Lee Brice’s current hit is quite possibly the best song he’s yet sent to radio – a compelling meditation on the process of dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one in death.
The point of the song is that each person has his or her own way of dealing with loss. In the case of our bereaved narrator – who the lyric implies has lost a brother in army combat – he deals with it through driving his brother’s truck. The song is filled with little details that add color to the story, from the half-empty bottle of Gatorade on the floor to his brother’s favorite country station playing on the radio. Though specific in nature, the scenario is relatable for any of us who have dealt with grief by surrounding ourselves with things that remind us of the one lost. A simple but delicately crafted story that draws out one of Brice’s most evocative vocal performances on record.
I hate to have to poke a stick at a single’s production for what feels like the hundredth time, but this song would have an even greater impact if given a more restrained arrangement. It’s a fine performance of a solid song, but the bass-heavy production in the chorus acts as an unfortunate distraction.
But in the end, the power of a great song prevails. Without a doubt, “I Drive Your Truck” is Lee Brice’s finest single to date.
Written by Lee Brice, Kyle Jacobs, and Matt McClure
she’s been making for two decades now, but the lead single from Sheryl Crow’s first full-fledged country album gets several things right.
“Easy” is a laid-back summer song that’s meant to go down… well… easy. Its aim is not to offer a deep compelling set of lyrics, but rather it’s mainly about creating the right feeling – channeling the ideal escapist vibe through the right set of hooks and melodies.
Crow herself describes “Easy” as “a song about ‘staycation’ — about staying home when you can’t afford to go to the Caribbean or wherever or on your yacht. And making your home feel like you’re getting away.” To that end, the smooth, lazy melody and tasteful production are a perfect fit. Crow’s delivery of the chorus conveys a subtle sense of excitement that quietly pulls the listener in, lending an organic feel to the track as a whole.
Unfortunately, Crow’s limited vocal range begins working against her as the song near its end, and her performance becomes shaky and strained as she reaches for notes that seem somewhat beyond her capabilities. It’s not quite enough to sink the record entirely, but it does give a rough, choppy ending to what is mostly smooth sailing up to that point.
Written by Sheryl Crow, Chris DuBois, and Jeff Trott
More noteworthy as a vocal showcase than as a lyrical composition.
“Ex-Old Man” singer Kirsten Kelly’s new single “He Loves to Make Me Cry” flies in the face of the country radio status quo with its smooth, bluesy arrangement. I genuinely have to give Kelly credit for stepping outside the box, and it is interesting to hear her show a bit more of her range and vocal texture than she did on her debut single.
But a great production alone does not a great record make. The lyrical concept of “He Loves to Make Me Cry” hinges its impact on the fact that tears can be a sign of joy and contentment instead of heartache, but fails to express that truth in a way that feels novel or revelatory. The fact that the lyrics aren’t sufficiently engaging causes Kelly’s belted-out delivery to come across as unnecessary and almost self-indulgent. Such a performance works only if the lyrical content warrants it, which in this case it doesn’t. After a while, her stretching out one-syllable words into three syllables just feels grating.
The single is, however, enough to keep me interested in Kelly’s music, as it demonstrates a willingness to be different which will
In just over half a decade, the now-24-year-old Texan Kacey Musgraves has gone from placing seventh on the 2007 season of Nashville Star and releasing a trio of independent albums to finally being granted some well-deserved mainstream exposure. It was beyond a pleasant surprise when her beautifully written, critically lauded debut single “Merry Go ‘Round” became an honest-to-goodness Top 10 hit at country radio – a format not known for being friendly to intelligent, honest women. Whether the industry will continue to support her remains to be seen, but Kacey Musgraves’ major label debut effort positions her as a ray of hope for country music at a time when such are very few – an artist who, if given the platform, just might have the potential to change country music for the better.
