Single Reviews Round-Up: Katie Armiger, Brett Eldredge, Justin Moore, Kelly Clarkson ft. Vince Gill, Miss Willie Brown, & Jason Aldean ft. Luke Bryan and Eric Church

Katie Armiger, “Better in a Black Dress”

Written by Katie Armiger and Blair Daly

An ode to being a chains-free, red wine-drinking hot mess could be tacky and unnecessarily snarky. In Armiger’s hands, it’s tasteful, swampy and empowering. Grade: B+

Brett Eldredge, “Don’t Ya” 

It’s been awhile since we’ve heard a voice as soulful as Eldredge’s massage a melody as enticing as this one. “Just Got Started Loving You” this song is not, but with its sly lyrics and irresistible chorus, it comes close. Grade: B+

Justin Moore, “Til My Last Day” 

Written by Brian Dean Maher, Justin Moore & Jeremy Stover

This year, country radio’s dark horse is the deceptively solid, slightly retro, mid-tempo song – think “Hard to Love,” “Time is Love,” “Beer Money” and “Lovin’ You is Fun.” Moore’s latest trails the pack, an earworm whose earnestness boosts it from bland to charming. Grade: B

Kelly Clarkson ft. Vince Gill, “Don’t Rush” 

Written by  Lindsay Chapman, Natalie Hemby & Blu Sanders

You can’t blend two of the greatest voices of our generation without a decent result. Unfortunately, that’s all this is – a pleasant, sweetly sung sleeper that doesn’t do much to elevate either of these enormous talents. Grade: B-

Miss Willie Brown, “You’re All That Matters to Me” 

Written by Robert John “Mutt” Lange

A manic, over-the-top love letter that’s simply not wacky enough to be the self-parody that its music video suggests. Grade: C

Jason Aldean ft. Luke Bryan and Eric Church, “The Only Way I Know” 

Written by Ben Hayslip and David Lee Murphy

Three of the fastest-rising male artists in country music are also three of the most distinct male artists in country music, each having built his fanbase on a unique persona and brand of swagger. Oddly, this collaboration seems to meld their personalities together into one that’s less interesting than all three.

But that’s not the bigger issue at hand. The song sinks because of its empty lyrics, its jarring theme of “humble pride” against a needlessly aggressive arrangement, and its subtle implication that a work ethic cut from a different cloth than the narrators’ is a lesser one.

Grade: D


  1. I’m really hooked on “Don’t Rush” these days. Kelly Clarkson is just an outstanding vocalist that she could sing any song and make it sound good. The production is not very country save for some steel guitar licks, but I wouldn’t mind hearing this song a lot in country radio.

  2. I love Don’t Rush. It’s definantly a throwback to the 80s country of Ronnie Milsap, and Crystal Gayle, and I for one love that. Sad when a pop star has one if the countriest sounding songs on country radio though.

  3. Out of the bunch the only two I enjoy are “Don’t Rush” and “Better in a Black Dress”. I actually think Katie Amigers song has a cool vibe to it.

  4. …say what you want about justin moore, but there’s never any doubt where he comes from – unmistakeably country and kinda proud of it. this can go horribly wrong (backwoods) or really having something to it, like “til my last day”, which is one of my favourite singles of the year. not great, but incredibly pleasant.

    kelly clarkson singing the phonebook!? better hurry to get the last tickets. quality since 2002.

    campy – but campy in style, miss willie brown.

    a pinch of 80’s brit pop sprinkled onto this for good measure suits the tune like the black dress does to katie armiger. not bad.

  5. The Jason Aldean song is pretty empty in the lyrics. I can’t believe Eric Church let himself sing in this song. He writes better music in his sleep. At first I was mad because he has the least amount of solo singing but now I am glad its the least amount.

  6. I think “Til My Last Day” is Moore’s 2nd best single to date.

    Wasn’t huge on the Aldean one at first, but now I like it.

    For me:

    “Til My Last Day”- A

    “TOWIK”- B+

  7. Justin Moore’s got the best track in this set. He sounds heartfelt and the only thing his song is missing is a good lyrical hook. I’d give this one a B+.

    Katie’s song is solid but missing that really catchy chorus that could’ve made it a hit. I like the swampiness of it. I’d give it a B.

    @CountryKnight I couldn’t agree more about Eric writing better music than That’s The Only Way I Know in his sleep. I’d give that song a D for making me doze off from boredom.

    Maybe somebody could help me out here. I see where Don’t Rush has a connection to some Barbara Mandrell/Ronnie Milsap/Crystal Gayle hits but, am I the only one who still doesn’t think Don’t Rush sounds country even by today’s weak standards? I think the difference between those older songs and Don’t Rush is Kelly doesn’t sound country at all. The song sounds just as much like an Anita Baker crossover hit to adult contemporary as anything else. It’s not bad but it’s just there. I’d give it a B, maybe a B-.

    I like Brett Eldredge and the part of Don’t Ya with the break down is cute. But he oversings most of it and unlike James Otto, there’s no heat in the song or lyrics. I’d give it a C.

    I thought I was going to like the Miss Willie Brown song when I heard the verse but the chorus is pretty bad and too loud. I’d give it a C- because the chorus needed to be a lot wittier.

  8. I like the sound of Katie’s “Black Dress” as well, but I just can’t seem to get into it for some reason. I also agree on the earnestly of the Moore track, but the lack of a great hook may be the reason the song doesn’t quite cut it for me. All I can say about Miss Willie Brown is WOW, what a mess.

