Author Archives: Dan Milliken

Single Review: Eric Church, “Drink in My Hand”

This rocks – and, in its own way, countries – harder than anything else out there. Church navigates it with the ease of a NASCAR driver on a suburban highway, weaving and bobbing so charismatically that Luke, Blake and Dierks start to seem like uptight party-poopers by comparison. You believe him on multiple levels when he hollers that he’s “about to tear a new one in this old town.”

And yet, “Drink in My Hand” is also just a radio hit, no higher aspiration than to be a slightly cooler version of “All About Tonight.” And the secret’s out now: Church can do better. So wait a few months and check back in. In the meantime, let’s get him away from whoever approved “boss-man can shove that overtime up his can.” (Evidently, there’s such a thing as trying so hard to talk like the common man that you end up talking like no one.)

Written by Eric Church, Michael P. Heeney, Luke Laird

Grade: B-

Listen: Drink in My Hand

6 Comments

Filed under Single Reviews

Retro Single Review: George Strait, “You Look So Good in Love”

1983 | Peak: #1

The 80′s keyboard is like a cheese grater grating extra cheese onto the pizza that is “You Look So Good in Love.” To the modern ear, it imbues the song with an unintentional levity even before George gets to his third-verse recitation. Throw in the über-earnest chorus – not to mention the video – and the thing becomes just about impossible to take seriously.

And yet – screw you, who doesn’t love “You Look So Good in Love”? It’s one of those rare records you can sort of enjoy ironically and unironically at the same time, as the wimpy, dated production collides with Strait’s rich croon and one of the most singable melodies he’s ever found. Will it make anyone’s all-time list? No. Has every country fan over 25 sung the chorus to a shower head or steering wheel? “It’s easyyy to see.”

Written by Glen Ballard, Rory Michael Bourke and Kerry Chater

Grade: A-

 

 

7 Comments

Filed under Retro Single Reviews, Single Reviews

Single Review: Keith Urban, “Long Hot Summer”

The closest he’s come in two albums to capturing his old uptempo spark. Maybe that’s because he’s found his banjo again, and it pokes some much-needed holes in the thick layer of polish. Or maybe it’s because he dares to be a little lusty – “waiting on the sun to go down,” with his passion rising like (nice touch) a lake in heat.

Either way, it works, if in a disposable way. It could even function as a prequel to the melancholy “‘Til Summer Comes Around.” But Urban’s so revved up here that you hope not.

Written by Keith Urban and Richard Marx

Grade: B

Listen: Long Hot Summer

23 Comments

Filed under Single Reviews

Retro Single Review: Alan Jackson, “Don’t Rock the Jukebox”

That’s “don’t rock the jukebox” as in “I’m brokenhearted and that darn rock music won’t help. Play George Jones.” And the pun is that it sounds like he’s asking you not to jostle the machine. Which…people don’t commonly do, really. Kind of a stretch, right?

But it’s a record that defies explanation. Because Jackson perfectly inhabits the song’s affable weariness, and because Scott Hendricks and Keith Stegall arrange it to honky-tonk heaven. You end up believing that some boozed-up guy actually could be making this request – if, perhaps, mentally – and couching his hurt in a quirky half-joke, the way people often do when they’re first emerging from a lonely spell.

In sum, it’s like hearing a sunnier, contemporary Johnny Paycheck. Little surprise, then, that this odd duck took Jackson’s career to its rightful next level.

Written by Alan Jackson, Roger Murrah and Keith Stegall

Grade: A

Listen: Don’t Rock the Jukebox

5 Comments

Filed under Retro Single Reviews

Single Review: Miranda Lambert, “Baggage Claim”

A swing and a miss.

Give Lambert her usual credit for adventurousness: the production on this kiss-off number is rustic and snappy, like some lost 70′s folk-rock nugget. And “Baggage Claim” is an artist’s work, not an assembly-line knock-off; we certainly haven’t heard this central metaphor before.

But it’s not a clever enough metaphor to deliver the good dis it means to, nor is it silly enough to earn points for camp. It’s just kind of…lame.

Throw in a pinched vocal, and the thing just sounds like a throwaway ditty that no one was clear-eyed enough to throw away.

Grade: C

Listen: Baggage Claim

29 Comments

Filed under Single Reviews

Retro Single Review: Shania Twain, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?”

1995 | Peak: #11

It’s fun to imagine the looks on the radio DJs’ faces when they got this one in the mail. That pretty, weird-named lady whose records they’d brushed aside before,  now looking all bizarro-sexy in a red “executive jumpsuit” thing on the cover, and with that song title.

