Gary Allan’s in fine form on what could be a pretty big comeback single. It hits that inspirational sweet spot that Martina McBride’s built her recent career around, but his gravely voice lends it just the right amount of gravitas.
I wish the verses were stronger, and that it didn’t make the influence of “Every Rose has its Thorn” so clunkily explicit. But the chorus is a keeper, and that incomparable voice brings it all home.
Leave it to Alan Jackson to find a #1 single on a Roger Miller box set.
Miller co-wrote “Tall, Tall Trees” with George Jones. Jones recorded it first. Miller recorded it a few years later.
With Miller being the king of comedic country and Jones of honky-tonk drawl, Jackson managed an awesome feat with his version. He sounds more comfortable with the rapid wordplay and hillbilly humor than either of the two guys who wrote it.
Jackson’s cover isn’t just the most commercially successful of the three. It’s also the best.
Listening to the new Joanna Smith single, I’m reminded of when Lee Ann Womack first hit it big. I was impressed by her taste in material and I thought the production of her records was impeccable.
But on those early hits like “The Fool” and “A Little Past Little Rock”, I always had the nagging feeling that the songs would’ve been better if they’d been recorded by Pam Tillis, who has a similar vocal style but more power and range.
Over time, Womack perfected her vocal technique and created her own distinctive style, one that is best showcased by simple arrangements and tasteful restraint. The power of later hits like “I May Hate Myself in the Morning” and “Last Call” comes from her ability to accentuate an understated vocal will little punches of twang and power that create a dramatic effect.
So now, fifteen years after Womack first surfaced, I find myself listening to the new single by Joanna Smith and wishing it was being sung by Lee Ann Womack. Smith’s got a great song, and she sings it well, following Patty Loveless’ golden rule: “Don’t get in the way of the song.”
But she stays out of the way of the song just a little too much, and there aren’t enough moments of twang or power to make the record interesting. I still hope it gets a shot at radio, as it would be the best breakthrough single for a new female artist in a good long while. I want to hear more from Smith, so I can hear more of Smith as she hones her style over time.
Written by Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Shelley Skidmore
More importantly, I don’t get it and the song isn’t interesting enough to make me want to get it.
“The Cowboy in Me” might be an amoebic form of the country lifestyle anthems that have flooded the genre in the years since it was released. It’s certainly subtler and more refined than what’s come out since, and McGraw’s hit doesn’t include the head-pounding loudness that sinks so many other “country” anthems.
But it’s like they wanted to write a song about having a short temper and being restless, and they couldn’t come up with a more interesting way to do it, so they use the cowboy archetype as a shorthand reference. This despite the fact that you could replace “cowboy” with “Jersey Shore” and it would still work, so what’s so cowboy about it, anyway?
A commenter made a strong case that “Grown Men Don’t Cry” was a defining moment in the suburbanization of the genre and its growing disconnect from the life of the working poor. “The Cowboy in Me” came along well after the ampersand and the Western were dropped from Country Music, but it really does demonstrate that the genre has as much relevance to cowboys these days as a Marlboro ad.
Written by Al Anderson, Jeffrey Steele, and Craig Wiseman
<a href=”http://www.countryuniverse.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Thomas-Rhett-Beer-With-Jesus.jpg”><img class=”alignright size-thumbnail wp-image-22676″ title=”Thomas Rhett Beer With Jesus” src=”http://www.countryuniverse.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Thomas-Rhett-Beer-With-Jesus-150×150.jpg” alt=”" width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>Far better than its title suggests.
Thomas Rhett poses a hypothetical that brings Jesus into the contemporary world, but avoids recreating him in our own image. Every question that Rhett suggests he would ask of Jesus is believable, and I dare say that his belief that Jesus would sit with him in loving conversation instead of harsh judgment for his surroundings is more consistent with the Gospel than, say, Porter Wagoner’s <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yroypJB0XU”>”What Would You Do (If Jesus Came to Your House).”</a>
Rhett’s slightly ragged vocal is charmingly innocent and sincere, like an Eric Church from the right side of the tracks. The only thing that holds the song back from me is the second verse, which treads water by focusing on the jukebox instead of the conversation at hand. But redemption comes with a solid bridge and beautiful final chorus.
The production does such a great job of not getting in the way of the song. It makes me wonder how many more of today’s country songs I would like if I was able to hear them without interference. If the singer here believes in Jesus, the producer here believes in his singer. I don’t know that many souls will be saved by “Beer with Jesus”, but if Nashville listens to it carefully, they might learn something about saving country music.
<em>Written by Rick Huckaby and Lance Miller</em>
<strong>Listen: </strong><a href=”http://media.allaccess.com:8001/5076/1345652152_strm.mp3″>Beer with Jesus</a>
A southern gospel number that starts slowly and never quite gets where it’s trying to go.
It’s not one of my favorite Parton compositions to begin with, especially considering the depth of her spiritual catalog. The lyrics are a bit too redundant, and the arrangement reinforces this by relying too heavily on the monotonous groove that dominates the verses. It doesn’t build up enough tension to justify the overwrought release that comes with the chorus.
