My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Miley Cyrus

Jonathan Pappalardo’s Top 10 Singles of 2015

What does it say about me that the highest charting single on my list took eight months to peak at #9? I’ve continued to broaden my tastes as I’ve aged while continuing to closely follow the artists I’ve always admired. There was some stunning music this year and these ten selections are only the tip of the iceberg. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

cdca72c7ec5625f0f1f483fb_440x44010. I’m With Her – ‘Crossing Muddy Waters’

I’m With Her (Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan) is one of the more unique collaborations of the year and their cover of the fifteen year old John Hiatt song is the amuse-bouche to a main course full-length album that may come within the next few years. This track is too faithful to be a doozy but it more than proves they have the potential to be an artistic force should they go down that road. I really hope they do.

Trisha-Yearwood-I-remember-You9. Trisha Yearwood – ‘I Remember You’

Every Trisha Yearwood album has its own personality and PrizeFighter: Hit After Hit lies on the more Adult Contemporary side of the country spectrum. “I Remember You,” a tribute to her mom, is far from the most dynamic ballad she’s ever recorded. But it shows off a tender side of her voice we’ve never heard before. Yearwood is a vocal chameleon able to adapt to any style and work within any parameters. She’s still a master after twenty-five years. I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next.

Traveller8. Chris Stapleton – ‘Traveller’

“Tennessee Whiskey,” the early 1980s George Jones hit he sang on the CMA Awards, is the standout showcase for his gifts as a vocalist. “Traveller,” showcases his talents as a songwriter. This autobiographical mid-tempo ballad casts Stapleton as a vagabond who knows his path but cannot see his destination. Like any great artist he’s spent his time paying his dues and working the system until he could shine in his own light. He may always be a “Traveller,” but I bet he has a much clearer picture of where he’s headed now that the world finally knows his name.

Screen-Shot-2015-05-05-at-10.39.03-AM7. Jason Isbell – ’24 Frames’

“24 Frames” is a 1990s inspired gem that owes more to R.E.M. than Alan Jackson, bringing the same addictive quality (minus the mandolins) that made “Losing My Religion” so intoxicating. “24 Frames” is a fantastic meditation on relationships, cumulating with a chorus that compares God to an architect and declares, “he’s something like a pipe bomb ready to blow.”

Thile & PB6. Punch Brothers – ‘I Blew It Off’

The coolest track from The Phosphorescent Blues is this plucky slice of bluegrass-pop, a style Chris Thile and the boys have perfected over the course of their four albums. They returned after a three-year hiatus to find Thile with a ‘bad case of twenty-first century stress,’ which is about the only thing he can’t shrug off. He’s furious yet knows he isn’t alone, declaring by the end that modern technology is having an effect on everyone, not just him. “I Blew It Off” is as simple as any song could be saying a lot in a very tiny space. That’s often where the most valuable riches can be found.

Fly5. Maddie & Tae – ‘Fly’

Not since “Cowboy Take Me Away” has a fiddle driven pop-country ballad reached these artistic heights. At a moment when Maddie & Tae had to show the world what else they could do, they blew away the competition with their exquisite harmonies and pitch perfect lyric. They aren’t the Dixie Chicks by any means, but they’re pretty darn close.


Dierks-Bentley-Riser-Album-Art-CountryMusicIsLove4. Dierks Bentley – ‘Riser’

Even in the face of commercial pressures, Dierks Bentley sticks to his convictions. “Riser” is a sweeping tale of overcoming odds and one of his finest singles. I have no clue why he hasn’t risen (no pun intended) to the upper echelon of country greats at a time when he’s bucking trends and releasing worthy songs to country radio. He’s one of the best we have and deserves to be compensated as such.

2647969113. Jana Kramer – ‘I Got The Boy’

Leave it to Jamie Lynn Spears, of all people, to write the strongest hook of the year: ‘I got the boy, you got the man.’ Leave it to Jana Kramer to sell the pain and conviction felt by the scorned ex who is seeing the boy she loved transformed into the man she always wanted him to be.

Eric-Church-Like-a-Wrecking-Ball2. Eric Church – ‘Like A Wrecking Ball’

When Eric Church brought the idea for this song to co-writer Casey Beathard he balked. At the time, Miley Cyrus was hitting big with her similarly titled smash. Church, who cannot be under estimated, knew exactly what he was doing. This tour de force is the most original song about making love to hit any radio format in recent memory. It’s also the coolest one-off artistic statement since Dwight Yoakam hit with “Nothing” twenty years ago. Eric Church is the strongest male country singer in the mainstream right now.

lee-ann-womack_9601. Lee Ann Womack – ‘Chances Are’

What needs to be said about Lee Ann Womack wrapping her exquisite voice around a pure country weeper? She came into her own on The Way I’m Livin’ and finally found the space to create the music in her soul. The album’s third single is a shining example of the perfect song matched with the only artist who has enough nuance to drive it home. Lee Ann Womack is simply one of the greatest female country singers ever to walk the earth.

