My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson

Album Review: Adam Harvey – ‘Both Sides Now’

Released in 2009, Both Sides Now was Adam’s eighth studio album and second release for Sony Music Australia. Unlike Adam’s previous albums, which were more oriented toward traditional country music, this album featured a wide array of pop music with very little traditional country among the songs selected. Each of the songs also featured with guests mostly from the world of Australian pop music.

Frankly,I expected not to like this album, but I was pleasantly surprised how Adam brought a country feel to the non-country material. Moreover, the strategy of aiming toward the pop market must be adjudged a success as the album was Adams’s first to crack the top twenty albums chart, a place each of Adam’s subsequent albums reached. Plus, this is a pretty good album.

The album opens up with “Stuck In The Middle (With You)” a song composed by Gerry Rafferty and a major pop hit for Gerry’s group Stealer’s Wheel in 1973, becoming a major hit throughout the English- speaking world. Guy Sebastian, an Australian pop star appears with Adam on the song. The arrangement is rather more country sounding than the original hit although it features slide guitar and harmonoica rather than steel guitar.

“Easy” was a top ten pop hit for the R&B group the Commodores and was written by lead singer Lionel Richie. Adam is joined by Wendy Matthews, a pop singer from the 1980s. The rather bland arrangement is true to the original, but Adam’s deep baritone salvages the song.

“Move It On Over” is a humorous Hank Williams classic about an errant husband literally banished to the doghouse for his wayward behavior. Adam is joined by 1990s pop star David Campbell. This song is given a solid county arrangement.

Judy Collins had the big hit in 1968 with Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”. Adam is joined by the McClymont’s, a stunningly attractive trio of Australian pop-country singers. The arrangement is fairly true to the original, although a steel guitar can be heard gently playing in the background. This is a really nice track

“Down On The Corner” was a major pop hit penned by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Although not specifically a country song, CCR’s swamp pop sound was embraced by country radio in 1969. I’m not sure why Leo Sayer was chosen for this recording, but it works. Sayer was a major British star during the period encompassing the disco era. He moved to Australia and became an Australian citizen in 2009.

“King of The Road” was Roger Miller’s signature song, performed her in somewhat doo-wop arrangement with really minimal instrumentation. Adam is accompanied by John Williamson, an Australian bush balladeer.

“It’s All Over Now” was written by R&B artists Bobby & Shirley Womack. Bobby’s version barely cracked the top hundred for his group the Valentinos, but when the Rolling Stones recorded the song, it soared to #1 in the UK with significant chart placements elsewhere. Adam is joined by Australian pop singer Shannon Noll. This would be a hard song to mess up and Adam & Shannon do a fine job with the song.

Adam is joined by Troy Cassar-Daley, a major Australian country star on the Willie Nelson-RayCharles duet of “Seven Spanish Angels”. The arrangement is true to the original and Adam & Troy handle the vocals with aplomb.

Webb Pierce had a major US county hit with “In The Jailhouse Now” holding down the #1 slot for twenty-one weeks in 1955. The song is far older than that with authorship claimed by the ‘Father of Country Music’ Jimmie Rodgers (1897-1933). It is a fun song with many variations in the lyrics. The arrangement reminds me of the one used by Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers (the alter-ego of the bluegrass band Hot Rize). Cool song with Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson joining in on the fun.

“Have I Told You Lately” is a Van Morrison blues -rocker with Adam joined by Renee Geyer, an Australian R&B/Jazz singer. Ms Geyer takes harmony on this recording, which has some steel guitar on it but is not otherwise very country.

Billy Edd Wheeler has written many fine songs with ”Jackson” being among the most famous. Adam is joined by Beccy Cole, a major Australian county star on this cover of the Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood (or Johnny Cash & June Carter if you prefer) duet.

If you don’t know of Tommy Emmanuel, here is your chance to hear him as he is the man playing guitar on this exquisite recording of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles”. This may be the nicest track on the album – Adam sings it well, and if there is a better guitar player in the world than Tommy Emmanuel, I have yet to hear him (or her).

Grade: B+ / A-

Album Review – Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis – ‘Our Year’

51vcLhbUUYL._SY300_Over the Christmas holiday last year, a friend asked how Texas country was different from Nashville country. I had to stop for a moment and finally came up with an answer – to me Texas country often has more of a back to basics sound, more roots based than the commercial sheen coming out of Music City.

So it always surprises me when Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis record their collaborative projects there, not Austin, where they live, and spend most of their time. Like last year’s Cheater’s Game, Our Year maintains the Texas sound they’ve come to hone, down to the minimalist production and close harmonies.

Instead of a direct sequel, Our Year plays like a companion piece to Cheater’s Game – far shorter in length and less commercial in scope. The absence of production drives the record, giving the ten tracks a demo-like feel that leaves them sounding somewhat unfinished, but no less enjoyable or musically appealing.

