My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Juli Thanki

My Kind of Country turns 10

Do you remember where you were exactly ten years ago? Barack Obama has just defeated John McCain to win his first of two-terms as our 44th President. The United States was beginning to feel the effects of the Great Recession. On our radios, a hot new group out of Georgia was dominating the charts. This week in 2008, Zac Brown Band logged their first of two consecutive weeks at #1 with their debut single “Chicken Fried.” On the album’s chart, it was Taylor Swift’s just-released Fearless, logging its third consecutive week at #1, with no signs of slowing down.

In the country blogosphere, J.R. Journey launched My Kind of Country. Our little blog was born ten years ago tomorrow on Dec. 8, 2008. On that day, J.R. wrote:

Welcome to the My Kind Of Country blog.  Here, you will find reviews, editorials, and discussions about the country music we love – our kind of country.  The idea is simple:  rather than write lots of negative reviews about the new music that’s coming out – because let’s face it, much of what comes out of Nashville and your country radio dial is crap – we are going to write about the music we love.  The music that moves us, drives us, and makes us laugh and cry; the music that touches us.  Not that we will spend our time posting fangirl gushes about a select group of artists that are among our favorites.  To the contrary, we intend to post about the music we love and tell you why we love it, and of course, how we think it could be improved upon.

It’s been an ambitious mission from the start. Erik wrote our first album review, a glowing critique of LeAnn Rimes’ Family, on Dec. 10. Our first spotlight artist? Oh, that was Miss Leslie and her Juke-Jointers in January 2009. Through the years we’ve seen many writers retire their individual perspectives on country music, from our friends Erik, Rainbow, Chris Dean, Megan Morrow, and Razor X to our fearless leader himself, J.R.

I won’t begin to assert I’m an historian on all things MKoC. I joined the team in June 2011 after I had become enamored with their Spotlight Artist coverage of Emmylou Harris in April. After reading a few of their reviews, I digitally downloaded her solo albums from the 1970s and composed a post on my own blog, entitled “New Artist Obsession: Emmylou Harris.” I had included a link to their coverage, which garnered the attention of J.R. and Razor X. I had no idea how impressed J.R. would be with my work, nor was I gunning for anyone’s attention. Shortly thereafter he sent me an email and asked me to join the team, an honor I accepted happily and excitedly. My first post was a single review for Julie Roberts’ “NASCAR Party” that ruffled a few feathers with her publicity team. I then contributed two single reviews to their Randy Travis coverage that month, among other reviews, and was off to the races.

But this isn’t solely about me. My Kind of Country has and always will be about a passionate group of fans sharing their thoughts and perspectives on country music with a critical ear. Two of our longest contributing writers, Razor X, and Occasional Hope, became members of the team in Feb. 2009. Razor’s first post, “Rediscovering Forgotten Gems” found him taking a look back at albums, with a focus on Randy Travis, he had the urge to revisit. Occasional Hope introduced herself to readers through “Finding Country,” in which she shared how she came to love country music. Paul W. Dennis joined just before I did in 2011. The 9513 had just shuttered and J.R. asked him to continue his Country Heritage series with us. His first post was “Country Heritage: Gary Stewart – A Short Life Of Trouble (1944-2003).”

A while back, a friend had asked me if they could take a look at work on MKoC and even proceeded to print it out in order to read it (yes, I also thought that was strange). In doing so, he made a comment I’ve never forgotten. He said the blog had a really great title and I instantly knew what he meant. He didn’t say it, but he was referring to the idea that as a group of writers we’re each sharing the country music we love individually, writing pieces that reflect our love of the genre, not just getting assigned albums and singles we may or may not care enough about to compose a thoughtful post. I hadn’t looked at it that way, but he was correct in every sense of the word.

I also often think about how hard it is to keep a blog going and just how many have come and gone in the ten years we’ve been alive. It’s easy for readers to overlook the fact that our positions as staff writers aren’t our full or even part-time jobs. MKoC is a labor of love we create out of passion for country music. It takes a village to keep a blog vital, which is why The 9513 and Country California have ceased publication. Engine 145 only ended once Juli Thanki received a prestigious position with The Tennessan, which has led to exciting opportunities for her in 2019. Ken Morton, Jr’s That Nashville Sound is still going strong and  Country Universe is still around, after 14 years, albeit in an abbreviated form.

