Sunday, December 11, 2011

End of Year Round-up

So, we are at the end of the year, which means plenty of Christmas shopping to be done.  I am sure many of you are considering buying music for your loved ones, so I thought it would be handy to do a round-up of  all the albums we have reviewed here, ranked from highest to lowest.  Each album will have two links.  The artist name will be a link to the review that we did here.  The album title will be a link to Amazon where you can purchase it if you so choose.  The ratings we gave are also included.

Brantley Gilbert - Halfway to Heaven (Deluxe Edition): 10/10
Eric Church - Chief:  9.5/10
Justin Moore - Outlaws Like Me:  9.5/10
Lady Antebellum - Own The Night:  9.5/10
Pistol Annies - Hell On Heels:  9/10
Martina McBride - Eleven:  9/10
Kevin Fowler - Chippin' Away:  9/10
Eli Young Band - Life At Best:  8.5/10
Jake Owen - Barefoot Blue Jean Night:  8.5/10
Blake Shelton - Red River Blue:  8/10
Brad Paisley - This Is Country Music:  8/10
Lauren Alaina - Wildflower:  8/10
Colt Ford - Every Chance I Get:  8/10
Scotty McCreery - Clear As Day:  7.5/10
Montgomery Gentry - Rebels On The Run:  7.5/10
Rodney Atkins - Take A Back Road:  7.5/10
Chris Young - Neon:  7.5/10
Toby Keith - Clancy's Tavern:  7/10
Trace Adkins - Proud To Be Here:  7/10
Miranda Lambert - Four The Record:  6.5/10
Joe Nichols - It's All Good:  6.5/10
Luke Bryan - Tailgates & Tanlines:  6/10

Overall, country music had a pretty surprising year.  Some new artists, such as Brantley Gilbert and the Pistol Annies put out fantastic albums.  Some staples (Toby Keith, Trace Adkins) had mediocre releases.  New First Couple of Country Music (Blake Shelton & Miranda Lambert) had huge years.

This is far from the only country albums to come out this year.  These are only the ones that we had the chance to review.  Check out releases from Thompson Square (Self-Titled), Sunny Sweeney ("Concrete"), Steel Magnolia (Self-Titled), Sara Evans ("Stronger"), Ronnie Dunn (Self-Titled), Josh Kelley ("Georgia Clay"), Josh Gracin ("Redemption"), Jeff Bridges (Self-Titled), The JaneDear Girls (Self-Titled), Hunter Hayes (Self-Titled), George Strait ("Here For A Good Time"), Craig Campbell (Self-Titled), Corey Smith ("The Broken Record"), Ashton Shepherd ("Where Country Grows"), Allison Krauss & Union Station ("Paper Airplanes"), and Aaron Lewis ("Town Line").  Many of these are great albums that we just did not have time to review.

Thanks for a great first year at "Low Down For A Hoe Down" and Merry Christmas from both Lynzee and I.  We look forward to reviewing all the great albums coming in 2012.  Look for reviews of albums from Kellie Pickler, Tim McGraw, and Dierks Bentley early in the year and many more as the year moves on.  Also coming in 2012, I plan on reviewing any concerts I attend as well as finally getting around to the line dances I promised from the beginning.  See you next year!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Album Review: Lady Antebellum - Own The Night

Lady Antebellum wasted no time following up their smash hit album "Need You Now".  After racking up numerous awards (including five Grammy's), the group is back with their third album, "Own The Night"

We Owned The Night: This song has already been released and over-played on the radio but it has this amazing sound lovable message and romantic video. Great lyrics and sound.

Just A Kiss: Another great song. The story of love. A strong connection that takes your breathe away. A song dealing with love being so strong that they don't want everything to end so they take it slow with "just a kiss."

Dancin' Away With My Heart: You always hear stories on TV about couples who go off to college and never see each other till they find one another again in some way (i.e. Facebook) and then they get married and talk about the good old days. When they met each other. It only takes one moment to catch someones heart. This song explains that perfectly.

Friday Night: Such a different style. I normally hate songs like this, but they execute it perfectly. They write of a woman "I don't wanna be another chore to check off on your list." "I wanna be your Friday night sweet ride summertime sunshine barefoot in the moonlight." Basically do what you have to do but when you get home its always Friday night.

When You Were Mine: Brings back memories of when I would have a nasty breakup, later all I could think about would be the good times. "You promised you'd never break my heart, never leave me in the dark, said your love would be for all time." "But that was back when you were mine."

Cold As Stone: It is easier to just put up huge electric fence around your heart when something goes wrong. It is easier to move on when your not admitting that you got hurt. "I wish I was cold as stone, then I wouldn't feel a thing. I wish I didn't have this heart, then I wouldn't know the sting of the pain." To me the best way to get over someone is to find some better who is worth it. No need to be a pathetic person who just talks about there break ups and how there madly in love with them.

Singing Me Home: Awesome song. Now I know almost every country boy has had this happen. "My baby's riding shotgun, singin just a little off key. Her feet on the dashboard, tapping out the back beat. " "got the sunshine shining through the windshield, got a hand on her leg the other on the wheel." The chorus sounds like The Temptations only with a girl. Different but I love it.

Wanted You More: I despise those relationships where there is only one person giving everything thing humanly possible for the other and they're just blind (mostly it is the guy who doesn't show emotions well). Although I think the song was sung a little too clean cut regardless it was beautiful for a break up song. ;-)

As You Turn Away: when things are bad, there normally is a long road to recovering the relationship. Most don't get to recovery they just leave. A hearts already fully broken, there is no repair for that. Also, there is the let's be friends horse poopy. "No we can't be friends cause I don't think I could take seeing you and knowing where we've been." I'm a little harsh but the song explains it in a gentle matter.

Love I've Found In You: I'm in love with this song. Definitely a song that will be played at a lot of weddings. So Romantic.

Somewhere Love Remains: I swear I could have used this album in high school with all the up and down relationships I went through. Sometimes I think they just take all my experiences and put them in song. (wait then, shouldn't I be getting paid too hahaha NOT) Another great break up song.

Heart Of The World: So Soft, incredibly smooth sounding. Almost like a lullaby it's so sexy.

Own The Night was fantastic. (maybe I'm just in a good mood) I felt the whole album had so much personality and awesome mix of style. Even though he songs are out in order with romantic, then break up and back to romantic and so on. Every song exploded my mind with old memories. (good and bad) This is how country music should stay. Songs that people can relate to. Well done.  9.5/10

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Album Review: Martina McBride - Eleven

Great timing on this album. Martina McBride released her eleventh album, "Eleven" containing eleven songs on October 11, 2011.   The six-time CMA winner and five-time ACM winner (including an honorary award in 2011) Has been a staple in country music since she burst on the scene in the early 90's. She's an amazing singer that defines country music.

One Night: What a song. Makes me want to just drop everything and go on an adventure. No worries. No concerns. Just love. I can agree. I'm Tired of waiting my whole life for something real. Like a match under my ass cause I'm ready to live it up. It's too bad the radios are going to play the shit out of this song.

Always Be This Way: This song is short but to the point. A well-written song about love.  Who wouldn't want their lover to say " you make my heart beat faster," and "I'm crazy for you"? It's too bad life's so freaked up that things can't always be just the good times.

I'm Gonna Love You Though It: Such an inspirational song to keep the fight. Although this song is very sad it's the truth. It's an amazing feeling have a person to hold on to and help give you strength when you have nothing left. There will always be those moments where everything is taken from you but, guess what, you're loved. Even though this song makes me want to cry, I love the video of real stories of people who didn't think they had anything to live for, but they survived.