No more is this apparent than on their cover of Tom T. Hall’s classic “Harper Valley PTA,” oft-covered in their live shows and the track that spearheaded this album. It opens with a lone acoustic guitar and doesn’t get much more rocklin’, save some dobro riffs, as it goes along. Willis’ strong vocal drives the song and works well to tell the story.

Robison and Willis bring a bluegrass flair to The Statler Brothers’ “I’ll Go to My Grave Loving You,” and while they don’t add anything new to Vern Gosdin and Emmylou Harris’ “(Just Enough To Keep Me) Hanging On,” their version works just as well. A cover of T Bone Burnett’s “Shake Yourself Loose” is pure honky-tonk bliss and a stunning showcase for Willis vocally.

Like Cheater’s Game, Our Year isn’t all country covers. The pair keeps it in the family on “Departing Lousania,” a mandolin driven ballad written by Robison’s youngest sister Robyn Ludwick. Robison appropriately takes the lead, sticking in his wheelhouse of journey songs, and does a bang-up job of bringing the story to life.

The harmonica is out in full force on delightful rocker “Motor City Man,” penned by late Austin singer/songwriter Walter Hyatt. The track breathes some much-needed attitude into the album and gives Willis a chance to deliver a strong and confident vocal.

The title track, a Zombies song written by Chris White, is a staple of their annual Christmas show and features a lovely banjo-driven arrangement and the pair’s signature harmonies.

Robison contributed two of the strongest compositions found on Our Year. “Carousel,” is a glorious steel-front waltz co-written with Darden Smith that concerns the end of a relationship, where a couple has to “step off of the carousel and say goodbye.” “Anywhere But Here” is an ode to youthful innocence and a perfectly articulated number about the restlessness of growing up.

“Lonely For You” is a Willis original, co-written with Paul Kennerley. Willis may be one of the best honky-tonk balladeers recording music today, but she also shines on uptempo material like this, about a woman who’s still holding on to a relationship that’s already come to an end.

Often when an iconic collaborative pairing (the Trio, Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss) tries to record a follow-up record the sessions are either marred with drama or the project takes years to see the light of day. It’s even harder, just ask Patty Loveless or Alan Jackson, to follow-up an iconic work with something even half as good as the original.

With Our Year, Robison and Willis have succeeded splendidly on both fronts with an album tighter and even more fully realized than Cheater’s Game. They could’ve done without the Statler Brothers or Gosdin/Harris covers and thrown in two more Robison originals, but there’s no other way this project could be more perfect. Our Year is easily yet another of 2014’s spectacular releases.

Grade: A+ 

Single Review – Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson – ‘Adam & Eve’

Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, the Australian husband and wife duo behind 2008’s excellent Rattlin’ Bones, are very sneaky. They’ve mastered the ability to create songs that appear simple in construction, yet reveal their true complexities after multiple listens.

“Adam & Eve,” the (sadly Australian only) first single from their forthcoming Wreck and Ruin (due out in October in the States), is just such a song, detailing a fabulous story of forbidden love against the backdrop of the Garden of Eden and “the first man to live and breathe.”

The crisp songwriting is the bedrock here, balancing details of the familiar biblical verse with enough original touches to make it feel brand new. My favorite of these elements is the naughty sense of wrong that penetrates throughout. It gives the track a somewhat slinky feel that’s best exemplified in the couple’s devious move to get out of dodge:

If he could see us

What would he say

But he was resting on that seventh day

She met a serpent right afternoon

He smiled at her and

She broke the rules

Come on we’re leavin’

No time to waste

The Garden of Eden’s

No longer safe

“Adam & Eve” is as much a mini play as a song and I love that it creates it own quirky world for the listener to play in. The prohibited love affair is constructed so ambiguously, that Chambers and Nicholson invite the listener to use their imaginations to fill in the details. Are these star-crossed teenage lovers escaping disapproving families? Or a couple deep into an affair, jetting off after a spouse finds out? That we don’t know is the real genius, as crafting our own reality makes the song that much more enjoyable.

The production only enhances the overall gratification, as it becomes a third character within the story, helping to move along the plot as grows in intensity. The use of swampy banjo is delightful as it perfectly complements Chambers and Nicholson’s vocals while the inclusion of fiddle smartly increases the tension after the couple escapes one reality for another.

If there’s one downside to “Adam & Eve” it’s the length. Clocking in at 3:05, it seems kind of short and could’ve benefited from being drawn out just a bit more. But the brevity also works in the song’s favor by keeping the proceedings simple and clean, a fact lost on most of what passes as music these days.

