As was said in reference to the Best Albums of 2016 So Far, it has been fairly slim pickings for the first part of the year for finding music that really touches the heart, and has the fortitude to last beyond the calendar year. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions, and 2016 already boasts a number of serious, gut-punching songs.
At the 2016 CMT Awards, when they needed someone to walk out to center stage and give an all-too-brief, but nonetheless meaningful tribute to Merle Haggard, they chose Dierks Bentley for the task. Why? Because of all the attendees present at that made-up awards show, with the exception of maybe Chris Stapleton, nobody else had the street cred.
Don’t think of the foul-mouthed escapades of Wheeler Walker Jr. (there’s not a cuss word on this record), the parody efforts of Cletus T. Judd, or the protestations of some angry underground country band. The Golden Ponies do offer their own commentary on today’s country, as well as adult humor about drinking and dipping with the ladies.
After careful consideration of “Big Day in a Small Town,” it feels fair to say that this effort by Brandy Clark and producer Jay Joyce is worthy of being considered right up there with a very select few others as one of the best mainstream country music albums released in the last two or three years, and arguably trumps Clark’s previous effort that was also well-received.
With no disrespect meant to the albums highlighted here, which represent the exception and not the rule, 2016 has begun where the second half of 2015 left off, where it feels like country and roots music across the board is out of ideas, and the search for music that truly enlivens the spirit is becoming harder. Nonetheless, there are still some excellent albums out there worth highlighting.
I guess I got the wrong album, because all I’m hearing is derivative, rehashed pop diva hip-hop crap from a honky chick hailing from white flight suburbia trying to exude too much attitude in songs that mix rap cadences with cultural misappropriations in an attempt to pander to a new demographic of music listeners since mainstream country has abandoned its core audience.
The Southern mud may not be eternally embedded under her fingernails, or the Western sands ensconced behind her ears, but perhaps she has that lonesome heart that can only come from having no home to speak of, and constantly having to leave behind the people and places you know that eventually led to her love for country music.
Fowler has a new album on the way, and “Sellout Song” has been released ahead of it as a single. Not to say that many of the points made in the song don’t ring true, or that it doesn’t make you chuckle no matter how hypocritical it might be coming from Fowler, but “Sellout Song” would have been a lot more cool and cutting coming from someone else.
So full-time coach for NBC’s reality show singing competition The Voice, and part-time country music artist Blake Shelton has a new record out, and has successfully parleyed interest in his drama-laden personal life into elevated interest and sales of his music. Well let’s take a good long sniff and see what we smell.
Last time we saw Gary Allan he was looking all dapper in a crushed velvet suit with a perfectly-folded silk pocket handkerchief, trying to do his best Justin Timberlake impression and singing “Hangover Tonight” like he had a shot at that new hot R&B sound of Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge. Now we see Gary lounged back on a couch rescued from a curbside.
Nobody knows the formula, or how to navigate the whims of music to steady and sustainable employment, or God-forbid a modicum of stardom. But what we do know is Austin Lucas is an artist worthy of being heard, whether the music industry agrees or not.
“Tuxedo” scores straight A’s and checks all boxes on the terrible music depth chart, even though it would have been nothing worse than forgettable if it wasn’t for the horrifically monotone verse layout that has less topography than the Bonneville salt flats, and sounds like it’s being sung by the cracker version of Nicki Minaj.
It’s the real, true-to-life version of forgotten America that songwriter Nathan Kalish and his country band The Lastcallers from Grand Rapids, Michigan sing about in their new album Continental Breakfast of Champions; not some fairy tale to help prop up a false sense of escapism for bored suburbanites.
Well well well. There is finally some movement on the Josh Turner front. Fans of the traditionally-leaning mainstream-signed artist have been waiting months, and sometimes years for new music that has been long promised, and long delayed.
Hide your faces, and duck and cover because Al Scorch is here to prove the banjo is like the battle ax of American traditional string instruments, and he’s coming out swinging. With his chest puffed out and the energy of ten men, this Chicago native and Bloodshot Records signee turns his banjo into a bullhorn.
Ripcord is a synthy, shallow, rhythmic-centric gaggle of immediately forgettable efforts that is obsessed with the doings of early adulthood in an unhealthy manner for a 49-year-old perfomrer, and offers absolutely no type of statement or expression either sonically, lyrically, creatively, or otherwise.
Listening to this self-titled record is like taking a side trip to a forgotten roadside motel lost in time somewhere in California’s desert interior, where the glow of a neon sign beats back the dullness of modernity, and the turning of a room key is like the opening of a time capsule to a place much more accustomed and comfortable to old souls.
Sturgill Simpson embarked on the second night of a two-night sold-out stop at The Moody Theater in downtown Austin, on Friday (5-6). It was the second night on his current tour, and one of the first glimpses of what fans can expect from an expanded lineup, and a new sound that veers slightly away from the country style Sturgill’s career has been known for up to this point.
Never could I have dreamed when I first decided to channel my passion for music into operating a country music website that I would be asked to comment on a country record released from Queens-born New Wave 80’s sensation Cyndi Lauper. But this is not your average “gone country” project.
For those of you who wear out your Pokey LaFarge records on a regular basis and regard Wayne “The Train” Hancock as a musical God, another name worth checking out is the old-time throwback singer and songwriter with a hobo’s hat and a belly full of songs named Jack Klatt.