Marry Me: I like everything about this song, although I definitely don't think she should be saying "marry me" to the guy. I guess I'm old fashion when it comes to those things. Even though it sounds like they are just two people wishing they had the nerve to go over to the other and say "hello", yet they want to marry each other. Now, I've heard stories of people just taking a look at someone and knowing they're the one for life, but I guess it's just in what you believe in. Awesome song. I think she chose a beautiful, gentle sound, and it doesn't hurt to have a great guy singing it with you.

Broken Umbrella: Even though this song has nothing to do with Christmas, I love how the song has that tone to it. No care in the world just cause I'm with you. I love it. :-) Why should anything else matter when you're in love? You should never let the little things bug you. There is more to life.

You Can Get Your Lovin' Right Here: I love how she just lets her man be a man. There are too many little high school girls who think if they keep a tight chain on their dog, he won't run away. ( He will run for the sky right when you turn away) She just sings of how she will let him do what he wants as long as he comes home for a passionate night or two. Great song. She has amazing range in her voice.

Whatcha Gonna Do: A huge change from the first part of the album. Then again every relationship has there rocky points. I definitely agree when a relationship is not working there is no use for staying and putting yourself through the heartbreak. Like She says, "I can't keep waiting around this house, expecting you to change, You lead me on and let me down every time you say your sorry." It will never work itself out if only one person is doing the giving and taking. Partnership.

Teenage Daughters: No kid comes with a manual. Of course when they're small, they love you and you're the greatest thing since ice cream, but when those teen years come along, you're wrong. Just love them for who they are and help them become the best they can. Don't give in but don't abuse. Awesome songs for parents who think they're alone.

Summer Of Love: This song is deja vu for me. I've never had a song explain my situation more perfectly then this one. It was like i was reliving the moment. A wonderful song about "kiss me one more time, you said kiss me so I won't forget, so I can have this feeling even when you're gone." I think every person who's in a military relationship can agree with me on this song.

When You Love A Sinner: This song reminds me of people who marry because they think they can change the other person. In the end you don't.

Long Distance Lullaby: I don't really know what to say about this one. It's beautiful, sweet, and is something that would surely put me to sleep. I do wish I could send my kiss a thousand miles to you, and just to feel your touch.

This is an album that shows slightly different styles (which all sound amazing). It is one of my favorites. She held my interest through out the whole album. I love that she didn't put songs that wouldn't go on the radio or that didn't make any sense. It was powerful but gentle and inspirational and got to the point. Her voice is sensational and her range is amazing. She is one of many people that is going to keep country music alive.  9/10


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Album Review: Miranda Lambert - Four The Record

Miranda Lambert has had an awesome, but busy year with the Pistol Annies, not to mention her new marriage to Blake Shelton (who is also featured on her album, song Better In The Long Run). Also this is her 4th album that has gone to number 1. This makes her the only country artist to have their 4 records go to number 1 on the country charts.
So CONGRATS to Lambert.

All kinds of kind: First time around listening to this song it took me 30 seconds to tell that this was NOT her normal style. Then questioning why she was talking about Ilas who was an acrobat, or congressman dressing up in dresses to realize that if you open the box, the people living in there are some weird, crazy, insane people in this world. Even then, it takes all kinds of kind to make the world go round. This song makes me want to get to know those people, just to experience a different side of the world so I can say "guess what I am a kind." (What's with the minute and half that's nothing but music radio station are going to cut the song off short???)

Fine Tune: I almost missed the first line were she says "I've been missing all the vital signs" if I had not gone back. Is she trying to state a point with the title "Fine Tune" and the way you cant understand what shes saying unless you read the lyrics with the song??? Not my favorite at all. kinda sounds like she's bored, but makes a great point of guys; they turn all the loose strings, kiss you from your wrist to your neck and running your fingers through my hair. All I've got to say to that is ewwwww la la (read that slow if you don't understand) kinda cant wait for Christmas when I see my man.

Fastest Girl In Town: Powerful kind of attitude I love from her. A style she should keep. It describes the "I don't care what people think" fire that people in the music business need. It's your life! So live it to the fullest not what you think people want you to you do. So Rock On! Kick Some Ass :-)

Safe: Sounds like my relationship with my boyfriend. I always feel safe with him, and I hope he feels the same. "I'll spend forever making sure I can erase every tear you ever thought about crying" basically love him through everything knowing this song is about Blake Shelton. Ahh love.

Mama's Broken Heart: When I hear this song it makes me think of the olden day mamas. "Powder your nose, paint your toes, line your lips and keep'em closed, cross your legs, dot your I's, and never let them see you cry" "Run and hide your crazy, start acting like a lady," but I guess she has not seen the country girls in Fayetteville, NC. Love the song Reminds me of my dad. hahaha

Dear Diamond: I can relate to getting a new ring. "Perfectly flawless, to good to be true." She goes on by saying "Promise to never do what I've done, I've lied to someone." Everyone has their own dark secrets but when it comes down to it do you want to "Lie like the devil or just face the truth?" Everything about this song makes me wonder should they be getting married??  I mean hiding your poop sounds from them when you first get married is one thing or even dating, but "what he don't know WILL kill him," makes you question?? That closet must be deep if you don't think he won't find out.

Same Old You: Kinda makes me think this song came from a drunk person one night or a day were you realize WTF am I doing in this relationship. Same old complaints of a person who wants to leave but when their about to walk out the front door for good they looks back and all your can see is the good time. It draws you back to that no good life.

Baggage Claim:  Enjoy the music video for this one

Easy Living: Short, and to the point. A kiss in the morning (no coffee for me) "It's easy living, it's easy loving you."

Over You: Blake Shelton is the true artist of this song. They interviewed Miranda Lambert and she states that it was a very emotional time and this song is all about his brother who died when Shelton was in his teen years. Lambert goes on to say that the reason she sings the song is because Shelton didn't want to have to get up on stage to relive a horrible time in his life every day, week, month, year. The song gives off this emotional hurt, but knowing of protection. Even though Shelton chooses not to sing this song, Lambert pulls off this elegant, beautiful sound. This song is his history.

Look At Miss Ohio: I feel myself getting bored now. This song is one of many on this album that has no emotion to it. It's just got this tempo/sound of okay lets get this over with. I have never been more ill interested in a song. It talks about a Miss Ohio wanting to get married but not now and all her mom is doing is pushing her in to it. Okay I know when my parents try to push me in to something it pisses me off. WHERE IS THE EMOTION, the fire, anything? This song sounds like Lambert is an on-looking party, but still where's the interest that grabbed your attention to even make this song? Was this song a last minute addition because she had nothing else in her life to write about?

Better In The Long Run: Well yes I like this song but i don't blame Blake Shelton or Miranda Lambert for this song. This song makes you think does this song represent them when NO one knew they were dating for almost 3 years? Is this what they thought at one point about there relationship? Although I love the meaning cause lord knows I've been in that type of situation; the chorus sounds like they both are yelling at the microphone to be heard over the other. While I love them as separate indiviuals as well as a couple, I don't think singing together sounds right. There both dominant so having them sing together at times sounds like a pissed off cat looking for a fight. They would be better off in a slow romantic song.

Nobody's Fool: I really don't have anything to say about this song. Its a pretty simple song of a break up and the guy moving on or trying to rub the next girl in her face. Replacement is no fun, but then again there's plenty of fish in the sea.

Oklahoma Sky: Before I even played this song I looked at how long the song was(4:47), then I assumed there would be a lot of lyrics but when i looked it up the song was 3 paragraphs. In my mind I'm guessing there's a lot of instrumental parts. This song to me has a lot of mystery. I've listened to the song over and over but all I know is that it deals with a lot of love.

