is an excellent song about a woman taking comfort where she can while her marriage falls apart, and confessing wearily:

This is not what I wanted
I’d rather be home
But a home takes more than me
So if you ever get tired of lonely Just remember
I’m only as gone as you want me to be
Cause you ain’t been giving me the kind of love I’m needing
And you just ain’t been living like the man that I once knew
So I’ve given up and given in
Taken what I need every now again
And if you ever decide that you ever want to try again
Well, I’ll be here in the morning
Just don’t ask me where I’ve been

This is a wonderful record full of mature songwriting about real people and their complicated emotional lives. I strongly recommend it.

Grade: A+

Classic Rewind: Jason Eady – ‘Promises In Pieces’

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

Classic Rewind: Jason Eady – ‘Cry Pretty’

Album Review: Jason Eady – ‘Daylight And Dark’

daylight and darkJason Eady says his latest release, following up to the excellent AM Country Heaven, is not a concept album, but in effect it is, as it tells one story. Eady himself summarises it by saying,

“‘Daylight And Dark’ was written as a ‘day in the life’ story of a man who is trying to find his way through a bad period of his life. He is struggling between his intentions during the daytime and his temptations at night. Every morning he wakes up determined to make changes and do the right thing but as evening approaches he starts to give in and lose his way again…. The entire album is sung from this same character’s point of view and the order of the songs also tells the same story.”

The complex emotions of the story of a troubled individual ring very true. It is produced with understated taste by Kevin Welch to put the excellent songs and compelling story center stage.

The rhythmic lead single ‘OK Whiskey’, which I reviewed back in November makes a compelling, attention-grabbing opener, and sets the scene with the protagonist at a metaphorical crossroads on a literal highway.

He is back on the road in ‘The Other Side Of Abilene’. This excellent song is addressed to the woman he has left at home, with the resigned vocal delicately ornamented by real-life fiancée Courtney Patton’s sweet harmony vocal, which is also in evidence on other tracks. After a night in a motel he realises he has
got to turn back to see what lies ahead”.

Things slow down further for an introspective reflection on the fight with ‘Temptation’, a very fine song with a haunting steel guitar dominating the arrangement.

The wry ‘One, Two … Many’ offers a little self-directed justification for a fall from grace drinking too much:

I’ve had one, two … many
And that’s just enough to make me
Think so much that I can’t stand

‘Liars & Fools’ addresses two kinds of man, concluding he prefers the latter because

Liars, they live in their own little world
While the fools lay it all on the line

Yet he himself fits in the firmer category, as he reveals regretfully:

I watched as it all came undone
She was a fool for leavin’ my lies
And now I’m left with the damage I’ve done

Picking up both mood and tempo, ‘We Just Might Miss Each Other’ is a charming duet with Courtney Patton about trying to avoid an awkward encounter with the ex, with a lovely retro feel and bright fiddle.

The gently melancholic title track sees the protagonist facing up to his tangled life the morning after a drunken hookup with a stranger, but with no answers for himself:

I hear the normal people talkin’
Walkin’ right outside my window
And I wonder what they know that I don’t
Are they just survivin’ after all this time
And just going through the motions that I won’t?

‘Lonesome Down & Out’ is more forceful, as he admits defiantly that his druinking lifestule is due to his relationship breakdown:

I started runnin’
After the stayin’ failed to work

The melancholic ‘Whiskey & You’ (a Chris Stapleton tune which is one of only two songs on the album not written by Eady, and has previously been recorded by Julie Roberts and Tim McGraw) is a more somber reflection of life after divorce, almost a despairing one, which fits perfectly into the sequence. It is followed by the other outside song, Adam Hood’s ‘Late Night Diner’, which adds similar insight and sounds as if it was written for the project with its wistful acceptance of the high cost of failed love.

Finally, Eady joins up with Hayes Carll for the amusing story song ‘A Memory Now’, which ends the record on an upbeat note, with the passage of time having got the protagonist over his ex at last and revisiting all the warning signs. The sardonic tone makes this slightly out of keeping with the more thoughtful mood elsewhere, and it feels like more of a Carll song than an Eady one, but it does provide a positive conclusion to the story told through the album.

This portrait of a troubles soul is Jason Eady’s most ambitious record to date, and his finest achievement. This is highly recommended top anyone who wants some depth in their country music.

Grade: A+

Single Review: Jason Eady – ‘OK Whiskey’

jason eadyThe latest single from excellent independent artist Jason Eady, heralding a new album due in the new year to follow up 2012’s AM Country Heaven, is a consolation for country fans disenfranchised by the way mainstream radio is going these days. In other words, this is a real country song with an arrangement and production serving the song rather than drowning it.

