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Holidays & Wedding Rings
Holidays & Wedding Rings
Price: $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Solo Debut Album, May 20, 2015
Jamie Lin Wilson’s new album Holidays & Wedding Rings was released on May 19th. Wilson has a beautiful voice and adds to a growing list of Texas Country/Red Dirt singers who put out a full album of great material without missing a step. I would love to hear Wilson on country radio; she deserves to be there; she’s better than any of the mainstream females you’ll hear on country radio today.

There’s not a single bad track on this album. The album leads off with “Just Like Heartache” which explores the idea of not wanting to be lonely but admitting that being with “just any old lover” is just like heartache

“She’ll Take Tonight” has a great traditional country sound. This song is about a lonely woman seeking for a long-term relationship. It explores a classic theme with the woman deciding that “she’s hoping for tomorrow but she’ll take tonight” and knowing that she’ll believe any lie that is told to her even when she knows it’s not true. It’s a classic theme for a country song and it works so well here because the instrumentation and production is pure traditional country.

In “You Left My Chair” Wilson reminisces over the years spent making a house into a home. It’s a song that notes the passing of time and that an old chair where she sat is the only thing that remained constant over that time.

I already reviewed the amazing song “Just Some Things” which Wilson performs with her co-writer on the song, Wade Bowen. This is an incredible song which you can read my original review of by clicking the link above.

“Moving Along” picks up the pace slightly without turning the song into an arena rock anthem like so many mainstream songs will do. Like her fellow Texas Country singers, Wilson knows how to make a quicker-paced song without taking away the elements that make it country and without sacrificing her amazing vocals. (This track also contains the line which gives the album its name).

“Roses by the Dozen” has a really cool groove to it which sonically reminds me a bit of Wade Bowen’s “Welcome Mat” off of his 2014 self-titled album. A song like this shows that country music can experiment with sound without eliminating its country sound.

“Seven Year Drought” is a song about looking and hoping for better times to come but at the same time realizing that the bad times have not yet come to their end. The song maintains an air of hopefulness that there is a sunrise on the horizon, but that it is still a ways off.

“Whisper on My Skin” is a simple song about being in love and being completed by someone else. It’s a quiet and unassuming song that looks at very simple things that make the love worth celebrating. It reminds me of Striking Matches’ “When the Right One Comes Along.” It paints a picture of a love that is between two people and built on that…not on a big grand display or on fireworks setting off signaling something is meant to be. The love is known due to the simple things that just show that it is right.

The album closes with two more great songs “Here Tonight” and “Old Oldsmobile” both of which continue to showcase Wilson’s amazing vocal talent.

This is yet another album I’m almost certain will end up on my Top 10 albums list at the end of this year. It’s a great album that is not only country, but it knows that it’s country and it’s not afraid to be country. There’s a great mix of sounds and each song feels unique and original. I can already tell that this album is going to be on repeat on my iPod for quite a while.

FOLLOW OPINIONS ON COUNTRY MUSIC AT HOPEFORCOUNTRYMUSIC.WEEBLY.COM


Traveller
Traveller
Price: $10.00
32 used & new from $6.70

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Album is Brilliant, May 5, 2015
This review is from: Traveller (Audio CD)
Wow.

Well, where to begin.

It’s difficult to approach this review in the way I’ve approached others where I attempt to provide some insight into most or all of the songs on the album. To do so for an album like this, at least for me, would prove a very daunting task (though I will look at a few particular standouts).

And that’s a good thing.

I’ve listened through this album a couple of times now and I’m so absorbed in the music, that I’m never fully aware of all of the details of it until it’s too late to do anything about it. This is a very big picture album with a lot going on. It reminds me a lot of Jamey Johnson, in songwriting style, in musical style, Stapleton’s vocal style.

There’s very little cheer on this album. Most of it is dealing with harsh realities of heartbreak, loss, pain, and regret. Sure, it may have it’s more positive moments interspersed here and there, but this is not an album that’s going to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.

Stapleton has crafted a masterpiece. He wrote or co-wrote twelve of the album’s fourteen tracks. Many will be familiar with “Whiskey and You,” which Jason Eady recorded on last year’s Daylight/Dark. Eady stayed very true to Stapleton’s vision as a songwriter. It’s a very acoustic song with minimal production and a huge standout on the album.

