My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Jim Brown

EP Review: Erin Enderlin – ‘Tonight I Don’t Give A Damn’

Erin Enderlin is developing into the best storyteller in country music today. Her latest EP builds on ‘Broken’, one of the songs on her last album, the acclaimed Whiskeytown Crier, and apparently continues its heroine’s story (although to be honest I wouldn’t have realised it was intended to be the same story without having been told). She has also created videos for each of the three songs.

‘Broken’ relates the woman’s early adult life without self-pity, marrying an abusive man at 18 and repeating the pattern of both their families. She decides to break the cycle by giving up her own baby for adoption, a brave but heartbreaking decision. Steel guitar weaves through the song adding its melancholy underpinning.

In ‘Till It’s Gone’, also from Whiskeytown Crier and written by Erin with Jon Randall and Jim ‘Moose’ Brown, we see her holed up in a motel room after leaving her man, drinking and smoking while reflecting on her choices.

The title track, ‘Tonight I Don’t Give A Damn’ is actually the only new song, and is a co-write with Brown and Jessi Jo Dillon. The narrator is unhappily married and contemplating a one stand to a Gene Watson soundtrack, despite knowing it will make her feel “more alone than I already am”. It is another melancholy steel-aced ballad, beautifully sung by Erin.

A further three EPs are intended to follow this year. In the meantime, the new song is well worth downloading.

Album Review: Jamey Johnson – ‘That Lonesome Song’

The chequered career of Jamey Johnson has been recounted many times by now. He started out with the sentimental hit single ‘The Dollar’ on BNA in 2006. The solid album of the same title (produced by the estimable Buddy Cannon) was a fine and under-rated record (with some flaws), but the label made a catastrophic choice of follow-up single, the stupid ‘Rebelicious’ (along the same lines as the worst song Jamey has ever been involved in writing, Trace Adkins’s horrible hit ‘Honky Tonk Badonkadonk’). When this failed to chart at all, Jamey was dropped by the label, coinciding with the failure of his marriage, and he descended into a spiral of despair. The artistic legacy of this time was the body of songs which make up the magisterial That Lonesome Song and provided an unlikely comeback for Jamey.

The bad times inspired Jamey’s songwriting to take a new, devastatingly honest, turn. He was getting a number of cuts by other artists, ranging from the aforementioned ‘Honky Tonk Badonkadonk’ to George Strait’s hit ‘Give it Away’. He recorded the bulk of That Lonesome Song on his own, with his band, the Kent Hardly Playboys, credited as producers, and released it himself digitally in 2007. Mercury Records’ Luke Lewis knew a good thing when he heard it, and signed Jamey to a new deal the following year, re-releasing That Lonesome Song with a couple of track changes.

Jamey was responsible for writing a dozen of the fourteen songs, the quality of which is consistently high. Jamey’s voice does not have the greatest range, but his rough-edged voice is capable of conveying real emotional depth, as he does to devastating effect on most of the songs here. The overall effect is of a man baring his soul to the world.

The moving ‘In Color’ became Jamey’s most successful single, peaking at #9 in January 2009, and winning various nominations as Song or Single of the Year. Beautifully constructed by Jamey with his co-writers, James Otto and Lee Thomas Miller, it was originally pitched to Trace Adkins, who generously relinquished it when Jamey signed his new deal. The deeply affecting story frames an old man’s recollections by having him showing old black and white photographs to his grandson, showing his childhood struggles in the Depression, the terrors of war service, and finally the happy memories of a wedding day, telling the boy how much more intense each experience was in real life:

And if it looks like we were scared to death
Like a couple of kids trying to save each other
You should’ve seen it in color

The emotional force of the song is gradually built up through the three stories. Radio-only listeners may have got a somewhat misleading impression of Jamey as an artist, based on this and ‘The Dollar’.

If the album has a fault, it lies for me in the sometimes self-indulgent snippets of talk and laughter between some of the tracks. It opens with the least objectionable of these, a slightly contrived introduction which purports to reveal Jamey released from prison, leading both literally and thematically into the outstanding ‘High Cost Of Living’, which he wrote with James Slater. While it was not directly autobiographical, the emotional underpinning of the story recounted here was undoubtedly inspired by Jamey’s descent following the loss of his original record deal and the failure of his marriage. Dark and uncompromising, this frank confession of addiction, sin and loss, and the hard price the protagonist ends up paying as he comes to realize,

The high cost of living ain’t nothing like the cost of living high

is extraordinarily intense, and one of the finest songs written in the past decade. With its reference to exchanging his home and wife “for cocaine and a whore”, this was always a risky choice as a single given the increasingly family-friendly nature of country radio, and although it charted briefly, it peaked at #34.

