My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Jeremy Stover

Single Review: Tim McGraw – ‘How I’ll Always Be’

how-ill-always-beSince leaving Curb, Tim McGraw seems to have regained his interest in recording good songs – and to be one of the few artists country radio allows to sing songs with substance. He follows up recent #1 ‘Humble And Kind’ with another strong song. His latest single, ‘How I’ll Always Be’ is a sweet paean to the simple things in life, written by Chris Janson, Jeremy Stover and Jamie Paulin. The protagonist happily admits to being a little old fashioned, wanting

a little more ol’ Hank Williams [rather] than that trendy crap

the gentle tone is somewhat belied by some aspects of the lyrics which present the protagonist as a fighter, but those are balanced by his love of

Ol’ stray dogs and guitars playin’
One room churches, back road walks and front porch swingin’

He is the quintessential character in a country song,

Fast cars and motorcycles
Raisin’ hell in cowboy boots
But hey on Sunday morning I’ll take the back row seat

The charming lyric is set to a gentle melody is supported by country instrumentation and understated production. This is country music as we rarely hear it on radio. The only flaw, sonically, is that the autotune which too often seems to be used to smooth out McGraw’s vocals is audible again. His personal connection to the lyric is evident, with a warm, tender approach, and the record does all the right things – apart from that one issue, which stops me from completely loving the track. It is still a breath of fresh air on the radio, though, and would probably sound great in the car, when other sounds muffle the autotune.

Grade: B+

Listen here:

Album Review: Easton Corbin -‘About To Get Real’

about to get realRather optimistically heralded as a new George Strait on his debut in 2009, my enthusaism for Easto Corbin has somewhat waned since his run of gold-selling singles. I always felt that while he had potential, his material was not quite good enough for that smooth voice and Carson Chamberlain’s steel-laden production. I am sorry to say that his long-delayed third album was not worth waiting for. Chamberlain has modernised the sound a little, but that’s not the main problem. The real disappointment of this album is that the songs are all so lackluster and forgettable, with just a few exceptions.

The pleasant sounding but forgettable lead single ‘Clockwork’ performed unimpressively last year, not quite reaching the top30. The song isn’t bad apart from the unnecessary and irritating repetition of the word ‘girl’, but Corbin’s vocal lacks force or emotion. He just doesn’t sound as if he really cares about the emotional trap of a repeat pattern his character has fallen into.

It is one of five songs co-written by producer Chamberlain. ‘Kiss Me One More Time’ (by Chamberlain, Wade Kirby and Phil O’Donnell) is just okay. The remaining three Chamberlain songs include Corbin as a co-writer. I enjoyed the bouncy ‘Diggin’ On You’ even though it is pure fluff. ‘Damn, Girl’ suffers from rather too facile rhymes but isn’t too bad. The best of these collaborations, however, is the best song on the album. ‘Like A Song’, written by the pair with Stephen Allen Davis, is a beautiful ballad which shows just how good Corbin could be given worthwhile material.

Current single ‘Baby Be My Love Song, written by Brett James and Jim Collins, is a poorly written boring love song relying on bro-country clichés and a busy production, but it seems to be more palatable to country radio than its predecessor, and made it into the top 10.

‘Are You With Me’ from his last album was subjected to an unspeakably horrible dance remix last year and the result was a hit single in France and Belgium, and perhaps because of that he has recut the song straight here. The reclaimed version is quite a pretty sounding mellow ballad which Easton sings with a genuine warmth, and which is one of the few songs I like on this album. It was written by Shane MacAnally, Tommy Lee James and Terry McBride.

The enjoyable ‘Wild Women and Whiskey’ written by McBride with Ronnie Dunn is a pretty good song which sounds like a Brooks & Dunn offcut, while sunny beach tune ‘Just Add Water’ would fit perfectly on a Kenny Chesney record.

The title track, written by Jeremy Stover, Ben Hayslip and Rhett Akins is, while mellow and melodic, bland and forgettable, while ‘Guys And Girls’ lacks both melody and lyrical depth and ‘Yup’ is both boring and cliche’d.

This record is not offensive to listen to – it’s just rather bland and wanting lyrically, with just a few bright spots.

Grade: C+

Album Review – Ronnie Dunn – ‘Ronnie Dunn’

Ronnie Dunn’s long-awaited solo debut finds the singer staying close to the signature Brooks & Dunn sound, although with slightly more emphasis on the contemporary end of the country music spectrum. There are no fiddles and very little steel guitar to be found, but there is a healthy helping of Southern rock and even a dash of Tex-Mex, which make for a much more interesting album than I was expecting after the somewhat bland lead single “Bleed Red”, Dunn’s first solo Top 10 hit, which I reviewed back in February. Dunn produced the album himself and had a hand in writing nine of the album’s twelve tracks.