“When the Stars Come Out” is another noteworthy track that is one of the few more positive-attitude songs on the record where Stapleton sings of experiencing a memorable night in L.A. “when the stars come out and shine and burn so bright they drown the downtown lights.” He seems to compare this night against other ordinary nights in the relationship and that these types of nights are special because they only occur every now and then. It provides such a stark contrast against the wealth of songs that are around in a current environment that treat every Friday night like it’s the best time in the world.

Another track that stands out among the pack is “The Devil Named Music,” where a long-term troubadour sings about missing his home, his daughter, and his wife, but “the devil named music has taken my life.”

This is easily one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and will without a doubt end up on my Top 10 albums at the end of the year. I can’t recommend this album highly enough. This is a modern masterpiece and is exactly what country music is supposed to sound like.

FOLLOW OPINIONS ON COUNTRY MUSIC AT HOPEFORCOUNTRYMUSIC.WEEBLY.COM


Love Somebody
Love Somebody
Price: $11.49
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Strong Album, May 2, 2015
This review is from: Love Somebody (Audio CD)
Confession time, again. I’ve never been a huge Reba fan. That’s not to say I’ve ever disliked her music. In fact, I’ve always liked the music she’s released, but I’ve never felt the urge to run out and buy her albums. I’ve never felt quite as much of a connection to her music as I have to other artists. So, you won’t find me knowing every Reba song the way I know that I have very single George Strait song on my iPod. That being said, her talent is unquestionable and respect the hell out of her and can tell the undying respect she has for country music.

I did finally get around to listening to Love Somebody all the way through. “Going Out Like That,” the first single, is the lead off track. Thematically, it reminds me of Brooks & Dunn’s “She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind.” I like the song, but felt her performance of the song on the ACMs was better than the studio version. The studio version is a bit heavily produced, though given the emotion the song is portraying, I can understand that it’s meant to be a louder song, but I think this could have still been accomplished with slightly less production.

“Enough” is a duet with Jennifer Nettles. This is quite an interesting song. While one woman sings about her husband cheating on her, another is singing about being that “other woman,” and neither is satisfied. Both women have explored this territory before. Reba explored being cheated on in “Whoever’s in New England,” while Nettles, while part of Sugarland, explored being that other woman in “Stay” (which Nettles admitted was inspired by Reba's song). This song actually feels like a merging of those two songs. It’s a very good song and the production on this song is great. It starts off simple and soars by the time the song reaches its climax, toning it down as the song closes out.

“She Got Drunk Last Night” is a great song about a woman getting drunk because she feels old and unwanted and she calls someone she would otherwise never allow herself to call and “let herself be used.” Reba’s voice is brilliant on this song and the instrumentation is very toned back and subdued.

“Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet” picks up the tempo after the previous two tracks and explores common themes of living fast and taking chances and having been against a wall, but still being in the fight. To this point, it’s probably the most “common” song on the album, one we’ve heard several times before. However, coming from someone with a long career that she’s worked hard to build, the song feels a lot more believable coming from Reba than it would coming from a singer who’s simply a product that a record company has put together.

“That’s When I Knew” is a beautiful song that takes on the theme of when the singer knew someone was the one. Instead of simply taking a standard approach, the song explores knowing when a “second time” is right…knowing that she’s over the person in the past by not seeing him in a new person’s eyes, not trying to stop love from happening, and allowing herself to let love happen again.

“Until They Don’t You” is a fun song about not wanting something until you can’t have it. It’s enjoyable enough, but there’s nothing spectacular about it. I felt the production, like “Going Out Like That,” was a bit heavy-handed. I can see this being a good concert staple to up the pace of her live shows. Reba pulls the song off well, because she’s really talented enough to pull off songs of any pace or tempo. She’s not an artist who has limitations that make her seem out of her element when she changes things up. It’s probably a song that would grow on me with more listens.

“Just Like Them Horses” is a beautiful song which seems to be about death and asking a loved one to be strong while letting go.

“Love Somebody,” the title track has a bit more of a popish feel to it, and is definitely my least favorite track on the album. Despite being the title track, feels out of place on the album. It just doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the body of work presented.

“Love Land” is a song about an unplanned pregnancy that leads to a marriage, that despite its circumstances, is strong because the couple ultimately loves each other.