Little did J.R. realize in his inaugural post when he wrote: “much of what comes out of Nashville and your country radio dial is crap.” He never could’ve known the assault on the very ideals of commercial country music that was coming down the line with bro-country and whatever the heck you call what’s followed in its wake. It’s ironic, at least to me, that the peak years for country blogging have coincided with the continued release of literally the worst music our beloved genre has ever produced. At least we’ve learned there are alternatives and still some pretty awesome music being made if you know where to look.

I know this post is long, but heck, you only celebrate your tenth anniversary once. We would not be here if it wasn’t for our continued passion for country music, but even more importantly, our readers. Thank you for continuing to make us and our writing a part of your lives. Please continue to comment and engage with us on our posts. We always love reading and responding to whatever you have to say.

Onward.

Album Review: Robby Hecht & Caroline Spence – ‘Two People’

Two People is the debut duo album of Nashville born singer/songwriters Robby Hecht & Caroline Spence. The pair met at the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival in 2013 and instantaneously hit it off musically. After two singles garnered eight million streams on Spotify, the duo decided to hunker down and record a full-length album.

While Two People is a duo album, Hecht & Spence are solo artists in their own right. If Robby’s name sounds familiar, it might be because I reviewed his solo record back in 2014, which I had almost forgotten about until Two People hit my radar screen last month courtesy of Juli Thanki from The Tennessean.

The album plays like an independent film centered around a charming and human love story worth rooting for and getting behind. The album traces that story through all of its facets, giving the listener eight perfect snapshots, each one capturing another moment in time.

Our story begins on “The Real Thing,” a warm ballad in which our couple meets at a crowded party. He knows she’s with someone else, a guy who wants nothing more than a fling. Our guy offers this girl an alternative — “We can ditch this crowd, we can ditch this scene, come on, take a ride with me.” He has money, and a car, but most importantly, he can offer her what her current guy cannot — a healthy relationship.

Spence takes the lead on “Trying,” in which our girl promises she’s doing everything she can to give our guy her heart. She’s having trouble giving in, letting go and trusting what’s right in front of her. “All On The Table” finds our couple laying everything bare in order to see if their relationship can go the distance. It’s Spence who takes the lead once again, using her sweet soprano to draw the listener in with her palpable venerability. This is the rare song that reenergizes my love for music, giving me the realization that real country music still exists in the world if you know where to look.

Hecht takes the lead on the romantic “Holding You,” in which our guy has found something to get him through the mundane day-to-day of life — her awaiting arms each night. When that proves not to be nearly enough he needs to spend “A Night Together” with her. He wants to go out but doesn’t care where — a country fair with a Ferris Wheel, a romantic dinner with an expensive bottle of wine that keeps them occupied until closing time — he doesn’t care as long as he can show her off and take her back home with him.

A time jump reveals the relationship began to crack and eventually fell apart. Spence leads the way on “I’ll Keep You,” a surprisingly sweet tale that finds her sorting through and boxing up the couple’s memories from their time together. It ends with a sign on the corner, pointing to their house, indicating a yard sale.

“Over You” finds Hecht embodying the guy’s gut-wrenching ache at the relationship meeting its end and finds him trying to convince himself he’s over her, as he continues to question everything he thought was right while they were together.

The album ends with an interesting thought. What if the couple had never been destined to meet in the first place? What if their paths had almost crossed but at the last second he exited the train, or he gave his seat to someone else just before she sat down? Those are the questions and thoughts raised by “Parallel Lines,” which was one of the two early singles that convinced the duo to make an album together.

I don’t want to suggest Two People is by any means autobiographical even though Hecht and Spence did write all the songs together. They are a magical pairing, bringing these songs to life with an effortlessness that cannot be fabricated. Spence is an otherworldly vocalist, with a similar tone to Ashley Monroe, while Hecht is a captivating conversationalist.

Two People is an independent release that likely won’t get the press coverage it deserves, especially in the crowed Americana/folk world it finds itself in. It may be a quieter album, but it’s powerful in its own unique way. I highly recommend everyone check it out.

Grade: A+

All about the song: Brandy Clark and Angaleena Presley at City Winery in Boston

Brandy Clark (with L-R, Miles Aubrey and Vanessa McGowan) performs at City Winery in Boston on January 28, 2018

I had my inaugural City Winery experience on a cool, but surprisingly dry, Sunday evening in late January. The chain venue, which has successful outposts in New York, Chicago, and Nashville and just opened here in Boston in early December, mixes an urban winery with a full-service restaurant and tantalizing live music.