Appearing as a co-writer on every track along with a co-writer pool that consists of Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, and Luke Laird, Musgraves displays a songwriting voice characterized by clear-eyed insight and a tone of simple, plainspoken honesty. She neither preaches nor judges; she simply observes. ”Merry Go ‘Round” foreshadowed this trait quite accurately. On her debut hit, Musgraves mused on the human tendency to try to escape heartache through a variety of vices such as drug use or illicit sex, but noting that ultimately that “same hurt in every heart” still remains – each distraction is like a medicine that covers up the symptoms, but doesn’t cure the cold. On “Follow Your Arrow,” she sneers at small-town gossip while laying bare the futility of living to please others, noting that “You’re damned if you do; you’re damned if you don’t.” On the witty upcoming single “Blowin’ Smoke,” she takes on the voice of a working class woman who chats with her co-workers on a smoke break about plans to leave her current line of work in pursuit of bigger dreams, but admits that “We’re just blowin’ smoke.” The set is ripe with a strong sense of self-awareness that country radio has been sorely lacking for years now.
Musgraves clearly understands the value of escapism in country music, as evidenced by songs like opening track “Silver Lining,” in which she makes creative use of familiar metaphors to illustrate the point that if one wants good things to happen, one must accept the bad things that come along with it. ”My House” is a delightful ode to life on a house with four wheels, and to having someone with which to share it. ”Any place beside you is the place that I call home,” Musgraves sings, backed by a charming harmonica-laced arrangement. Every bit as enjoyable is the witty “Step Off,” which plays like a Jason Mraz song with a banjo.
But oh, how rewarding it is when Musgraves channels pure vulnerability – a gift that finds its fullest expression in the pleading ballad “Keep It to Yourself,” in which Musgraves begs a former lover to let her move on, the lyric anchored by a melody that pierces deeply. And while “It Is What It Is” has been nicknamed The Slut Song, such a moniker says nothing of the raw desperation that Musgraves conveys through her quivering performance.
Same Trailer Different Park sets itself apart from the pack by honoring genre traditions while slyly subverting modern conventions. For a genre that takes pride in being the realm of “real” music, Kacey Musgraves is
one of precious few mainstream country artists to actually live up to that ideal, and for country radio programmers to let her slip through their fingers now would be an awful shame. To call Same Trailer Different Park one of the year’s best mainstream country albums would not do it justice – it’s one of the year’s best albums period.
Top Tracks: “Merry Go ‘Round,” “Keep It to Yourself,” “Follow Your Arrow”
On first listen, the Pistol Annies’ new single “Hush Hush” immediately stands out as being their hardest rocking release to date. It sounds more like something one might expect to hear on one of Miranda Lambert’s solo albums than the Annies’ traditional-leaning debut. It seems the Annies are getting a harder radio push this time around – definitely a good thing since country radio has been largely in want of a good girl group for the past ten years.
The production may be a bit more polished, but the song’s sentiment is anything but glossed-over. ”Hush Hush” offers a darkly comic look at the volatile holiday gatherings of a dysfunctional family, while also slyly winking at every family’s need to sweep dirty secrets under the rug and put their best foot forward. “Hide your tattoo, put on your Sunday best, pretend you’re not a mess, be the happy family in the front pew,” the three Annies sing during the song’s closing bridge.
Though something of a sonic departure for the Pistol Annies, “Hush Hush” does not get away from the characteristics that made them an outstanding group in the first place,
nor does it forsake its identity as a country record with an arrangement that simultaneously rocks and twangs. ”Hush Hush” is smart, self-aware, packed with personality, and best of all, it turns widely-relatable frustrations into a reason to chuckle. At a time in which many country hits take place in an imaginary backwoods utopia, the Pistol Annies here serve up another welcome slice of reality.
Written by Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley
There’s certainly no false advertising going on here, though it would still be easy to guess what we were getting even if the song title didn’t make it so plainly obvious.
