My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Miss Leslie and her Juke-Jointers

Year In Review: J.R. Journey’s Top 10 Singles

The consensus among country bloggers and critics alike seems to be that 2009 was one of the weakest years in country music history.  I admit that I didn’t have to whittle my list down as much as I did last year, but it was still easy enough to find ten top-rate songs to call my favorites of the year.  My biggest problem was where to rank them, since I love all these songs.  I kept my list to songs that were released as singles this year – whether they charted or not.  Here’s hoping some of these are your kind of country too.

10. ‘Toes’ – Zac Brown Band

The feel-good hit of the Summer of 2009, the Zac Brown Band really won me over with this fun release.  I had already bought the album for ‘Whatever It Is’, but this third single from the group made me a huge fan.  It’s just not often we hear a fresh sound in country music these days, or acts willing to take chances with their lyrics.  With ‘Toes’, the Zac Brown Band did both, and delivered a mighty fine tune.

9. ‘Need You Now’ – Lady Antebellum

With its infectious melody and oh-so relatable lyric, Lady Antebellum had their biggest hit of the career so far with this song.  I’ll agree with the consensus that there’s not anything traditional about it, but country music has always had a place for the adult contemporary sound.  And I have too, as long as it’s quality music.  And this is quality music.

8. ‘Consider Me Gone’ – Reba

Reba’s 23rd Billboard #1 hit – and 34th overall – is a throwback to the classic 90s hits that made her a superstar.  The theme is a little tried and true, but the chorus still gives us some great lines and Reba delivers nothing less than a brilliant vocal.  This has fast become one of my favorite songs in her immense catalog.

7. ‘Reconsider’ – Charlie Robison

This dark chronicle of a relationship crumbling, which finds the narrator wondering if he’d done things different, would his lover still be with him comes from Robison’s ‘divorce album’, Beautiful Day – he was married to Dixie Chicks member Emily Irwin-Robison.  Though this track never charted on the country charts, it was released, and it’s a shame radio wouldn’t play it.  We sorely need deep, cerebral songs like this to balance out the top 40 playlists.

6. ‘Sing’ – Wynonna

The title cut, and only new track, on Wynonna’s most recent covers album, this Rodney Crowell-written tune sounds like it was written specifically for the singer.  It’s message of hope and looking on the bright side fits Wynonna’s daily platitudes for living lifestyle perfectly, while lines like ‘Sing it like you hear it/Like you have no need to fear it now’ remind us it’s from the pen of a master.

5. ‘Keep The Change’ – Holly Williams

Everybody loves ‘Mama’, the universally-acclaimed track from Williams’ critics-favorite Here With Me album.  I have to admit I was highly impressed and very surprised that I liked the album so much.  I just didn’t expect this much in the way of an alt.country album from the granddaughter of Hank Williams.  Guess I shouldn’t have underestimated that Williams bloodline.  Getting back to the song at hand, I was drawn more to this track than any other on the set because of its message of I’m-hitting-the-road.  The entire chorus is worthy of quoting, but I’ll just leave you with ‘It’s been a long time comin’/I’m jumpin’ off this reckless pity train‘ and hope you want to hear more.

4. ‘Even Now’ – Caitlin & Will

I just knew these two were destined for stardom when Sony released ‘Even Now’ to radio.  It was smart, well-performed, and had actual adult fare. Before it had a chance to climb, the duo was out on a radio tour promoting the single, when radio programmers supposedly flipped over the song ‘Address In The Stars’ a syrupy three-act story song about, you guessed it, death.  This prompted the label release that instead.  Too bad, since ‘Even Now’ was one of the best singles of the year, and one I think could have really made a name for the Can You Duet-winning duo.  Fate wasn’t on their side I guess, as even the second single – the one radio programmers flipped over – didn’t get any airplay either, and thus ended their recording career.  We haven’t heard anything from them since – and a quick glance at their website and MySpace page shows no news.