All 310 seats at their One Canal St location, just steps from the Government Center Garage with sweeping views of the Lenny Zakim Bridge, were adorned with the crisp cloth napkins and sparkling silverware of an establishment still in its infancy. The service, from the management to the wait staff, had the execution of a well-oiled machine fully prepared to report for duty.

In a venue of this size, with grouped seating that decreases in price the further away you sit from the stage, you’re all but guaranteed an exceptional viewing and listening experience. The owners pride themselves on the first-rate acoustics and strict policy that you remain quiet and respectful during the show.

I had no idea when selecting seats at a front row table, I would be so close to the stage you could rest your elbow on the edge. Such proximity to the action does lead to “concert neck,” a term coined by country music journalist Juli Thanki to describe the sourness from extended time with your head in an unnatural position. Thanki likes to say pain is totally worth it, and I have to agree, especially when the live entertainment is Brandy Clark and Angaleena Presley.

I always knew that City Winery had the potential to bring blockbuster shows to Boston, but I didn’t know they would strike gold this quickly. This was Clark’s first headlining show in the city, after multiple supporting gigs with Jennifer Nettles, and the first time I’d ever heard of Presley playing around these parts in any solo capacity.

Clark flawlessly executed a tightly focused set segmented thematically by her clever and blunt perspectives on substance abuse and revenge. Her richly drawn character sketches came alive with minimalist accompaniment that accentuated her wit and candor while highlighting her silky twang.

She began unassumingly with the one-two-punch of “Hold My Hand” and “Love Will Go To Hell” before undertaking the risky move of gifting the audience a new song, “Favorite Lie,” which I thoroughly enjoyed. Clark unveiled the origins of “The Day She Got Divorced,” which came to fruition during a phone call between Clark and Shane McAnally concerning a writing session with Mark D. Sanders and, of all people, Ms. Presley herself. The session ended by mid-afternoon when Sanders asked Presley how she planned to spend the remainder of her day. She quipped, “well, I got divorced this morning.”

The tight segments from which Clark split her set began with substance abuse, which lasted a healthy portion of the evening. She began with “Get High” and turned in excellent readings of “Drinkin,’ Smokin,’ Cheatin,’” “Take A Little Pill” and to my surprise, “Hungover.” She sprinkled in “When I Get to Drinkin’” and “You’re Drunk” to round it out.

The revenge portion of the evening was more slight but no more impactful. She followed “Daughter” with “Stripes” and promptly put every no-good man in his place. Clark gave a shoutout to our local wonder kid, Lori McKenna, and played their single-mom anthem “Three Kids No Husband.” “Big Day In A Small Town” and “Girl Next Door” were highlights earlier in the evening.

Clark purposefully surprised with the encore, beginning with a request by a group of female super fans who had followed her to attend each of the four Northeast stops she played in four days (Clark went from Connecticut to New York back to Connecticut and finally, Boston). They wanted to hear her sing a particular song by her idol, Patty Loveless she had obsessively tried learning on a newly-purchased electric guitar while it was climbing the charts. Her efforts in learning “Blame It On Your Heart” were as unsuccessful as her mastery in singing it were successful. Clark finished with another new song, that I instantly loved, entitled “Apologies” and concluded with “Pray to Jesus.”

Angaleena Presley performs at City Winery in Boston on January 28, 2018

Clark’s set was everything one would expect it to be and the accompaniment — Miles Aubrey on Guitar and Vanessa McGowan on Upright Bass — allowed the songs to shine without sacrificing flavor. I found Clark’s song selection, while perfectly executed, to be lacking in diversity, begging for a third course of “what else I can do” songs such as “You Can Come Over,” What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven” and the one I kept waiting for all night — “Since You’ve Gone to Heaven.” Her ballads are a killer illustration of her artistry and I wish she had expanded her set to show them off.

Presley’s brisk opening set was a whirlwind tour of her four albums. Her candor, never mind her throwback hairstyle and leopard-print top, stole the evening while her southern charm had everyone in the palm of her hand. Her songs, though, spoke for themselves, with the audience in respective stitches with each turn-of-phrase.

She opened with “American Middle Class” and “Dreams Don’t Come True,” a shining example in a long list of songs about the dream of making it in music city. She also admitted to inviting the already-committed Lori McKenna to the show, in advance of playing “Bless Your Heart,” which she called the enthuses of a song McKenna would write.