It was a smart introduction to the Shania-Mutt Lange machine, in retrospect. “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” has all the sugary hooks and goofy feminist pluck that would come to define the singer and producer’s joint legacy, but it still sounds more or less like a “normal” country song, an easy little addition to the mid-nineties radio format. Who’d have guessed that as soon the pair got their foot in the door, they’d take over the whole building?

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Shania Twain

Grade: A

Listen: Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?

5 Comments

Filed under Retro Single Reviews

Single Review: Pistol Annies, “Hell on Heels”

Oh, they think they’re soooo cool.

.

(They’re right.)

.

(But they do need new percussion.)

.

Grade: B

Listen: Hell on Heels

Buy:

8 Comments

Filed under Single Reviews

5 Five-Second Single Reviews: Trace Adkins, Jason Aldean, The Dirt Drifters, OCMS, Darius Rucker

Trace Adkins, “Just Fishin’” (Listen)

Written by Casey Beathard, Monty Criswell and Ed Hill

Wish this weren’t quite so heavy-handed about driving home the theme; a subtler approach could have made it a Strait-type classic. Still a nice, fresh idea, though.

Grade: B

Jason Aldean featuring Ludacris, “Dirt Road Anthem (Remix)” (Listen)

Written by Colt Ford and Brantley Gilbert

The jauntier rapping and production on Ludacris’ verse brings the track to life. They should have let him take over and just given Jason the choruses, a la Nelly/Tim’s “Over and Over.”

Grade: C+


The Dirt Drifters, “Always a Reason” (Listen)

Written by Ryan Fleener, Jeff Middleton and Justin Wilson

Their Springsteen is showing too much, but I still hope it’s a hit. Like “Something Better” before it, solid blue-collar bar rock.

Grade: B+

Old Crow Medicine Show, “Wagon Wheel”

Written by Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor

I’m confused. Are they actually releasing this oldie as a single? Wasn’t it already one? This is probably just some random promo thingy. In any case, still one of country music’s all-time great sing-alongs.

Grade: A+


Darius Rucker, “I Got Nothin’”

Written by Darius Rucker and Clay Mills

You got somethin’; you just ain’t usin’ it.

Grade: C

10 Comments

Filed under 5 Five-Second Single Reviews, Single Reviews

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 29

Today’s category is…

A Song That No One Would Expect You To Love.

Here are the staff picks:

Dan Milliken: “3 Peat” - Lil Wayne

My friends all think I’m a big wimp. They’re right. But I do like Wayne. (Though even in this case, I’m drawn to the vulnerability in the song more than the aggression.)

Tara Seetharam: “Disco Inferno” – 50 Cent

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of my friends in real life, but those in the blogosphere probably wouldn’t expect me to love 50 Cent as much as I do. I could list a handful of songs here, but this one is a blast.

Kevin Coyne: “Symphony No. 5″ – Beethoven

Best. Intro. Ever.

Leeann Ward: “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” – Jay-Z

I imagine this selection might successfully do the trick of surprising people, but I really do love this song.

21 Comments

Filed under The 30 Day Song Challenge

The 30 Day Song Challenge: Day 25

Today’s category is…

A Great Song That You Discovered After Everybody Else Already Heard It.

Here are the staff picks:

Dan Milliken: “Lord I Hope This Day is Good” – Don Williams

What can I say? I like to think I have a strong overview-type knowledge of country music, but I guess everyone’s got some inexplicable holes in their cultural patchwork. I’ve known of this classic by name for years and have listened through a fair amount of other Don Williams, but I’d never actually bothered to fire the song up until Leeann used it as her pick for one of these categories the other day. Good stuff, though.

Tara Seetharam: “Amen” – Edens Edge

This song was released months ago, but I just heard it for the first time on the radio the other week. There’s something about it – between the 90s-esque melody and the adorably written storyline – that totally hits my sweet spot.

Kevin Coyne: “Rolling in the Deep” – Adele

I don’t know how I missed this one, but in the last two weeks, I’ve played it more than all but seven songs on my iPod.

Leeann Ward: “Chasing Pavements” – Adele

Well, as indicated by their respective titles, her first album was recorded when she was 19 and her second album was released very recently at age 21, so it’s taken roughly 2 years for me to discover Adele, even though the rest of you have known about her for a while by now. Since I don’t live under a rock, I’ve of course heard her name, just not her music.

17 Comments

Filed under The 30 Day Song Challenge