Opening with three attention-grabbing drumbeats before the rest of the band kick in, it keeps the solid groove anchoring the tune with a fiddle. A catchy drinking song with a wry twist, Eady’s compelling vocal brings to life an interesting lyric.

The mid paced story song tells the story of a trucker taking an overnight break from his long run from Kansas to Texas, and spending his evening in an Oklahoma City bar. He seems to be knocking back the whiskeys as though they were beers, because:

It’s whiskey or nothin’ up in Oklahoma
The beer up here just won’t do
Line ’em up, bartender
They don’t have to be your finest
OK whiskey treats me better than that old 3-2

But it all goes to his head, and

Started drinkin in a hurry
Making up for lost time
Lost my mind a little early
Lost my cool too easily
Now I’m sitting in a jailhouse
Guess I learned my lesson
No more messin round with whiskey in that OKC

It’s very neatly constructed, and brought to life by Eady’s confident, convincing vocal. I love this record, which is just the sort of song which ought to be on the radio, but hasn’t a prayer in the current climate.

Listen here.

Occasional Hope’s Top Albums of 2012

It’s not been a bad year for country music – as long as you ignore the charts and mainstream country radio. My #1 album of the year was released on a major label but with no singles success, and most of my other selections came from independent labels, although some of the names will be familiar. Just missing the cut were, among others, albums from Joey + Rory (some delicious moments but more hit and miss than their previous efforts), Terri Clark’s classic covers, the always reliable Alan Jackson, Kathy Mattea, and current star Dierks Bentley.

For full reviews, and purchase details, click on the links in the album title and artist name respectively.

10. Alive At Brushy Mountain PenitentiaryMark Collie

The live prison album was recorded in 2001, but only escaped the vaults of MCA this year. It was worth the wait, with an energetic set of suitably themed mainly original songs.

Best tracks: ‘I Could’ve Gone Right’, ‘Rose Covered Garden’, ‘Maybe Mexico’, ‘On The Day I Die‘.

marty raybon9. Southern Roots And Branches: Yesterday and TodayMarty Raybon

Former Shenandoah lead singer Marty Raybon released a pair of albums this year. This, the secular one of the pair, was the better, with Marty’s smoky voice sounding as good as ever on a bluegrass influenced set including the odd reworking of a few Shenandoah hits.

Best tracks: ‘Long Hard Road’, ‘Big Pain’, ‘Ghost In This House’, ‘Get Up In Jesus’ Name’.

8. Honky Tonk Till I DieEric Strickland and the B Sides

Solidly enjoyable, unpretentious honky-tonk with some great original songs written by the North Carolinian lead singer. It may be obscure, but it’s really good.

Best tracks: ‘Haggard And Hell’, ‘Freedom’, ‘Standing In The Headlights’, ‘Womankind‘.

wesley dennis7. Country EnoughWesley Dennis

An excellent return from one of the best singers who never made it. The former Mercury Records artist has a classic country voice and has written some fine songs for this independent releases.

Best tracks: ‘A Month Of Sundays’, ‘Lady’s Choice’, ‘That Dog Won’t Hunt’, ‘Sun, Surf And The Sand (And My Ties)‘.

6. The Time JumpersThe Time Jumpers

The part-time supergroup featuring Vince Gill and Dawn Sears came up with a delightful confection of country, jazz and western swing for their first studio alum together. The musicianship sparkles and this is a real celebration of the joy of making music.

Best tracks: ‘So Far Apart’, ‘Three Sides To Every Story’, ‘The Woman Of My Dreams’, ‘Someone Had To Teach You’.

gene watson5. Best Of The BestGene Watson

I wasn’t sure whether to include this album in my list but in the end the quality shone through and I had to keep it in. A veteran star who still has the vocal goods to shame most of his younger, more commercially successful rivals, Gene Watson has chosen to revisit some of his best-loved recordings for this release. I would really have preferred new material from him, but this is just a lovely listening experience.

Best tracks: ‘Farewell Party’, ‘What She Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Her’, ‘Nothing Sure Looked Good On You’, ‘Between This Time And The Next Time’.

4. Pourin’ Whiskey On PainTim Culpepper

The unknown newcomer gave me my most pleasant surprise this year with his traditional sound and some excellent songs.

