Tag Archives: Steve Azar

Bushel o’ Belated Single Reviews

Sometimes – most of the time – I fall behind on my planned CU work and wind up with a backlog of opinions. And it can be so mentally taxing carrying all that around, you know? Gotta clean out the file sometime. So if you happen to be feeling nostalgic for, oh, five months ago, please join me in considering a bunch of singles which came out around then and pretending like they’re brand-new.

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Rodney Atkins, “Farmer’s Daughter”

A warm production, likable vocal by Atkins. I just can’t bring myself to care about the story. Nothing about it feels urgent or revelatory.  Grade: C

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yt5m2qYdD1A

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Steve Azar, “Sunshine”

How this has crept up to become his first Top 30 single in eight years is beyond me, since it’s about as exciting as a dreamless nap. A true “sleeper hit,” yuk yuk. Oh! And does it not totally sound like that “Ooohhh, but I feel it” song from the 90′s? Anyway, a pleasant enough listen if you’re in the mood for it.  Grade: C+

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SouBO6wov14

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The Band Perry, “If I Die Young”

It sounds like what would happen if Taylor Swift listened to one Caroline Herring track – just one – and decided to come up with her own version. I mean that in a good way, mostly. Kimberly Perry has written and performed a very pretty-sounding record here, gratuitous “uh oh”s aside, and and Republic Nashville should be commended for releasing something with such ambitious subject matter as a second single.

I just wish the song itself had undergone some more revision first. The pieces are set for a sweet, eloquent hypothetical about premature death, but then that third verse comes and it sounds like she’s actually anticipating her demise and has an agenda for it. It’s muddling.

So, not the home run it could have been. But still an admirable effort.  Grade: B-

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NJqUN9TClM&ob=av2e

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Laura Bell Bundy, “Drop on By”

It looks like this single has already fallen off the radar, which is a big shame. Bundy’s controlled performance demonstrates why she’s among the most promising new acts out there, and the song is a sweet sip of lounge-y countrypolitan.

What’s missing is a great hook. “Drop on By” is a kind of a ho-hum central phrase, and it isn’t matched with a memorable enough melody here to make it really stick. Then again, the tracks on Bundy’s album that do have good hooks (“Cigarette”, “If You Want My Love”) won’t fit radio anyway because they’re too sharp and unique. The gal can’t win.  Grade: B

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb9T8Jcjmo0&ob=av2e

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Eric Church, “Smoke a Little Smoke”

For a number of reasons – the biggest of which was “Love Your Love the Most” dancing on my gag reflex, but there were others – I passed altogether on listening to his sophomore album, and ignored this single’s existence for a good while.

Now I’ve heard it, though, and damn it, I can’t go back. This ode to substance-fueled escapism may be the most daring country single of the year, even without the “stash” reference in the album version. The record actually sounds like a weird high, with snaky acoustic guitars, jarring electrics, and creepy-cool effects on the vocals, yet it never sacrifices accessibility in pursuit of its aesthetic. It ain’t a country sound (check those Collective Soul-aping “yeah”s), but it’s serving a very country theme, and for once, Church’s frat-boy cockiness actually works.  Grade: A-

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bh3Rb3xBeU0

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Easton Corbin, “Roll With It”

More lightweight, breezy Strait-gazing. The chorus has a bit of an awkward meter, but I’ll deal. In earlier days, this might have been a bit boring compared to its company at radio. Today, it’s just refreshing.  Grade: B

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ5sVKhynj0

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Randy Montana, “Ain’t Much Left of Lovin’ You”

Don’t care for this guy’s name – sounds like a rodeo emcee’s or something – but what a cool-sounding debut single. Mournful guitar licks, propulsive beat, appealingly gritty vocal. If only the melody were as confident throughout as it is in the second half of the chorus (“The heaven we had / The hell that I’m going through / Other than that / There ain’t much left of lovin’ you”). Still, not too shabby.  Grade: B+

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Justin Moore, “How I Got to Be This Way”

Strike three. Moore seems to have potential, and I don’t mean to pick on him or his writers, but his output since “Back That Thing Up” represents everything I don’t like about mainstream country today. This is loud, one-dimensional, and worst of all, uninteresting.  Grade: D

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYdlUP91ohQ

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David Nail, “Turning Home”

I’ll say this for David Nail: he’s ambitious. Though his first two singles didn’t win me over, I found something bold to admire in each. “I’m About to Come Alive” cast him as a co-dependent loser – not exactly flattering – while “Red Light” aimed for psychological depth with its focus on the mundane nature of break-ups. Both were refreshingly moody for country radio, and both could have made great breakthrough hits were the songs themselves a bit more compelling.

