Posts Tagged ‘Craig Wiseman’

Album Review: Blake Shelton, Based On a True Story…

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Blake-Shelton-based-on-a-true-story

Blake Shelton
Based On a True Story…

stars-112.gif

Bear in mind that Blake Shelton isn’t just another country singer.  He is the reigning Male Vocalist of the Year for both the ACM and CMA Awards, as well as the CMA Entertainer of the Year.  Due to his position as a judge on “The Voice,” he is one of the most recognizable country stars around.  Therefore, his new album Based on a True Story… isn’t just another album release.  It’s an event.  It’s a highly anticipated occasion.  So how does Shelton kick off this record?

Backwoods, legit, don’t take no s***
Chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit.

Those words of wisdom come from “Boys ‘Round Here,” the opening track and one of the worst country songs of recent memory, even by the relative low standards of country-rap.  Sexist, crude and jam-packed with country stereotypes, it’s an embarrassment to everyone involved, including Shelton, the songwriters (Rhett Akins, Dallas Davidson and Craig Wiseman) the Pistol Annies who sing background vocals and even the guy who says “red red red red red red red red redneck.”

That’s the low-water mark for the album, though it’s certainly a harbinger for what comes after.  For all the references to country songs and country living scattered throughout, it’s largely pop music, with some R&B and adult contemporary elements thrown in the mix.  In other words, it’s an ideal country album for people who like Shelton as a famous personality but don’t really care for country music.  The two most traditional-sounding songs (as well as two of the best songs) are available in the download- only deluxe version, so anyone who wants to avoid anything sounding like actual country music can easily do so.

There are plenty of other country singers who are employing pop sounds to reach a wider audience, so Shelton isn’t alone in that regard.  The problem with True Story is that the songs are so pedestrian and unmemorable. “Sure Be Cool if You Did” and “My Eyes” are essentially the same song about picking up a woman, though at least the cheesy pickup lines are different. “Small Town Big Time” is essentially the same song as half of Jason Aldean’s back catalog – the bad half – with some Auto-Tuned verses thrown in for

good measure.

“Country on the Radio” deserves special mention because it attempts to justify all of the hokey, redneck-centric songs that have clogged up the country charts for the last few years.  Why are they all about dirt roads, pretty girls on tailgates and homemade wine?  Because that’s how country folks roll, of course.  That’s not exactly a compliment – country songs are so simplistic and shallow because country people really are that simplistic and shallow.

“I Still Got a Finger” is one of the few instances where the feisty Blake Shelton of old – before he became famous outside of country music circles – makes an appearance.  Still, it has the feel of being forced, as if it was made to highlight Shelton’s smartass, uncensored Twitter personality without being too rude for a large audience.

“Grandaddy’s Gun,” written by Atkins, Davidson, and Bobby Pinson, is one of the highlights of True Story.  Without pushing one side of the gun control debate like an Aaron Lewis or Charlie Daniels would do, Shelton sings about the sentimental value of an old battered shotgun and demonstrates that he is still an outstanding country singer when he wants to be.  He does the same on “Mine Would Be You” from the dependable Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington and Deric Ruttan.

Shelton infamously said in his “old farts and jackasses” interview that kids don’t want to listen to their grandpa’s music and that country music has to evolve in order to survive.  If that’s true, then this is the evolution of country music. It’s slick and mainstream-friendly, with Top 40 appeal.  It features pop songs about how wonderful country living is. It’s occasionally raucous, but not enough to offend a focus group. It has some traditional country elements, but those are on album tracks that can easily be skipped over or not downloaded. If you happen to remember the great Blake Shelton songs like “Ol’ Red” and “Austin,” you’re clearly too old for this new country music.

Retro Single Review: Tim McGraw, "The Cowboy in Me"

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

2001 | Peak: #1

I don’t get it.

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

Grade: B

Next: Unbroken

Previous: Angry all the Time

Retro Single Review: Tim McGraw, “Where the Green Grass Grows”

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

1998 | Peak: #1

Getting tired of the outstanding Tim McGraw reviews?

Then go read about Emotional Traffic.   Fact is, Everywhere-era McGraw was as close to perfection as radio-friendly country music gets.

“Where the Green Grass Grows” is tightly produced, with an instantly recognizable opening fiddle.   The urban burdens and backporch fantasies aren’t just cleverly constructed.  They’re also brilliantly contrasted.

My personal favorite?  Comparing the idyllic corn popping up in rows to the “supper from a sack – 99 cent heart attack.”    But the entire song is chock full of imagery like that, funny and poignant and a little sad.   All the stuff that great country music is supposed to be.

Written by Jess Leary and Craig Wiseman

Grade: A

Next:  For a Little While

Previous: One of These Days

 

Retro Single Review: Tim McGraw, “Everywhere”

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

1997 | Peak: #1

The moment where Tim McGraw discovers subtlety and finds it suits him quite well.

“Everywhere” is the title track from the album that established McGraw as a credible artist, and its release was demanded by radio, which gave it considerably heavy airplay as an album cut.

The song tells the tale of a man who is haunted by the memory of the girl he’s left behind in his small town to chase his dreams of a life outside the narrow parameters that surrounded them.

McGraw’s understated delivery packs the song with such emotional heft that the unresolved sadness lingers after the song has ended.  It’s a masterful performance that, along with its charming predecessor “It’s Your Love”, notes the beginning of McGraw’s golden era.

Written by Mike Reid and Craig Wiseman

Grade: A

Next: Just to See You Smile

Previous: It’s Your Love (with Faith Hill)

 

Writers

Latest Comments

Most Popular

Worth Reading

View Older Posts