Today’s Recommend a Track focuses on those songs that remind us to “Keep on the Sunny Side.”
As I wrote in my review of the new Rodney Atkins album, I’m an optimistic guy. So while I do love me some dark and depressing country music, the songs that best match my personal philosophy are those that look at the brighter side of life.
Some of my favorites:
The Carter Family, “Keep on the Sunny Side”
The Grandmama of them all. This was released during The Great Depression, y’all.
Shania Twain, “Up!”
Rodney Atkins sounds about as optimistic as Dwight Yoakam when compared to Shania Twain. This remains one of my favorite songs she’s ever released. Bonus points awarded to this clip because it not only features Alison Krauss & Union Station behind her, but Krauss and Twain discuss deodorant and shaving during the winter seasons.
Among the greatest new traditionalists of the eighties, John Anderson is one of the best. That he managed to resurrect his career during the nineties boom, while most of his peers from a decade earlier were shown the door, is a testament to his talent and the timeless quality of his music.
His distinctive voice made him one of the last great stylists of country music, a singer you could identify after hearing him sing the first line. I recommend delving deep into his catalog, and here are the ten tracks that you should start with.
“She Just Started Liking Cheatin’ Songs” from the 1980 album John Anderson
One of Anderson’s breakthrough songs finds him concerned over his lover’s new fondness for cheating songs. “I’m not sure if it’s the cheatin’ she likes, or just the melody,” he worries.
“I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday” from the 1981 album John Anderson 2
A classic song celebrating untapped potential, courtesy of songwriting legend Billy Joe Shaver.
“I Just Came Home to Count the Memories” from the 1981 album I Just Came Home to Count the Memories
This haunting ballad of a broken home evokes memories of George Jones classics like “The Grand Tour,” complete with melancholy strings.
The name of the new Rodney Atkins album is It’s America, but it could just as easily have been called Rodney Atkins and the Power of Positive Thinking.
Pessimists, be wary of this record. You run the risk of abandoning your perennial half-empty glass and purchasing a lifetime subscription to Keep on the Sunny Side Quarterly. For an optimist like me, listening to Atkins is like discovering a new friend, one who shares your enthusiasm for looking on the bright side but has the added bonus of punctuating his look on the bright side sentences with fiddles and steel guitar.
I can’t remember the last time I smiled so many times while listening to a new country record. In the opener, “Tell a Country Boy”, I grinned when he described a country boy as someone who will “always take his time, if you give him a choice.” As “Chasing Girls” progressed from chasing the girls you’re suiting to chasing the girls you’ve fathered, I laughed out loud as he pleaded with his three year-old daughter, “Don’t let that dog lick you in the mouth!”
And even though I’ve been a frustrated out-of-towner stuck behind a tractor on a one-lane road in Alabama, I couldn’t help but smirk at his celebration of his “Friends with Tractors” who “are good at slowing speeders down when they pass through from out of town.”