Single Review: Sam Hunt, “Leave the Night On”

Sam Hunt Leave the Night On

“Leave the Night On”
Sam Hunt

Written by Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne

I feel like I’ve heard this song so many times before that the artist has to work extra hard just to even keep my attention.

Sam Hunt works pretty hard to do that.  Not as a vocalist, mind you.  But as a songwriter, which is what’s put him on the map in the first place.

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100 Greatest Men: #24. The Statler Brothers

The Statler Brothers100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

In 2008, the Statler Brothers were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.   Five members of the quartet were inducted, a tribute to their status as one of the few groups in recorded music to achieve legendary success both before and after a high-profile lineup change.

The Statler Brothers got their name from a tissue box, though two of them – Harold and Don Reid – were actually brothers.  First performing as the Kingsmen, hey started as a church singing group in Staunton, Virginia. Harold initially performed as part of a trio with Phil Balsley and Lew DeWitt, and Don joined later on, making them a quartet.   They opened a local show for Johnny Cash, who was so impressed that he invited them to join his traveling show and helped them score a contract with Columbia Records.

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100 Greatest Men: #25. Tom T. Hall

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Tom T HallTom T. Hall is known as the Storyteller, a fitting title for a man whose ability to spin a musical yarn led to some of the greatest country story songs of all-time, many of which he sang himself.

His childhood set the stage for a career in music.  His father gave him a guitar when he was eight, and he learned music from his hometown neighbor Clayton Delaney, later the subject of Hall’s longest-running #1 single.  His mother died when he was just 11, and when a hunting accident four years later made it impossible for his father to work, Hall joined the workforce of a garment factory at age 15.

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Single Review: Blake Shelton featuring Gwen Sebastian, “My Eyes”

Blake Shelton My Eyes

“My Eyes”

Blake Shelton featuring Gwen Sebastian

Written by Andrew Dorff, Tommy Lee James, and Josh Osborne

Is a play on words really that romantic?  I can imagine being asked, “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” getting an icebreaking laugh, for sure.

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Single Review: Hunter Hayes, “Tattoo”

Hunter Hayes TattooI want to preface this by saying, as I’ve said before, that Hunter Hayes is tremendously talented.

“Tattoo” is further evidence that he can assemble all of the necessary components for an entertaining record, and I guess it is a pretty entertaining record.

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Single Review: Kenny Chesney, “American Kids”

Kenny Chesney American KidsIf you’re going to keep revisiting the same themes, you might as well take some risks with your delivery.

Kenny Chesney’s new single sounds fresher and more engaging than anything he’s done in a very long time.  It’s easy to miss that he’s singing about what he always sings about: nostalgia for growing up in the country with American rock as the soundtrack.

 

What makes “American Kids” work more than a lot his attempts with this theme is that sounds like he learned something listening to those Mellencamp and Springsteen records.  This record oozes charm and mature authority, like he’s finally lived long enough to look back and say, “Hey. We were kinda crazy back then.  But we all turned out alright in the end.”

Written by Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird, and Shane McAnally

Grade: B+

 

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Single Review: Kacey Musgraves, “The Trailer Song”

Kacey Musgraves the Trailer SongA new Kacey Musgraves track with co-writes from Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally is not a bad way to start your day.

“The Trailer Song” has been a live staple for Musgraves, and it sounds like a lost cut from her Grammy-winning album.  It’s a humorous song, but it’s neither satire nor novelty. Continue reading

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Country Universe Talks with James House

James HouseEngland swings, or at least it did back in Roger Miller’s day. Nowadays, England is more likely to line dance, which helped an album from one of Nashville’s top singer-songwriters become a hit – almost 20 years after it was released.

To back up a bit: in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, country music was in a creative boom era, and James House was one of the reasons. His two albums on MCA Records (James House, Hard Times for An Honest Man) and one for Epic (Days Gone By) are all top-quality affairs that featured his distinctive voice and excellent songwriting chops. While he only had one Top 10 hit — “This Is Me Missing You” — he garnered airplay with several singles. House’s real success, though, came as a songwriter, as he penned hits for the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Martina McBride and other artists.

Those three albums really deserved a wider audience, and even today, they are well worth acquiring should you ever stumble across a copy. Days Gone By, though, ended up enjoying a renaissance in England last year, where it spawned three hit singles and coaxed House back into the recording studio for a new album and an overseas tour. Not bad for an album that was released in 1995.