3. ‘Drunk Dialer’ – Miss Leslie

Miss Leslie has been one of my favorites since I got my copy of her last album, Between the Whiskey and the Wine.  This year, she didn’t release an entire album of new material, but she did give us this excellent tune about the friend who always calls you up, repeatedly, ‘begging you to join her at the local dive’.  Some of us relate as the dialing friend, and some as the friend on the receiving end of the calls.  Either way, it’s a great listen, and one of my favorites of the year.

2. ‘If You Want Fire’ – Terri Clark

Terri gave us one of the best albums of the year, so it’s only natural one of the singles from that release would find its way to the upper reaches of my singles list.  This melody-driven tune, released only in Canada, is just a real lyrical treat with a great hook. Spoken like someone who’s been burned a time or two herself, Terri imparts a bit of wisdom she’s picked up, ‘If you gotta have it, all that madness and  passion, then you’ll learn/If you want fire, it better be worth the burn.’

1. ‘Breaking Apart’ – Chris Isaak (with Trisha Yearwood)

The ‘rock star next door’ released his 13th album this year, titled Mr Lucky.  The finest track on that set is a sweet duet with Trisha Yearwood called ‘Breaking Apart’.  This also got zero love from country radio, but is as fine a country song as I’ve heard the past 12 months.  Yearwood’s smooth and always pitch-perfect harmonies compliment Isaak’s own, whether he’s in tenor or falsetto.  As the pair take turns trading lines on the verses, we find Yearwood in the company of the best duet partner she’s ever taken on IMO, and I’m sure the same can be said for Isaak.

Recommendation: Drinking songs

Miss Leslie Sloan

Miss Leslie Sloan

I’ve been a big fan of Miss Leslie and her Juke Jointers for about a year now.  The first time I listened to her Between The Whiskey And The Wine album – which she gave away through her website – I was hooked on her music, so much that I made her our inaugural Spotlight Artist here at My Kind of Country.  And the honky tonk sounds of Miss Leslie are still in heavy rotation on all my music players.  

I particularly enjoy Miss Leslie when I’ve had a few beers or when I’ve been drinking some wonderful bourbon.  Nothing goes better with good bourbon than Miss Leslie, except maybe George Jones.  On her last album, Miss Leslie single-handedly wrote each and every song, and most from personal experience or observation as she told me herself.  The theme of drinking comes up in over half the songs on the album, with varying outcomes.  

One of my favorites is the opening track, ‘I’m Done With Leaving’.  So it’s my recommendation this week. In it, Miss Leslie sings of a man who just keeps doing her wrong. And after leaving him so many times, she proclaims she’s just done, finished with it all.  Twin fiddles cry as she delivers the lyric, and man, I can’t get enough.  If you haven’t heard Miss Leslie’s music, you are certainly missing out.

What songs or artists would you recommend to your inebriated friends? Or, what do you listen to when you’re drinking?

Listen to ‘I’m Done With Leaving’ at Miss Leslie’s MySpace page.

Also check out the official Miss Leslie site.

Album Review: The Dixons – ‘Still Your Fool’

The Dixons
Still Your Fool (Cow Island)dixons

New York City isn’t a place usually associated with burgeoning country acts, particularly hardcore honky-tonk bands, but The Dixons have proven that good country music isn’t tied to geography. Formed in 2005 and based in Brooklyn, The Dixons cite Buck Owens and Wynn Stewart among their chief influences, and indeed that classic Bakersfield sound is immediately evident from the first pick of the Telecaster guitar and wail of the steel guitar, which happily, is featured prominently and not as an afterthought as is the case with so many releases out of Nashville these days.

