My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Sixpence None The Richer

EP Review: J.P. Harris (with Nikki Lane, Kristina Murray, Kelsey Waldon and Leigh Nash) – ‘Why Don’t We Duet In The Road’

jpharris_duet_largeweb_1024x1024J.P. Harris, whose sound is described as ‘booming hippie-friendly honky-tonk,’ found the inspiration for Why Don’t We Duet In The Road in the collaborative spirit of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s seminal Will The Circle Be Unbroken. The EP finds Harris covering iconic duets with some of Nashville’s most innovate female singer/songwriters, in an effort to bottle his experiences in Music City with a record aimed at prosperity over commercial viability.

Harris hunkered down in Ronnie Milsap’s former studio to record the four-track album, which he self-produced in a single six-hour session. What resulted is rough around the edges, fueled by twangy guitars and a gorgeous interpretation of outlaw country.

No one better exemplifies the modern outlaw spirit than Nikki Lane, who burst onto the scene in 2011 blending rockabilly and honky-tonk. She teams with Harris on “You’re The Reason Our Kids are Ugly,” which finds the pair embodying the spirit of Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn’s 1978 original. Harris’ choice of Lane to accompany him is a smart one. You can hear her ballsy grit as she uses her smoky alto to channel Lynn’s feisty spirit without sacrificing her distinct personality.

The least familiar of Harris’ collaborators is likely Americana darling Kristina Murray, who joins him for an excellent reading of George Jones and Tammy Wynette’s “Golden Ring.” The pair is brilliant together, with Murray emerging as a revelation with her effortless mix of ease and approachability. I quite enjoyed the arrangement, too, which has the perfectly imperfect feel of a band completely in sync with one another.

Harris is the star on “If I Was A Carpenter,” which finds him with the criminally underrated Kelsey Waldon. Her quiet assertiveness, which could’ve used a touch more bravado, is, unfortunately, no match for his buttery vocal. Waldon’s contributions are by no means slight; he’s just magnetic.

The final selection, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner’s “Better Move It On Home,” finds Harris with the most recognizable vocalist of the bunch, Leigh Nash. She’s best known as the lead singer of Sixpence None The Richer, the band that hit #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the iconic “Kiss Me” in 1998. She’s since gone on to a solo career, which includes a country album released in September 2015. She taps into that grit here, and erases any notion of her pop sensibilities, but proves she doesn’t quite measure up to Parton on the 1971 original. The pair had an uphill battle ahead of them from the onset and they didn’t quite deliver.

That being said Why Don’t We Duet in the Road is a fantastic extended play highlighting five uniquely talented vocalists. If country artists continue to churn out releases of this high a quality than 2017 is going to be a very good year, indeed.

Grade: A

NOTE: Why Don’t We Duet in the Road is offered as a random colored double 7” limited to 500 copies, which as of press time are about halfway to sold out. Rolling Stone Country also has the tracks accessible for streaming, which I highly recommend. The EP is also available on iTunes as of January 6.

Single Review: Jewel – ‘Satisfied’

Just about the time I became a fan of country music, acts like Jewel, Hootie and the Blowfish, and Sheryl Crow were releasing diamond-selling country albums, but having hits on the pop charts.  I’ve always attributed most of that to Garth Brooks and his massive numbers.  But why those artists didn’t just start as country artists – or why country radio didn’t embrace the music at the time – has always been puzzling to me.   To my ears –and apparently hers too – songs like Jewel’s ‘You Were Meant For Me’, Hootie’s ‘Let Her Cry’, and several other hits, notably one-hit wonders Sixpence None The Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’ were clearly meant to be on the country station beside the Clay Walkers and the Lee Ann Womacks of the time.

Having been a fan of her adult-contemporary hits in the 90s, and even her more rocking ‘Standing Still’ and dance hits like ‘Stand’, and being my favorite among her named contemporaries, I had high expectations for her country album(s) for the Valory Music Group. After her first album left me disappointed, or rather not blown over like I expected, I had lost a little respect for her abilities to say the least.  Instead of making a strong artistic statement, I felt like she pandered to country radio – a cardinal sin these days – and wasn’t expecting to like much from her second Valory album.  The first single held much of the same , but I am much more impressed with her second single from Sweet & Wild, her second Valory album.

‘Satisfied’ pins down the basic human feeling of satisfaction, in so many words.  The first few lines of the second verse a bit abstract, and make you think the song has lost its way, but it gets back to the basic theme of ‘let your love show’, tying it all up nicely before the start of the second chorus.  A couple more epic lines in the bridge, and a great country song is born.  A basic piano and rhythm backing the big, emotive voice she’s always had frame the verses, while the choruses and ending are more produced.  At the end of it all, the Alaskan farm girl delivers a fine vocal performance of a well-written song.

Even it doesn’t shoot up the country charts, I’ll hear it on the radio or on CMT and smile, finally satisfied that Jewel has proved herself as a credible country artist, if only in my mind.

Grade: A-

‘Satisfied’ is available everywhere, from amazon and others.