My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Jewel

Promo Song Review: Trisha Yearwood – ‘Broken’

500x500This Sunday (March 20) Fox is airing The Passion: New Orleans a three-hour live musical event modernizing the story of Jesus Christ. Hosted by Tyler Perry, the show will highlight ‘the voices and songs of the most celebrated performers of today.’ Among them is Trisha Yearwood, who will assume the role of Jesus’ mother Mary.

Anytime Yearwood is attached to a musical project, whether it’s an album of her own or a separate endeavor, is an event in and of itself. Her musical contributions this time around find her covering modern pop songs including “I Won’t Give Up” (Jason Mraz), “My Love is Your Love” (Whitney Houston), “Hands” (Jewel) and “You Never Walk Alone” (From Carousel).

Her promotional track, which was made available as an advance download when you pre-order the soundtrack, is “Broken” a song originally released by Alternative band Lifehouse as a single in 2008. Jason Wade, who fronts the band, was inspired to pen the tune after visiting a friend in need of a kidney transplant. It wasn’t a big hit although it peaked at #7 Adult Top 40 chart.

In interviews Yearwood has said the song comes towards the end of the musical in conjunction with a giant lighted cross that will be paraded down the streets of New Orleans as she sings. It’s a powerful anthem and she sings the fire out of it. As indicated by the newly recorded tracks on Prizefighter: Hit After Hit, she hasn’t lost an ounce of her power and vibrato.

I do take issue with the production and not the fact this is purely pop. The whole thing has the feel of a winners single from American Idol – generic and bombastic with mass appeal over nuance. There is absolutely nothing interesting in how this track came together. I’m not surprised seeing as this musical special and Idol air on the same network.

But I have to give the producers credit for casting a fifty-one year old country singer, who has fallen out of favor with radio, as the female lead. It would’ve been easier to go with someone like Carrie Underwood, even if she’s about twenty years younger. All this proves that Yearwood, likely thanks to her cooking show, still has some mass appeal. I, for one, couldn’t be more ecstatic about that.

Trisha Yearwood is my favorite singer, which “Broken” more than affirms. I only wish they had framed her vocal with more subtly to let her and not the arrangement take center stage. If the production had been toned down just a hair, this would’ve been a slam-dunk. As it stands, this is just above very good.

Grade: A-

Week ending 6/29/13: #1 albums this week in country music history

alabama - the closer you get1968: Bobby Goldsboro – Honey (United Artists)

1973: Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors (Epic)

1978: Willie Nelson – Stardust (Columbia)

1983: Alabama – The Closer You Get (RCA)

1988: Reba McEntire – Reba (MCA)

1993: Wynonna – Tell Me Why (MCA/Curb)

1998: Various Artists – Hope Floats: Music from the Motion Picture (Capitol)

2003: George Strait – Honkytonkville (MCA)

2008: Jewel – Perfectly Clear (Valory)

2013: Florida Georgia Line – Here’s To the Good Times (Republic Nashville)

Single Review – Jana Kramer – ‘Whiskey’

jana-kramer-whiskeyIt was surprising last year when actress turned country singer Jana Kramer broke through the three-woman world of country radio and managed to score the top 5 hit “Why Ya Wanna.” But it was almost shocking that the song was a fiddle, steel guitar, and twang soaked waltz. This almost revelatory move, she’s the first woman since Taylor Swift to see their debut single chart so high, has come with its share of perks – Kramer is one of 10 artists in CMT’s Next Women of Country Campaign and the ACM just nominated her for Top New Female Vocalist.

In similar fashion to “Why Ya Wanna,” a lament about an always-present ex, follow-up single “Whiskey” casts Kramer as a woman being played, this time by a man as addicting and tantalizing as the titular alcoholic drink. Writers Catt Gravitt and Sam Mizell get every detail right, allowing the listener to feel the protagonist’s catch 22; he’s pulling her in even as she sees all the signs to run in the opposite direction.

While it’s nowhere near the league of “Well the cold hard truth revealed what it had known/that boy was just a walkaway Joe” or “I know you don’t think I should go/there’s some things a mama don’t know,” “Whiskey” is a strong defiant woman song and Kramer sings the fire out of it. Her phrasing may be a tad girlish in places (not unlike Jewel at times), but she has a powerful voice and the twang to covey her character’s heartache.

The production is the track’s real achievement, though. Besides Zac Brown Band, there hasn’t been this much audible fiddle and acoustic guitar on a mainstream single in a long time, and she and producer Scott Hendricks deserve credit for not marring the track with any electric guitars or loud crashing drums. I do wish he’d gone further into neo-traditional territory, leaving out the poppish ‘ooohs’ in the intro and adding in steel guitar, but you can’t fault him for slicking it up just enough to get it airplay. In any event, “Whiskey” is allowed to properly breathe, and it’s a refreshing change of pace from the normal mainstream fare (especially that of her fiancé Brantley Gilbert)

I also can’t help feeling that the lyric is a tad lightweight, centering on the sparks felt during a kiss and leaving out any substantial Gretchen Peters-like details of the damage to her psyche as the disintegration of the relationship brings the song to an end. The writers may’ve gotten the push and pull down, but it would’ve been nice to have a few details (more significant than what we get in the bridge) of her condition in the wake of her intuition being proven right.

But the charming production more than makes up for any lyrical deficiencies, easily elevating “Whiskey” into one of the year’s more interesting singles (and my personal favorite from her debut album). It’s a nice slice of addictive ear candy and another winner from a very promising talent.

Grade: B+


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: Jewel – ‘Satisfied’

Just about the time I became a fan of country music, acts like Jewel, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Sheryl Crow were releasing diamond-selling country albums, but having hits on the pop charts.  I’ve always attributed most of that to Garth Brooks and his massive numbers.  But why those artists didn’t just start as country artists – or why country radio didn’t embrace the music at the time – has always been puzzling to me.   To my ears –and apparently hers too – songs like Jewel’s ‘You Were Meant For Me’, Hootie’s ‘Let Her Cry’, and several other hits, notably one-hit wonders Sixpence None The Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’ were clearly meant to be on the country station beside the Clay Walkers and the Lee Ann Womacks of the time.

Having been a fan of her adult-contemporary hits in the 90s, and even her more rocking ‘Standing Still’ and dance hits like ‘Stand’, and being my favorite among her named contemporaries, I had high expectations for her country album(s) for the Valory Music Group. After her first album left me disappointed, or rather not blown over like I expected, I had lost a little respect for her abilities to say the least.  Instead of making a strong artistic statement, I felt like she pandered to country radio – a cardinal sin these days – and wasn’t expecting to like much from her second Valory album.  The first single held much of the same , but I am much more impressed with her second single from Sweet & Wild, her second Valory album.

‘Satisfied’ pins down the basic human feeling of satisfaction, in so many words.  The first few lines of the second verse a bit abstract, and make you think the song has lost its way, but it gets back to the basic theme of ‘let your love show’, tying it all up nicely before the start of the second chorus.  A couple more epic lines in the bridge, and a great country song is born.  A basic piano and rhythm backing the big, emotive voice she’s always had frame the verses, while the choruses and ending are more produced.  At the end of it all, the Alaskan farm girl delivers a fine vocal performance of a well-written song.

Even it doesn’t shoot up the country charts, I’ll hear it on the radio or on CMT and smile, finally satisfied that Jewel has proved herself as a credible country artist, if only in my mind.

Grade: A-

‘Satisfied’ is available everywhere, from amazon and others.