Best tracks: ‘One More For The Road’, ‘When Misery Finds Company’, ‘Pourin’ Whiskey On Pain’, ‘Toss And Turn’.

jason eady3. AM Country HeavenJason Eady

I called this a “low-key delight” when I reviewed it earlier this year, and my judgment stands. This mature thoughtful record has no weak spots at all. Patty Loveless duetting on one track is an unexpected bonus.

Best tracks (though everything is worth hearing): ‘AM Country Heaven’, ‘Man On A Mountain’ (with Patty Loveless), ‘Water Into Wine’, ‘Old Guitar And Me’.

2. Too Much Ain’t EnoughClinton Gregory

Sweet voiced singer/fiddler Clinton Gregory is back after years of silence with a lovely set of mainly sad songs.

Best tracks: ‘Too Much Ain’t Enough’, ‘Too Country For Nashville’, ‘Has Love Taken Its Toll?’, ‘Chase Away The Lonely’.

jamey johnson21. Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank CochranJamey Johnson

It was obvious as soon as I listened to this album that it was going to be this year’s highlight. Songs by one of the greatest country songwriters ever, performed by Jamey Johnson and some of his friends including legends like Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Ray Price and Emmylou Harris, and more recent stars like Lee Ann Womack, Ronnie Dunn and George Strait. From the exquisite opening notes of ‘Make The World Go Away’, with Alison Krauss’s angelically sweet counterpoint to Jamey’s gruff tenderness, every single song here is a gem, and almost every track is excellent. This really is an outstanding album.

Best tracks: hard to pin down, but if I must then ‘Would These Arms Be In Your Way’ solo; ‘Make The World Go Away’ with Alison Krauss; ‘You Wouldn’t Know Love’ with Ray Price; and ‘Don’t Touch Me’ with Emmylou Harris.

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.

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: Jason Eady – ‘When The Money’s All Gone’

When The Money's All GoneJason Eady’s new album (his third) is produced by Kevin Welch, and was recorded in Texas, where the Mississippi-born singer-songwriter is based, although the state most frequently mentioned in his lyrics is Louisiana. His initial influences were country, but along the way he fell in love with Texas singer-songwriters, and his music falls on the modern folk-leaning singer-songwriter side of country with blues elements and a very Southern vibe; the record label, meanwhile, is pushing this album as “blue-eyed soul”. Whatever the genre, the end result is very good. Eady is a very poetic writer with an interesting voice, and the lyrics repay close attention. It is disappointing that the lyrics are not included in the liner notes, which claim they are available on the artist’s website (not currently the case). The first time I listened to it I did so paying close attention to each of the songs, and I was enraptured. The second time, I had it on while doing something else, and it did fade into the background, thanks to the lack of variation in tempos and lack of country radio-style obvious hooks. It’s definitely worth investing some time in listening to it.

The album opens arrestingly with the jaunty bluesy-gospel vibe and dominant harmonica of the instantly likeable sinner’s ‘God Fearing Blues’, with backing vocals from the fellow-Texas-based songwriters who make up the Band Of Heathens. The narrator sounds less than depressed as he tells us:

“I got baptized when I was ten
I got a little dirty so I did it again
The preacher said ‘son why are you back so soon?’
I said ‘let’s get this done, I got things to do’
I was saved in the morning
And back that afternoon

Well, I sing ‘Hallejujah’ and I shout ‘Amen’
And I wrestle with the devil and sometimes I win
(Sometimes I lose)
Well, I hate to disappoint you
But I got these no-good living, white line loving, roadhouse singing, good time, God-fearing blues”

A long instrumental outro to this song leads into the title track, another highlight, which Jason wrote with Walt Wilkins, who produced his last album, the excellent Redemption. Along the same lines musically as the previous song, it is a biting response to current economic issues:

“Everything’s had and nothing is owned
Aorund it goes until the money’s all gone…

Lose a little and you can scream and shout
You gotta lose big before they bail you out…

But when the money’s all gone
We’ll get back to work, get back in the garden, get back in the dirt
It’s an ill wind doesn’t blow some good
We can put it back together the way that we should
It might not be the worst thing after all
When the money’s all gone.”

Also in the same vein are the enjoyably mellow ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Fine’, the brooding ‘Watering Hole’ (written with Scott Davis) and the very visual ‘Travelling Show’ (written with Kurt South). ‘Evangeline’ has a Cajun feel with more Band Of Heathens’ backing vocals and accordion, but is one of the less ambitious lyrics. ‘Judgment Day’ (another Scott Davis co-write) is a lyrically rather dark and fatalistic gospel number, but sounds positively hypnotic.

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