From a compositional standpoint, “Turning Home” isn’t actually as risky or complex as those forerunners; in fact, it’s very much your typical nostalgic Kenny Chesney co-write. But it’s crisp and coherent enough to give Nail some interpretive room, and he reaches for the stars, delivering an emotional, octave-sweeping performance that goes a long way toward breathing new life into the well-trod themes.

He unfortunately has to do battle with a screechy electric guitar that surfaces in the instrumental break, and there’s no denying that this single owes much more to Elton John or Gavin DeGraw-type artists than it does to anyone in the realm of traditional country. Nevertheless, Nail’s ambition was well-spent here.  Grade: A-

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPmjri35cBM&ob=av2e

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Josh Thompson, “Way Out Here”

His “Beer on the Table” was enjoyable, if a bit derivative-sounding, but I’ll pass on this one. It’s pretty much a less friendly, slightly wittier version of “Small Town U.S.A.”, of which I was never a fan in the first place.  Grade: D+

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0sYnro_3Rc

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Best Country Singles of 2009, Part 1: #40-#21

Here’s hoping you haven’t gotten completely burned out on countdowns yet. 2009 was hardly a favorite musical year for many of us, but amid each year’s glut of throwaway items, there’s always a good’un or two (or forty). The following is the first installment of our Best Singles of 2009 list, which will conclude tomorrow morning. Best Albums will follow next week.

As with the Singles of the Decade feature, this countdown has been compiled through combination of four equally weighed Top 20 lists by Kevin, Leeann, Tara and myself. An inverted point system was applied to the individual rankings (#1 on a list meant 20 points, while #20 on the list meant 1 point). The songs were then ranked together by number of total points, greatest to least. The final result is another rather stylistically diverse set.

As always, we hope you enjoy the countdown, and welcome all the feedback you can muster. Happy New Year!

#40

Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”

The trio puts a country spin on an old school pop sound, but without forsaking raw emotion. The highlight of the song is Hillary Scott’s smoky performance, which draws out all the anguish and regret you’d expect from a desperate, 1 AM lover’s call. – Tara Seetharam

#39

Joey + Rory, “Play the Song”

While Joey + Rory’s image appears to be squeaky-clean, it is fascinating that their songs have displayed some of the most attitude in the mainstream country music world. After releasing the sassy “Cheater, Cheater”, they have appealed to radio (the very people holding part of the duo’s career in their hands) to stop limiting their playlists with safe choices and to just “play the song.” – Leeann Ward Continue reading

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Steve Azar, "Moo La Moo"

I can only assume that this song is titled “Moo La Moo” to avoid being confused with the old Billy Hill hit “Too Much Month at the End of the Money.” It's a shame that choice was made, since “Too Much Month…” is the hook of the song and an eye-catching title to boot.

It would be even more of a shame for this song to be overlooked. Easily the strongest release of Azar's career, it perfectly captures an experience that countless Americans can relate to: living paycheck to paycheck.

That it manages to do so with dark humor instead of somber commentary is refreshing. It's a lot closer in spirit to “9 to 5″ and “Busted” than it is to “If We Make it Through December.”

He sings, “I don't know why I'm laughing 'cause it sure ain't funny,” but it's hard not to crack a smile at the lyrical wordplay throughout the song.  “My checks ain't bouncing but they sure is shaking. I ain't broke yet but I sure am breaking. My BLT's just waitin' on the bacon.”

It would be so easy to wince at the fully relatable truth of those lines if they weren't so darn funny in the first place.

Written by Steve Azar, Jim Femino and A.J. Masters

Grade: A

Listen: generic viagra online

/wm.allaccess.com/allaccess/stevmool.wma”>Moo La Moo


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