 

Country roads and greener pastures

TaylorI was really happy to hear about the release of Taylor Swift’s new single last week. Now there’s something you never thought you’d hear me say. But (you knew there had to be a “but” coming, didn’t you?) I should qualify that comment by saying my mood was not affected so much because I was looking forward to listening to new Taylor Swift music, but because the single “Shake It Off” is a watershed moment in Swift’s career, as the artist, her label and her publicists acknowledge that 1989, Swift’s forthcoming album, is not country, but pop.

I will be the first to argue that this is hardly news and that Swift’s music was never really country to begin with, but it’s nice to hear the people responsible for marketing her finally admit it. While Swift’s defenders have argued for years that she was bringing new fans to the country genre, I always maintained that her youthful fanbase was unlikely to embrace the genre at large, and that Swift herself would eventually decide that the pop world was a better fit for her. The shift began with the release of 2012’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, which became the first Taylor Swift single to be deemed not country enough for country radio. It spent nine weeks at #1 anyway, due to a ridiculous change in Billboard’s chart tabulation methodology, but that is a separate topic.
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Single Review: Brad Paisley featuring Alabama – ‘Old Alabama’

While I’ve generally liked more of Brad Paisley’s music than I’ve disliked, I’m hardly what can be considered one of his superfans. Nevertheless, I’ve often defended him against hypercriticism in the blogosphere, and I’ve found myself in that position once again with the release of his latest single. “Old Alabama” isn’t a masterpiece that will profoundly change the musical landscape, but it doesn’t deserve the kind of derision it has received from some quarters. Clearly it was never meant to be anything more than a tribute to a bygone era and one its most commercially successful acts. This isn’t a record that lends itself to overanalysis; it just is what it is.

I’ve never been a huge Alabama fan but I have enjoyed a number of their songs, many of which happen to be the ones Paisley name checks. Fans who are too young to remember country music’s original supergroup in their heyday may have difficulty relating to the record, but it is sure to strike a chord with folks from Paisley’s — and my — generation, especially when the boys from Fort Payne themselves chime in for a few lines of Mountain Music”, one of their best songs. For a genre that is supposedly rooted in tradition, country music tends to underappreciate many of its legends, so it’s nice to hear a mainstream song that not only pays homage to a landmark act, but also serves as a nostalgic reminder of how country radio used to sound. Alabama was never the standard-bearer for traditional country music, but even their most slickly-produced records were rarely bland. In an age where the mainstream actively courts the Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus generation, it’s nice to hear a record that’s meant for us Generation Xers for a change. And for that, I say to Mr. Paisley, well done, sir.

Grade: B+

Favorite Grammy Performances

I finally watched the Grammy’s on my DVR tonight, just for the performances, and it led me to this question:

What was your favorite performance from the Grammys?
There were some great ones, and some not so great ones (Miley Cyrus makes Taylor Swift sound like Trisha Yearwood), but I picked my 3 favorites:

1. “15 Step” by Radiohead and the USC Marching Band
Alright, I love Radiohead. I admit it. I bought In Rainbows, and it struck me as a phenomenal record. Imagine my joy when my favorite track off the album was going to be performed at the Grammys! My only complaint was that Thom (the singer) moves weirder than Chris Martin. But for everything else, the performance was golden. I was skeptical at first, but the marching band was an amazing touch — a stroke of genius, in my opinion. Very different than the original (listen here) which has electronic beats instead. This is just a very cool song, and a great performance.

2. “Stay” and “Chasing Pavements” by Sugarland and Adele

Adele receiving the Grammy for Best New Artist

Adele receiving the Grammy for Best New Artist

Two of my favorite vocalists singing two of my favorite songs. What could be better?! Well, I would have preferred more singing together, but the perfect performances from the two definitely validate their Grammy wins. They are both wonderful ladies, and Kristian Bush is nice, too. Even sweeter is how Adele beat the Jonas Brothers. YES!!!

3. “You Pulled Me Through” by Jennifer Hudson

Just the fact that she could go out there after all that she’s been through and sing that well…? She is a very resilient person. This performance cements the fact that she deserves to be here, and she seems to be doing as well as she can after all that. I still kind of wish she would have done “Spotlight“, but whatever. “You Pulled Me Through” was great, too — it matched the mood much better anyway.

P.S.  Props to M.I.A. for performing on her due date. Did anyone notice her maniacal laugh when the camera found her while reading nominees? I love her…

I’m also sad about the whole Chris Brown/Rihanna thing. I hope she’s doing okay.

So what do you guys think? Agree? Disagree?