Overall, I really liked this album and after hearing it, may have to go back and visit some of Reba’s back catalog and give some attention to more than just the singles of hers that I know. This was a strong album and there’s not a whole lot to complain about on it.

FOLLOW OPINIONS ON COUNTRY MUSIC AT HOPEFORCOUNTRYMUSIC.WEEBLY.COM


Suffer In Peace
Suffer In Peace
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Step Up From His First Album, But Still Pretty Forgettable, April 28, 2015
This review is from: Suffer In Peace (Audio CD)
After almost everything on Tyler Farr’s first album (with a few exceptions), I was pretty much ready to write him off. But when he put out “A Guy Walks Into a Bar,” as the first single for his second album, I was cautiously optimistic. Florida Georgia Line deceived us a few months back, releasing “Dirt,” only to plague us with what many, myself included, have found to be the worst album ever.

“A Guy Walks Into a Bar” was a good song, that was reaching for some more substance than Farr had previously shown us. It had a contemporary country song. Long term, maybe it wasn’t anything truly special, but it was a step up both for him and for country radio. And it actually showed some airplay strength, reaching Top 10 on the Hot Country Songs Chart and Top 5 on the Billboard Airplay Chart.

Then, it happened. The album was announced, and the cover art showed Farr standing on a tractor in the middle of a field. And while I always do my best to not judge an book (or album, in this case) by its cover, it was hard not to be suspicious, especially looking at the tracklist. With song titles like “C.O.U.N.T.R.Y.,” “Better In Boots,” “Criminal,” and a duet with Jason Aldean called “Damn Good Friends,” my bulls*** alarm was on high charge on ready to go.

The title track, “Suffer in Peace,” was then released as a sample track from the album while “A Guy Walks Into a Bar” was still charting. And again, I cautiously let my guard down again as I was impressed with a song about a man who’s lived in the same town his entire life and always believed he’d die there, but contemplates a move to a secluded area after a hard breakup with the intent to “suffer in peace.” The song was even better than “A Guy Walks Into a Bar,” with a strong vocal delivery from Farr and I started to think that maybe there was some hope that this album wouldn’t be such a disaster.

“Withdrawals” also had an early availability and I wasn’t quite as impressed, but I also didn’t find myself devastated by the song either. The song compares missing a woman to going through withdrawals from drugs or alcohol. The song relied a little bit on some overused clichés, but musically, it was still pretty decent. Farr seemed to be making attempts to put more into the songs up until this point.

At this point, I’d listened to three tracks from the album, non-sequentially, and while I still had some suspicions about a few of the songs, I actually began to look forward to hearing the rest of the album.

“C.O.U.N.T.R.Y.” is basically what you’d expect it to be. It’s a heavy handed song about how country Farr is. And the song is every bit as bad as you’d expect. The duet with Jason Aldean is not much better. This one would be at least somewhat bearable if it weren’t for the fact that it’s a blatant rip-off of the Tracy Lawrence song “Find Out Who Your Friends Are.” It’s a song about the friends who will help you out of a jam, anytime, anywhere. And sure, I know some songs are going to have similar themes, but the problem is, this song literally also starts off with the singer running his car into a ditch. Sound familiar? It’s also sung from the same perspective as Lawrence’s song, not referring to one specific experience, but several hypotheticals, and sung in the second person…this song, just like Lawrence’s is about you. And, lo and behold, it’s sung with one of those “damn good friends,” just as Lawrence’s song was sung with Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney.

Next up is “Raised to Pray.” I don’t think I have to explain much what this song is about. It’s about being “raised to pray” despite all the hell the main singer raises. It’s a song you’ve heard many, many times before. And one you’ll no doubt hear many, many times again. It’s not an awful song, but it’s highly unoriginal and does absolutely nothing for me.

“Criminal” is actually a decent song. There are a few more clichés here, but it compares a woman to a criminal who “stole his heart, took his lonely nights and ran off with his bad days.” Musically, the song is a bit heavy handed. It’s not overly country, but I can see this song being stripped back to an acoustic performance and being something worth listening to.

“Better in Boots” ventures back into the terrible about a girl:
1. On a Friday Night
2. Under a full moon
3. Wearing boots
4. In a tight dress
5. Letting down her hair
6. Who likes to be called “girl”
Ah, there’s the Tyler Farr I remember.