The album opens with the (presumably) autobiographical “Singer In A Cowboy Band”, one of the rock-leaning songs, which, though well written and well performed, contains some heavy-handed electric guitar work, which I found somewhat distracting. More effective is “I Don’t Dance”, which is also rock-flavored but with less intrusive electric guitars. Better yet is the quieter “Your Kind of Love”, one of only three tracks that Dunn didn’t write or co-write. Composed by Maile Misajon and Jeremy Stover, it’s a little closer to the familiar Brooks & Dunn sound and seems to be a good prospect for a future hit single. “How Far To Waco”, co-written with Terry McBride, opens with the sound of trumpets blaring and is reminiscent of the type of record The Mavericks used to make back in the 90s and would be another good choice for a single release. And finally, we get to hear some steel guitar on “Once”.

Overall, the tracks that work best are the quieter ones: “Last Love I’m Trying”, “I Can’t Help Myself”, and “Love Owes Me One”. But hands down, the best song on the album is the current single “Cost of Livin'”, a stripped-down track that is a testament to the current economic hard times. It tells the tale of an out-of-work war veteran who is struggling to make ends meet while he searches for new employment opportunities. Unfortunately, far too many people will be able to relate to this one. But despite the bleak circumstances he finds himself in, the protagonist is still hopeful that things will improve. This track is a masterpiece, which I can’t praise enough and it makes me wish that Dunn would release an all-acoustic album in the vein of Dwight Yoakam’s dwightyoakamacoustic.net.

iTunes offers a deluxe version of the album with two bonus tracks: “Boots and Diamonds”, and “King of All Things Lonesome”, both of would have been worthy of space on the main part of the album.

Although not every track on the album was to my taste — I could have done without “Singer In A Cowboy Band” and “Let The Cowboy Rock” — I found myself liking it more with repeated listenings. Dunn has succeeded in widening his repertoire a bit while still retaining the vintage Brooks & Dunn sound that should keep long-time fans feeling satisfied.

Grade: B+

Album Review: Sarah Buxton – ‘Sarah Buxton’

Sarah Buxton seems to have been around for ages, but in fact this is her debut album. It has taken her label, Lyric Street, so long to get her to this point, because radio has been surprisingly resistant to her brand of bright pop-country despite her releasing some very good songs as singles. Five of the tracks here were previously digitally released as part of a digital EP Almost My Record as long ago as 2007, and these older tracks are the ones I enjoyed the most which is discouraging in regards to her future direction. Sarah’s distinctive throaty voice with a hint of gravel is very listenable, and she is a talented writer.

The best songs are perhaps the most familiar. The best known is ‘Stupid Boy’, which Keith Urban covered a few years ago. The reproach to the folly of a man and the damage he has done to his girlfriend (and to his own chances of happiness) by constraining her comes across a little differently from a woman’s voice than it did in Keith’s more forceful version. It is a well-written song (composed by Sarah with Dave Berg and Deanna Bryant) and although it doesn’t sound very country structurally it is well worth hearing:

She laid her heart and soul right in your hands
And you stole her every dream
And you crushed her plans
She never even knew she had a choice
That’s what happens
When the only voice she hears is tellin’ her she can’t
Stupid boy

Berg also helped to write (together with Jeremy Stover and Georgia Middleman) Sarah’s debut single, the sweetly nostalgic look back at lost ‘Innocence’, which is full of charm as she reminiscences about teenage romance and the girl she was. The vocals sound a little compressed, though, at times on this track.

The former single ‘Space’ is delivered a little breathy but is a fine song with a bitter edge, written by Sarah with husband-and-wife team Lari White and Chuck Cannon, about a man unwilling to commit:

Does it make you feel free
Make you feel young
How does it feel not to need anyone
You say you want space
Well, I’ll give you space

You need your own bed
You need your own room
How about an island
I bet you could find one
On the dark side of the moon

Then you won’t have to deal
With anything real
Cause I won’t be here
I’ll just disappear

This is by far my favorite track.

Australian Jedd Hughes is prominently billed singing harmony on a number of tracks here, with a full-scale duet on his own pretty love song ‘Big Blue Sky’ which closes the set and is the only song not written or co-written by Sarah. ‘Wings’, another of the songs with Jedd on harmony, is pleasant but forgettable.

I like the optimistic autobiographical opening track ‘American Daughters’ which Sarah wrote with Bob DiPiero. It strikes a nice balance between country and pop influences, with a pretty tune, although the spoken list of places borders on shouting.

The bright recent single ‘Outside My Window’ (Sarah’s biggest hit to date) is a bit too far in the pop direction for me, and the newly recorded ‘Radio Love’ (with Jedd) and ‘For Real’ are even more so, and over-produced to boot, and do not interest me at all. ‘Love Like Heaven’ (featuring Sarah on harmonica) meanwhile is warmer and more engaging although it is not the strongest of lyrics. I don’t care for the self-consciously chirpy and occasionally shouty ‘That Kind Of Day’ with its too-many squealed heys and yeahs, although Sarah sounds engagingly like Dolly when she sing-speaks, and the lyric is better than the production. This track palls quickly.

Sarah is a very talented artist with a distinctive sound who deserves to do well, even if her chosen style is not altogether to my taste. It is hard to see where her career will lead her, though, as the best tracks on this album have already been released to radio and failed to make a major impact.

Grade: B-

Sarah’s debut is available everywhere, in CD form and digitally from amazon for only $5.99.