Grade: A+ 

Listen to “Adam & Eve” here

Mixtape Time!

mixtapeI was talking to a friend yesterday morning, and he told me that I need to give him a mixtape so he can “assess my personality”- so I decided to try and make my mixtape to try and encompass all of the music I listen to in just a limited number of tracks, say around 15-20. It was pretty difficult, but I tried to cover the major artists I listen to (Sugarland, Lee Ann Womack, Nickel Creek, Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, SHeDAISY, etc.) as well as outlying genres beyond country music (Radiohead, Neko Case, Alicia Keys, Jazmine Sullivan, etc.) and I think this is a great set of songs that really gives an intro to my musical tastes- and it was difficult to decide on these songs for sure.

Then I thought it would be interesting to post my mixtape here to display it, and I would like you guys to do the same! You guys can post yours in the comments, mine is just below.

“15 Step” by Radiohead
“Fallin’ “ by Alicia Keys
“Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” by Beyoncé
“Lions, Tigers & Bears” by Jazmine Sullivan
“Rattlin’ Bones” by Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson
“The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” by Kathy Mattea
“Last Call” by Lee Ann Womack
“Fly Like A Bird” by Mariah Carey
“House Of A Thousand Dreams” by Martina McBride
“Coming Back To You” by Melinda Doolittle
“Desperation” by Miranda Lambert
“This Tornado Loves You” by Neko Case
“This Side” by Nickel Creek
“On Your Way Home” by Patty Loveless
“Gravity” by Sara Bareilles
“Don’t Worry ‘Bout A Thing” by SHeDAISY
“Very Last Country Song” by Sugarland
“Three Mississippi” by Terri Clark
“Wrong Side Of Memphis” by Trisha Yearwood

Click the link to hear the song- all of them are links except “This Tornado Loves You”, which is a youtube video. I hope you enjoy mine and post your own!

Snowed In…

I live in Ohio, and let’s just say that it’s been snowing for a while now, with freezing rain and ice and all around bad weather.

My car- really.

My car- really.

As a result, I’m bored. No school yesterday, no school today, with no homework. Our Satellite TV isn’t working, and the internet almost broke (I almost had a nervous breakdown until I saw the router was unplugged)… So I’m working on scholarship essays, and listening to music of course. I’ve listened to everything from “That’s Not My Name” by The Ting Tings to “Spotlight” by Jennifer Hudson. However, it’s very cold and dreary and I haven’t left the house since Monday.

So I have a simple question:

What songs do you listen to when it’s cold and snowy? Or what songs do you think I should listen to in order to warm up?

Right now I’m on a varied playlist with artists like Patty Loveless, Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, Beyoncé, the Dixie Chicks and Coldplay- but it’s just not doing it for me… I want some good music for bad weather, so give me some recommendations!

PS: That really is my car. I took the picture this morning…

PSS: Martina McBride revealed her new cover art for Shine on her Myspace:

Shine, by Martina McBride

Shine, by Martina McBride

Very cool cover! What do you guys think?

Chris’s End of 2008 List: Top 10 Album Cuts

These are my favorite album cuts from albums released in 2008. I decided to do it for all genres, but there are only 3 songs that aren’t country, so I hope you guys like it! (I also shortened my comments to just a few sentences.)

Viva La Vida

10. “Strawberry Swing” – Coldplay

– The great looping guitar in the background with the hand claps makes this infectious track a great happy song. I know, “Coldplay on a country blog? What?”

Dawn Of A New Day

9. “Evolution” – Crystal Shawanda

– I just got this album the other day, and while the material was mostly mediocre, this song stood out. It’s her musical evolution, and she presses on, while her great vocal elevates it even further.

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J.R.’s End of 2008 List: Top 20 Singles

heidi120. Heidi Newfield – Johnny & June

Epic.  That’s the only word to describe this song.  Newfield’s performance is perfection, but the production – a throwback to the Meatloaf power ballads of the 80s – could have easily fallen into cheesy name-dropping semantics.  I am usually the first one to spit at a Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings (or Kris Kristofferson) reference in a country song.  Unless, this is coming from someone I believe really does love the music of said artist.  For instance, every time Alan Jackson sings ‘I wanna hear some Jones’, I believe him. But this isn’t about dropping the name Johnny Cash into a song just to sell it.  This is a beautiful ode to the love story of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, and Newfield makes me believe she is paying homage rather than pandering.

jamey19. Jamey Johnson – High Cost Of Living

This is a great country song, plain and simple.  And one of the best hooks I’ve ever heard as Johnson sings in his gravelly tone, ‘The high cost of living/Ain’t nothin’ like the cost of livin’ high’.  He then goes on to explain in great detail the mistakes he made – and with stark candidness.  A real country song.  

