Todd Snider

Single Review: Jack Ingram, “Barbie Doll”

May 31, 2010 // 8 Comments

Country, blues and rock ‘n’ roll – mostly the lattter two – combine for a hearty serving of frat boy fun on Jack Ingram’s latest single. “Barbie Doll” has been a fan favorite since its initial release on Ingram’s 1999 set Hey You, but this latest iteration boasts a driving arrangement that may finally get the track on mainstream radio.

The song marries Ingram’s straightforward hook sense to Todd Snider’s rambling barroom-sage style, wringing as much talk as it can out of a pretty slight premise (“dude, that girl you’re checking out is a total B-word”) and culminating in a big group shout-a-long.

Best Country Albums of 2009, Part 2: #10-#1

January 15, 2010 // 49 Comments

Round 2 – FIGHT!


#10
Play On
Carrie Underwood

World: meet Underwood. She’s fiercely compassionate and endearingly idealistic (the riveting “Change”). She holds her beliefs with a firm but quiet conviction (“Temporary Home”). She’s as comfortable and convincing at tearing down a wrong-doer (the Dixie Chicks-esque “Songs Like This”) as she is nursing an irreparable heartache, whether it’s in the form of a haunting country standard (“Someday When I Stop Loving You”) or a rich pop ballad (“What Can I Say?”). And she’s one of the most gifted vocalists of this generation, possessing an instrument that, when colored and layered with emotion as she’s aptly learned to do on Play On, can have bone-chilling effects.

Like it or leave it, Play On is the most authentic encapsulation of Underwood’s artistry and persona to date, and serves as an exciting glimpse at how far a little growth can carry her. The best is yet to come, but in the meantime, the “good” is pretty damn good. – Tara Seetharam


#9
Sara Watkins
Sara Watkins

As most people know by now, Sara Watkins is the female member of the now-disbanded (hopefully temporarily) New Grass trio, Nickel Creek. While Nickel Creek was difficult to classify in a certain genre (not bluegrass, not country), they were embraced by bluegrass and country music fans alike. Each member of the popular trio has released intriguing projects outside of Nickel Creek, but Watkins’ album has assumed the most decidedly country direction of them all. As a result, we are treated to a sublime album thanks to Watkins’ sweet voice and a set of impressively solid songs. – Leeann Ward

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #160-#141

December 16, 2009 // 17 Comments

The 201 Greatest Singles of the Decade, Part 3: #160-#141

lee-ann-womack-call-me-crazy

#160
“Last Call”
Lee Ann Womack
2008
Peak: #14

Womack’s second-best Aughts song about late-night temptations is still better than a lot of people’s first-best songs about anything. Even in avoiding her drunken ex’s advances, she sounds positively heartbroken, suggesting she’d gladly make the other decision if she didn’t know better. – Dan Milliken

159 Shania Up

#159
“She’s Not Just a Pretty Face”
Shania Twain
2003
Peak: #9

Her motivation for her music has always been escapism, but I love the personal touch she slips into this one. Her late mother is the one who she’s referring to when she sings “at night, she pumps gasoline.” – Kevin Coyne

Recommend Ten Tracks: 2009 Edition

December 12, 2009 // 17 Comments

2009Can’t say that I’m loving country music in its 2009 version, though my steadfast allegiance to the genre runs deep, so I hold out hope as a new decade is about to begin. Tonight, I’m recommending ten tracks from albums that were released this year. I’ve avoided singles so there’s some sense of discovery. I look forward to discovering music that I missed through the comments!

Recommend Ten Tracks: 2009 Edition

Lorrie Morgan, “I’m Always On a Mountain When I Fall” from A Moment in Time

I love the effect that was created by having this album recorded live in the studio. It’s like hearing her in a smoky nightclub. This is by far my favorite track on the album, a loser’s lament that was quite worthy of revival.

Aaron Tippin, “Prisoner of the Highway” from In Overdrive

He already has the default voice of the overworked working man, so his world-weary vocal is a perfect fit for this song about an imprisoned by the freedom of the road.

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 8: #30-#21

December 8, 2009 // 22 Comments

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 8

30 Trisha

#30
Trisha Yearwood, Heaven, Heartache, and the Power of Love

The latest album from Trisha Yearwood was one of her best yet, with a surprisingly loose sound and quite a few more uptempo tracks than is the norm for this queen of the ballads. The best moments came from the pens of female songwriters, most notably the poignant “Dreaming Fields” penned by Matraca Berg. – Kevin Coyne

Recommended Tracks: “This Is Me You’re Talking To”, “Dreaming Fields”, “Sing You Back to Me”

29 Pam

#29
Pam Tillis, Rhinestoned

On Rhinestoned, Pam Tillis demonstrates that she need not limit herself to covering her father’s songs in order to make a stellar traditional leaning album in her own right. The album, co-produced by Tillis, is consistent with accessible melodies, gentle, classic arrangements and impressively nuanced performances. While this is Tillis’ best album of the decade, it’s also possibly the best of her substantive career.