Although It took me longer to review this album then I thought; it was an okay album. I saw MTV featuring Miranda Lambert and she talked so high about this album that I had high expectations. Especially since she states it has a lot of her personality, and that it shows her curiosity with the different styles. So Congrats and good luck with the marriage. 6.5/10

(I would love to sit down with her and ask about some of these songs because they have so much mystery to them. Even to get it straight if this album is all about Blake Shelton and her or not?)


Monday, November 21, 2011

Album Review: Joe Nichols - It's All Good

Joe Nichols returns with his first album in almost three years. The "Gimme That Girl" singer, known for his more suave singing voice released his seventh album on November 8th. "It's All Good" has already produced one single, "Take It Off", which did not perform well.

The "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off" singer continues in his typical style, which is very similar to that of Kenny Chesney. It is a fun-loving, but romantic style, albeit without Chesney's beach tone to it. "Take It Off" and "The More I Look" embody this perfectly, with the latter having more of a bar party attitude and the former being more of a beach party.

"Somebody's Mama" tells the story of getting a tattoo covering up an angel tattoo from the past. The singer reminisces on a past love as he shares with the artist: "She used to say all she wanted babies/ And I was too young to slow down/ But I figure she's probably somebody's mama by now".

The next two songs, the title track and "This Ole Boy" return to the idea of life being perfect as long as he has his woman with him. In "It's All Good", Nichols paints a picture of everything around him falling apart, but as long as he is sitting in the shade with his love, well, you get the picture. "This Ole Boy", a song that will also appear on Craig Morgan's forthcoming album, continues that same feeling. Both are feel-good songs and either of them will likely end up as a single before he releases his next album.

"I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" is a romantic ballad that is sure to be sung between lovers for years to come. The Arkansas native does not care what is going on around him, whether it be two moons in the sky, a meteor shower or anything, he simply cannot stop looking at his girl.

After painting the picture of a perfect life with a perfect love for several songs, the "Brokenheartsville" singer takes a fall and hits the bottom with "No Truck, No Boat, No Girl". He acknowledges this fall in the chorus, as the song closes: "Seems like yesterday I was sittin' on top of the world/ Man ain't supposed to live this way/ No truck, no boat, no girl/ Some things just can't be replaced/ No truck, no boat, no girl"

Nichols returns to love for the last three songs of the album. "Never Gonna Give You Up" talks about all the habits, mostly drinking into the early hours, that he is more than willing to give up in exchange for a woman's love. "She's Just Like That" is a descriptive song about how perfect the woman is. Closing out the album, "How I Wanna Go" is a very reflective song, comparative like "Never Gonna Give You Up" in that it shows how different his life is since meeting his love. None of these songs stands out, but they are typical Joe Nichols, and none of them are bad either.

"It's All Good" is far from the strongest album that has been put out in country music this year, but it is far from the worst as well. Every song on the album is typical Joe Nichols, with him not taking any risks from the formula that has worked for him in the past. 6.5/10

You can pick up the album here from Google's new music store for $7.99

Saturday, November 19, 2011

We are on Google+!!!!

I am planning on having a review for you by the end of the day, but in the mean time, we are now on Google+!  You can circle use here:

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Sorry for the break in reviews.  I am in the process of moving from Korea to California and have not had much time.  Reviews should be back by the end of the month with music by Josh Gracin, Joe Nichols and many more

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Micro-Review: Kevin Fowler - Chippin' Away

Note: Have some extra time, so finally doing micro-reviews of some of the albums I never got around to reviewing.  Expect quite a few in the coming days.

I mentioned back in the Eli Young Band review, that I do not know what makes certain music "Texas Country". I will admit, though, that the two albums I have heard in that genre this year have been fantastic.  Kevin Fowler's "Chippin' Away" is another one that will likely not be recognized much outside of the Lone Star State, but with party songs like "Hell Yeah I Like Beer" and "Beer Money" coupled with the serious "Daddy's And Daughters" and the fun "Girl In A Truck" and "That Girl", the singer should be bigger than he is.  The only weak points on the album are "Big River" and "Do That With You Gone".  The closing track, "Knocked Up" is a live performance, and the content, while borderline inappropriate (sings about getting a girl not quite out of high school pregnant), will have you laughing. 9/10

Kevin Fowler's "Chippin' Away" is available here from

Album Review: Montgomery Gentry - Rebels On The Run

Montgomery Gentry, a duo known for their hard-partying music is back with their first album in three years.  "Rebels On The Run", the groups seventh studio album, is the first to be released on Average Joe's Entertainment (co-owned by Colt Ford).  The duo has never had a #1 album to date, maybe this will be their first:

Damn Right I Am - The lead-off track to the album is a rocking anthem about being proud of who you are and where you are from.  The song has political undertones, but does a good job of avoiding overdoing it.  The real highlight of the song is the guitar near the end.

Ain't No Law Against That - This is the type of song the Montgomery Gentry is known for.  A hard-rocking party tune.  Following in the footsteps of "One In Every Crowd" and "Hell Yeah", the song reminds me a lot of "Nobody Feelin' No Pain" off of the recently released Jake Owen album.  It is definitely a great drinking song that, knowing these guys, will end up as a future single.

Damn Baby - The third song on the album slows it down, but only a bit and leads off with the question every couple asks: "Damn baby/ Are we crazy?/ Crazy enough to think that maybe/ We might make it".  The pace of the song is just the right speed to serve as a solid transition between the second and fourth tracks.

Empty - One of the great things about Montgomery Gentry is that they do not focus a lot on heartbreak.  "Empty" is one of only two songs on the album with that theme.  The problem with this track though, is that the contrast in feeling is too great between the verses and the chorus.  The former feels genuine, but something about the way the latter is sung feels a bit forced.

Where I Come From - The first single from the album returns to the mood set by "Damn Right I Am", being proud of where you are from.  The song could almost serve as a sequel to "My Town", a song off of their album of the same name.  The music video tells a pretty emotional story:

Note: I would like to thank Montgomery Gentry for this video.  As a Soldier, it is nice to see a music video in which a Soldier is in combat AND survives.  There are music videos of Soldiers coming home but do not have them in combat (Trace Adkins' "All I Ask For Anymore") and videos of them in combat, but not coming home (Jason Aldean's "Tattoos On This Town"), but it is nice to see a video show combat and have a happy ending.

I Like Those People - A tribute to people who are real, and true to themselves and each other.  Musically, it sounds like it fits more to a barroom ballad, but the bluesy beat fits the mood of the song.  The song does not necessarily fit where it is on the album, but it still ended up being one of my favorites.

Rebels On The Run - The album's title track takes the duo back to their younger days: partying, loving, and making the most of their lives.  "We snuck in all the hometown games/ And played chicken with midnight trains/ Old timers swore/ We were insane/ Rebels on the run/  We made a beer bottle pact/ Behind Bernie's store that/ We would always be one for all/ And all for one/ Rebels on the run."  My money is on this being the next single from the album, and deservedly so.

Simple Things - MG cranks up the guitar on this track celebrating the "Simple Things" in life, like 4th of July parades, fishing, and driving down a dirt road with a girl.  Inevitably, the duo longs for days without cell phones as well.  Other than that personal disagreement (about things being simpler without the cell phones), I absolutely love this track.

Missing You - The other heartbreak song on the album, this one feels a lot more natural than "Empty" did.  The violin and keyboard provide a beautiful background to the tune, and the guitar solo about the 1:30 mark only adds to it.

