Articles by Kevin Coyne

Single Review: Hunter Hayes, “Invisible”

February 2, 2014

Hunter Hayes InvisibleHunter Hayes scored a killer Grammy performance slot to debut this song, which has all of the necessary components to become a career record.

Showing solidarity with the outcasts in high school halls is as timely as ever, and his youth helps him be the ideal vessel for the heartwarming message.   There are moments which come perilously close to the maudlin, with shades of Billy Gilman’s “One Voice” or the Mark Wills hit, “Don’t Laugh at Me.”    Thankfully, he’s sounding a lot more like a young Keith Urban than a young Bryan White, and the song is just vague enough that it can become a personal anthem for pretty much anyone who feels unnoticed or noticed in all the wrong ways.

This is going to be a big hit, I’m sure, and probably score some songwriting nominations along the way.  Now is as good a time as any to listen to it with fresh ears and appreciate its understatement.   Where he could have laid on thick, he chose not to.  That’s always been a rare choice to make when dealing with material this heavy, so that alone is reason to be grateful.

Written by Bonnie Baker, Katrina Elam, and Hunter Hayes

Grade: B+

 

Single Review: Brantley Gilbert, “Bottoms Up”

February 2, 2014

Brantley Gilbert Bottoms UpA month of single reviews into 2014, I’ve never been more aware of just how many songs there really are about partying with a girl out in the country.

“Bottoms Up” is one of three songs in this week’s top ten alone that follow this plot line, and I suppose it’s the best of the three, if only because of the sparse atmosphere of the first half of the record.  Gilbert’s vocal feels detached, as if he can’t really believe he’s singing this.  His voice being more weathered than his contemporaries makes that detachment sound more cool than disinterested.

So,  yeah.  He does this remarkably popular theme better than most.   But when a theme is this played out, even doing it well doesn’t make it worth listening to.

Written by Brantley Gilbert and Justin Weaver

Grade: B-

2014 Grammy Winners

January 26, 2014

56th Grammy AwardsThis year’s Grammy winners will be posted here as they are announced.

Here are the awards, in the order of presentation:

Pre-Telecast Winners:

American Roots Song: Edie Brickell & Steve Martin, “Love Has Come For You”

Americana Album: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Old Yellow Moon

Bluegrass Album: The Del McCoury Band, The Streets of Baltimore

Folk Album: Guy Clark, My Favorite Picture of You

Country Solo Performance: Darius Rucker, “Wagon Wheel”

Country Duo/Group Performance: The Civil Wars, “From This Valley”

Country Song: Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves, and Josh Osborne, “Merry Go ‘Round”

Telecast Winners:

Best Country Album: Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park

Best New Artist: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Song of the Year: Joel Little and Ella Yelich O’Connor, “Royals”

Album of the Year: Daft Punk, Random Access Memories

Record of the Year: Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, “Get Lucky”

Musgraves, Clark, Monroe dominate Annual Nashville Scene Critics’ Poll

January 23, 2014

kacey-musgravesMuch like they dominated the Country Universe lists, Nashville Scene’s 14th Annual Country Music Critics’ Poll finds Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, and Ashley Monroe on top.

This year, six of our seven Country Universe writers voted in the poll, with Sam Gazdziak featuring heavily in the comments section!

Congratulations to Sam, and to all of the artists who did so well this year!

Single Review: Rascal Flatts, “Rewind”

January 22, 2014

Rascal Flatts RewindUsing the word rewind in 2014 is a bit dated and quaint, don’t you think?

But it’s better than “re-fall” and “re-fly”, the uses of which nearly derail in the bridge what has been a satisfactory journey so far.  The concept might be old school, but the Rascal Flatts boys are still very much in the present, turning in a nice variation on their trademark harmonies that allow Gary LeVox to let loose a little bit.  He’s not as nasal as he’s been in the past, and when he goes for the power vocals toward the end, he sounds a lot more raw than I can ever remember hearing him.

There’s something slightly melancholy about Rascal Flatts these days.  A major commercial act that was never known for its artistry has begun to fade.  Their relevance is on shaky ground, almost sadly dependent on the whims of radio and consumer interests.  I don’t know why their sound slowly went out of style, any more than I can tell you why they were moving four million units an album at their peak.

But against today’s landscape, there’s something comforting about the way that they’re still doing things.   They may not be at the top of the game, but at least they’re still playing.