gary18. Gary Allan – Learnin’ How To Bend

I admit, I wasn’t immediately sold on this one like I was ‘Watching Airplanes’, but the more I listened to it, it really grew on me and I grew to appreciate it for the great tune it is.  Superb vocals from Gary, even as he acends into near fasletto in the chorus.  

george117. George Strait – Troubadour

Out of all the fabulous and countless hits in the catalog of George Strait, this will be the one I remember him for best. This entire song just seems to sum up his entire time on earth. In lesser hands, this song could wind up sounding inferior and insincere, but when it’s George, you know it’s the truth, and by god, he’s been there and back. Catchy chorus too.

dolly116. Dolly Parton – Backwoods Barbie

Like ‘Troubadour’, I think this song sums up the life and times of Dolly Parton as well as can be done in three and a half minutes. And it shows us that she has a lot better grasp on her larger than life persona and caricature looks than any of us. ‘I’m just a backwoods Barbie, too much make up, too much hair/But don’t be fooled by thinking’ that the goods are not all there’. Never underestimate Dolly Parton. I pity the fool who would.

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J.R.’s End of 2008 List: Top 10 Albums

ashton10. Ashton Shepherd – Sounds So Good

Stone country. Shepherd wrote or co-wrote every track on this superb debut album. She’s singing about the things in everybody’s life – universal themes delivered with a thick Alabama accent. And, man, am I a sucker for an Alabama drawl.

patty9. Patty Loveless – Sleepless Nights

One of the finest singers to ever sing a note taking on some of the greatest songs ever written.  Patty puts her own stamp on each and every one of these country classics, and makes them sound fresh again.  Fabulous. faith8. Faith Hill – Joy To The World

I wouldn’t normally include a Christmas album on a year-end list, but a good friend sent me this album and I didn’t listen to it for the first couple days. When I did, I discovered Faith Hill singing Christmas chestnuts in perfect voice. Plus, the one new tune, ‘A Baby Changes Everything’ is an instant classic. george7. George Strait – Troubadour

George Strait has consistently delivered top-notch material for some 27 years now, and this past year was no exception. A great album here with tracks like ‘House of Cash’, (a duet with Patty Loveless), ‘House With No Doors’ as well as the superb two first singles – ‘I Saw God Today’ and the title track.

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Chris’s End of 2008 List: Top 8 Albums

This is my post for my top albums of 2008! I was looking at the new albums I had bought this year, and I only bought around 12 new country albums, most of which I thought were undeserving of being on my year-end list. So, I narrowed it down to 8 worthy candidates. I’m warning you, my comments can get lengthy, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

PS: My top 30 singles will be posted later today.

Sounds So Good

8. “Sounds So Good” – Ashton Shepherd

– This album is the epitome of potential. She has a great voice, the production is good, if a little too much at parts, and she can write. She just needs to work with other writers and hone her skills to produce songs better than the ones found on this album. That potential is worth a place on this list for me.

The Life Of A Song

7. “The Life Of A Song” – Joey + Rory

– After hearing their single (Cheater Cheater), I knew this album would be country, but I didn’t know how serious it would be. It turned out to have some very heavy songs, like “Rodeo” and “To Say Goodbye” that are sad, but the album is country through and through. There are very few to no electric instruments, and Joey’s pure voice rises above the acoustic background to add the necessary emotion to the songs. Could one ask for more?

A Place To Land

6. “A Place To Land” – Little Big Town

– So this album was re-released this year, and it really is that good. I put it on this list because it deserves to be recognized, because it’s a very entertaining album. I’ve heard people say they decided not to get this one because they think it’s worse than The Road To Here, but this album is better! The re-release made it better because 3 new tracks were added, and 2 of those tracks are amazing.

The first, “Good Lord Willing”, is the band’s new single. It’s similar to Dierks Bentley’s “What Was I Thinking”, but LBT’s harmonies and the great chorus make “Good Lord Willing” much much better. Another new song, “Love Profound”, is an acoustic ballad that explores how love “has no limits” or “knows no bounds”. It’s a pretty song that sounds great, due to harmonies again, and has great lyrics.

As you see, the harmonies on this album make it worth buying. The songs are great, and the harmonies of this great group make them even better.

Rattlin’ Bones

5. “Rattlin’ Bones” – Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson

– I’ve only had this for about 2 weeks, so it hasn’t quite grown on me yet, but I love it already. This is another all acoustic album, but this one was reportedly recorded in only a week, so it has that rough edge to the music that makes it very unique.

The harmonies between this husband-wife duo are heavenly, with them having mostly equal parts is most songs. They have real chemistry and tackle sad songs like “One More Year” to the fun “The House That Never Was”. They make each song stand out from the others and sound like they are doing what they truly love. They also make the listener feel what they are singing about, and it’s a very magical experience.

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