So Called Life - The duo goes back to the rock, celebrating the ups and downs in life and adding a bit of funk in the process: "This ain't no rodeo/ No dog and pony show/ Ain't no roller coaster ride/ Ain't no highway/ Sure ain't no river baby/ It's just my so called/ Just my so called life".  The song is a great pedal-to-the-metal cruising tune.

Work Hard, Play Harder - Closing the album is another party rock tune, this one as a tribute to those who work hard, sometimes for what feels like almost nothing.  The song is timely, especially the first verse in light of the Occupy Wall Street protests currently taking place: "I put my forty in plus overtime/ Oughta be proud of this check of mine/ Open it up and I'll be damned/ I worked half the week for Uncle Sam/ He's up there having him a spending spree/ A big ole party and its all on me".  The song is a great way to end the album, starting and ending with the type of songs the duo is known for.

"Rebels On The Run", while not the strongest album the duo has put out, continues to build upon the foundation the band has laid in the past.  The album is full of potential hits, and hopefully will debut as their first #1 country album.  7.5/10

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Album Review: Toby Keith - Clancy's Tavern

Toby Keith is one of the most polarizing performers in country music.  Many stand by him and his patriotic views.  Others, like me, tire quickly of the political country (a point I have made before on this blog).  Nobody, however, can deny that Toby has been extremely successful.  This, Keith's 15th album (not counting Christmas or Greatest Hits), will likely become the ninth album to reach #1 on the country albums chart.

Made In America - Keith leads off with not only the ONLY political song on the album, it is probably the least divisive political song he has released.   "Made In America" also became Toby's 20th #1 single.  The song is about  his father, who is American to his core: "He's got the red, white, blue flyin' high on his farm/ 'Semper Fi' tattooed on his left arm/ Spend a little more in the store for a tag in the back says 'USA'/ Won't buy nothin' that he can't fix/ With WD-40 and a Craftsman wrench/ He ain't prejudiced/ He's just/ Made in America" Keith sings in the chorus.  The anthem is a good picture of who Toby is and will resonates with a lot of country music fans.

I Need To Hear A Country Song - Toby follows up with a song about heartbreak.  He does not want to go through what he is going alone.  He wants to share his experience, even if it is not with someone physically in the room.  Many can relate to the words: "I need to hear a loser cryin'/ Songs about a love that's dying/ Lyin' Cheatin' to the bone/ Three chord, stone cold country song".

Clancy's Tavern - The title track is actually a follow-up of sorts to the song "Honkytonk U" from 2005.  This, a waltz with an Irish drinking song tone, is more of a tribute to his grandmother than the previously mentioned track.  Although it is not the second music video to come from the album, it is the second single.  The song is a breath of fresh air, breaking away from the standard sound of country music.

Tryin' To Fall In Love - The title of the song betrays it's mood.  I expected another slow song about attempts at love, but what I got is a fun, upbeat song.  "If women come a dime a dozen/ I ain't got a penny/ Some guys are gettin' way too much/ Some guys don't get any/ But if I had a nickel for every time I've had enough/ I'd still be busted and heartbroken/ Still tryin' to fall in love".

Just Another Sundown - Toby moves back to the heartbreak songs here.  The song is not one that stands out, but the acoustic melody really adds to the feeling.

Beers Ago - "Beers Ago" is an example of the my only real complaint about this album, the mixing does not flow well.  "Beers" is what Toby does really well, a fast-paced, fun country song.  The problem is that it is sandwiched between "Sundown" and "South Of You", both songs about heartbreak.  Unlike most artists, this is Keith's own fault, as he not only recorded the album, but he produced it as well.

South Of You - As mentioned, Keith comes back to the heartbreak song once again.  This one, honestly, feels a little more suited as a Kenny Chesney song, as Keith sings about getting away from the girl by sailing out to the islands.  There is nothing inherently wrong with the song, but it does not feel like what we are used to from Toby.

Club Zydeco Moon - Not sure what it is about Toby, but he seems to have a weak spot for strippers (See "Bullets in the Gun" off his previous album of the same name).  This song comes across as an alternate ending for that song, sort of describing what would have happened if they had not run off together to Mexico.  The answer?  More heartbreak, with Toby eventually avoiding the bar where he met the girl.

I Won't Let You Down - Rather than a heartbreak song, Toby is finally singing about making love work.  The song is great advice for women, men are not perfect.  If you do not expect us to be, we will not let you down.  It is not about convincing girls to lower their standards, but it is about letting us surprise you with what we ARE capable of, instead of being disappointed by what we are not.

Red Solo Cup - A song that Keith himself accurately describes as "Adorable and very very stupid", this song will get stuck in your head and show no signs of leaving for days.  The song is a tribute to what Toby describes in the opening line as "the best receptacle/ For barbecues, tailgates, fairs, and festivals/"  The song is  several run-on sentences, but is so much fun that it is sure to be a hit.  The music video features cameos from Jeff Dunham, Larry Bird, Craig Ferguson, Carrot Top, Ted Nugent and fellow country star Eric Church.

Chill-axin' - Another song that sounds better suited for Kenny Chesney, Keith closes out the main part of the album with a song about getting away from it all, whether to the beach or out to the country.  The song feels really awkward following "Red Solo Cup" and the album probably would have benefited from flipping the order of the last two songs.

Overall, it is nice to hear Toby Keith step away from much of his political grandstanding that has dominated the artist for several years.  This creates an album everyone can enjoy, regardless of political affiliation.  The only problem that this album presents is a poor distribution of songs.  The album would have been much improved if they had sat back and listened a little closer to the flow between the songs.  If not for that, the album would have gotten a much higher rating: 7/10

Note:  The deluxe edition of the album features Toby Keith's band, the Incognito Banditos, doing live covers of four songs: Waylon Jennings' "High Time (You Quit Your Low Down Ways)", Buck Owens' "Truck Drivin' Man", Three Dog Night's "Shambala" and Chuck Berry's "Memphis".

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Album Review: Lauren Alaina - Wildflower

As mentioned in the Scotty McCreery review, Lauren Alaina is the other country artist to come out of the tenth season of American Idol.  Taking second, Lauren released her debut album a week after McCreery and both artists show a lot of promise.  I am sure it is no coincidence either that Alaina's album was released on the same day as Martina McBride's: Lauren made her debut to the country world by being introduced by McBride at CMA Music Fest this year, where they performed Martina's hit "Anyway".

Alaina is just sixteen years old, but her powerful voice lends a maturity to her coming-of-age songs that we did not find in Taylor Swift's early releases.  Because of this Lauren has a chance to surpass Swift, maybe not in quantity, but in quality.

Georgia Peaches - At sixteen, most would expect Alaina to lead off the album with something safe about home, and she does.  Few would expect a rocker song a la Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert.  Alaina does this too (albeit without the bitterness of heartbreak that Carrie and Miranda do so well).  What results is probably the catchiest song on the album.  Georgia Peaches is a fantastic introduction to Lauren, and is already the second single from the album.  This one could easily crack the top ten on the charts.

Growing Her Wings - Another upbeat song while avoiding mixing in too much pop.  The song is the first of many songs about growing up as a teenage girl that show up on this album.  "Wings" is about a girl whose parents are afraid to let her soar the way she wants to.  "They got her whole life on lock down/ Doing time behind her bedroom door/ I guess it's alright for right now/ but outside her window there's so much more"

Tupolo - Alaina slows it down a bit for "Tupelo" and adds a bit of a tropical type beat to it.  The song is nothing new, as many artists have sung about young love, driving in a car or truck, just getting away for a bit.  That said, the song serves as a great way for Alaina to transition to slower tracks and adds a little bit of depth to her repertoire of singing skills.

