Kacey Musgraves has found her niche, and she’s not wavering. When she released “Biscuits,” which was so eerily similar to “Follow Your Arrow” (partly because the two songs were dreamed up in the same writing session), we assured ourselves that it was just one song, and once we hear the full breath of Musgraves’ upcoming album Pageant Material it would exhibit much more variety.
Sam Outlaw is not his real name. Well, not really. His real name is Sam Morgan. But his mother’s maiden name is Outlaw, so it’s close. But he’s not a real Outlaw. Nor is he a real cowboy, even though he apparently owns a fine collection of over half a dozen Stetsons. The 32-year-old Sam Outlaw was an advertising salesman up to a few months ago.
Well that’s it folks. If we weren’t starring at the moment when any and all vestiges of the roots of country music had been completely eradicated from the mainstream before, then we are certainly doing so right now. It’s no longer a narrative about trying to hold onto the last little pieces of what made country music different from other genres.
Written solely by Carlson, the 5-song Release Me EP is a throwback, honky-tonkin, foot-stompin’ true country affair that lays full throttle on the twang and layers in the steel guitar hard and heavy. But this isn’t just all about styling and posturing to prove how country it is. Darci crafts some really smart songs and has an understanding of chords and arrangement and songwriting that separates her from the crowd.
The only thing I conclusively walked away with from this new Mickey Guyton EP is that Capitol Records Nashville has absolutely no idea what to do with this young lady. And that’s about par for the course for just about any up-and-coming female country artist at this moment. Mickey Guyton already released a 4-song EP in March of 2014. So what’s the deal?
You look at these two guys, and it is living history right in front of you. But they aren’t living history museum pieces. They are lucid, active participants in the music community, still writing and singing songs, still with the fire inside them to contribute to the genre they helped create, and pay country music forward to yet another generation of loyal and appreciative fans.
Being willing to see where a song takes you is at the heart of every music lover, and in this spirit I present eleven hand selected songs released in the first half of 2015 that will hopefully take you someplace you want to be, or somewhere you’ve never been before. This is the cream of the crop in my opinion; the gut punchers not for the faint of heart.
Charlie Parr, Chris Knight, Cody Jinks, Eric Paslay, James McMurtry, John Moreland, Justin Townes Earle, Lee Ann Womack, Love & Theft, Miranda Lambert, Randy Rogers, Townes Van Zandt, Wade Bowen, Whitey Morgan
So we’re close enough to the half way pole in 2015 to start thinking about what the best has been so far, and to get ready for what is sure to be a pretty exciting second half of 2015 for album releases. There’s been some big surprises, a few letdowns, but overall 2015 so far has been a pretty varied season for releases.
Bad Omen, Best albums of 2015, Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton, Complicated Game, Cowboys & Sunsets, Fear & Saturday Night, Hold My Beer, James McMurtry, Lonesome Wyatt, Love Story, Rachel Brooke, Randy Rogers, Roo Arcus, Ryan Bingham, Sonic Ranch, The FIrewatcher's Daughter, Traveller, Wade Bowen, Whitey Morgan, Yellawolf
Some bad songs make you angry that such a monstrosity would ever be released under the country banner. Some make you sad for what country music has become. This one? Randy Houser’s entry into this new R&B sexy time Bee Gees-inspired country music disco craze? This thing had me laughing out loud so hard from being so embarrassing and absurd, I had milk shooting out of my nose. And I wasn’t even drinking milk.
A hiatus in The Trishas project presented a window for Jamie to spread her wings, and that’s what she does in Holidays & Wedding Rings. Far from a songwriter who has spent her best material on past projects, or is too burdened with home and family to find time for the guitar and notepad, Wilson taps into the keenest observations and inspirations of her career.
Well it’s about damn time. What an ass backwards country music world we live in where you get clued into a great new song through an advertisement, while radio continues to descend into a wasteland. But that was the fate of “Roots & Wings.” Now Miranda Lambert and Dodge have released the full thing, or actually two separate extended versions.
Amidst the graveyards of American dreams is where you’ll find the grey, bent, and wiry folklore rhythm master known as Charlie Parr nosing around, looking for his next discovery. With a resonator on his knee, and a tapping foot you could calibrate a Swiss timepiece to, Mr. Parr bends his back to looking for the perfect rhythm or melody for a mood like an archeologist looks for a lost civilization’s prized possession.
It’s not a lack of talent that Nashville suffers from. It’s figuring out how to shuffle the best talent to the front. Like another notable songwriter, Chris Stapleton—who paid his fair share of dues writing for others when he had a voice and a message that could resonate much deeper than what was rising in the mainstream, Caitlyn Smith is a relevant and powerful voice ready and warmed up in the batter’s box.
From the “If 90% of mainstream country music sucks, then 10% of it must be good” file, songwriter and performer Jon Pardi has just released an EP called The B-Sides 2011-2014 through Capitol Nashville, and it’s not a bad listen at all. Billed as a tide over for fans until a new album is ready to go, the release includes what was left when the final track listing was accumulated for his January 2014 debut.
Like rolling Buick sedans off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan one after another, day after day, year after year, not stopping to take breaks or reveling in little victories, but winning fans over one at a time, night after night, tour after tour in America’s derelict honky tonks until the word of mouth grew into a rumble, the crowds went from nearly empty to nut to butt, Whitey Morgan is now like a locomotive.
Sam Hunt’s “House Party” is cultural appropriation for commercial enterprise of the highest order. It isn’t enough that mainstream country music is raping its own culture, now it’s got to ooze its filthy mandibles into a different sector of society and make a mockery of someone else’s too. Safe white America’s appetite for subjugating other people’s art forms in its insatiable consumerism binge is as embarrassing as it is destructive.
It’s not that The Honeycutters’ previous projects undercut Platt’s abilities by any stretch, but Me Oh My is the 14-song testament that you sense could be the centerpiece of her career when it’s all said and done. And though you might think of Amanda Platt as a songwriter first and then a singer, when she does give herself a chance to step out, she shows herself more than just capable.
No matter how many banjos, fiddles, and mandolins you infuse in the music, a song from Steven Tyler is not going to be country, because Steven Tyler is not country. Just like it doesn’t matter that Willie Nelson never uses fiddles, banjos, or mandolins in his music. He couldn’t stop from making a country song even if he tried. But unfortunately we can’t stop Steven Tyler from trying to make country music.
Written by Keith with Bobby Pinson, the song tries to do something similar to “Drunk Americans,” which is make a statement about the current climate of society. Cutting completely against the grain of current country trends, as opposed to glorifying small town life as this idyllic full-time party of constant bonfire soirees beside bodies of water down dirt roads for bored suburbanites to live vicariously through…
Traditional Texas country with a little bit of a Bakersfield spark is what Them Duqaines are all about. Rich with excellent guitar work, great singing, and those little elements of spice that make Texas country unique like accordion, backing chorus singers, and even saxophone, Them Duqaines capture an authentic country spirit that makes you go, “Yes, this is what I’ve been looking for!”