“Poor Boy” is another song about a poor boy dating a girl who is socially out of his class. Her daddy doesn’t like him. Look, I hate to be the guy who complains about every song that repeats themes. I said earlier, I know themes are going to pop up more than once. But once again, there is nothing original about this song. It’s not done in a unique way, and there’s nothing memorable about it the way there’s something memorable about Brooks & Dunn’s “Red Dirt Road.” It’s just another filler track which is meant to grab the ear of the listener who’s heard it before and wants to hear it again.

“I Don’t Even Want This Beer” improves things a bit. It’s a song about a guy who’s relationship ended and he’s now constantly drunk and he realizes he should be calling the girl and apologizing and that he doesn’t even want the beer he’s drinking, but he never follows through. Early on in the song, the music is very toned back, but gets louder as the song goes on. It should have been kept toned back throughout the whole song, but despite being a bit loud in some places, it’s still one of the better tracks on the album.

The album closes with “Why We Live Here.” Personally, I enjoy this song. Once again, there’s little original about this song about what the singer loves about living in America. But every now and then, there’s nothing wrong with a song like this. It’s been done better in the past, sure, and I can think of several songs of the same ilk that I like better, but personally, I can’t complain too much about this song.

In the end, Farr seems to have reached for more in certain places on this album, but more often than not, returned to a well that has long since run dry. If there were more songs like the title track, “A Guy Walks Into a Bar,” and “I Don’t Even Want This Beer,” hell, even if there were more attempts at songs with the quality of those, it’d be easier to be positive about this album. The album is more or less a step in the right direction from Farr’s debut album, but it doesn’t step far enough to be very noticeable, except in just a few select places.

It’s not an awful album. It’s just not anywhere close to being a good one, either.

FOLLOW OPINIONS ON COUNTRY MUSIC AT HOPEFORCOUNTRYMUSIC.WEEBLY.COM


Hold My Beer: Vol. 1
Hold My Beer: Vol. 1
Price: $10.00
30 used & new from $5.90

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This album is perfect!, April 23, 2015
This review is from: Hold My Beer: Vol. 1 (Audio CD)
Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen were right. There is room for country in country music. The numbers it’s been putting up on iTunes sales as well as on Amazon that there must be people out there who are hungry for something more when it comes to country music.

When I first heard of this album’s release, I couldn’t wait. I knew it was going to be something special. Two of my absolute favorite artists were putting out a collaborative studio album. Two artists with distinctive styles who frequently collaborate on writing and who do regular shows together were finally giving the nation a taste of what their region has known for years – these two are masters of the craft and among the best in the business.

And then it happened: “Standards” was released as a preview track and we had our first inkling of what this album was going to be like. And the impression was good.

The album works perfectly. This isn’t simply two artists deciding to put an album out together: these are two artists who’ve worked together, who know each other, who can play off each other musically and in their personalities. And that’s what they do. Songs like “Good Luck With That” showcase a banter between these two which could just as easily be a conversation that they’re having over a beer, backed by true country instrumentation and beat. “In the Next Life” works in a similar way.

“Standards,” which at this point we’ve all already heard in advance of the album is of course their own version of a protest song. “I don’t have hits, I’ve got standards,” the two singers say when they’re asked to cut a song that will be a hit but isn’t true to them. And a song like “El Dorado” even harken back to the days when country music was called “Country and Western.” It’s a very throw-back song and I’d call it one of my favorites on the album, right along with “Til It Does” (if I could find a way to get any of these songs out of my head).

“Hangin’ Out in Bars” is a song where the singers try to get over a breakup by going out to bars. While this may sound like standard country fare, these two make it work by showing the toll that it takes on them; they manage to make a fun song while still acknowledging that this lifestyle isn’t going to lead to anything good. Those consequences though are never explored in the song though – only the knowledge that they’re right around the corner.

“Lady Bug” was another song that Wade and Randy shared in advance of the record. It’s a simple feel-good tune about looking for a sign of something good in otherwise hard times. Sure, that may sound depressing when you read just that, but the song is just so much damn fun that you can’t help but smile when listening to it!

One of my favorite aspects of this album is its overall feel. Neither artist own this album: it’s exactly what it’s billed as – a collaborative effort. Neither artist outshines the other, and neither artist is trying either. As I’ve said more than once in this review already, these are two artists who’ve known and respected each other for a long time, and that’s what shines through on the album.