Recommended Tracks: “Something Burning Out”, Band in the Window”, “Life Has Sure Changed Us Around” (with John Anderson)

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 4: #70-#61

December 3, 2009 // 16 Comments

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 4

70 Tillis

#70
Pam Tillis, It’s All Relative: Tillis Sings Tillis

By the time she released a tribute to her father Mel, she’d become something of a legend in her own right. So it’s no surprise that she approached Mel’s stellar songwriting catalog as if she was recording any other studio album, taking the best of the bunch and making them her own. Bonus points for preserving the original fiddle breakdown from “Heart Over Mind” while making that classic shuffle a forlorn ballad, and a few more for hitting the archives of the Country Music Hall of Fame until she found a forgotten gem that should’ve been a hit back in the day (“Not Like it Was With You.”) – Kevin Coyne

Recommended Tracks: “Mental Revenge”, “Detroit City”

69 Dwight

#69
Dwight Yoakam, dwightyoakamacoustic.net

Yoakam takes a new, inspired spin on the greatest hits album concept, presenting us with a hearty sampling (over 20 songs) of his catalog served acoustic style. It simply works for the country legend. He introduces some delightful new twists and turns to his old classics, and as it should go with acoustic music, the album is driven by unadulterated, raw vocals, coupled with honest storytelling – the purest form of country music. – Tara Seetharam

100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 2: #90-#81

December 1, 2009 // 17 Comments

The 100 Greatest Albums of the Decade, Part 2

90 Miranda

#90
Miranda Lambert, Kerosene

On her first major-label album, Lambert reveals herself as a fiery, spirited artist with a lot to say, and a clever voice with which to speak. Her sharp songwriting skills, though a work in progress as we’d later learn, take her naturally from aggression to desolation and back again. But most notably, through Kerosene, Lambert got the traditionalists to pay a little more attention to mainstream country music and its more promising artists. – Tara Seetharam

Recommended Tracks: “Kerosene”, “I Can’t Be Bothered”

89 Kris

#89
Kris Kristofferson, This Old Road
This Old Road has not have received as much mainstream attention as Kristofferson’s recent appearance in Ethan Hawke’s Rolling Stone article; an unfortunate fact, given it was the legendary writer’s first album of new material in 11 years. With This Old Road Kristofferson shines a spotlight on the world much in the same his earlier writing shined a spotlight on himself. The result is an overtly political album with more depth than most modern attempts have been able to produce.- William Ward

Recommended Tracks: “The Last Thing to Go”, “Pilgrim’s Progress”

iPod Check: Recommend Ten Songs Redux

September 25, 2009 // 24 Comments

ipod2It’s time for another iPod (or any other music player) check. Last time, I asked you to put your music device on shuffle and then tell us the first ten songs that you would recommend. This time, I want you to do the same thing, but then jot down your initial thoughts on the songs as your ten recommended songs play. Then share your informal thoughts in the comments.

I’ll play along too, but I’ll spare you the Christmas songs that will inevitably come up in my shuffle, which I’d heartily recommend if I wasn’t keenly aware that it’s still only September.

John Anderson, “I’d Love You Again”

Nice, sweet song from the rough voice guy who’s still able to sing a tender song with the best of them.

Todd Snider, “Alright Guy”

I love how Snider really seems to be pondering this question: “I’m an alright guy? Right? Right?”

Ashley Monroe, “Can’t Let Go”

Peppy…reminds me of a Garth Brooks type song.

Grammy Wish List

September 1, 2009 // 14 Comments

brad-paisleyYesterday marked the end of the eligibility period for the 2010 Grammy Awards, which will be presented in January. To accommodate the earlier award ceremony, this year’s period lasted one month shy of a year: October 1, 2008 – August 31, 2009.

It’s been something of an underwhelming year musically from my perspective, but I have a few nominations that I’d like to see:

George Strait

  • Best Male Country Vocal Performance: “El Rey”
  • Best Country Album: Twang

Strait’s been on a roll since It Just Comes Natural, releasing his most consistent string of albums since the mid-nineties trifecta of Easy Come Easy Go, Lead On and Blue Clear Sky. It’s often been said that Strait could sing the phone book and make it sound great, and “El Rey” proved that he’d do just as well with la guía telefónica.

Todd Snider

  • Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album: The Excitement Plan

This category has been great at acknowledging artists who essentially make acoustic music that isn’t particularly commercial, with previous winners including Nickel Creek and Emmylou Harris. Snider put out one of his strongest albums this year, and he’s long overdue for some Grammy love.

Brad Paisley

  • Best Country Album: American Saturday Night
  • Best Male Country Vocal Performance: “Welcome to the Future”
  • Best Country Instrumental Performance: “Back to the Future”

Paisley has reaffirmed himself as a creative force to be reckoned with and deserves to be amply rewarded with multiple Grammy nominations this year. The rock edge to his token instrumental track is a refreshing new take on his guitar-playing virtuosity.

Mark Chesnutt Starter Kit

August 4, 2009 // 13 Comments

Back to the Nineties continues with a look at Mark Chesnutt, one of the strongest traditionalists to break through in 1990. He won the Horizon Award in 1993 while he was riding a streak of three consecutive #1 singles.

Chesnutt’s greatest commercial and radio successes came early on. His first three studio albums went platinum and his fourth went gold. He’d earn an additional platinum record with a hits collection assembled from those sets.

While he remained a consistent presence on radio for the entire decade, his sales tapered off. His last big hit was his 1999 cover of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” which went to #1. In more recent years, he’s limited his covers to The Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Rich.

Ten Essential Tracks:

“Too Cold at Home”
from the 1990 album Too Cold at Home

Chesnutt’s first twelve singles reached the top ten, starting with this pure country hit that finds him hiding out in a bar on a sweltering summer day. “It’s too hot to fish, too hot for gold, and too cold at home.”

“Brother Jukebox”
from the 1990 album Too Cold at Home

He’s still at the bar for this hit, his first to top the charts. This time, the woman has left him, and his only family left are the jukebox, wine, freedom, and time.

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