A song can change a life, and a song can change the world. And if you’re a real music fan, you know this to be true because you’ve felt it, and seen it yourself. We’re not looking for fanciful ditties that get stuck in your head here. There is a time and a place for those, but that’s not here. We’re looking for songs that barrel you over.
It has once again come that time of year for reflecting back on some of the best albums released in the last 12 months or so, not to treat country music as competition per se, but as an exercise undertaken with the intent of expanding your musical knowledge in hopes the gaps that formed due to the busy lives we all live get filled in with joyous little music projects.
Austin Lucas, Blackberry Smoke, Brandy Clark, Cody Jinks, Courtney Marie Andrews, Dori Freeman, Doug Bruce, Honest Life, I'm Not The Devil, I've Got a Way, Jack Ingram, Justin Wells, Kelsey Waldon, Like An Arrow, Lori McKenna, Luke Bell, Mark Chesnutt, Midnight Motel, Nick Dittmeier, Nick Dittmeier and the Sawdusters, Sturgill Simpson, The Bird & The Rifle, The Cactus Blossoms, Tradition Lives, Unsung, You're Dreaming
It doesn’t get more Texan than Gruene Hall or Gary P. Nunn, unless you combine the two, which is what happened when the venerable songwriter stopped by one of his favorite Texas haunts on Saturday, December 3rd celebrate 71 years alive and breathing on this mortal coil.
Once again Slim Cessna’s Auto Club have turned in an effort that touches parts of the musical palette you never knew existed, challenges the listener with adroit lyricism and structure, and offers a musical experience so unusual that it’s hauntingly riveting and hypnotic.
It was the recent events on Dolly Parton’s doorstep in Sevier Country that brought the story of the fragility of life, and the importance of taking care of each other at the core of ‘Circle of Love’ to the forefront, and once again proved that Dolly Parton is nothing shy of a divine figure of the Southern American experience.
Barry Zito has released an acoustic version of a song called “Secret to Life” that is supposedly going to be the first song released on an upcoming album of his. Not many know that when Barry Zito’s massive contract ended and his pitching production began to taper off again, he decided to re-up with the Oakland A’s and actually pitched for Nashville’s AAA club called the Sounds.
In the country music department, the amount of emphasis on Christmas releases in 2016 has been nothing short of astounding, and maybe even historic. And I’m not just talking about “Rascal Flatts Sing The Chipmunks” or whatever crap that’s out there. Even independent artists and country legends have showered the country music listening public…
It’s always worth a chuckle when you hear someone say that country music must “evolve” to stay relevant, or hear an artist bellyache about how constricting country music is to their creativity. And then you put on a record like this and hear just how much a true artist can do with a simple message and melody, and three chords and the truth.
It should be no huge surprise that Travis Tritt’s ‘A Man and His Guitar’ is worth its muster. He’s been doing these acoustic shows for many years, and even at other shows involving the full band he’ll make sure to take some time in the set to do a few songs by himself. If anything, one may wonder why it’s taken so long for a release such as this to surface.
If Willie Nelson and Arlo Guthrie are remembered for nothing else in music, perhaps they’ll be notable as the sires of the musical progeny Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie, known collectively as Folk Uke. A unique project to say the least, you might be surprised to hear that the 2nd generation musicians have been making music together for nearly 20 years now.
Whether one may ultimately settle upon ‘The Weight of These Wings’ with a more positive or negative take, what is next to indisputable is that it is a significant release. ‘The Weight of These Wing’s is the symbolic entry of Miranda Lambert—the biggest female country star for the last six or so years—into the Americana/independent/east Nashville mindset
You never know what Jesse Dayton may have his hands dirty with at any given moment. He could be playing guitar for Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings right before they pass away, or collaborating with Rob Zombie on some horror flick, or producing a record with Eddie Spaghetti. Last year he was touring around with the band ‘X’ filling in for Billy Zoom on guitar.
Strait played his first show at Gruene Hall on Saturday, February 21st, 1976—five years before releasing his first record, and only a few months removed from being honorably discharged from the Army. For his first gig, they charged $0.25 at the door, and according to Strait from the Gruene Hall stage Wednesday night, he made $7.00 total.
Ronnie Dunn has the voice and the name to where if he wanted to transition into a legacy act or do like Tim McGraw and make the best of the opening up of the format to better songs, he could really do some damage. But he has to really commit to it. His days of #1 hits and CMA Awards are unfortunately in the past.
What’s going “outta style” is Bro-Country and songs that chase trends, while traditional country has once again proved to be the timeless influence in country music that always comes back to the forefront. This should bode well for an artist like Aaron Watson if he sticks to what he does best.
Full of true-to-life stories run through a gritty filter, ‘Downhearted Fools’ is Chris Stalcup singing about what he finds right smack dab under his nose—the adversities and self-doubts that smack him in the face like every rising sun so rudely blasting through tattered shades, reminding one of the heartbreaks and sordid affairs of the night before.
“Better Man” is interesting for many reasons. Unfortunately, most of those reasons have little to do with the music itself. But this track is far from the worst transgressions on country radio, and it is refreshing to hear song that’s not all rosy targeted to the mainstream set. It will perform well as a cozy winter single tiding over Taylor Swift fans.
One of the most difficult undertakings for a music reviewer is to share your opinion on a record that you ultimately favor more than fault, but happen to have more critical observations for than positive ones, especially when public sentiment is tilting so favorably towards it already. It just becomes a recipe for misunderstanding.
‘Heart of a Flatland Boy’ is refreshingly raw and energetic, with tightly-wound songs all written or co-written by Dylan, and a straightforward but effective production approach, blurring the lines between country and heartland rock in both the sound and themes, and painting a mental picture of places and people that are filled with a meaningfulness…
There may be no better example of how the mainstream country music industry has completely bought into the shifting of the paradigm to more traditional and more substantive music than the signing of the band Midland to Big Machine Records. It’s this pretty strange development that speaks to just how deeply rooted this movement has entrenched itself into the industry now.