My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Jonathan Singleton

Album Review: Midland – ‘On The Rocks’

New country band Midland have received a certain amount of online criticism based on their perceived inauthenticity. I will say that the image as presented on the album cover comes across as trying too hard to be self-consciously retro, but no more so than Gram Parsons did in his day. That aside, is the music worthwhile? I wouldn’t call this a hardcore traditional record, but it has a lot of solid country input, and reminded me a little of the early work of the Mavericks.

All the songs were written by the band’s guitarist Jess Carson, mostly with other band members Cameron Duddy (bass guitar) and singer Mark Wystrach, and some outside input. Wystrach has a fine smooth tenor voice with a sophisticated crooning style which works best on ballads.

The lead single ‘Drinking’ Problem’, written by the band with their producers Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, was a considerable success for them, getting to #3 on the country airplay chart and sales being certified gold. It’s an excellent song in traditional vein about a man drinking to forget the woman who has broken his heart, with a memorable melody:

People say I got a drinkin’ problem
That ain’t no reason to stop
People sayin’ that I’ve hit rock bottom
Just ’cause I’m livin’ on the rocks
It’s a broken hearted thinkin’ problem
So pull the bottle off the wall
People say I got a drinkin’ problem
But I got no problem drinkin’ at all

They keep on talkin’
Drawin’ conclusions
They call it a problem
I call it a solution

There is even a steel guitar solo from Paul Franklin. It’s so good, in fact, I’m amazed it was so well received at country radio.

New single ‘Make A Little’, from the same writing team, raises the tempo and is decent but not that memorable, with a slightly annoying melodic twist on the hook. The best of the other songs written with McAnally and Osborne, ‘Nothin’ New Under The Neon’ is reminiscent of early George Strait, although Wystrach has an annoying habit of occasionally veering off into a falsetto which detracts from the song. ‘Burn Out’ is another good song about hanging out in a bar room because the protagonist’s love life hasn’t panned out, although this time he is smoking as well as drinking. ‘More Than A Fever’ is a pleasant sounding love song with the vocals failing to capture the passion evoked in the lyrics. ‘Electric Rodeo’ is not very interesting and slightly over produced.

Opener ‘Lonely For You Only’ is a another well sung crooned ballad, and a very good song, written by the band with Osborne and Rhett Akins. This partnership also produced the closing ‘Somewhere On The Wind’, a very nice valediction featuring Mickey Raphael’s harmonica. Akins and Rodney Clawson teamed up with the band to write ‘Altitude Adjustment’, quite a fun mid-tempo tune about heading off to Colorado. McAnally and Luke Laird helped to write the mid-tempo breakup song ‘Out Of Sight’ which is quite good with retro backing vocals.

Jonathan Singleton wrote two songs with the boys. ‘At Least you Cried’ is a bit boring and the brassy production flattens out Wystrach’s voice. ‘This Old Heart’ (also cowritten with David Lee Murphy) is okay but undistinguished. Finally, the band’s Jess Carson wrote one song on his own. ‘Check Cashin’ Country’ is a likeable mid-tempo number about life as a struggling country band.

Overall, this is a pretty good record. It’s not earth shattering, but it’s much better than most current major label releases. I would definitely recommend downloading ‘Drinking Problem’ and ‘Altitude Adjustment’ with a number of the other tracks worth checking out.

Grade: B

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Album Review: Chris Young – ‘I’m Comin’ Over’

im comin overThere are artists in today’s country whose music I unequivocally loathe. But in most cases, they’re people I didn’t have any particular expectations for. It’s much more painful to listen to a bad record put out by someone you know is capable of so much better – rather like the difference between a bad first date, and the betrayal of finding your spouse of many years is cheating on you. Sadly, that’s how I felt about Chris Young after his last album saw him shifting to the dark side of loud, unsubtle bro-country. Although his first few albums didn’t have consistently strong enough material, his excellent voice and traditional leanings meant I had great hopes for him. I was cautiously encouraged by his latest single, the title track to his new album, which Young produced, and mostly co-wrote, with Carey Crowder. (Link to review). Unfortunately, this song is not wholly representative of an album which is a real mixed bag, but there is a reasonable amount of worthwhile music.