I almost wonder if each new Currington single release is determined by the flip of a coin. Heads – release a beer drinking song; tails – release a sexy come-on love song. Apparently this time it landed on tails.
“Hey Girl” has some infectious guitar work going for it, but it’s not enough to elevate the song beyond what it is – regular dime-a-dozen radio filler with a total lack of a lyrical hook.
Country music lost one of its legendary talents today with the passing of Jack Greene, who succumbed to complications from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 83.
Affectionately nicknamed the “Jolly Green Giant” for his lofty stature, Jack Greene was one of country music’s biggest stars in the late sixties and early seventies, remembered for his classic hits such as “There Goes My Everything” and “Statue of a Fool.” At the very first CMA Awards ceremony in 1967, Jack Greene was one of the biggest winners of the night, winning Male Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year for “There Goes My Everything,” and Album of the Year for his LP of the same name. He had been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1967, and was a regular presence on the show up until his retirement in 2011.
“I can’t tell you where I’m bound/ Maybe I’m just spinning round and round…. And there may come a day when I have nothing left to say,” sings Gretchen Wilson on her new single “Still Rollin’.” Such words feel unfortunately indicative of the level of creativity the song displays.
Everything about “Still Rollin’” is forgettable. The production sounds like a karaoke track. The melody has scarcely any rise and fall to it, and the cliché-filled lyrics plod in circles with no discernible point. The song centers around a mediocre non-hook (“I keep on rolliiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnn’…”) that only makes it grating instead of memorable.
But the main thing that sinks the song is the vocal. When Wilson sings with the right amount of bite and sass, it can make even a “Redneck Woman” rehash like “Work Hard, Play Harder” enjoyable. That quality is entirely absent here, and her delivery instead comes across as dull and dispassionate.
How am I supposed to care about the new Gretchen Wilson song if
Me You,” instead going for a light R&B groove with a synthesized hand clap. (It’s anybody’s guess when we’ll see the return of the fiddler and steel guitarist who have been seemingly M.I.A. since circa 2009.) To the single’s credit, this particular sonic backdrop affords some much-needed breathing room for Shelton’s vocals, the quality of which have generally remained consistent even when the song quality hasn’t.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite enough to overcome the heavy air of complacency that hangs over the song itself. It’s evident in the irritating little cliché phrases that keep popping up throughout the song, as well as in tacky rhyme schemes like “Now you’re standing in the neon looking like a high I want to be on,” and in self-impressed pickup lines like “You can’t shoot me down ’cause you’ve already knocked me dead.” The plodding verses create a bar meeting scenario that lacks any first-person details more memorable than a “pretty pink lemonade shooter” as Shelton’s narrator romances a nameless, faceless female. The chorus has an enjoyable melody, but the title hook reeks of stale, forced cleverness.
The single offers neither any substantial listener reward nor a compelling reason to hit the replay button, serving little discernible purpose except to hold Blake Shelton’s slot on country radio while he sees to his judging gig on The Voice. For a reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year, it’s a terrible shame that the music itself is not far more satisfying, and hasn’t been for a long time now.
Written by Rodney Clawson, Chris Tompkins, and Jimmy Robbins
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the tragic plane crash that claimed the lives of Opry stars Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, pilot Randy Hughes, and most famously, the now-iconic Patsy Cline.
Several events have been held to commemorate the tragedy, including a recent Country Music Hall of Fame panel discussion as well as the “Gone, But Not Forgotten” music festival that was held March 2 in Camden, Tennessee (the town in which the crash site is located). The anniversary has also been the subject of some fine articles that are well worth reading, such as this piece
Today seems like a particularly appropriate time to revisit the music of the three stars who perished that night, all of whom left behind strong musical legacies whose value has not diminished with time.
Embedded below is a video that features Patsy Cline singing her classic “Leavin’ On Your Mind,” the final single she released before her death, after which she had a pair of posthumous classic hits with “Sweet Dreams” and “Faded Love.”