Presley dedicated “Knocked Up” to her first husband, who she admitted did nothing more than make her a mother, and joked about her upbringing in Beauty, Kentucky. She intertwined her work with Pistol Annies so easily with her solo stuff, I all but forgot “Unhappily Married” and “Lemon Drop” weren’t on her solo releases.

Album Review: The SteelDrivers – ‘Hammer Down’

steeldriversThe SteelDrivers are back with a new collection of acoustic tunes, as well as another personnel change, as Brent Truitt takes over as mandolinist from departing founding member Mike Henderson. Hammer Down, which was produced by The SteelDrivers themselves along with Luke Wooten, follows the same basic template as the band’s previous two efforts. But while I felt that Reckless was a slightly weaker collection than their 2008 eponymous debut, Hammer Down more than holds its own when compared with that first album.

Every song on the album was co-written by either a present or former SteelDriver, and lead vocalist Gary Nichols’ gruff but soulful voice is nicely complemented by the harmonies of fiddle player Tammy Rogers and bassist Mike Fleming. Many of the songs have a Celtic flavor to them, sounding a lot like some of the recordings that The Chieftains made with a variety of Nashville artists. This is most apparent on the songs with dark subject matter, like the opening track “Shallow Grave”:

I buried my love with a silver spade
Hid her down in a shallow grave
Can’t keep love in the cold, cold ground
Nothin’ in the earth can hold her down

Though the mournful lyrics suggest that “Shallow Grave” is a murder ballad, the tune is suprisingly upbeat. It is never revealed why the victim was killed.

My two favorite songs are “How Long Have I Been Your Fool”, which was written by Tammy Rogers and Al Anderson along with former SteelDrivers lead vocalist Chris Stapleton and the closing track “When I’m Gone”, another Stapleton co-write, this time with former band member Mike Henderson. With a different arrangement, “How Long Have I Been Your Fool” might have been a mainstream hit ten years ago; it would have sounded right at home on a Patty Loveless album.

“When You Don’t Come Home” is about a confrontation at gunpoint between an errant husband and a fed-up wife, the type of song that would make Loretta Lynn proud. As good as it is, the Tammy Rogers and Gary Nichols penned tune is the only song on the album that doesn’t quite work. Rogers’ voice is prominent in the mix as Nichols’ throughout the track, but this song, written from the female point of view, would have worked much better as a Rogers solo. The lyrics just don’t make sense coming from a male vocalist. That, however, is a minor complaint. The only other fault I can find with the collection is its brevity. I’ve become accustomed to albums that are 12, 13 or more tracks long, and anything less, such as as this lean 10-track collection that clocks in at just under 35 minutes, leaves me feeling a little cheated. It does, however, leave me wanting more and perhaps that was the intent. Whereas I played Reckless a few times and then forgot about it, I’ve been playing this album almost non-stop for the past week and I haven’t grown tired of it yet. I highly recommend it.

Grade: A

P.S. I’d also like to give a shout-out to our fellow blogger Juli Thanki of Engine 145, who did a superb job writing the album’s liner notes.

A thank you note to The 9513

Sometime in the first half of 2008, I was browsing the web for country music news, and stumbled upon The 9513’s daily news roundups.  That first article I read wasn’t easy to track down, but I found it, remembering it having to do with CMT Can You Duet winners Caitlin & Will, because at the same time I was led to Country California and C.M. Wilcox’s (then using the pen name John Maglite) musings about the duo’s future at country radio with their similarities to Lady Antebellum. Right then, Country Universe was in the midst of their 100 Greatest Women countdown, so I had the good fortune of discovering 3 excellent country music-related sites in quick succession, all thanks to The 9513.

From the comments on articles and the forum discussions (remember the comment corral?), I got to know many great people, and after seeing the common ground some of us had, I had the brainstorm to create this humble blogsite, with contributors pulled directly from The 9513’s readership. We launched here in December 2008, with 3 writers. (Chris Dean has since departed to attend college, and is now a missionary in Italy. We wish him luck, and await his return.) From the same pool I plucked my first 2 fellow contributors later came this site’s greatest assets: Razor X and Occasional Hope.

