Single Review Roundup Vol. 2, No. 17: Dueling Duets Edition

This next batch of single reviews collects four collaborative records that were recently released.

In the least surprising plot twist ever, Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood lead the pack.


“Mornings With You”

Flatland Cavalry with Kaitlin Butts

Written by Cleto Cordero, Ashley Monroe, and Nick Walsh

KJC: I love this record.

Cordero and Butts sound beautiful together, and the quiet production allows their vocals to shine in a simple, unadorned way.  Because both of them can sing, it works well.

They’ve also got a killer lyric to work with. Like, Isbell-level killer.

“I can see a new day through the promise in your eyes.”

“Runnin’ with the devil is a dark and lonely ride.”

“If I get to heaven, it’ll feel like déjà vu.”

I really do love this record.  A

JK: It’s interesting to me that Flatland Cavalry elected to record this with Kaitlin Butts rather than with co-writer Ashley Monroe.

That’s not a knock against Butts at all– she’s a tremendous talent and sounds fantastic on this record– but it’s simply the first thing that caught my attention here, because the song itself sounds more akin to Monroe’s work than it does to hers.

Regardless, this is a fantastic duet, and I love the contrast between Butts’ vocal timbre and that of FC frontman Cleto Cordero’s. It’s of a piece with the Shakey Graves and Sierra Farrell single we covered a few weeks back, though it’s a more straightforwardly “country” single.

Again, that’s not a knock against it.  A-


“What’s Up?”

Dolly Parton and Linda Perry

Written by Linda Perry

JK: Were you even forced to go to a church youth group in the 90s if you didn’t have to listen to the “cool” youth pastor with an acoustic guitar lead an earnest singalong to this song? Which is to say I’ve hated this song for a full two-thirds of my life, and no one has ever accused Dolly Parton of having consistently good taste.

Her track record with rock covers is spotty– “Shine” is essential, while “Stairway to Heaven” is incomprehensible– and the best I can say here is that she at least improves upon the bombastic 4 Non Blondes original and the bless-her-she-thinks-this-is-actually-profound cover from Lainey Wilson’s Bell Bottom Country.

That she changed the word “revolution” to “resolution” is fully on-brand with how she engages with contemporary politics, too. B-

KJC: That church youth group scenario sounds like an absolute hellscape.

I had the cassette single of “What’s Up?” and was more likely to hear it at a school dance than our local Catholic church, which if it had a youth group, I was mercifully excluded from it.

But I never knew what half of he words were. I was in my twenties before I realized that she didn’t “take a deep breath and kick real high.”  This duet version required me to discern which lyrics were changed and which lyrics I was just hearing correctly for the first time.

What made the original distinctive was the weird elasticity of Perry’s vocal performance, and Parton does just fine making the odd melody work for her own singing style.  And because the ladies were already friends and previous collaborators, this one feels less staged than everything else we’ve heard from her Rockstar album so far. 

But I’ve heard enough of the 4 Non Blondes record for one lifetime, and unlike Parton’s pairing with Olivia Newton-John earlier this year on “Jolene,” this collaboration doesn’t do enough things new to make an overly familiar hit sound new again.  C  


Cry Myself to Sleep

Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood

Written by Paul Kennerley

KJC:  Wynonna and Trisha Yearwood singing a Judds classic together feels like a Country Universe fever dream come to life.

But it’s quite real, and what I love the most about the collaboration between these two titans is the willingness to significantly revise the original by making it a full-fledged duet.  Instead of one lonely woman telling off her roaming beau, we get two ladies commiserating.

Do I think that either one of them will actually go home and cry themselves to sleep? Not bloody likely.  But their no good men might shed a few by the time Wy and Trish get through with them. A

JK: Everyone knows about Wynonna’s R&B influences, but, as I’ve said in our still-ongoing (…) career retrospective, bluesy Trisha has always been my favorite Trisha. It’s astonishing how phenomenal they both sound on this record: It’s two of the most powerful vocalists in the genre’s history, trading licks and one-liners and not even trying to outsing each other because they know neither of them have to. They just belt and growl and put a lifetime of no-good lovers on notice, and there are maybe a half-dozen singers recording today who could even hope to stand in the shadow of this. A


I Remember Everything

Zach Bryan featuring Kacey Musgraves

Written by Zach Bryan and Kacey Musgraves

JK: Like I said in my Bullet review, partnering with Musgraves only highlights the deficiencies in Bryan’s singing.

There are records– see above– where that kind of contrast between duet partners works and elevates the record. Here, Bryan’s struggles with pitch detract from what is otherwise a lovely, pensive song that includes some of his best lyrics and a melody that recalls Musgraves’ Golden Hour.

I love that this is resonating and giving both of them a multi-format radio hit, though. B+

KJC: It is a bit frustrating that the contrast here is only one of the singers is on pitch! I guess that approach is a big part of Bryan’s appeal, and it’s better than listening to autotuned bro country from dudes that can’t even sing as well as Bryan.

But wow, does Musgraves blow him out of the water on this track.  For me, her contributions are what make the record listenable.  The rest is too mumbly and meandering for my tastes. Can we get a country record that I actually like to the top of the Hot 100 this year? C

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1 Comment

  1. …kacey musgraves is country radio’s cardinal cardinal sin. what a waste of talent to help anti-vocalists like zach bryan oder noah kahan to sound almost bearable. having said that, this one with zach bryan i really quite enjoy – even though it tastes like pickles in an apple pie.

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