Written by Chris DeStefano, Ashley Gorley, and Eric Paslay

Grade: B-

Single Review: Joe Nichols, “Yeah”

January 22, 2014

Joe Nichols YeahHarlan Howard, when asked once  about his Judds classic, that “Why Not Me” was a weak title, so he had to repeat it over and over again to make it work.

A similar approach is taken in “Yeah”, which is essentially Nichols’ one word answer to everything said and done throughout the song.  The passiveness of our narrator has a certain charm to it, striking a balance between being respectful of the girl and also not wanting to say or do the wrong thing and derail where the night is heading.

As always, Nichols delivers a charismatic vocal, though this one is hampered a bit by being overly processed.   I can’t say “Yeah” to Music Row’s bizarre desire to have its guys sound like a slightly twangy Mr. Roboto.  But the end result is still better than a lot of what’s out there, even if it will be little more than an afterthought when Nichols’ best performances are collected for posterity somewhere down the road.

Written by Ashley Gorley and Bryan Simpson

Grade: B

Single Review: Eli Young Band, “Dust”

January 21, 2014

Eli Young Band Dust“Dust” tells the story of an interesting woman who is leaving her past behind her in the…dust.

I’m most surprised, and impressed, by the complete absence of a guy in this song.  This girl’s leaving to get her life started, and sheds a tear for what she leaves behind, but knows her future is waiting in front of her.  I guess it could be a guy she’s shedding a tear for, but it’s just as likely that she’s going to miss her family and the town she grew up in.

I’m still waiting for Taylor Swift to write a great song that has nothing to do with a guy, so I’m happy to hear a male act put one together, and one with only a token physical description (“baby blue eyes”) to boot.

That being said, the whole sound of the record is Bon Jovi lite.  That would’ve been an insult to a country band not too long ago, but today, it means that the song is professionally done and not too cluttered.  Nothing identifiably country about it, but then again, nothing identifiably bad, either.  I’ll take it.

Written by Kyle Jacobs, Jon Jones, Josh Osborne, and James Young

Grade: B

 

Single Review: Bush Hawg, “More than Corn”

January 21, 2014

Bush Hawg More Than CornWell, it’s not all about partying out in the corn fields.

Bush Hawg have still put out a cliché-laden record, mind you, but they’re more of the “real flag-wavin’, God-lovin’ Americans live only in the country” variety. It’s almost adorably last decade, really. Maybe next time around, they’ll go back a few years more and give us a Bubba song. Been a good long while since we’ve had one of those.

This band also had the good taste to cover “Fortunate Son” on their EP, so there’s hope for them yet.  This one’s a dud, but maybe we’ll get a chance to see where they go from here.

Grade: D

 

Single Review: Tim McGraw, “Lookin’ for that Girl”

January 20, 2014

Tim McGraw Lookin' for That GirlIt’s hard for me to not like a song that uses “Funky Cold Medina” and “Strawberry Wine” as adjectives.

But mission accomplished, thanks to a plodding mid-tempo groove that never gets out of first gear, and a grating vocoder effect that should’ve been left behind with “Felt Good on My Lips.”

Come on, Tim McGraw.  You’re Tim McGraw.  You took Bruce Robison and Rodney Crowell songs to number one.   Can’t you find some other should’ve been hits from days gone by, instead of recording weak sauce like this?

Tim McGraw used to be the gold standard.  I’m looking for that guy, that guy, that guy.

Written by Mark Irwin, Jimmy Slater, and Chris Tompkins

Grade: D

Listen:  Lookin’ for that Girl 

Single Review: Blake Shelton, “Doin’ What She Likes”

January 20, 2014

Blake Shelton Doin' What She LikesThere’s a point early on where you hear Blake Shelton end a line with the word “fajitas,” and you just know the next line will end with “margaritas.”

That’s how predictable Shelton has gotten at this point, which is as much an indictment of Music Row songwriting as a whole as it is of him as an artist.  I’ve asked this question already this year, and it’s not even the end of January yet:  Why is a superstar capable of demanding great material recording such pedestrian claptrap?

He certainly doesn’t need any career advice, but if Shelton has any interest in being as captivating on record as he is on television, I strongly recommend he ditch the publishing houses and just do an album of Jason Isbell covers.   The good stuff is out there.  It’s just not where he’s looking.

Written by Wade Kirby and Phil O’Donnell

Grade: C-

 

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