“The way this all got started is that country line dance and line dancing in general is generated by the choreographers,” House says. “A choreographer there by the name of Yvonne Anderson had my records for a long, long time. She said that something happened in her life, and she was listening to “This Is Me Missing You,” and something struck her to make a line dance for it.”

The dance and the song took off, and it was soon followed by“Little by Little” and “A Good Way to Wind Up Lonesome,” also from the Days Gone By album. By July 2013, House was a major hitmaker in England. He didn’t find out about it until November.

“A fan said, ‘Do you realize that “This Is Me Missing You” is #1 on the Country Dance charts?’” he recalls. “My immediate reaction was, ‘Great, who cut it?’ and the e-mail came back that said, ‘No, it’s your actual record.’”

House had toured England as an opening act for Randy Travis in the early ‘90s, and that was his only substantial time there as a country singer. After doing a little research and talking to the magazine that ran the charts, he began putting feelers out for a trip overseas for a promotional tour. That quickly snowballed into a full-fledged tour of England, with 19 shows in July and August that are sold out or are quickly approaching that level.

House also decided to put together a new album. Broken Glass Twisted Steel, released April 29, is his first solo release on his own record label, Victor House Records. Earlier this year, he released a blues-rock record for the Troubador Kings, a side project where he sings and plays lead guitar.

Broken Glass makes for a pretty comprehensive James House primer. Three of the 11 tracks are his versions of #1 hits he wrote: “In a Week or Two” by Diamond Rio, “Ain’t That Lonely Yet” by Yoakam, and “A Broken Wing” by McBride.

“Then there was a song, “Here’s to You,” that I cut in 1990, and I never felt like I nailed it,” he adds. “So I recut that and was really happy with how that came out. The rest is new stuff.”

“King of Nothing” was something that he had written with the Warren Brothers in the late ‘90s and sang live for years. He recorded that song on the advice of his wife. The rest of the album came together after pouring through his catalog for songs he liked. The first single, “Every Time It Rains,” was rediscovered in the process.

“I wrote it about six or eight months ago with Michael Bradford, who played bass and co-produced the record with me. I had forgotten all about it,” House says. “I had never turned it into my publisher for some reason. I probably just demoed it and stuck it in a drawer somewhere. When we recorded it, it just had that feel that it might want to be played over and over. Hopefully everybody will feel the same about it.”

Despite the 20-year gap in House’s recording career (he has recorded new music periodically), Broken Glass fits in quite nicely with his previous work. His earlier albums never tried to keep up with the production trends of the era, which is probably why don’t sound dated today. Broken Glass is unmistakably country, albeit with a rock edge, and House’s new songs aren’t limited to the typical topics found in today’s country music.

“I was thinking about the album and how there are no trucks on it,” House says. “Love songs to me are timeless, and there are people doing pickup truck songs so much better than me.

Besides, “I like muscle cars, so if I’m going to write about a car, it’s going to be a Chevy Malibu or something,” he adds.

House’s upcoming tour through England appears to be just the start of a busy time for him. He’s working on a U.S. tour now, and he recently made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he says of his touring plans. “I’m getting e-mails all the time from the promoter saying that shows have sold out. It’s a blessing to have this much excitement about it. And at this stage to have it happen, I’m grateful.”

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Album Review: Dolly Parton, Blue Smoke

Dolly Parton Blue Smoke

Dolly Parton
Blue Smoke
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A big step up from her last few projects, Dolly Parton’s Blue Smoke is her most balanced album since Backwoods Barbie.   While it lacks cohesion due to so many different styles being used, there’s a solid entry from every kind of Dolly – country Dolly, pop Dolly, mountain Dolly, gospel Dolly, duet-with-fellow-legend Dolly.   While it isn’t likely to be anyone’s favorite Dolly Parton album because of this, it’s also unlikely that any fan of hers won’t find something here that reminds them of why they became a fan in the first place.

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Album Review: Miranda Lambert, Platinum

Miranda Lambert Platinum

Miranda Lambert
Platinum

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Miranda Lambert’s life experience has caught up with her talent.

Platinum is a confident, intelligent record that weaves the themes of nostalgia, femininity, and celebrity together over sixteen tracks.  It’s a cohesive set, with lead single “Automatic” making much more sense in the context of the full album.  It’s also remarkably, defiantly country, which shows more of a rock-and-roll attitude these days than rocking out does.

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