My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Trevor Rosen

Review: new tracks from Craig Morgan – ‘The Journey – Living Hits’

the journeyCraig’s second release for Black River Entertainment was a reworking of some of his past hits so the new label could cash in, together with four completely new tracks.

Two of the new songs were released as singles, but as is commonplace in such cases they were considerably less successful than the previous singles had been. Top 20 hit ‘Wake Up Lovin’ You’, written by Josh Osborne, Matt Ramsey and Trevor Rosen, is about love outlasting the presence of its object, and while lyrically strong is rather boring melodically, notable only for its opening sounds of an alarm clock. A full blooded vocal does its best to give the song some life, struggling against somewhat cluttered, uninspired production. It was Craig’s last real radio hit to date.

‘We’ll Come Back Around’ a better song, did not crack the top 40. Written by Rosen again, with Brandy Clark and Jessie Jo Dillon, it is a mid paced tune about a couple who fight but always make up again. I could do without the na-na-na-nas, which always sound as if the writer ran out of inspiration, and the production is a bit muddy, but otherwise this is a solid song which was too adult for contemporary radio:

Put your fist through the wall
Say you’re through with it all
Baby I’m through too
Let’s throw a log on the fire of the heat of the moment
Put your key in the car
Jerk it right outta park
Flip a big F-you

You say you won’t come back
I say amen to that then I lock that door
But I know you got a key
And I’m gonna leave a light on

‘If Not Me’ is a beautifully written and sympathetically sung song about a young man taking the step of joining the military, which must have struck a chord with veteran Morgan, although the song is written (by Tom Douglas and Lee Thomas Miller) from the point of view of the boy’s parents. I’m surprised this wasn’t a single.

‘Party Girl, on the other hand, is a dreadful throwaway bro-country number complete with electronic distortion.

Grade for the new tracks: B-

Single Review: William Michael Morgan – ‘I Met a Girl’

For those of us who long for country music to return to a more traditional sound, the debut single from Vicksburg, Mississippi and Warner Bros. recording artist William Michael Morgan seems to be, on the surface, at least, just what the doctor ordered. The understated, pedal steel-laced mid tempo number was written — surprisingly — by Sam Hunt with Trevor Rosen and Shane McAnally. The 21-year-old Morgan reportedly grew up listening to Merle Haggard and Keith Whitley and their influence on his singing is apparent.

But context is everything. In a genre that has seen a complete collapse of any type of defining boundaries, “I Met a Girl” seems like a breath of fresh air, a throwback to the 90s when traditional sounding “hat acts” ruled the country radio airwaves. But those of us who are old enough to remember that era will inevitably compare the record to those of Clint Black, Alan Jackson, and George Strait, and that is where the record fails to measure up. Had this record been released 20 years ago, I probably would not have deemed it worthy of much attention. It’s a very generic song and not particularly memorable. That being said, it doesn’t have an annoying hip-hop with banjo arrangement, or lyrics about tailgating in a corn field. It’s a step, albeit a tiny one, in the right direction, and in 2015 the bar has been lowered sufficiently that a small positive step is enough. Morgan is a promising vocalist and I hope ‘I Met a Girl’ garners enough attention from radio that he will be allowed to continue exploring the more traditional side of country music.

Grade: B

Single Review: Dierks Bentley – ‘Say You Do’

dierks-bentley-say-you-do-singleThe real Dierks Bentley shows himself again.

“Say You Do” is a throwback to the type of fare the endured Bentley to radio listeners in the last decade, the type of song focused on his relationship with his woman; not his bros or a beer bottle. Joseph Hill, Shane McAnally, Trevor Rosen, and Matt Ramsey have composed an effecting lyric while Bentley supplies the perfect amount of desperate urgency to bring the story to life.

When I first heard “Say You Do” through the track’s music video, I was taken aback by the stark opening, Bentley’s voice framed by lush instrumentation. The current climate of country radio would never touch a song so elegantly constricted so I was almost begging the backing track to pick up, and fill out.

It isn’t every day you desire a more cluttered production, but when Bentley turns in this strong a vocal on a song so firmly against all popular trends, you want it to have every chance of succeeding. Producer Ross Copperman does his job, but ultimately drowns the track with so much noise, it’s all Bentley can do just to keep his head above water. That the listener can still feel his urgency through the muck attests to Bentley’s acute skills as a vocalist.

So we’re not graced with the second coming of “Settle For A Slowdown,” “Long Trip Alone,” or “Draw Me A Map.” But at least Bentley seems heading back in that direction, full steam ahead.

Progress is progress. I’ll take it.

