My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Journey

Album Review – Lorrie Morgan – ‘Something In Red’

LorrieMorganSomethinginRedLorrie Morgan’s sophomore album was a pivotal moment in not just her career but for country music in general. Released in April 1991 it was Morgan’s first set of newly recorded music since the sudden death of her husband Keith Whitley not even two years prior. She also tapped pop singer/songwriter Richard Landis to produce, a move that saw Morgan somewhat distancing herself from the hardcore traditionalism of her debut.

But it’s the tone of Something In Red that was a bit hard to swallow. Morgan barely references Whitley’s passing choosing instead to record songs with peppier production, and even going full-on Adult Contemporary on the title track. She had also moved on from Whitley pretty quickly – to third husband Brad Thompson, whom she would divorce in 1993.

Thankfully, Morgan managed to record some wonderful songs on the ten-track album. Tom Shapiro and Chris Waters wrote “We Both Walk,” a twangy guitar soaked number that hit #4. A cover of George Jones’ “A Picture Of Me (Without You)” would hit #8 and the jaunty “Except for Monday” also peaked at #4. All three are top-notch, three of my all-time favorite of her recordings, and helped to establish Morgan as a fine torch singer.

The title track was the final single. Morgan initially hated Angela Kaset’s lyric so much, she refused to listen to the song all the way through assuming that the woman ended up wearing black. RCA relented and the track is now considered Morgan’s signature tune, despite it peaking at #14. I’ve always loved the song, even if it was the least country sounding single Morgan had released to date.

Something In Red opens with string ballad “Autumn’s Not That Cold,” a effectively sung number about a woman who isn’t terribly lonely over the loss of her man. She goes into full retro mode with “Tears On My Pillow,” in which a woman runs into an ex who’s done her wrong. “In Tears” is another similar number, with Morgan in pain over a broken relationship that hasn’t yet healed. None of these ballads are particularly country which is odd, but Morgan is able to show off her best asset – her voice.

“Hand Over Your Heart” is a much better song, with a nice upbeat production, but it also seems ripped from a 1950s/1960s pop album. When looking at this record for review, I was surprised to see a cover of Journey’s “Faithfully,” a song I practically enjoy, I just didn’t expect it on a country album during what was still the outer fringes of the new traditionalist movement. Morgan sticks close to Journey’s original, opting to bring little imagination to the song. But she makes it work for her voice, singing it with beauty and conviction.

The best non-single on the project is “Best Woman Wins,” a duet with Dolly Parton that also appeared on her Eagle When She Flies Album. Written by Parton, it’s a lighter “Does He Love You” in which two women are in love with the same man, and he must choose between them. The production is a bit too sunny for me, and the mood a little too sing-song-y, but it works for what it is.

There’s no point in beating around the bush. Something In Red is a strange, strange album. Morgan jumps from a stunning cover of a George Jones classic to a Journey remake all in the midst of ten songs that bare very little resemblance to country music at all. And critics gave her credit for shedding her ‘I’m Keith Whitley’s widow’ image, but she moved on so fast it’s as if she never loved him at all. I understand ditching sad songs, but this is insensitive. She should’ve honored him here somewhere, somehow (an “If You Came Back From Heaven” moment should’ve been on this disc, not saved for 1994’s War Paint).

Morgan proves she’s in fine voice throughout and her instrument is on full effect. But Something In Red should’ve been so much more. For My Broken Heart this is not.

Grade: C+ 

Album Review – Travis Tritt – ‘The Storm’

TrittstormTravis Tritt’s most recent album was released in 2007 for independent label Category 5 Records. Co-produced with American Idol judge (and former Journey guitarist) Randy Jackson, the project debuted at #3 on the country album’s chart, his highest debut in more than thirteen years.

Pop singer/songwriter Richard Marx (who has also collaborated with Keith Urban) wrote the album’s lead single, and best known cut, “You Never Take Me Dancing.” Tritt pairs the tune with the oddly intoxicating “Mudcat Moan prelude” which has little to do with the song, but shows off his scatting abilities quite nicely. Despite the strong vocal, the track does nothing for me and is an unapologetic departure for Tritt. I cannot get past the drum machine and non-commercial vibe. It’s more than a miracle the song made it as high as #27.