My hard copy of the album got delayed in the mail and still hasn’t arrived, so I only received my digital copy of the product today. The digital copy that came from my pre-order from RandyAndWade.com also included two live bonus tracks, Randy Rogers’ “Lost & Found” and Wade Bowen’s “Trouble.” These are great songs from each of their individual catalogs.

The album has a “Vol. 1” as part of its title. I’m hoping that this means that in the near future, there will be a Vol. 2.”

FOLLOW OPINIONS ON COUNTRY MUSIC AT HOPEFORCOUNTRYMUSIC.WEEBLY.COM


Gypsy Road
Gypsy Road
Price: $8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Album with Only a Couple of Missteps, April 22, 2015
This review is from: Gypsy Road (MP3 Music)
April 21st saw the release of Canadian Country star Dean Brody’s fifth album, Gypsy Road. I’ve always been a fan of Brody and feel that he always puts out a solid and enjoyable album. His 2013 album, Crop Circles was strong, and while it seemed to delve into a few more Cheney-esqe songs, even those managed to feel authentic and relaxing coming from the easy-going Brody. As well, two of the album’s four singles, “Another Man’s Gold” and the Lindi Ortega duet “Bounty,” along with some stellar album cuts, really managed to make the album worth its price.

Brody always seems to manage to do more right than wrong. Such is the case with Gypsy Road. Granted, the album isn’t without its faults. But in the end, it’s an enjoyable listen. It may not make end of year Top Ten lists, but if you’re looking for something that’s a fun listen, something that will make you feel good, Brody has put out an album that’s well worth turning to.

First off, there are a couple of tracks that are throwaways, ones that I could easily do without. “Hillbilly” feels clichéd while “Bring Down the House” seems like something that would be cut by Florida Georgia Line (though Brody makes his way through it without turning to the assistance of auto-tune). These tracks are mostly skippable. You won’t miss much by hitting the fast-forward button when these tracks come on.

Then of course there are some feel good tracks that may not make huge impressions, but are still enjoyable to listen to. There are songs about small-towns and kicking back and relaxing, but little offends. There are some love ballads. The album’s first single, “Upside Down,” is one of those easy-going tracks that’s easy to like solely for what it is.

But then there are a handful of tracks on the album that are special, that really make the album worth a few multiple listens. “Monterey” is a great track that reminisces about the good times of the past by looking back upon them with fondness. What makes this song work (whereas similar songs by artists like Luke Bryan fail) is that the singer of this song realizes he’s a grown man. And while he may wish that he didn’t have to leave this past, he’s not out partying every Friday night like he’s still in his early twenties college life. It’s a song of memories rather than of current experiences.

“Sweet Lola” may be the one of the two best tracks on the album. In this song, the singer spins a story of being a Canadian backpacker in Mexico who is thrown in a Mexican jail for making advances on Lola, the local cartel girl. Despite having a cellmate who’s making a knife and planning a jailbreak and knowing the dangers involved, the singer is determined to make Lola his own. “Footprints of a Giant” is another top track on the album. Either of these two songs I could see making my Top Ten songs of the year at the end of the year.

Brody also visits a song that Joe Nichols recorded on his album III. “As Country As She Gets” is not your typical song about a party-hard girl who believes she’s country because she loves drinking out in the field. Instead, the song takes the opposite approach and explores a girl who has no interest in that lifestyle and is more content with a city-life with modern conveniences, and that her love for the singer is the only thing “country” about her…he’s “about as country as she gets.”

“Old Friend” is another beautiful track which may remind some of the Billy Yates song (and Chris Young recorded this song, as well), “Flowers.” This isn’t a reference to the content of the song, so much as the song structure.

Brody concludes the album with an acoustic rendition of the title track from his second album “Trail In Life,” which remains one of my favorite Dean Brody songs and still brings a tear to my eye during the final chorus.

As I mentioned earlier, the album does a lot more right than it does wrong, and it’s easy to forget about its mistakes by the time the album is over. This is of course all helped by the fact that Brody is a high-caliber vocalist who has won numerous awards in his native Canada.

I would definitely recommend this album. Give it a shot. You may not walk away having heard the best album of the year, but I don’t think you’ll regret listening to it.