One of the best songs is the one cut which neither Young nor Crowder had a hand in: ‘I Know A Guy’, written by Benjy Davis and Brett Tyler. It opens compellingly, with the protagonist offering assistance to a woman in trouble, before he launches into an impassioned chorus revealing himself as the man being left, and desperate for one last chance. The slow, measured verses work better than the chorus, which is rattled out and lacks melody, but overall this is a strong track.

Young teamed up with the songwriting brothers Brad and Brett Warren to write the excellent ‘Sober Saturday Night’, which features Vince Gill’s harmony and electric guitar. A somber ballad about the misery of a Sunday morning without his ex, which hurts worse than any hangover in times past. This is perhaps the best song on the album.

The last of the songs really worth hearing on this album is ‘What If I Stay’, written by Young with Josh Hoge and Johnny Bulford, a seductive ballad right in Young’s wheelhouse.

‘Callin’ My Name’, written by Young with Crowder and Jonathan Singleton, isn’t bad, either, with a pleasant melody, although it’s a bit fillerish. ‘You Do The Talkin’’, written by Crowder with Liz Rose and Cary Barlowe, is also okay but a bit bland. ‘Alone Tonight’, one of the many songs on the album written by the writing collaboration of Young, Hoge and Crowder, isn’t a bad song, but the insensitive echoey production kills it. ‘Sunshine Overtime’ is an inoffensive beach song.

On the negative side of the balance, the trio’s ‘Heartbeat’ and the football-themed ‘Underdogs’ are horrible – repetitive, monotonous and overly processed. ‘Think Of You’ is a deathly dull and characterless duet with Cassadee Pope, a mediocre pop singer currently masquerading as a country artist following her run on The Voice.

I get the impression that Chris Young is trying to balance the demands of commercial success with songs of more substance and quality, but he hasn’t quite got that balance right here. ( I also have to say that the cover picture is not very flattering, and is calling out for a Farce The Music treatment.)

Grade: B

Album Review: David Nail – ‘I’m About To Come Alive’

I'm About To Come AliveMissouri’s David Nail has been on the fringes of success for a while. He first saw chart action back in 2002, when his Mercury single ‘Memphis’ failed to gain traction, faltering outside the top 50, and David was unceremoniously dropped, leaving an unreleased album (produced by Alan Jackson’s producer Keith Stegall) to languish in the vaults. David gave up music for a while, but unlike many artists in his position, he was lucky enough to get a second chance when MCA signed him.

Unfortunately, I don’t like I’m About To Come Alive at all, for two reasons: the production (by Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke), which is surprisingly heavy-handed, and David’s voice, which has a slightly nasal tone I just can’t warm to, as well as sounding highly processed at times. The overall feel of the album is Rascal Flatts meets James Otto, a comparison underlined by the presence of a song co-written by Gary LeVox, ‘Summer Job Days’, which sounds like a Rascal Flatts reject. This probably means David has a genuine shot at radio and sales success. He is currently basking in the success of his very first top 30 hit, ‘Red Light’. This is not a bad song (co-written, incidentally, by another up and coming artist, Jonathan Singleton), and I would probably like it in the hands of a more compelling vocalist. Sadly, I don’t feel an emotional connection in David’s version, or believe him when he sings about his world crashing down.

The album was originally due to be released this time last year, but was delayed when the lead single, the title track, failed to catch on with radio programmers. It’s a cover of an alt-rock song, and not a very interesting one, with no country elements I could detect in either the music or the production. Indeed, it is evident from the opening track, the pretty piano-led homesick ode to ‘Mississippi’ (which has one of David’s better vocals), that this is far from a traditional country record, and it stays in much the same vaguely soulful groove throughout. ‘Mississippi’ is written by Scooter Carusoe, David Colehour and Chuck Leavall.

Carusoe seems to be a favorite writer for David, and the pair collaborated on two songs here, of which ‘Again’, a nostalgic look back at youth, is the better. ‘Clouds’ was less interesting. Carusoe also wrote ‘Turning Home’ with Kenny Chesney; this one starts out as a pleasant ballad with piano-dominated backing, with one of David’s more emotionally convincing vocals, but halfway through the production gets out of hand and completely overwhelms the song.

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