Still Your Fool, the group’s debut recording, was released last October on the independent Cow Island label. It features eight original tunes and three covers of vintage country tunes –“Just Say You’ll Be Mine”,” Thanks a Lot”, and” I’ve Got a New Heartache”. The first was originally released by a rather obscure rockabilly band called Eric Kinsey & The Tip-Top Daddies, while the remaining two are classics whose versions by Ernest Tubb and Ricky Skaggs are remembered fondly by most country fans. While I’m not familiar with the original version of “Just Say You’ll Be Mine”, The Dixons’ version of ”I’ve Got a New Heartache” is a well done interpretation that is faithful to Skaggs’ version. On “Thanks a Lot” I found myself wishing they’d pick up the pace a little, as the tempo is somewhat slower than the Ernest Tubb version.

The original tunes all have a vintage feel and fit in well with the covers. The album opens with “Please Don’t Stop Lovin’ Me”, which is an original song and not a cover of the Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton classic. “Come and Get It” sounds like something that Dwight Yoakam would have recorded early in his career, while the title track is reminiscent of something that old Buck himself would have attacked with relish.

I have only one complaint about this album, and that is at just under 30 minutes’ playing time, it is way too short. In a perfect world, this album would get picked up and re-released by a larger label so it would get the attention it deserves. I hope it at least sells well enough that a follow-up album can be released before too long. In an age where people think that Rascal Flatts is the typical country band, The Dixons are a refreshing change of pace. If you’re a fan of Amber Digby or Miss Leslie and Her Juke-Jointers, The Dixons are well worth checking out.

Special thanks to Brady at The 9513 for telling me about this band.

Grade: A+

Visit The Dixons’ MySpace page

Purchase the album from Amazon or iTunes.

News: Miss Leslie heading into the studio

missleslieI had a wonderful chat tonight with Leslie Sloan of Miss Leslie and her Juke-Jointers fame.  We talked about Texas music, Kelly Willis and Rhonda Vincent.  The woman is amazing.  Busy as she is, she still found time to sit down and chat with little ole me.  She told me how much she loves Shelby Lynne – an affection I share.  She also told me she’s hoping to head into the studio next month to record some songs.  

We’re recording the new CD at Tommy Detamore’s in Floresville again. Bill Kirchen will be joining us on guitar for this project. It will be all originals. I’m really excited about getting these songs recorded. I promised myself I wouldn’t go into the studio until I felt like I could record a CD of at least equal quality to ‘Between the Whiskey and the Wine’. And I’m ready.

She told me she has 23 songs ready to go, but isn’t sure how many will actually make the cut.   So, thanks Leslie, for talking to me and keeping me updated on what’s going on.  You’ll forever be one my favorites!

Here’s one of the 23 songs she’s considering for the new album.  I am certainly pulling for this one to make the final cut.

Also, be sure to check out my exclusive interview with Miss Leslie from last month.  

After that, head over to the Official Miss Leslie site.

Country Music Isn’t Dead: An Interview With Miss Leslie

missleslie21Leslie Sloan aka Miss Leslie has been playing country music for over 20 years. Last year, she released her first album of all original material – and all of it self-written. When I interviewed her, I found a woman who truly loves traditional country and has made it her goal to get that music out to as many people as possible.  Here, she tells us that country music isn’t dead – you just have to seek it out. Miss Leslie’s kind of country is a wonderful meld of cheating, drinking, and heartbreak songs, all performed with heavy doses of twin fiddles and steel guitar.  And she points us in the direction of several artists who are recording her kind of country, so we too can hear the moan of the steel and the cry of fiddle.

I’m fascinated that your introduction to music was through classical music and violin lessons. Your bio says you studied classical and bluegrass at the same time. At what point did you change directions toward the hard honky tonk of your music today?

I think that the 1980s turned my head towards country.  I fell head over heels in love with Ricky Skaggs’ country stuff.  I already loved his bluegrass albums with Ralph Stanley and Tony Rice.  But I fell in love with country when Ricky Skaggs went in that direction.  I was especially in love with Bobby Hicks’ fiddle playing.  He was … is amazing.  And that love affair just continued on – through George Strait and Randy Travis and the early Reba stuff.  And all of that led me back to classic country – which is where I had to stay when the 90s came along and the traditional movement went “Gone With the Wind” with Shania and the rock-n-roll country movement.