So, thanks to The 9513, we were off and running. But their contributions to our success were far from finished. Brady and Brody Vercher’s daily news roundups sent many new readers our way, and I can’t thank them enough for loaning us an audience. It’s hard to put into words the feeling a green blogger like myself got when I saw my name and my words linked from their news roundups, the column that started it all for me. That first mention must be how country singers feel when they debut on the Grand Ole Opry. More than allowing us to spin-off and sending us readers, the excellent crop of talent at The 9513 influenced me to start on the path to the job I have today as a columnist for American Noise. With the likes of Jim Malec, Blake Boldt, Juli Thanki, Chris Neal, and so many others, setting a standard I could never reach. They continue to up the bar, and I keep trying to catch up.  I’m saddened to see the site retired, and the three of us here at My Kind of Country want to thank the Verchers for creating and maintaining the standard for country music websites, for countless hours of entertaining reads, and for being the stalk from which we sprouted.

– J.R. Journey

Like all its readers, I’ll miss reading The 9513 as part of my daily routine. The breadth of its coverage, from mainstream to bluegrass to Americana/alt-country, means it really did cover the whole of country music in a way no other site could really equal. More than that, though, I feel I can say it changed my life. I would never had begun blogging myself if I hadn’t found the 9513 in, I think, the spring or early summer of 2008. Before that, I felt pretty isolated as a country fan, because I knew hardly anyone in real life who shared my tastes in music at all. The 9513, and the associated forum that started in the summer of 2008, made me feel like part of a community, and that gave me the confidence to write about the music I love. And when I accepted J.R.’s invitation to join the team here, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of their links to many of our posts.

– Occasional Hope

I originally found The 9513 via a Google search, and it quickly became my favorite country music website. The quality of the writing was always superb, and I admired the fearless honesty that characterized their music reviews. More importantly, I forged a lot of new friendships with the people who frequented the site. I never imagined that it would lead to the opportunity to write for this blog. I greatly improved my knowledge of country music thanks to The 9513 and will miss it terribly. Its absence will create a void that will be impossible to fill, despite our best efforts to do so. So to Brady and Brody I offer a heartfelt thanks and my best wishes for your future endeavors.

– Razor X

Talking to the stars: Best country blog posts of the year?

In July of 2007, a wonderful thing happened to me.  I was already a hard-core country music fan by then.  I was a steadfast reader of the CMT blog and their news section.  I also tried to keep up with country music through various google alerts – and still do.  But one day while searching for some particular tidbit of information, I stumbled upon the Granddaddy of Country Blogs, The 9513.  I found an early mailbag, and after reading, I decided to poke around the site.  I found intelligent reviews and well-thought editorials, all crawling with comments from just the kind of country fans I had been looking to interact with.  (I still love the CMT blog, but the regulars there are a bit untamed.)  From my new discovery, and mostly thanks to the daily news roundups, I began exploring the wealth of country music journalism all over the web, all suited to my own tastes, and even beyond that.  I was soon reading Country Universe, the Photocrap blog (now Farce the Music), and even found the Country California site before John Maglite sold it to C.M. Wilcox, who took the humor to another level.  There was also many more, and you can find them on this site’s blogroll.

There was something for everybody already by then, but I still jumped right in with my own comments.  It wasn’t long until I was bitten by the blogging bug, and the idea struck me for this site.  Knowing I couldn’t do it on my own, I set out to scoop up as many of the great writers as I could, and get them on my side, before the other blogs wanted them.  We started in December of 2008, with a simple idea: to write about the music we loved.  It became evident that mainstream country wasn’t going to accomodate us on a daily basis, so we sat out to write about the rich history of country music, alongside the latest releases.  And by March of this year, My Kind of Country was a genuine country music blog property, thanks in no small part to the big blogs lending us their readers.  Thanks again, you guys.  But enough about us.

We’ve all been very fortunate this year to be able to read a rich tapestry of entries from countless writers in the country blogosphere.  We’ve read scathing reviews and glowing ones, we’ve listened to candid and revealing interviews, and of course the oft-needed bitching and moaning to get things back the way we want them.  Country blogging has run the gamut this year and I’m so very proud to have been a small part of it.  I also look forward to what the new year will bring, as online literature continues to grow, and we drag country music, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.  Here’s to you, the pioneers of country blogging.  You are my heroes.