FOLLOW OPINIONS ON COUNTRY MUSIC AT HOPEFORCOUNTRYMUSIC.WEEBLY.COM


Second Hand Heart
Second Hand Heart
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Album!, April 18, 2015
This review is from: Second Hand Heart (Audio CD)
Ever since 3 Pears, I’ve been anxiously awaiting new music from Dwight Yoakam. He’s one of my all-time favorite artists and he’s never disappointed me. His distinct and unique voice are unmistakable and have a flair to them that is largely unimitated.

When Dwight announced that his new album would be a return to his rock-a-billy style, I was excited. As great as 3 Pears was, there was a style that made Yoakam who he was.

So much lately with artists who promise that their new album will be going in a “new direction” or be a “return to their roots,” it’s easy to get frustrated when these artists really just deliver something that really doesn’t sound anything different than the last album they’d put out.

But Second Hand Heart delivers on that promise and is vastly reminiscent of Dwight’s early work with sounds that could be likened to This Time or If There Was a Way. Almost any one of these songs would fit right in on Yoakam’s 2004 “Best of” compilation. The music would transition itself wonderfully.

The album starts off with “In Another World,” a song about moving forward beyond hurt and to a place where love will heal heartbreak in a way that will make the heartbroken feel as if she is another world. There’s a similar theme explored in “Second Hand Heart,” the title track, however that song explores a story where both individuals have been hurt and are both tentatively testing the waters of love again. Each feels that it may be better to avoid getting involved for fear of experiencing the same hurt again; however, the singer reasons that if you only keep the best memories, it will be hard to see how good they are with nothing with which to compare them.

“Dreams of Clay” is actually a carryover from Yoakam’s 2000 album Tomorrow’s Sounds Today, though this version is tempoed back to a slower version of the song. It holds its own against the original. While the original seemed to have moved beyond the hurt expressed in the song, this version feels like the hurt is still very much present.

“Off Your Mind” is another strong track where the singer addresses a former lover, nothing that if she thinks about him or wonders where he is, he’ll be right where she left him – alone and off of her mind.

Yoakam also lends his trademark sound to his version the classic “Man of Constant Sorrow.”

In my initial review of the digital single of “The Big Time,” I noted some difficulty in understanding the lyrics. That difficult is largely cleared up with the liner notes to guide the way, and it becomes much easier to understand. In the song, Yoakam notes that he’s never seen the “big time,” but that he is content with his own version of that life.

If the closing track, “V’s” of Birds” sounds like something out of the 1990s, there’s a reason: it was written back in 1993 by Anthony Crawford. Musically, it sounds like something off of Garth Brooks’ No Fences. It’s a strong choice for Yoakam; it’s something a little bit different from the rest of the album, but it still feels like it fits right in with the sequencing.

Yoakam wrote eight of the ten tracks on the album. I can’t imagine this album having been better than it came out. It was worth the wait since 3 Pears for this album and this is an easy candidate for my end-of-year Top Ten List.

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Man Against Machine
Man Against Machine
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Price: $8.99
87 used & new from $3.26

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Return for Garth, Even If I Was Hoping For a Bit More, November 12, 2014
This review is from: Man Against Machine (Audio CD)
If I had to sum up Garth Brooks' new album in one word, the word would be "consistent."

If I wasn't aware of the history of Garth's retirement and long-awaited comeback, if I wasn't familiar with the planning that went into that comeback, if I was only familiar with his music, I would have no trouble believing that this album may have come out in 2002 or 2003 as a follow-up to Scarecrow.

The album fits well within Garth's prior work; it's right in his wheelhouse. Eleven years ago, if Garth had been preparing a follow-up to Scarecrow, this would be believable and expected in terms of the release.

But this isn't 2002 or 2003. It's 2014, and given the circumstances surrounding the album and the comeback, I think a lot of people, myself included, were probably hoping for a little more.

That's not to say the album is bad. In fact, as a fan of Brooks, I quite like it. And there's not a whole lot overtly wrong with it (more on that later). Brooks avoids all of the cliches and tropes of bro-country music; there's no objectifying of women; there's nothing that could be considered really offensive to country music. In fact, it's quite well done. There's a lot to like about the album.

Fans of Brooks will be reminded of previous songs at some points. "Rodeo and Juliet" will probably evoke memories of "It's Midnight Cinderella" from his Fresh Horses CD. Stylistically, "Wrong About You" has a different beat which may remind some slightly of "Wrapped Up In You" from Scarecrow.