The Middle - "Middle" is a song full of great advice.  It opens with reminiscing, most likely on someone's advice who has passed.  The meat of the song is about making each moment count.  Our gravestones have two dates, birth and death.  But as the song says "The beginning and the end mean so little/ What matters most is what's in the middle".  The song is as slow as you can expect it to be, and adds to the range of Alaina's voice.

Like My Mother Does - The first single to come from the album, "Like My Mother Does" is a beautifully written song about how much she is like her mama.  The singer is okay with this though, because that is exactly who she wants to be.  It is also a great opportunity for Lauren to show her pipes, as she channels Martina McBride and belts out some long high notes.  Enjoy the video:

She's A Wildflower - Another coming-of-age song about trying to find her place in the world, "Wildflower" picks up the pace into what is definitely Alaina's comfort zone.  The song does not stand out in the country world, as many have done this type of song, but Alaina owns it.

I'm Not One Of Them - Alaina continues her sassy girl image with a song that a lot of girls should listen to and take to heart.  "One Of Them" is a song about having respect for yourself as a woman instead of chasing after guys with a flashy smile and big wallet.  Find someone who is worth your time and gives you something back. "You're gonna have to do better than that/ If you want my love/ You've got to give me some back/ Give me something real/ Not another come on/ Baby Come on/  There's a lot of girls who might just fall for what you got/ But I'm not one of them".  This song should definitely follow "Georgia Peaches" as a single.

The Locket - Alaina does a fantastic job of telling a story.  This song, which sounds like the movie "The Notebook" in song form.  This song just might bring a tear to your eye as you listen to the tail of lifelong love.  The simple music gives Lauren a chance to show off her vocal ability in a moving way.

Eighteen Inches - Another example of great storytelling, "Eighteen Inches" is about a girl who runs away with her boyfriend to California.  The title refers to how disconnected logic and emotion are:  "'Cause when you're young and in love, yeah/ You might do some things/ That don't seem all that smart/ 'Cause there ain't no greater distance than the/ Eighteen inches from your head to your heart"

One Of Those Boys - The guys version of "I'm Not One Of Them", "Boys" is about the perfect guy in Alaina's eyes.  She describes him as country, wanting to have fun, but respectful to her and her father.  "He ain't gotta have money or a brand new truck/ But he better shake my daddy's hand/ When he comes to pick me up/ Gotta be a little reckless, a whole lotta fun/ And he's gotta know my midnight curfew/ Don't mean 12:01".

Funny Thing About Love - The only song on the album that Alaina helped to write, "Funny Thing" is about how love never makes sense.  Lauren opens with "You used to want me/ But I didn't want you/ And now I want you, oh/ But you don't want me".  I can think of several times I have wondered about why love does not make sense, and I am sure everyone will relate to this song.

Dirt Road Prayer - Alaina wraps up the album with a slow song about where she can always turn when she is overwhelmed or needs advice, to God.  Lauren prays for her family members before turning to herself, asking to make the time go slower as life has been flying, and praying for guidance over the boy she thinks might be the one.  The song is a beautiful way to end the album, and contrasts perfectly with how it opened, demonstrating the wide range of abilities Alaina has.

"Wildflower" is definitely one of the best debut album's I have heard in a long time.  The vocal ability makes one sometimes wonder how she finished runner-up in American Idol.  Either way, those die-hard country fans who are worried about the future of country music need look no further than Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery to see that the future is in safe hands.  8/10

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Album Review: Scotty McCreery - Clear As Day

American Idol has been good to country music.  Bucky Covington, Josh Gracin, Danny Gokey, Kellie Pickler and Carrie Underwood have all come to Nashville through the singing competition.  The most recent season brought us two more, Lauren Alaina (whose album review is forthcoming) and Scotty McCreery, the High School Senior who won the tenth season.

Listening to the album, it is hard to believe that the voice belongs to a guy who just turned 18 this week.  The voice is deep and mature, his lyrics heartfelt and relatable.  He has already charted at #15 on the country charts with his debut single "I Love You This Big" and this album is expected to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200.

McCreery kicks the album off with "Out Of Summertime", an upbeat song about the one that got away because they ran out of time.  Scotty channels the feel of a Jake Owen summer tune perfectly and the song serves as a great intro to those unfamiliar with the artist.  "I Love You This Big", the song he performed on the "Idol" finale, follows and will likely serve as the love anthem for 2011.  Here is where the deep voice that made fans fall in love with the singer is really showcased.  The attitude with which he performs is years beyond his youth.  Enjoy the video:

The "Idol" winner keeps rolling with "Clear As Day" a simple song about reminiscing about a girl he met in the parking after a football game.  The song is generally positive, recalling the night they met "clear as day", until the end, when it takes a somber turn.  "The Trouble With Girls", McCreery's second single, keeps the slow pace.  The title is a bit misleading, as it is about all the things he loves about girls, ending the chorus with "Yeah the trouble with girls/ Is nobody loves trouble as much as me".  The song, as slow as it is, is catchy and the lyrics stick in your head.

"Water Tower Town" is a song pretty much every country singer has done, a song about the town they grew up in.  That is not to say anything bad about it, as the Garner, North Carolina native says that the song perfectly describes where he grew up.  Look for this to be a future single.  "Walk In The Country" is a great cruising song, originally written by Keith Urban in an old band he was a member of.  This song deserves to be blasted in a truck with the windows down.  "Better Than That" is another catchy tune about all the amazing things in life and how they still do not compare to his girl's love.

"Write My Number On Your Hand" is a little odd, with a ukulele providing the main musical accompaniment. "Dirty Dishes" is one of the best songs on the album.  The family sits down to eat and Mama says an unusual prayer "I wanna thank you Lord/ For noisy children and slammin' doors" she prays.  She includes being grateful for clothes scattered on the floor, a husband busy with work, a messy kitchen and dirty dishes.  The family looks at her funny and her husband asks if she is alright before she explains.  The song is a must listen for anyone, especially mothers, who deal with the day to day life of raising kids and sometimes get so fed up and frustrated.

Legendary songwriter "Rhett Akins" penned "You Make That Look Good" for McCreary, and the upbeat song about how a girl can make anything look good (even a mud-covered Ford) is one of many catchy tunes on the album.

The North Carolina native ends with two slow songs.  "Back On The Ground" is a song about slowing down and staying grounded.  Reminiscing about how he could not wait to get out of the town and on to his life, the singer realizes that he needs to come back home once in a while just to relax and not let his fame go to his head.  "That Old King James" is about a Bible that was passed down from his grandpa to his mom and now to him.  All three generations looked to it for hope, whether it was in World War II, raising the singer, or when the singer is feeling down.

Scotty McCreary's album is a solid effort for the American Idol winner on his first time out.  The many catchy songs will likely lead to him having a number one single before he gets to his second album.  Country music fans of all ages will be shocked by, and fall in love with, the voice emanating from this 18 year-old singer.  7.5/10

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Album Review: Rodney Atkins - Take A Back Road

Rodney Atkins has come a long way over the course of his last few albums.  After party hits like "These Are My People" and "If You're Goin' Through Hell" off of the album named for the latter, and then "15 Minutes" off of his "It's America" album, Atkins has matured, both emotionally and lyrically.  His new album, "Take A Back Road" still has fun, but Atkins has mellowed out, learned from life, and is ready to share what he has learned with anyone that will listen.

