My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Marty Dodson

Album Review: Lonestar – ‘Lonely Grill’

41mmbvjspklFor their third outing, Lonestar joined forces with a new production team consisting of Dann Huff, Sam Ramage and Bob Wright. The result was a slicker and more pop-oriented sound and the best-selling album of the band’s career with more than three million units sold in the United States alone.

The lead single was the beat-driven, lyrically light party song “Saturday Night”, with a chorus consisting of song’s title being spelled out repetitively. Such a terrible song would be a monster hit today, but in the pre-bro country era, radio wasn’t impressed and it died at #47. I had never heard it before and did not even know it had been a single.

“Saturday Night” may have underperformed, but the album’s subsequent singles all rose to #1. The best-remembered of these is “Amazed”, the band’s signature tune which was also a huge crossover hit, reaching #1 on the Hot 100 — marking the first time a country act occupied that slot since Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton scored a #1 pop hit with “Islands in the Stream” in 1983. “Smile”, “What About Now” and “Tell Her” were the remaining singles. All of them rank among Lonestar’s best loved hits, and deservedly so. These songs solidified Lonestar’s position as one of the era’s most successful — perhaps THE most successful — country bands. The upbeat “What About Now” is a nice change of pace from the ballads. “Smile” and “Tell Her” are a little more AC-leaning than I would like, but both are decent songs.

The album cuts are a little more of a mixed bag. I enjoyed the reggae-flavored Don Henry-Benmont Tench number “Don’t Let’s Talk About Lisa” and “I’ve Gotta Find You”, written by Richie McDonald with Ron Harbin and Marty Dodson. None of the other tracks are particularly memorable, with the exception of the closing number which is an acoustic remake of Lonestar’s earlier hit “Everything’s Changed”, which proves that a gifted vocalist and a good song can shine without the aid of glossy production.

Lonely Grill is a must-have for diehard Lonestar fans, but more casual listeners will probably be just as happy with their Greatest Hits package.

Grade: B

Single Review: Charlie Worsham – ‘Could It Be’

could it be charlie worshamThe latest newcomer to hit country radio looks like Warner Brothers’ Charlie Worsham, and this single is a very promising start for him. The Mississippi-born multi-instrumentalist made his Opry aged 12 as a child prodigy banjo player, but is now forging out on his own as a mainstream country artist.

Worsham has a light but attractive tenor voice with a slight plaintive feel. His voice is pleasant rather than really distinctive, but it works well on this track, particularly when he is backed u on the chorus by strong harmonies. The multi-tracked first line in particular gives the track a bright opening which grab the audience’s attention and sets out the positive mood (after an adventurous but slightly odd instrumental opening).

The song is contemporary country with a fairly organic production, striking a balance which should appeal to fans of acts like The Band Perry and Edens Edge. The tune is catchy and suits the lyrics’ hopeful approach. The end result is fresh and new while still being recognizably country.

He wrote the well-constructed and tuneful song himself with Marty Dodson and Ryan Tyndell. It presents a bright optimistic sunny look at the possibilities of a new love interest. An evening’s drinking with a friend leads to a change in their relationship:

Who knows, we might go down in flames
Then again I might just change your name
Could it be I’m finally holding what I’ve been hoping for
Could it be the end of “just friends”
The start of something more?
Oh, the way I’m feeling now
It’s worth sticking around to see
Is this love, or could it be?

I was quite encouraged by this debut single and am interested in hearing more from this young artist.

Grade: B

Listen here.

Album Review: Dean Brody – ‘Dirt’

Canadian Dean Brody’s third album sees him building on his past work with a few moves in new directions.  He wrote all the songs, with pretty good results, but his main strength is his voice, which has a quite delicious tone which can elevate mediocre material and make it listenable.

For instance, the title track, a co-write with Nashville-based songwriters Marty Dodson and Jimmy Yeary, is a pleasant sounding but lyrically unmemorable about the joys of mud, from childhood to romance with a female rodeo rider, and ending with an oddly cheery anticipation of the grave.  The vocal, however, makes it far more enjoyable than most country living songs.  ‘Rural Route #3’ is an affectionately delivered tribute to rural living which is better than most of its kind because it is detailed enough to feel real, and deeply rooted in personal experience, and once more a beautiful sounding vocal.  ‘Canadian Girls’, while not particularly interesting, is similarly precise, with his portrait in the verses of a specific girl who grew up watching hockey and playing winter sports before veering off in the chorus into something more general.

Dean’s voice sounds lovely on the pretty ‘Underneath The Apple Trees’, a wistfully sweet invocation to an undiscovered future love, which is one of my favorites.  ‘Flowers In Her Hands’ is also charming, a story song with a delicate arrangement about a childhood friendship which grows into love (although he has trouble saying the words) and eventually tragic loss.  ‘Nowhere USA’ is a more mysterious and dramatic story song with an armed woman who picks up a man on the highway.

