Both sides of Texas country are well-represented in upcoming artist John Baumann’s third official release, Proving Grounds. You don’t have to go digging for a bio on Baumann to find out what he’s all about, it’s all articulated right there in his songs.
Steve Earle isn’t just your average aging thinning-hair post-mainstream relevancy Americana dude who was kind of big in the 80’s. At 62-years-old, he’s probably the youngest guy who can legitimately claim honest ties to the original country music Outlaw movement of the 70’s.
It’s not just talent that sifts certain artists to the top of the heap of their discipline, it is timing. And Jason Isbell is one of the defining artists of our era because he is Southern, and enlightened, and can understand the perspective of the poor Southern man, as well as the faraway intellectual.
My life took a devastating and decidedly palpable turn for the worse when I cued up Shania Twain’s long-awaited new single, “Life’s About To Get Good.” Somewhere Robert “Mutt” Lange is cackling like the Wicked Witch of the West. Did someone pull a practical joke on Shania in the studio? Because this thing’s a stinker, and it’s all the fault of the production.
Zephanaiah OHora’s This Highway just very well might be a modern classic country masterpiece. It’s flawless for what it is, which is a reawakening of everything brilliant and beautiful about the Countrypolitan era of country music, while leaving all the superfluousness of strings and choruses and other overproduction aside.
There have been many true country music “Outlaws” over the years, and many more that claim to be. But there can be only one original Outlaw, and that is Bobby Bare. Without Bobby Bare, there may be no Waylon Jennings. When Bare discovered Waylon in Phoenix, AZ in 1964, Waylon was still very much a regional act.
The fact that Luke Combs can write a good song, and can find a genuine country sound when he wants to isn’t the reason we should look at ‘This One’s For You’ through rose-colored glasses, it’s the reason you should be disappointed. But let’s also give credit where credit is due.
Now Nashville’s decided to try and make the Geico Caveman a superstar it appears, and it’s only appropriate, because to find anything fetching in this anthem to American devolution, your forehead has to stick out over your eyebrows so far that you don’t need to wear a hat in the rain.
Folks who just hopped on the country insurgency train when they heard about Chris Stapleton or Sturgill Simpson may wonder what the deal is with a guy like Justin Townes Earle. Maybe they recognize the name and draw the connection to his famous father, but is he something special, or just another name in “Americana,” whatever that means?
Left Lane Cruiser has now released nine of these ornery sons of bitches, and each one spitting venom and hitting the groove with the same ferocity. Where so many hard charging bands lose their edge as they age and their output gets stale, or they decide they need to wisen up and start singing lullabies, Left Lane Cruiser keeps on digging.
Lee Brice has built his career not off of catchy singles, but songs that straddle the lines between emotional substance and commercial aptitude, making him a bright spot of Music Row, despite a few blemishes and his spurious label situation. You really have to search for things to dislike about “Boy,” when you really should just sit back and enjoy it.
A love song with avid participation from his wife and singing partner Amanda Shires, the song delves into the sad perspective that forever in a marriage or a relationship is ultimately a relative term. But Isbell doesn’t point these things out just as a lament or a sharp lesson of reality.
Don’t think of Swimming Alone as a commercial release. Think of it as something Liz Rose made for herself and maybe a few close friends and family that you somehow got a copy of. It’s sweet, quirky, funny at times, delightfully dated, refreshingly honest, and just a simple joy to listen to.
Give Zac Brown credit. He listened to his fans, as opposed to speaking down to them about how music needs to evolve, or some other line of flawed reasoning where he could justify his actions to himself if nobody else. It’s hard to describe Zac Brown Band’s ‘Welcome Home’ as anything but what it is, which is a complete about-face.
Strap yourself in, buckle up, and mentally prepare yourself as best you can, because there isn’t anywhere Robyn Ludwick won’t go on ‘This Tall To Ride.’ Unabashedly exploring the dark underbelly of life where cocaine and sex are the ruling currency, and creatures of the night cuddle up with each other for comfort…
Styles and dialects and phonetics change, but the eternal themes that stir the soul remain, and it’s the seamless tie to what Colter sings about and how he sings it that makes the experience something beyond music. It is the ability to introduce the element of time into the mix, not just as a texture, but as a vehicle for transporting perspective….
‘Big Bad Luv’ is exactly the type of album that John Moreland needed to make, where his songcraft suffers none, but is bolstered by the virtue of a more compositional approach to the music itself. And this is the only place he could improve or “evolve,” because the songwriting was already at the pinnacle.
In many sectors, the future of country music is rife with uncertainty as you’re forced to squint hard at the current tiers of top stars and up-and-comers and wonder where this all will lead us years down the road. But when it comes to the Texas country scene, there is no cause for concern for who’s gonna fill the shoes.
The biggest adversity to independent music is success. Independent fans score higher grades in so many categories compared to their mainstream and passive listening counterparts, but their one failing is their need for a sense of exclusivity. As soon as something they like becomes popular, it no longer seems to have the same magic.
To us, it’s a sad state of affairs that Guy, Susanna, Townes, and so many more that made up the core of the alternative to country in the 70’s and 80’s are gone, but to Rodney Crowell, these weren’t just distant stars on some stage that perhaps he got to see once or twice in his life, these were his close personal friends.