The album kicks off with the title track.  "Take A Back Road" is about a situation we have all been in.  Rodney finds himself in a rush hour traffic jam, when King George [Strait] comes on the radio with an old hit and he finally gets fed up with not moving.  He does not care that it is the long way, he wants to move, so it is time to hit the dirt country roads.   The only thing that he would allow to slow him down?  A tractor.   The catchy tune is enough to warrant Atkins his sixth career #1.  The video is below:

No matter what album you listen to, it is clear that Atkins is about his family.  The next two songs, "He's Mine" and "Family" show that, no matter what, family is family.  "He's Mine" is a lesson many fathers could learn: love your son whether he is being good or bad.  It is not without reasoning, either.  Rodney explains that, chances are, he is a chip off the old block: "He's mine/ That one/ Got a wild haired side and then some/ It's no surprise what he's done/ He's every last bit of my old man's son/ If you knew me then there'd be no question in your mind/ You'd know he's mine".  "Family" is an upbeat song about a family reunion, and the amusement of it all: "A few new babies/ Same ol' crazies/ I've known them my whole life and they still amaze me/ Don't get to choose them/ But you'd hate to lose them/ You gotta love them/ 'Cause they're your family"

The album is in no shortage of advice either.  Between "The Corner" and, later on, "Tips" and "Lifelines", Atkins dishes out what he has learned over the course of his life in generous helpings.  "Feet" is a slightly odd addition to this family of songs, talking about how he and his wife may not go to sleep without resolving their anger, but they always let each other know they are still there by touching feet, even with their backs to each other.  "She's A Girl" rounds out this list by explaining that, oftentimes, a woman's behavior is inexplicable, other than writing it off with "she's a girl, ain't she?"

If Atkins is full of advice, he is also not afraid to admit that he does not have EVERYTHING figured out.   "She'd Rather Fight" shows (in a comical way) that despite being married, he still does not quite understand women.  After a day of fishing, Atkins is ready to get home and get it on, but his wife is not a happy camper.  "She ain't as happy as I am to be home/ If looks could kill I'd be cold as a stone/ I'm already ready, to kiss and make up/ Looks like tonight I'm outta luck/ 'Cause she'd rather fight than you know what".

"Cabin In The Woods", "Just Wanna Rock N' Roll" make up my least favorite, and probably most forgettable duo of the album. They sound like they were split from the same song.

 "Growing Up Like That" is an upbeat song about how lucky he was growing up.  At first listen, the song was did not stand out, but the catchy beat and rhythm of the lyrics make the song enjoyable.  Rounding out the album is the first single, "Farmer's Daughter".  The song is a fun one about a kid working on a farm and eventually falling in love with the title character.  It is one of the most enjoyable songs on the album, leaving the listener with a positive feeling towards the record in general.  Here is a bonus second music video, for "Farmer's Daughter":

As I mentioned, it is clear that Rodney Atkins has matured over the course of his last three albums.  It is noticeable in his tone as well as the lyrics.  Unlike most country artists, Atkins does not saturate us with his music by releasing an album every year (this is his fourth album in the last eight years, and first since March 2009), leaving his music to be enjoyed for a long time.  "Take A Back Road" is not his strongest effort, but it is one that I will keep coming back to over the next couple of years.  7.5/10

Later this week, I will review the debut album from American Idol winner Scotty McCreery.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Album Review: Brantley Gilbert - Halfway To Heaven (Deluxe Edition)

I cannot fairly write this review, so let me go ahead and start by telling you that this album is a 10/10.  It would not be the least bit objective for a couple of reasons.  First, I am too big of a Brantley Gilbert fan to look at the music critically.  I fell in love with his music the moment I heard it.  Second it is not the initial release of the album.  The first twelve songs were released in the first half of 2010, and I bought the album when it was released then.  I have probably listened to the original release over a hundred times.  Finally, there is too much emotion tied into these songs, too many memories, too much personal meaning. If I did not state this outright, it would not be fair to those reading this admittedly subjective review.

As mentioned, this is not the first release of most of these songs.  Gilbert released the first twelve tracks on his former record label, "Average Joe's Entertainment".  Since then, a lot has happened for this young artist.  He signed on with Valory Music Company, which houses Justin Moore (whose album was reviewed earlier this year), and a little known artist named Reba McEntire.  Fellow Georgian Jason Aldean recorded two songs from his debut album ("Modern Day Prodigal Son"), taking both "My Kinda Party" and "Dirt Road Anthem" to #1.  This move caused a lot of anger among Gilbert fans, but the success of this album will show that Jason brought Brantley the biggest opportunity of his career.  Finally, he began the process of re-recording, remastering, and re-releasing this album.

Anyone who has listened to Brantley's music knows Brantley.  A lot of artists say that they pour everything they have into their music, but one listen to tracks such as "Saving Amy" and "Halfway to Heaven" and you get the feeling that he puts everything and then some.  The title track is the true life story of a moment that forever changed him.  He drove home one night after a party, drunk, and ended up upside-down slammed into a tree.  The emotion in Gilbert's voice is extremely moving, as he tells about how that one moment truly changed his life.  "Saving Amy" is just as heartbreaking, as the singer tells of watching over his fiancee after dying in a car wreck the night he proposed.

Gilbert does a good job with the romantic songs, such as  "Fall Into Me" and "My Kinda Crazy", too.   Among the final three tracks on the album, which are the new ones added for the deluxe edition, "More Than Miles" is spectacular.  The song is reminiscent of Jason Aldean's "Keep The Girl" (off of the "Wide Open" album), as Gilbert sings about leaving his girl behind to chase his dreams in Nashville.

For all the emotion used in the slow songs, the Georgia-native dumps an equal amount of energy into his rock and party anthems.  "Hell On Wheels" opens the album, a song often compared to the classic "Copperhead Road", but on steroids.  "Kick It In The Sticks" and "Take It Outside" show the party side of his music.  Colt Ford joins Gilbert for the original version of "Dirt Road Anthem", which features the two verses that Jason Aldean's version has (performed by Colt Ford) as well as a third verse in which Brantley himself raps.  Gilbert's current single, "Country Must Be Country Wide" (currently #15 on the charts) is a tribute to his fans, and a reminder that country music is popular in more than just the South.

In between all of these, Gilbert takes us back to when he was growing up with songs such as "Back In The Day".  "Them Boys" is that song that we have all sang, when we observe a younger generation that just does not get it.  It feels a little hypocritical at first, especially after "Bending The Rules and Breaking The Law", until the end, when Brantley observes that his and his friend's grandfathers were probably saying the same thing: "Them boys don't know one thing about life/ True love and trouble/ Struggle and strife/ They think it's all just fun and games/ Like laws and rules are balls and chains/ Treatin them girls like hearts don't break/ Treatin old men like hands don't shake/ I pray it's just a phase/ their goin through/ Yeah but what are we gonna do with them boys?".

Among the new tracks, "Hell On An Angel shines brightest as it closes the album out.  It tells the story of his wife, who has him changed from an outlaw to a lover.  This song could make for a great single in the future.

Overall, the deluxe edition of "Halfway to Heaven" is a great way for Brantley to make his entrance into the larger world of country music.  It is true to the original album, just cleaner and better mixed.  The effort is sure to please both die-hard fans who were worried that he was going to sell out, as well as new fans, looking for a breath of fresh air in a genre that is rapidly moving towards the pop side.  As mentioned before, this album is a 10/10.

Enjoy the video for "Country Must Be Country Wide", shot at the same prison in Tennessee where "The Green Mile" was filmed:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Album Review: Jake Owen - Barefoot Blue Jean Night

Jake Owen is somewhat of an interesting figure in country music.  He is pretty well known but, until now, he has never had a #1 Song or Album.  His two most famous hits, "Yee Haw" and "Eight Second Ride" never even cracked the top ten, reaching #16 and #11, respectively.  Most of that probably has to do with the fact that people probably do not know where to place him in the scheme of country music.  The two previously mentioned songs were more on the rock side and are well-played on the radio and in the bars.  His latest effort, though, has found the music that fits him perfectly and as a result, produces an album that is enjoyable from start to finish.