Grade: B+

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J.R. Journey’s Top Singles of 2012

Four veteran superstars, two of country music’s hottest groups, a couple of up-and-comers, and two debut singles make up my top ten singles list this year. Rather than tell you why it’s a damn shame that radio was unwelcoming toward Alan Jackson and George Strait’s respective singles and how they’ll probably cool toward Kasey Musgraves soon and likely won’t give Ashley Monroe a shot either, I’ll just say that six of my ten favorites were big hits. That’s something. And I’ll tell you why I like these songs.

10. Jana Kramer – “Why You Wanna”

One Tree Hill star Jana Kramer made the actress-to-country-singer leap flawlessly with her promising debut on this fiddle-laced plea. (Take note, future wannabes.)  “Out of all of the places in this little town/Yeah, you had to come walking in here and sit down” she mews and wins over millions of country fans, myself included.

kenny chesney - el cerrito place9. Kenny Chesney – “El Cerrito Place”

Kenny Chesney hits a sweet spot with medium-tempo ballads like this one, and he’s gotten a lot better at selecting them recently. (See: “Better As A Memory”, “You Save Me”, “You and Tequila”.) This Keith Gattis tune is more evidence of Chesney’s superior skills for selection and delivery.

8. Easton Corbin – “Lovin’ You Is Fun”

This guy has the vocal chops and the strutting neotraditional sound to keep this kind of country alive for a new generation of fans. I really like the rapid fire verses meeting the toe-tapping chorus here.

carrie underwood - two black cadillacs7. Carrie Underwood – “Two Black Cadillacs”

Underwood’s finest single to date is “Does He Love You” meets “Delia’s Gone” set to an appropriately ominous contemporary sound.

6. Ashley Monroe – “Like a Rose”

As one-third of the Pistol Annies, Ashley Monroe and company gave us one of the best albums of 2011. This year, she attempts solo country stardom once more on a sweet song with smart lyrics. The hook is not original, but its memorable nonetheless. And it sticks in my ear just right.

zac brown band - uncaged5. Zac Brown Band – “Goodbye In Her Eyes”

Their breezy harmonies and snappy songs have made the Zac Brown Band a perennial favorite for me since their debut. And they didn’t disappoint this year with this slow-burning number.

4. George Strait – “Drinkin’ Man”

Thirty years into his recording career, Strait set a new high-water mark for himself with his Here for a Good Time album. This stunning narrative from a man battling his alcohol demons is one of his best singles ever.

band perry - better dig two3. The Band Perry – “Better Dig Two”

This song comes from two of my favorite current writers – Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark – with Trevor Rosen, but fits well with Kimberly Perry’s own clever musings on mortality and love. Continued kudos to the band for sticking with this organic sound following their big breakthrough.

2. Alan Jackson – “So You Don’t Have To Love Me Anymore”

Jackson’s first single from his excellent Thirty Miles West album is stone country at its melancholy finest. It’s similar to those early gut punches in Jackson’s catalog like “Here In The Real World” and “Wanted”. Here, he’s taking all the blame for the end of this love affair and even says he won’t pick up if she ever drunk dials him one night. That’s downright decent.

kasey musgraves - merry go round1. Kacey Musgraves – “Merry Go Round”

The Texas singer and former Nashville Star contestant’s debut is a vivid and sometimes startling yarn about small town life and features a light touch of production well-suited to the lyrics and one of the neatest rhyme schemes I can remember.

Listen to a playlist of my favorites on Spotify.

Single Review: Chris Young – ‘Neon’

Chris Young has one of the very best voices in current country music, a burnished baritone which echoes the great vocalists of the past, which has made it frustrating that his choice of material has not always lived up to that voice and his potential.  Radio seems happy to play mediocre songs like the pedestrian ‘You’, which despite being the most boring moment on the artist’s otherwise otherwise promising third album, was his most recent #1 hit.

Happily, he has followed it up with the title track and one of the better songs from that album.  Written by Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne and Trevor Rosen, the lyric compares the beauties of nature in the American southwest unfavorably to the joys of the honky-tonk, with Chris declaring neon to be his favorite color.

Using Urban Cowboy era Johnny Lee as the jukebox artist is the most interesting choice by the writers, compared to the usual nods in a song like this to Haggard, Jones or Hank.  Perhaps the reason is that the song itself is not about dealing with (or failing to deal with) the agonised heartbreak of the best bar room laments, but a positive depiction of honky tonk life, with the bar room is made to sound exceptionally inviting as a home from home.  While it is a place to set aside one’s troubles for a while, it isn’t a way to escape life altogether.  After all, our protagonist is clearly familiar with the great outdoors and appreciates in its way, at least before dark when the lure of the neon lights is too much to resist.

The graceful melody,  traditional arrangement, and wistful-sounding vocal all elevate the song into something which is superior to the vast majority of contemporary radio fare.  It is already in the top 40, and will hopefully follow its predecessors to the top.

Grade: A-