Beset on all sides, lampooned regularly by popular media, bastardized by its own sons and daughters in the mainstream, sold out by corporations and their governmental cronies, America’s rural culture is under siege by the heartless and misguided march of time like never before. But traditional country artist Daryle Singletary is here to remind you there’s still a little country left, and we’re not talking the artificial fairly-tale tailgate caricaturist version they sell to you on 98.1.
Not necessarily a concept album, but an album that has something to say and is willing to say it forcefully, Daryle Singletary’s There’s Still A Little Country Left rolls up its sleeves and shakes it fists at the onset of cultural erosion happening in and around small towns across the country. And when I say “country,” it can mean the music genre, or the United States. Concerns for both are shared, and sometimes in overlapping fashion, whether it’s directly or indirectly in this new record.
Daryle’s first record in over six years starts out with a protest song called “Get Out Of My Country.” Though you may be concerned this will descend into some anti-immigrant anthem, it’s instead pointed towards the interlopers of the country genre mooching off the hard work of past greats and ruining what country music used to be. Though country protest songs are a dime a dozen these days and this one isn’t particularly exceptional, it does make a difference when an artist with the name recognition of Daryle is singing it.
“There’s Still A Little Country Left” takes a more positive tone, talking about how even though they may be few and far between, there’s still pockets of small town America where the living is easy and you can set your watch to the movements of country folks living how they always have. Other songs reinforce this sentiment like “Sunday Mornin’ Kind of Town,” and there’s songs that speak to the joys (and sorrows) of family life like “Say Hello to Heaven,” “Like Family,” and “So Much Different Than Before.” Daryle also takes the time to delve into other subjects, like the single life songs “Spilled Whiskey” and “Wanna Be That Feeling.”
Perhaps the best song on the album is the one that draws the deepest parallels between the state of music, and the state of the state called “Too Late to Save the World.” But maybe the payoff line, “It may be too late for the world, but can’t we still save country music?” makes this reviewer just a little bit bias. Again, Singletary isn’t just complaining, but tries to add a little bit of positive thinking to an otherwise gloomy assessment.
Though Singletary is savvy enough to avoid direct political commentary for the most part, there is a sort of Fox News mood to moments of this album. For some, this will be exactly what they’re looking for, but to other listeners it may make it feel like they’re being preached to. The idea the “state” is coming into small towns and telling them not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance seemed a little too much (though there may be anecdotal stories of this happening somewhere). And though it’s a beautiful version, I’m not sure we needed another rendition of “America, The Beautiful.” It would be great to see Singletary sing this live during the 7th inning, but it makes for a strange album cut.
So does a version of Johnny Paycheck’s “I’m The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised,” sung with Paycheck’s original vocal track as a duet. It doesn’t fit the approach of this album at all, but it was a very fun listen at the end of the record.
Obviously this album is very traditional with lots of fiddle, steel guitar, and twang, and with something to say beyond the songs themselves. Singletary’s voice is strong as ever as well. For those introduced to country music through Luke Bryan, you’ll probably find this a snooze fest. But others will be pumping their fists, and giving thanks someone with a voice is saying the things Daryle Singletary says on There’s Still a Little Country Left.
1 1/2 of 2 Guns Up.