When I started thinking about reviving this post – an idea from the mind of C.M. Wilcox – I knew, like everything else in life, that I’d need the help of my friends to compile a truly worthy list.  So I sent out an email to every country blogger in my address book asking them their favorite blog posts of the year.  The consensus seemed to run towards interviews as personal favorites, with country blogging heavyweights Brady Vercher, Leeann Ward, and Blake Boldt all citing various interviews as the best articles of the year.  Here’s a few of the choice picks for best country blog posts of the year.  These are just what we came up with as a preliminary list.  With your help, we’d like to create a complete list of the 50 greatest posts from the past 12 months.  So be sure to jump in the comments section and tell us your picks so we can add them to the final ballot.

Charlie Louvin: Exclusive Pre-Grammy Interview – The 9513 – by Juli Thanki

A Conversation with Kathy Mattea – Country Universe – by Kevin Coyne

Heart, soul, and talent: Connie Smith’s recipe for great country music – My Kind of Country – by Razor X

Does Swift Have Tubb Appeal? – Country California – by C.M. Wilcox

Giving The People What They Want: Nashville’s Changing Music Business – The 9513 – by Chris Neal

John Rich: The Interview – The 9513 – by Jim Malec

‘All White’ Darius Rucker Parody – Farce The Music – by Trailer

What would you add to the list?  What writers and blogs have you discovered this year and made part of your daily reading?

Soundtrack Review: George Strait – ‘Pure Country’

George Strait has an extensive catalog, so just narrowing down which albums of his to write about for our spotlight was a daunting task in itself.  Then there’s the work that goes along with profiling a legendary artist like George Strait – making sure we hit all the high points as well as the lows, though Strait has admittedly less lows than most artists.  Most of the credit for this month goes to Razor X and Occasional Hope, who tirelessly championed this month’s spotlight while I just kinda watched from a distance and then wrote what they told me to.  All bloggers should be so lucky to have two hard-working and dedicated team members.

We’ve also been lucky to have some excellent guest contributors in past months too, including Michael Allan, and now for the second time Chad has agreed to share his thoughts on George Strait’s landmark soundtrack album to his big screen film of the same name.  To read more about the film, check out Juli Thanki’s Celluloid Country review at The 9513.  But first, check out Chad’s review for the soundtrack. There’s lots more George Strait coverage coming this month and also be sure to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a copy of George Strait’s 50 Number Ones.

– J.R. Journey

pure countryI guess I should start by saying that I’m a George Strait fan. I grew up in Texas, where that’s basically a moral imperative. However, I’m not a huge fan of George Strait as an album artist. Rather, I think he’s a great singles artist (as evidenced by his record setting string of #1 hits, two of which happen to be on this soundtrack.)

That being said, its interesting to take a look back at this CD, which has sold more than any other Strait record to date. In reading about some of the stats about this CD, I was surprised to learn that there were only three singles officially released to radio because, at the time, I remember our local Fort Worth country stations playing several more songs from the soundtrack than that (including ‘Baby Your Baby’, ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends,’ and ‘Overnight Male’).

Rather than talking about each track individually, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the record as a whole, especially since it has been his most popular in the record store. In many ways, this CD falls right in line with other Strait records. ‘I Cross My Heart’ (one of Strait’s best love songs, in my opinion),’Baby Your Baby’, “The King of Broken Hearts,” and “When Did You Stop Loving Me” could have all easily found their place on any other George Strait record. They have consistent themes, instrumentation, and delivery with most of the rest of his catalogue, especially up to this point.  (If you haven’t already, check out Lee Ann Womak’s version of ‘King of Broken Hearts’ from her latest CD. While I don’t usually think anyone can out sing Strait on a song, she comes pretty close.)

However, there are a few departures—most notably, ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ and the lead track (and second single) ‘Heartland’.  Taken in the scope of the movie, these differences make sense as they’re reflective of the derailment of Strait’s character, Dusty, and the slick, overproduced stage act he was resisting. Listening to these songs outside of the movie leaves more to be wanted, especially coming from George Strait. Both tracks are loud with too much instrumentation. And to be honest, I’ve always felt like Strait was a ½ beat behind the music on both of these tracks.

So while I personally think the record, outside of the context of the movie, is pretty uneven, it does contain some great Strait singles, only a few of which actually made it to national radio. I still can’t quite figure out why this is his most popular record—is it just on the basis of the lead single and love song, ‘I Cross My Heart’?  (It was a huge wedding song at the time.) Was it because of the novelty of seeing George Strait, who usually comes off as shy and quiet, on the big screen in his first real acting debut?

Whatever the reason, it’s a grouping of satisfactory Strait songs that just don’t happen to stand out as a whole looking back at them now.

Grade: B