    “Don’t Rush” definitely isn’t traditional country, but it feels country to me. Then again, I first heard it on the CMA Awards, so that may have skewered my perceptions! ;)

  9. Tara, these reviews are awesome. Love the dark horse reference in connection to “Till My Last Day.”

    I’ve been thinking the same thing about Jason Aldean for a while now. Has there ever been a genuine superstar in other eras of country music who’s musc has been this uninspired and empty? I can’t think of anyone who at least put some effort into using their platform at radio, retail, and stage to inject some quality into country music. Jason’s inability to record anything worthy of even listening to is embarrassing. He does have some good singles, but his inconstancy is the only consistent about his output.

    I’m really liking Kelly’s duet with Vince, but I find it just a tiny bit creepy thinking he’s old enough to be her father. For a love song duet, wouldn’t it have been better if she was paired with someone like Luke Bryan? Other than the fact it’s a love song, the track works for me.

  10. @wmcm


    I was just listening to Church’s albums again and I am amazed how many quality songs from his first album are better than Aldean’s singles. I still am shocked that “Sinners like me” didn’t make the top 40.

  11. @Jonathan Pappalardo:

    Has there ever been a genuine superstar in other eras of country music who’s musc has been this uninspired and empty?

    Blake Shelton, they keep telling us he’s a superstar. He’s definitely a big TV star but I’m not so sure about the music side. Eric Church may have offended a few people with his comments about Blake being a TV judge but let’s face it, he was right. Blake’s position in the genre these days has less to do with his music than his personality and charm on The Voice.

    I’m really liking Kelly’s duet with Vince, but I find it just a tiny bit creepy thinking he’s old enough to be her father. For a love song duet, wouldn’t it have been better if she was paired with someone like Luke Bryan? Other than the fact it’s a love song, the track works for me.

    They’re singing with each other not to each other and their tones complement each other OK so it doesn’t bother me. Vince doesn’t even get any solo lines.

    I want to like Don’t Rush but it bores me and I keep on thinking about how it’s way less than it should be for 2 great voices coming together. After Mr Know It All and this I’m starting to wonder if Kelly’s original songs for country radio is going to prove to be a disappointment. Maybe she could get Kristen Kelly to write something for her. I’m currently getting my contemporary country soul fix right now from Kristen singing He Loves To Make Me Cry:

    Now THAT gets my attention!

  12. Sorry I meant to say I’m starting to wonder if Kelly Clarkson’s *taste* for original country songs is going to prove to be a disappointment after Mr Know It All and Don’t Rush.

  13. The age difference between Vince and Kelly might be a more significant factor in my mind if the song were a full-fledged duet in which each sang solo lines. But because Vince’s contributions come in the form of prominent background vocals, I don’t see him as filling a particular role in the lyric, in which case the age factor doesn’t bother me.

  14. Ben, you say that ‘The age difference between Vince and Kelly might be a more significant factor in my mind if the song were a full-fledged duet in which each sang solo lines.”

    On the “Country Strong” album, there’s a full fledged duet by Chris Young and Patty Loveless on “Love Don’t Let Me Down”. I don’t see a problem with it. Does the age difference affect your enjoyment of the song?

  15. Bob,

    I mainly just meant that I would notice the difference more (whereas in the case of “Don’t Rush, I hardly raise an eyebrow at it), not necessarily that it would kill my enjoyment of the song. I can usually get over it if the song connects with me solidly enough.

    “Love Don’t Let Me Down” is good, but I wouldn’t necessarily rate it as a favorite song by either artist. I enjoy Wanda Jackson’s duet with Justin Townes Earle, “Am I Even a Memory,” from her new album despite the age difference, and I also enjoy Patty Loveless’ duet with Jason Eady, “Man On a Mountain.”

  16. And don’t forget the age-differencey charms of “Portland, Oregon” with Loretta Lynn and Jack White, where the strangeness is practically part of the charm. :)

  17. @wmcm:

    You make a good point about Blake Shelton. But like Jason Aldean, he’s a star (or superstar as the genre is trying to claim him to be) right now. I was talking more about other decades like the 90s, 80s, and such. I can’t really think of anyone who matches Jason Aldean’s superstar status (i.e. the likes of Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Reba, George Strait, Willie, Merle, Johnny Cash, etc) who hasn’t at least shown some effort in trying to record worthwhile material that warrants their automatic add status on country radio and album sales.

    Good points by all on the age difference thing with the Kelly/Vince duet. That he doesn’t have any solo lines really does make a difference. I hadn’t looked at it that way. Ben’s right, he doesn’t really have a role in the song. On a broader note, shouldn’t she have just sung it solo or is Vince her way of trying to appeal to country radio?

    Along those lines, I don’t think “When I Get Where I’m Going” counts because I only referencing the age difference in the sense of a strict love song, which the Brad/Dolly duet certainly is not (although it does count for the larger discussion on age difference in duets in general – something I don’t have a problem with, it just popped into my mind with the Kelly/Vince duet).

  18. Speaking of duets, I was never really a huge fan of the Brad/Carrie single “Remind Me” because I perceive them as having more of a big brother/little sister kind of relationship. I just never bought them as lovers gone cold. Maybe I was projecting too much into it, but it has always been sort of an awkward song for me because I was aware of the real-life dynamic between the two. They sang it well, but…

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