Archive for the ‘Single Reviews’ Category

Single Review: Eli Young Band, “Dust”

Tuesday, January 21st, 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”

Tuesday, January 21st, 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”

Monday, January 20th, 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”

Monday, January 20th, 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-

 

Single Review: Lady Antebellum, “Compass”

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Lady Antebellum CompassA lot of country music lovers want to claim Mumford & Sons and Philip Phillips as their own.

There’s a joy, a rootsiness, and killer musicianship in the best records of those acts, despite them not being what we’d traditionally consider country artists.   Lady Antebellum has never had much connection to what’s historically been considered country music, either.   So it’s not entirely surprising that their path from pure, glossy pop to a more grounded, earthy sound, still takes its cues from the top forty music scene.

I give them credit for stretching themselves a bit on “Compass”, though you can certainly hear the strain it’s taking for them to do so.  Their approach to harmonization doesn’t quite fit with the sound of the record.  To use the Dixie Chicks as an illustration, they’re using Taking the Long Way harmonies against a Home musical backdrop.

They need to go back and study the three-part harmonies on the latter album if they want to continue in this direction.  It’s too much of a hodgepodge right now to work.

Written by Mikkel Eriksen, Ross Golan, Emile Haynie, Tor Erik Hemransen, Ammar Malik, and Daniel Omelio

Grade: C

Single Review: Jon Pardi, “Up all Night”

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Jon Pardi Up all NightStop me if you’ve heard this one.

It’s been a long week, girl.  It’s time to let loose.  Let’s get together everything we need, and take a dirt road out into the country.  Don’t forget your flip-flops, and don’t worry, we’re going to be all alone.   Hope there’s a great song on the radio.  Maybe a nice sunset, too.

Pardi has the most nasal twang I’ve heard in a good long while.   I look forward to hearing him sing about something else.

Written by Brett Beavers, Bart Butler, and Jon Pardi

Grade: C

Single Review: Darius Rucker, “Radio”

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

220px-RadioDariusRuckerDarius Rucker celebrates the radio with his current hit, simply titled “Radio.”

It’s tolerable enough, more tastefully produced than your average country radio hit, but it never quite overcomes the fact that its territory is one that other artists have covered much better in the past. (Exhibits A, B, C) The lyrics fail to rise above rote scenes of a nameless, faceless narrator driving down the highway with his nameless, faceless friends, and parking his truck beneath the stars to get cozy with his nameless, faceless girlfriend. The whole of the song is weighed down by a general sense of non-distinction, reflected in its generic one-word title.

Unfortunately, the dynamics aren’t strong enough to compensate. The melody is dull and lifeless, and Rucker’s performance is forgettable. The end result is a song that might not be bad enough to be an immediate station-changer, but nor is there anything here that would inspire me to ‘turn it up, turn it up to 10…’

Written by Darius Rucker, Luke Laird and Ashley Gorley

Grade: C+

Single Review: Cole Swindell, “Chillin’ It”

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Cole Swindell Chillin' ItHere’s the dilemma.

Cole Swindell has turned in an excellent record by many measurable standards.  It’s well-paced, he’s got some charisma behind the mic, it’s identifiably country, and intelligently structured.  Any song these days that has a clear beginning, middle, and end, and also manages to get it all done in under four minutes, feels like manna from heaven.

But all of this is in service to the most played-out, increasingly insufferable, and remarkably unnecessary country song concept: guy and girl hanging out in the country,  love and liquor in tow.

It’s a bit like an exquisite painting of dogs playing poker.  Great technique, ridiculous subject.

Written by Shane Minor and Cole Swindell

Grade: B-

 

Single Review: Keith Urban, “Cop Car”

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Keith Urban Cop CarOne hallmark of a great singer is the ability to suspend the listener’s disbelief.

The storyline of “Cop Car” is very far-fetched, one of those Nashville compositions that takes fantastical lengths to try and tell the story of a young couple falling in love.   In this case, they’re doing so right after being arrested for trespassing, while in handcuffs in the back seat of a police car.

Keith Urban’s heartfelt delivery and careful choice of what lines to emphasize keep the proceedings grounded.  He’s so effective at capturing the feeling of falling in love that the specifics of the event surrounding the moment are appropriately secondary to the emotions at play.

I don’t believe the story, but I believe him.

Written by Zach Crowell, Sam Hunt, and Matt Jenkins

Grade: B+

Single Review: David Nail, “Whatever She’s Got”

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

David Nail Whatever She's GotIs “Whatever She’s Got” really just David Nail doing whatever he’s got to do to stay in the game?

Nail is one of the most distinctive and substantive new voices to emerge in recent years, especially among the crop of younger male artists.  He’s had more false starts than most, going through two labels in eleven years and having moderate to major hits, but not building up enough momentum to string a few together.

“Whatever She’s Got” is certainly his biggest hit to date, as it’s his first to reach gold status.   It’s so beneath his talent, though.  As generic as they come, it’s hard to believe it’s being sung by the voice behind “The Sound of a Million Dreams.”

But it’s working for him, I guess, and his upcoming album has a Brandy Clark co-write and a duet with Lee Ann Womack.   Here’s hoping that “Whatever She’s Got” gets him a good enough foot in the door that he can actually walk through it this time, and sneak some material worthy of this talent in with him.

Written by Jon Nite and Jimmy Robbins

Grade: C

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