Second single “The Pressure Is On,” a cover of the Hank Williams Jr song, didn’t even chart and with Tritt’s throaty southern rock vocal, that’s not surprising. He sings it well enough, but I cannot get into it at all, and at more than five minutes in length, it seems to just drag on and on.

Jackson and Tritt included two other covers in the set and sadly, both are more of the same. “Should’ve Listened,” written by the members of Canadian rockers Nickelback, boasts a nice country lyric but could’ve benefited greatly from an arrangement that’s more traditional. Same goes for Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Somehow, Somewhere, Someday” which lays the electric guitars on obnoxiously thick. Both songs are a mess, and far below Tritt’s usual standard.

Pop songwriter Diane Warren also contributes two cuts to the project. I’ve never been a big fan of her writing – pop power anthems designed to be big career records. She brings her usual flare to these cuts as well, and both are middle of the road. “I Wanna Feel Too Much” sounds like an Idol winner’s single that lays on the inspirational goo like its going out of style, while “I Don’t Know How I Got By” is too generic a love song for Tritt. He’s killed it with sentimental ballads before, but the track lacks the punch and sincerity of his previous love songs.

“What If Love Hangs On,” which Tritt co-wrote with Matchbox 20 lead singer Rob Thomas, is also a mess, ruined by his outlandish vocal. He’s rendered almost unrecognizable singing high notes that take away from the commanding powers of his deep voice. He also co-wrote “Doesn’t The Good Outweigh The Bad,” and it’s an excellent lyric but he and Jackson should’ve toned down the production. There are hints of his traditional country side, but they remain hidden by loud guitars and drums that distract from what this song could, and should have been. He wrote the title track solo, and it’s a good bluesy number, but keeps up the theme of being too loud and completely overstated with booming production. Nothing changes with “Rub off on Me,” or “High Time for Getting Down.”

I do actually really like one track on The Storm that goes against the loud, booming production that ruins the rest of this album. “Something Stronger Than Me” is the closest Tritt comes to reestablishing the brand that made him a respected artist in the first place. It isn’t traditional country, but the production is nicely understated and Tritt gives a sincere and heartfelt vocal. But what makes the track a keeper is the fabulous lyric, a story about personal daemons written by Don Poythress, Donnie Skaggs, and Michelle Little. It’s easily one of the best recordings of Tritt’s career.

All and all, The Storm is nothing short of a mess, and easily among the weakest of Tritt’s albums, even if its one of the most sonically consistent works of his career. I just cannot get past the loud booming guitars and drums that hinder opposed to help us enjoy the songs. There is far too much rock for my liking here, and I find myself once again wishing Tritt had stuck to his country side, which is the best quality of his musical personality.

Grade: C

A lot of inspiration in this room

gleeYesterday, I was watching a new TV show called Glee that premiered on Fox this week. During the show, the cast sang the hit “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey- a great song. While I had heard this song before, something about hearing it then got me, inspired me. The song doesn’t even really apply to me, but the chorus just grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I bet it’s because I’ve finished high school, I’m moving on to chase my own dreams so I won’t stop believing! It really inspired me- a great feeling to have.

Country music has many songs like that, songs that inspire and uplift, even though most of the current ones are pretty bland and lame. Others are exceptional, like Jo Dee Messina’s “Bring On The Rain”, by far one of my favorite Jo Dee Messina songs. This past week I got Dolly Parton’s latest album, Backwoods Barbie, which has the great inspiring track “Better Get To Livin’ “. Just like “Don’t Stop Believing”, “Better Get To Livin’ ” just makes me want to go and be the best person I can be.

Lee Ann Womack has plenty of these songs, like the smash hit “I Hope You Dance”, but I prefer her quieter inspirational numbers. On her album There’s More Where That Came From, the final track is “Stubborn (Psalm 151)” (Listen to it here). This song is just an absolute masterpiece, examining faith and how hard it can be to find it:

There’s a molecule of faith in this room
And even though it’s much too small to see,
If I have the courage to believe
I’ll find the one who left it here for me

This is probably the biggest song that really inspires me- it’s just so real and not overblown faith, and it has that quiet resolve to do better, a true inspirational song.

What songs inspire you?

Listen to Lee Ann Womack – ‘Stubborn (Psalm 151)’.

Watch the pilot of Glee here.