You hit the Texas honky tonk scene at 14 in a family group with your parents and brother and sister. What was that like?

I loved being onstage but I think that I didn’t fully appreciate everything.  I wanted to be a typical teenager and have weekends with friends but looking back, I’m glad I had the experience. I am one of the few people that can say that I shared my music onstage with my family.  And we still do today. That’s pretty cool.

And what would you say is the most valuable lesson you learned from that time?

At the time, I thought that music was about practicing and playing the “right notes” and having good technique.  Looking back, I now know that music is something that comes from a more genuine place inside – it is a way of expression.  People always tell me that they wish their parents would have made them play an instrument. I strongly disagree. Music should come from inside of you. If it doesn’t and you don’t have a pull towards it, then it means you’re supposed to be pulled towards something else.

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Album Review: Miss Leslie – ‘Between The Whiskey And The Wine’

Between The Whiskey And The WineMiss Leslie is the real deal. There is no doubt whatsoever if she’s hardcore honky tonk or not. Hard fiddles, loads of steel, and lyrics that involve either alcohol or heartbreak. Usually both.

The set kicks off with the “My Give A Damn’s Busted”-esque tune “I’m Done With Leaving”, which is the perfect kiss-off tune. Miss Leslie’s songwriting is sharp, and the conviction in her voice even sharper. The second track, which is the title track, is a song that describes the entire country genre, particularly the older, more traditional part of it: no happiness, no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope, all heartbreak, and all alcohol. Miss Leslie sounds genuinely “I’m never gonna heal”-heartbroken. She’s still depressed and still drinkin’ like hell in the next cut, “I Can Still Feel”, which could be the direct continuation of the title track. The next track, “Hold Back The Tears” could be another chapter to the two previous cuts, only this time we’re taken several years into the future, where the narrator has been sitting on that same bar stool for several years, and she’s still drowning her sorrows. Miss Leslie delivers this one perfectly, with just enough strength, and just enough of that ‘I gave up many years ago’ feeling in her voice.

What’s this? On “I Can Get Over You”, Miss Leslie convinces herself that she can get over the man who’s leaving her, and even though she thinks it may take years, she still sounds certain that she will eventually get over him. She apparently changed her mind on the next track, because she’s pulled out the bottle again, and sounds completely void of hope on “To Get Through This Day”.

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Spotlight Artist: Miss Leslie and her Juke-Jointers

missleslieThe music of Miss Leslie and her Juke-Jointers is a throwback to the hard honky tonk sound made popular in the 1950s and 60s in country music. The self-proclaimed ‘hardwood floor sound’ of her kind of country music suits us here at My Kind of Country perfectly. Miss Leslie is definitely our kind of country. So, with that said, My Kind Of Country is proud to announce that Miss Leslie and her Juke-Jointers will be our inaugural ‘Spotlight Artist’ for the month of January. We’ll be reviewing her music throughout the month, and will have an exclusive interview with her in the coming weeks.

You don’t know who Miss Leslie is, you say? You’ve never heard her music? Well, we have the solution for that. Actually, Miss Leslie has the solution, but we’re going to point you to this solution. In an unprecedented move, Miss Leslie is offering you her latest album – ‘Between the Whiskey and the Wine’ – for free. All you have to do is request it at her official website here.  And this isn’t just a free digital download of her music, this is a physical copy of the CD, and autographed at that.  She will mail it to you for free – you don’t even have to pay postage if you live in the U.S. – the cost is $4 for international orders.   All she asks is that you help spread the word about the fabulous and authentic country music being made by this lady.

So stay tuned to My Kind of Country throughout the month of January and we’ll immerse you in the hard-core honky tonk of Miss Leslie and her Juke-Jointers.

And if you just can’t wait for the snail mail to deliver your copy of Miss Leslie’s CD, you can check out most of the tracks on her MySpace page here.