In the mildly amusing ‘That’s Your Cousin’, a potential new romance is thwarted when a young courting couple find out they are distantly related.  An alarmed father warns them,

You don’t wanna go swimmin’ in the same gene pool

Don’t be touching

That’s your cousin

The shock news “broke the law of attraction almost instantly”.  In the coda, the girl ends up deciding international online dating is the safest option.

‘Losing My Balance’ is an attractive sounding but somewhat fillerish contemporary country love song.  The conversational ‘The Sleeping Bag Song’ sets up a weekend campout to revive a tired romance, and is okay.  ‘Bob Marley’ is less successful, with a meandering melody and uninteresting lyric about bonding with a grandmother.

‘It’s Friday’ is a cheerful Celtic drinking song featuring rough-edged fellow-Canadian folk rock band Great Big Sea, about partying at the end of the working week, which is fun and an unexpected change of pace.

The songs are good, but Brody’s voice is what really sets this album apart.

Grade: B+

Album Review: James Dupre – ‘It’s All Happening’

Louisiana paramedic James Dupre has become something of a youtube phenomenon with his covers of country classics.  He has now managed to use that exposure to record an album in Nashville, produced by Kyle Lehning and Jerry Douglas (who also contributes dobro and lap steel), with a fine set of musicians and some well-chosen songs, mostly from Nashville songwriters.  Most are set to a broadly similar slowish-mid-tempo, with a laid back feel.  James has a warm voice with a pleasing tone and relaxed style with phrasing which is often reminiscent of Alan Jackson or Don Williams.

The outstanding song is the melancholy ‘Ring On The Bar’, written by Byron Hill and Brent Baxter, a beautifully constructed lyric set to a beautiful, gentle melody, about the aftermath of a failed marriage which opens the set.  The title hook refers in the opening verse to the watermark left by the protagonist’s beer as he thinks over his situation, and later to the wedding ring he abandons there:

There’s a ring on the bar
One that’s shiny and gold
The symbol of a promise
And the heart that he broke

It’s the one thing she left
When she packed up the car
It was light on her finger
Now it’s heavy on his heart

And the ring shines bright in the colored light
Of a lonesome neon star
When its closing time he’ll leave the hurt behind
With a tip in the jar and the ring on the bar

That bartender’s gonna think someone forgot it
And he’ll wonder who could be that big a fool

Another fine song on the theme of a man struggling with the aftermath of a failed relationship is ‘Alright Tonight’, written by Tom Douglas and Casey Beathard:

I can’t stand to think of you with anybody else
There ain’t a bottle or a bar so far that seems to help
Today was not a good day to convince myself that I’m alright
Hey but I’m alright tonight

I guess I really should have called before
I showed up drunk at your front door
I had to see with my own eyes
That you’re alright tonight

Perfectly understated in its conflicting emotions, we really don’t believe him when he says that he’s “alright”, tonight or at any other time.

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Album Review: Darryl Worley – ‘Sounds Like Life’

Sounds Like LifeAfter almost ten years of varying degrees of success, Darryl Worley’s latest album came out recently on Stroudavarious Records. It is produced by Jim ‘Moose’ Brown and Kevin ‘Swine’ Grantt, and Darryl himself wrote or co-wrote almost all the material. One of the few exceptions, ‘Tequila On Ice’, written by Rivers Rutherford and Marty Dodson, served as the lead single, but faltered outside the top 40. The lyric is rather silly, but the tune is pretty and Darryl gives it a sexy, sultry delivery which is very pleasing.

Somewhat surprisingly, Darryl has scored a hit single with the title track, reviewed last week by Meg. It’s not a bad song, and certainly more listenable than most of today’s chart fodder, although there is something of a disconnect between the friend’s troubles, and the cheery message of the chorus. Darryl sounds more sympathetic in ‘Slow Dancing With A Memory,’ which is, deplorably, repeated from his last album, but sees a heartbroken man lost in memories of his beloved, and drinking as ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ plays on the jukebox (it’s obviously a very high class bar with such a well stocked jukebox). The protagonist here tells the bartender to leave the poor guy alone.

My favorite track is the beaty opener, ‘Honky Tonk Life’, written by Marty Dodson and Sean Patrick McGraw. This good-humored account of life as a traveling musician feels very authentic in its depiction of the positive and negative aspects: he doesn’t know where they are, they misspell his name on the publicity,
“If we hurry they’ll feed us before we go on and I’ll work it out with the man
Sometimes the beer’s free and sometimes it’s half-price and sometimes there’s no beer at all…

I could quit all this road stuff, go back to my real life and put in a straight 9 to 5
But I love the neon and I love the people and I love the honky tonk life”

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