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Random playlist 2

It’s been a month since I posted my last random playlist, so I thought I’d update my new favorites list. These are just a selection of songs I’ve been listening to quite frequently lately. Maybe one or more of them are in heavy rotation for you right now too.

Trisha Yearwood – Drown Me … This is just one of the many, many superb tracks on Trisha Yearwood’s Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love album, in which she created a template for a modern female country album that’s near perfect. Too bad not many are following her design. This funky, rhythm-driven country romp finds two lovers at the end of their time together, with both realizing it, but neither wanting to hurt the other with a goodbye. Yearwood wryly tells her boy, ‘So won’t you give it to me straight/I got a lot of heart to break/And a lot of love for you that needs to die‘, hoping the un-amicable ending will cool any flames that might remain between the two.

Sunny Sweeney –Refresh My Memory … Like a fool, I let all the glowing recommendations of Sunny Sweeney’s Heartbreakers Hall of Fame album pass right by me, mostly because I’ve always got way too many titles on my to-buy list.  But after hearing her stellar new single, ‘From A Table Away’, I finally picked up a copy of her CD – at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville, no less.  On the drive home to Ohio from that trip, I gave the CD two complete listens, and the first track is the one I was drawn to most.  It’s been an awful long time since she felt the spark this guy brings to her, or perhaps since she’s felt any sparks at all, and with ‘Refresh My Memory’, she implores him to jog her memory a bit.  With steel guitar leading her Texas twang, Sunny glides through the song effortlessly.

George Jones – I’m Not Ready Yet … ‘I’ve always said that someday I was gonnnaa leeeeeaaaaavvee you‘.  So begins this classic George Jones hit where he contemplates over and over again the day he’ll finally leave this relationship that’s been dying for quite some time.  More than once, he set a date to walk out, but he’s just not ready yet to be out on his own.  Maybe someday.

Suzy Bogguss – Aces … Guilt is a very unkind and unsettling emotion.  And some of us don’t take criticism very well.  ‘Aces’ addresses both of those topics with candid honesty.  Amidst an elegant backdrop of 90s country production, Suzy Bogguss sings here of the mistakes she’s made, her lover’s reaction, and gives her response to the charges – ‘You can’t deal me the aces and think I wouldn’t play’ – before ending with her declaration of love.  Truly excellent.

Martina McBride – Wrong Again … The continuing countdown of the 400 Greatest Singles of the ’90s at Country Universe brought this song back to my attention again last week.  Since then, I’ve found myself clicking play on it more and more.  One of Martina’s finest and most understated moments, it finds her admitting her own mistakes, and longing to be past making them at this point.  I’m with you, Martina.

Mary Chapin Carpenter – I Put My Ring Back On … The lead single from Carpenter’s latest album didn’t get much attention from country radio, but it’s right up there with the best of her literate and melodic up-tempo tracks.  Finding faith to stay the course in a relationship makes the basis for ‘I Put My Ring Back On’, which, as the title suggests, finds the singer forgiving rather than running away, after a heated fight.

Kenny Chesney – Better As A Memory … Easily my favorite Chesney single from the past decade, ‘Better As A Memory’ is a slow-paced and sparse confessional, and the delivery showcases Kenny Chesney’s ability to wrap into a great lyric, when he’s chosen one.  ‘Never sure when the truth won’t do/I’m pretty good on a lonely night/I move on the way a storm blows through/I never stay, but then again, I might‘.  And so goes the revealing testimony in this track.

Jamey Johnson – Women … With romantic entanglement comes frustration.  Jamey Johnson and co-writer Jim Brown come closer to describing the fairer sex than I ever could with this soon-to-be classic cut.  Another confessional, this time framed by a more traditional country production, Johnson tells of his struggles with commitment, ‘I’ve made a sad one laugh/And I’ve made a good one cry/I’ve made one scream my name to the good lord by and by/I’ve made ‘em go insane and I’ve made ‘em go away/Just can’t ever seem to make one stay‘ before concluding his weakness and the self-realization that ‘with any luck I’ll take one home tonight’.

What songs are you playing the most these days? Any particular reason why you’re drawn to them right now?