My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Kristen Kelly

Occasional Hope’s Top Singles of 2012

Although the official charts seem less and less listenable, I have found quite a number of excellent singles were released this year. While none of them was a smash hit, many of them enjoyed some airplay. Here are my favorites. Oddly, while my albums list consisted of almost all male vocalists, my singles list has a majority of female singers.

10. Ex-Old Man – Kristen Kelly
The top 30 hit for the promising new Arista artist (inspired by her own divorce and written by Kristen with Paul Overstreet) shows how good contemporary country can be. I’ll be looking out for more from her.

9. Merry Go Round – Kacey Musgraves
The young Texan singer-songwriter’s debut Mercury single is a very interesting song about the down sides of rural poverty, when getting married and settling down young is virtually the only option, and portrays a family all seeking escape in a different kind of sin. Kacey isn’t the best singer, but her gentle vocal here is very effective and the song is surprisingly catchy. The record reached the top 30.

8. The Wind – Zac Brown Band
Bluegrass never gets much of a hearing from the mainstream, and they were hostile even to consistent if eclectic hit makers the Zac Brown Band when they sent this excellent track to radio. But it’s an excellent record with sparkling musicianship and an interesting lyric with a northern setting.

gwen sebastian with mentor blake shelton7. Met Him In A Motel Room – Gwen Sebastian
I was previously unimpressed by this artist, who has been around for a few years on minor labels. She recently tried a stint on The Voice reality competition with Blake Shelton as her mentor, and although she did not get very far on the show, she then released this single. A compelling story song about a desperate woman on the verge of suicide who finds another way out when she finds a Bible, it really made me sit up and pay attention to her music.

6. You Go Your Way – Alan Jackson
Classic Alan Jackson.

ashley monroe5. Like A Rose – Ashley Monroe
Critical favorite and part-time Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe has come up with a fine lead-in for her Vince Gill-produced new album on Warner Brothers, due early next year. Vulnerable vocals and a pretty melody with delicate production suit the song beautifully.

4. We Can’t Be Friends – Joanna Smith
The relative newcomer’s third single really made me pay attention to her for the first time. A delicately understated plaintive vocal and a subtle song about the difficulties of staying in contact with an ex when a clean break makes more sense, make for a real winner. While she hasn’t yet made a chart breakthrough, it is encouraging that an artist like this is still on a major label.

joey + rory thumbnail3. When I’m Gone – Joey + Rory
The duo’s third Sugar Hill album was their most inconsistent, but there were a few gems, including this exceptional song offering a kind of comfort to the soon-to-be bereaved. A beautiful, tender vocal from Joey is perfectly judged. Even in a better radio climate this would never have been likely to be a hit single, but it is absolutely exquisite – true heartbreak yet utterly beautiful.

2. So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore – Alan Jackson
Alan Jackson’s singles are sometimes hit and miss, but this year he released one of the finest singles of his career. A subtle, understated, and perfect delivery, tasteful production, and outstanding lyric were just too good for radio, with the record peaking at a disappointing #25. It only just missed my #1 spot.

strait thumbnail1. Drinkin’ Man – George Strait
After 30 years at the top, in recent years George Strait has occasionally seemed to be going through the motions. But his best single for years is a clear-eyed confessional from a lifelong alcoholic, who has never managed more than nine days straight sober. Never asking for pity, but truly conscious of his failings, this song is a modern masterpiece, written by Strait himself, his son Bubba, and the great Dean Dillon. It says a lot (and none of it good) about today’s country radio that it got so little airplay, peaking at #37.

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Single Review: Kristen Kelly – ‘Ex-Old Man’

New Arista artist Kristen Kelly’s debut single for the label is making waves for the Texan, who is also soon to embark on a support slot on the new Brad Paisley tour, which should bring her to the attention of a mass audience.

Kristen’s piercing, throaty voice is quite distinctive and has plenty of attack as she bewails the ex who cheated on her with the “sly” best friend she trusted. Now this dual betrayal has been uncovered, she declares defiantly,

I’ve got an ex-old man and an ex best girlfriend
Good riddance to ‘em both, I really don’t need them

Kristen’s confident vocal portrays a resilient woman temporarily hit by heartbreak and walking wounded; you get the impression she’s going to be okay eventually, even if right now she’s

Got a damn good reason for this drink in my hand

Eventually the guy tires of his new love and is back hitting on his ex, who is satisfied the cheaters are getting what they deserve – and unimpressed when he tries to get back with her. She dismisses him with a scornful,

How sleazy can you be?!

The hooky song itself, written by Kristen herself with veteran songwriter Paul Overstreet, is apparently inspired by the end of Kristen’s own marriage, and it is very well constructed (as one would expect from something Overstreet has had a hand in).

Overstreet and Tony Brown produce, and the arrangement is interesting, and sounds a bit different from everything else out there. The catchy but unusual rhythms are backed up by slightly too-busy and occasionally dated sounding (but not unpleasant) instrumentation. Kristen isn’t a traditionalist, but her brand of contemporary music is more palatable than a lot of what’s out there. She is still someone who puts the song at the heart of the music, and I really like her strong vocal. I’m definitely interested in hearing the full length album.

Grade: B+

Listen here.