The first couple of songs on the album are catchy, but nothing special.  "Anywhere With You", "Keepin It Country" and "Wide Awake" are uptempo songs that lead well into Jake's first #1, "Barefoot Blue Jean Night". The summer anthem is catchy and does a good job of staying away from the typical overpowering anthems that typically mark the season.

The middle section is where the album really shines.  After "Barefoot", Jake slows it down for a piano-driven love song about a place called "Heaven" near town that is quite the romantic view.  Next, "Apple Pie Moonshine" picks it up slightly talking about how the tension between his country boy side and the upper class girl he has on a date is broken when she pulls out a jar of apple pie moonshine.  Stepping away from the love theme, the high point of this album is "The Journey Of Your Life".   Owen reminisces about the advice his grandpa gave him right before he died.  While some of the advice is cliche, the feeling Jake puts behind the words makes this a track that will get a lot of playtime on my media player.  Rounding out the peak of the album is "Alone With You", a song about the temptation of a woman who he cannot understand why he wants her.  The rhythm and emotion in the song makes it one of my favorites on the album.

"Settin The World On Fire" begins the back third of the album and while it is not a bad song, it feels out of place between "Alone With You" and "Nobody Feelin' No Pain".  The latter of which is where Jake moves back towards some of the rock that he is more known for.  The song could do without the "talking to the crowd" that occurs about the two-minute mark, but the older rock tone makes me think Jake is setting up to have next summer's anthem as well.  Owen closes with "The One That Got Away", a song about heartbreak rounds out the album nicely.

Overall, "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" is an album that really allows Jake to shine.  It also brought out a style that highlights his talents and demonstrates where his music fits best: around a bonfire with friends in the middle of summer.  8.5/10

Enjoy the video for "Barefoot Blue Jean Night"

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Album Review: The Pistol Annies - Hell on Heels

The Pistol Annies are new on the scene, though the individuals have been around in various country music roles for years.  The “Supergroup” formed by Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley made their debut at the “CMA Ladies Night Out” this year and have now released their debut album “Hell On Heels”. 
Hell On Heels – The title track is the same attitude you would expect from a group fronted by Lambert, but in a completely different style.   The girls take turns singing about the various things they have taken from guys, from cars to houses to credit cards.  “I’m hell on heels/ Say what you will/ I done made the devil a deal/ He made me pretty/ He made me smart/ I’m gonna break me a million hearts/ I’m hell on heels/ Baby, I’m comin’ for you” the trio start out.  The girls definitely ready to destroy some guys, but instead of the rocking music, they change it up and set a slow, almost bluegrass type tune to it (actually, the tune reminds me of Godsmack’s “Voodoo”).  What results is a very seductive sounding sound that is unique and well done and a great introduction to the group.

Lemon Drop – A well written song about getting through the rough points in life knowing that, eventually, life gets better.  Whether it is their car, their clothes,  the house, or their careers, they know they have to rough it, but you get the impression that they will appreciate it when things change.  The lyrics are embodied in the metaphor of a lemon drop “My life is like a lemon drop/ I’m sucking on the bitter/ To get to the sweet part/ I know there are better days ahead”. 

Beige – While the whole album is slower than what we would expect, the Annie’s slow it down more as they tell about the less than perfect wedding they had.  More than four months pregnant, marrying “some boy”, everyone is judging the bride and not having fun at the reception, and no honeymoon.  The title refers to the color of the bride’s dress: “Now everyone in this place/ Knows I didn’t wait/ ‘Cause I was wearin’ beige”.  The slow cadence of the waltz makes this track less than a standout, but the tone of regret in the singers’ voices, as well as the vivid description of the scene, save the song.

Bad Example – A little more what you would expect from these girls, “Bad Example” tells about how you cannot know what the good path is, unless someone sets the wrong one, and these girls are that “someone”: “Somebody had to set the bad example/ Teach all the prim and propers what not to do/ Nobody ‘round here wants to ramble/ What the hell? That’s what I was born to do”.  My guess is that after “Hell On Heels” this will be a single very soon.

Housewife’s Prayer – When backed against the ropes, the mind goes to extreme’s, and that is what is happening to these girls here.  “I’ve been thinking about/ Settin’ the house on fire/ Can’t see a way out of the mess I’m in and the bills are getting’ higher”.  Times are tough for the singer and her family, and she is about to lose it.  The song is great for the times, as I am sure everyone has been at the point where they feel like they have nothing left to lose, and people of both gender’s will likely relate to the song.

Takin’ Pills – In contrast to the previous song, the girls are still down on their luck, but this one is not as relateable.  It tells about the difficulties of being on the road, trying to make it as a band.  “We owe 400 dollars to the boys in the band/ Gas light’s blinkin’ on a broke down van/ Living on truck stop burgers and fries/ Crossin’ our fingers for a “Vacancy” sign/ Who the hell’s gonna pay these bills?/ One’s drinkin’, one’s smokin’, one’s takin’ pills”.  The song is a little unbelievable coming from these three, especially to hear Miranda sing about the struggles of being a startup this late in her career, but the song is catchy enough to keep it from being a dud.

Boys From The South – Whether Texas, Florida, Carolina, or Tennessee, these girls love their country boys and they take us on a tour of the south, describing what the boys in each state might be doing right now.  Each verse ends with “There’s something about a boy from The South” before talking about the boys they interacted with when they were younger.

The Hunter’s Wife – The funny thing about this band is the songs you would expect to be fast end up being slow and vice-versa.  One cannot help but thinking that this song was written by Miranda, with her new husband Blake in mind.  Blake is an avid hunter, so it would make sense.  “And if I’s a bettin’ woman/ I’d lay my money down/ I’d bet he spends more time in them woods then he spends in this house/ I got myself a problem I can’t figure no way out/ It’s like I’m married to a shotgun carryin’ tobacco chewin’ no good blue tick hound”.  It is a very upbeat song for the topic and I often find my toe tapping to the beat.

Trailer for Rent – One would think that the boys would learn from screwing girls over, especially these girls.  They are out to even the score, so they head down to the paper to place a four-line ad in the classifieds: “Trailer for rent/ No down payment/ Comes with some holes and dents where I got tired of his shit/ Call if your interested”.  The song has some very obvious old-style country tones to it that really make it an appealing song, even at a slow speed.

Family Feud – The trio close out the album in the wake of mama’s funeral.  The family is fighting over the goods that she left behind, since daddy is already gone.  The singer looks on in dismay at the scene, thinking about what mama and daddy would do if they were witnessing the scene, saying “She’s only been in the ground a day or two/ I’m glad mama ain’t around to watch this family feud”.  Each girl takes a round describing what they see and end with “What the good Lord giveth/ The family taketh away”. 

Overall, the Pistol Annies’ debut album is a great effort from three amazing voices.  My only serious complaint is the length of the album.  Clocking in at 30 minutes, the album leaves us wanting so much more from the promising trio.  I already look forward to seeing if they can build upon the solid premiere.  9/10

Also a reminder, looking for people interested in joining me for the group listening party for Brantley Gilbert's forthcoming album.  Details are in my previous post.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Special Announcement!

So, in my last review, I mentioned that there was going to be a special announcement coming up, and the time has come for the reveal.  To be honest, there are two.

1.  I am going to continue with the full-length reviews that I am doing, but there are more than just the one album coming out weekly.  For those smaller albums, as well as albums that came out earlier in the year, I am going to start doing "Micro-reviews".  A paragraph or two with some general thoughts and a rating.  Not as in depth as the reviews I have been doing.  Some of the first reviews in this style will be Jeff Bridges self-titled as well as the new album from Sunny Sweeney.