No, wait. Scratch that. Her woman power best, as “She’s Not Just a Pretty Face” is about the wide range of indispensable and often unexpected roles that adult women play in our society, whether it’s the astronaut or politician that all of us see from television, or the woman pumping gas at night to make ends meet. That woman was Twain’s mom, by the way, who is sweetly immortalized in song here.
I also particularly love the warm steel guitar and the fiddle runs that run throughout the song. It just works better as a country song than as a pop one.
This is Twain’s most recent solo single to reach the country top ten, and also her fifth and final Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain
You know that part of the concert where the artist tries to get some audience participation going?
We’re gonna give that a try here.
My original idea was to start a “Favorite Five” feature, where every week we’d ask a different question. Something like Favorite Five Songs by Artist X, Favorite Five Opening Album Tracks, Favorite Songs About Rain, etc.
Instead, I’m thinking we might be able to set a comment thread record if we turn it into a game.
Here’s how it works. Each commenter posts their Favorite Five in response to the commenter before them, then creates a new Favorite Five for the next person to answer. Try not to repeat categories too soon!
At an Iowa State Fair performance, he sang one of his latest songs, “We Don’t Apologize for America.” He followed the performance with this statement:
“We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate him.”
I don’t really care much what Hank Jr.’s politics are, and I don’t really care if he espouses his views from the stage. Obviously, the feelings of hate he projects on to the president and on this audience are a matter of opinion. I believe they are misguided and poorly supported opinions, at least regarding how the president feels about farming, the military, and the U.S., but they are opinions nonetheless.
In truth, his words are a fairly typical caricature of what a person on the left believes, made doubly unbelievable when describing a man who is actually the Commander in Chief of the military and has dedicated his life to public service. But I think only the most ideologically blinded person would believe otherwise anyway.
I want to talk about the factual error he makes in describing President Obama as a Muslim president, an oft-repeated lie that one must be completely misinformed and/or terminally naive to believe. Still, it’s not the factual error that’s bothering me. It’s the othering that is deeply embedded in it.
Frankly, I am sick and tired of “Muslims” and “lovers of America” being treated as mutually exclusive groups. It disgusts me to see the faith practiced by more than 2.5 million Americans as an epithet. I’m not even going to bother qualifying that statement by noting that there’s a good chance Hank Jr. has never met a Muslim person or is simply unaware about the actual tenets of the religion and the Americans who follow it.
I’m not going to bother because there is no excuse for being so ignorant. Not in the globalized world we live in. Not in the richly diverse country that we live in. Not when we have so many thousands of years of recorded history where dividing a nation’s population into “us” vs. “them” has resulted in so many horrific acts of violence, genocide, and oppression. Not when there are so many other marginalized groups that are dismissed, devalued, and degraded because they are “them” and not “us.”
From the Iowa State Fair stage on Friday night, Hank Williams Jr. made a blatant appeal to the most base and vile instinct that lurks in the darkest parts of us: “You are not like me. You do not believe what I believe. You are the enemy.”
I’m sure Hank would be quick to profess his deep and unwavering love for America. How tragic that he has so much contempt and vitriol for millions of his fellow Americans.
A comedic flair, a speech impediment, and a famous daughter have often overshadowed the fact that Mel Tillis is one of the finest songwriters and performers in the history of country music.
Tillis hailed from Tampa, Florida, and he discovered music at a young age, playing guitar and singing songs at local talent shows. Though he had a severe stutter from age three, the impediment disappeared when he sang. Tillis entered the military, and while stationed in Japan, formed a band called the Westerners. Once back stateside, he moved to Nashville to jump-start his songwriting career, alternating between Tennessee and Florida until the hits started coming in.
From 1957 to the end of the sixties, Tillis would record for major labels and score a handful of hits, but he had a far bigger impact as a songwriter. He wrote hits that are now standards, recorded by legends like Webb Pierce (“I Ain’t Never, “No Love Have I”), Bobby Bare (“Detroit City”), Ray Price (“Heart Over Mind”, “Burning Memories”) and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition (“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.”)
However, once the seventies arrived, Tillis became a major presence on country radio, scoring dozens of hits, many of which were his own recordings of his compositions that had been hits for other artists in the sixties. In 1976, he was named CMA’s Entertainer of the Year, the same year he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Tillis’ comedic talents made him an in-demand performer, and he was a fixture on both network and syndicated television shows during the peak years of his career. He also appeared in several movies, with Smokey and the Bandit II and Cannonball Run being the most successful.
As with many of his contemporaries, the hits slowed down in the eighties, even though other artists continued to score hits with his material, most notably Ricky Skaggs’ chart-topping recording of “Honey (Open That Door)” in 1984. He purchased radio stations that he later sold for a big profit, and he became one of the most popular draws in Branson, Missouri, where his theater was a cornerstone for tourist entertainment.
In recent years, Tillis has frequently collaborated with his daughter Pam Tillis, making appearances on her albums and co-headlining a popular Christmas show at Opryland. Tillis was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2007, and elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame that same year. In 2010, he released his first comedy album, You Ain’t Gonna Believe This…, on Show Dog Records.