2.  As many of my readers know, I am a big proponent of the social network, Google+.  Well, the network has a "Hangout" feature that provides a unique opportunity.  I am going to do a "Group Listening Party".  Nine people have the opportunity to join me in a webchat and participate in a review session as we listen to the album together, and share our thoughts, the transcript of which will be posted here.  More details to come, but I am happy to announce the album and weekend that this will debut.  The weekend of September 16-18 (Exact date and time is TBA) we will connect to review an album that has too much personal meaning for me to be objective: The re-release of Brantley Gilbert's "Halfway To Heaven" Album.  In conjunction with this, I will likely do a micro-review of the album, but the majority of it will take place in the Group Listening Party.

There are only nine spots available, so if I have more than nine people sign up, I will do a lottery to determine the nine who join me.  The only requirement is that you have a Google+ account and that you add me to your Circles so that I can invite you.  If you do not have one, you can get one, here.  Sign-ups should happen through Google+.  Let me know that you are interested.  Exact time and date will be forthcoming, as will rules for the chat.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Album Review: Eli Young Band - Life At Best

The Eli Young Band is one that is not well known outside of the Lone Star State, and while they never exactly "rock out", their music is down to Earth and relatable.  They are considered "Texas Country", but, if I were to be honest, I would tell you that I do not know what separates that from regular Country, except that it comes from Texas.  All I know is that the band that brought us "Always The Love Songs" and "Guinevere" returns with their fourth studio album and in keeping with their tradition, they do not overpower us with their music, but put their focus on their lyrics.

Even If It Breaks Your Heart - This is about as upbeat of a song as you will find on the album.  This is not a bad thing, as the style of the band is slower than a lot of their contemporaries.  The song is a feel good song about chasing your ambitions:  "Some dreams stay with you forever/ Drag you around but bring you back to where you were/ Some dreams keep on gettin better/ Gotta keep believin if you wanna know for sure/ Ohhh, I can hear em playin/ I can hear the ringin of a beat up ol guitar/ Ohhh, I can hear em singin 'Keep on dreamin, even if it breaks your heart.'"  "Even If" is a great lead song that accurately frames the band's sound, preparing you for the rest of the album.

Crazy Girl - The first single off of the album, "Crazy Girl" is a waltz that currently sits at #14 on the country charts.  The singer is finding himself having to convince his woman that he did not leave because he is leaving her, he just needed to walk away from what was likely an argument.  The song is beautifully written, as are all of the band's songs, and I look forward to seeing it continue to climb the chart.

Every Other Memory - Unfortunately, it seems that the singer's girl was not content to stay with him, as he is recalling the memory of her suitcase on the bed as she leaves.  This is one of the most upbeat breakup songs that I have heard, and it serves a great lesson.  Too often, we get down about the fact that we have been dumped, but the singer sits here and thinks about the good times:  "Every other memory/ I have of you is good/ And if I could only rewind time/ I hope you know I would"

On My Way - An upbeat song, but not one that stands out (though that could be the fact that it is 3:30 in the morning right now).  The singer finds himself in a traffic jam, anxious to get to his woman.  As he reaches the chorus, he starts describing all the ways that she is amazing, saying that she shines "like a heads up penny lying on the ground".

Skeletons - This is my favorite song on the album, and I am not sure why.  The singer is reminiscing on his past, and the decisions he has made.  "The mistakes I've made/ Are coming back to haunt me/ Like a ghost from the grave/ Always there to taunt me/ You say it's okay/ You say you still want me/ But you don't know where I've been/ I'm no stranger to my sins/ I've got skeletons".

I Love You - This is probably the only song that EYB does that feels overdone.  I have mentioned it before, but the idea of everybody doing what they do best, or what comes natural, but just as easily, the singer loves his woman.  As it is worn out, there is nothing particularly special here.

The Fight - This album is a great one for someone who is down on their luck, and this song is an example of why.  While the music itself is not uplifting, the message is, and it works well alongside the first track from the album: "You gotta fail, a thousand times/ Before you ever see it through/ You gotta spend your last dime/ Before you ever make a million" the singer says in the chorus, before concluding "But it's the way the sun will rise/ Through the darkest night/ Yeah it's always been worth the fight"

My Old Man's Son - Many artists have done tributes to their parents, but there is something about this one that feels different, and therefore separates it from the pack.  Perhaps it is that rather than just singing about how great his father is, the singer instead looks at himself and sees exactly how much like his old man he is, first saying "From the way I laugh/ To the way I hold a woman's hand" and in the second verse comparing "The way I shake on a deal/ The way I hold a steering wheel/  Everywhere I go/ Wherever I run/ I'll be my old man's son".

Recover - Another song about overcoming setbacks, "Recover" finally picks the beat up a bit more.  Whether it is a break up or some other obstacle, we are usually stronger than we feel at the time, and the singer reminds us that no matter what, we do not have to give up, because we can, and will, recover.  It fits in great with the ongoing theme set by "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" and "The Fight".

The Falling - This is another of my favorite songs on the album, but because it takes a common theme in country music, the idea of leaving, and gives an explanation for why he is that way. He apologizes for a one-night stand, but explains that it has to be that way for him, because "It ain't the falling in love I'm scared of/ It ain't the moonlight shining in your eyes/ It ain't the falling baby, 'cause the falling I've always liked/ I'm good at being lonely, 'cause lonely is all I've got/ It ain't the falling in love I'm scared of/ It's the sudden stop".  I love the honesty of the song, and the upbeat tempo, probably the fastest on the album, makes it catchy.  If I had to pick, this would probably be my choice to follow "Crazy Girl" as a single.

War On A Desperate Man - Along with "Falling" and "Skeletons" this song rounds out my top songs on the album.  The hopelessness and honesty in the singer's voice will resonate with everyone.  It reminds me of "Modern Day Prodigal Son" by Brantley Gilbert.  I really cannot write about this one and do it justice, so I highly recommend you give this song a solid listen.

Say Goodnight - EYB is ready to cuddle up, and likely do more, with his baby and call it a night, even though the sun is still in the sky.  The romance is building, the kisses, the touches, everything is leading to what they both know is coming, why wait or deny it is going to happen: "I just want to draw the blinds/ And say goodnight/ Oh, won't you let me pull you into me/ Go where all these kisses lead?/ Turn down the bed, turn out the lights/ And say 'Goodnight'"

How Quickly You Forget - The opening of this song reminds me a lot of the tune of "Skeletons".  The singer is trying to remind his lover of when everything was perfect.  Things are obviously a far cry from that, and the singer is realizing that.  This is not a spectacular song, but the way it is sung keeps it from being a low point on the album.

Life At Best - Closing out with the title track, EYB reminds us that while things are not easy, that is kind of the point.  The subject is looking at other people, most likely celebrities, in envy, but the band is here to point out it is not all peaches, because: "Life at best is a struggle/ Life at best can be trouble/ Store up on love, stay humble/ That's all it gets baby, life at best".  The song continues the theme that I have been pointing out throughout the review, that things are not as bad as they seem, and that we are able to push through the obstacles to reach where we want to be.

Overall, Eli Young has released a fantastic album, but the lyrics are not going to be genuinely appreciated the first time through.  I had to listen to them several times to realize how good they truly are.  This feel-good album should be highly recommended, and deserves the opportunity to shine outside of just Texas.  I hope that this album provides Eli Young Band an opportunity to break into the spotlight.  8.5/10

I will be making an announcement regarding an opportunity for you to interact with this blog here soon, so stay tuned.