There's some original sounding songs as well. "Midnight Train" is a particularly refreshing song which has a cool sound to it. And "She's Tired of Boys" is classic sounding Garth in a song about a woman who's fresh out of college and tired of boys and wants a man who's more than "just big talk and big noise."

"Cowboys Forever" is another song that sounds very much like classic Garth music, but it also sounds like something George Strait might sing. This may have to do with the fact that the song was co-written by Dean Dillon, a fact which gave me high hopes going into the song. And "Fish" is a song about finding happiness in simple things. There's some humor in the chorus, but there's something behind it as well; there's the idea that happiness is success, but success isn't necessarily happiness.

"Tacoma" is the song that closes the album and had been rumored at one point to be the first single. This song was a strong closer, with a great sound, very country and Brooks sings it very well. Brooks' strong vocals are also showcased on "Send 'Em On Down the Road," which I reviewed when I received it as a bonus download upon pre-ordering the album. This is one of the strongest tracks on the album, a song about parenting and the need to let go.

Now, onto the mis-steps on the album.

First, there's the title track. This was a very odd song, especially to start the album. Brooks has also been using the opening part of the song (or at least he did at the show I went to in Chicago) to open his shows. It's a very heavy handed song, but it feels overdone, especially with a chorus of men in the background chanting out "work, work, work." And while it seems that Brooks is using this song as a motto for making music that doesn't toe that corporate-ized line, the song itself just feels out of place. Musically, it does not fit with the rest of the album. In fact, it would probably make more sense as an "intro song," the way it has been done in concert: a one-minute-and-change song, making a statement about what the album and his music will be about. I'd probably even like the song more under such a presentation.

The other mis-step (and that word may be slightly an overstatement) is the first single, "People Loving People." I gave the song a relatively strong review upon the song's initial release, but it's always good to hear a first single in the context of an entire album. This song would have better served as an album cut. It's not a song that really represents the album as a whole.

It will be interesting to see how this music plays to a 2014 audience. I think "Send 'Em On Down the Road" and "She's Tired of Boys" would make strong singles substantively and musically. And maybe we'll still even hear "Tacoma" as a single, which would be very refreshing on country radio.

Overall, I feel this album does more good than harm to country. It won't go down as one of the best albums of the year; it won't go down as Brooks' greatest album. But it stays firmly in the style of music for which Brooks is known. And again, it avoids most of what has made country radio so unlistenable in the past couple of years.

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Montevallo
Montevallo
Price: $9.99
53 used & new from $6.43

6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars HOW Exactly Is This Country Music?, October 30, 2014
This review is from: Montevallo (Audio CD)
If any album this year could give Florida Georgia Line's Anything Goes a run for its money as worst "country" album of the year, Sam Hunt's Montevallo might be it.

Perhaps it's the multiple instances of spoken word. Perhaps it's the overabundance of EDM. Perhaps it's the incredibly bad writing (throughout most of the album). Perhaps it's the fact that even the songs with any semblance of potential are ruined by poor production.

But more than likely? It's probably a combination of any or all of the above in almost every song.

Of course we could start by discussing the album's first single "Leave the Night On," a pure rock track. As a rock track, this song might have been semi-decent, possibly even enjoyable. But the continued marketing of non-country songs as country makes this song just another thing to hate about turning on a mainstream country radio station.

The there's the album opener, "Take Your Time," and "Breakup in a Small Town," both of which feature spoken word, the latter of which even goes into rap (though that's hardly anything new, nowadays). "Breakup in a Small Town" lyrically actually shows some potential, but as mentioned earlier, this is one where the production and the use of rap and spoken word ruins the song.

"Ex to See" is likely the worst song on the album. Not only is it lyrically devoid of anything redeeming, but the music and the production is just plain crap as Sam Hunt makes his way through an electronic mess of music.

"Raised on It" is of course the typical song about how Sam is country because he was raised on a small town. There's nothing that says a song like this can't work: see Dean Brody's "People Know You By Your First Name" for a song about coming from a small town. Difference is that Brody doesn't sing about it as if that's what makes him country. Instead, for Sam Hunt, being from a small town makes him as country as anything; he may never actually say it, but that implication is there.

There are only two songs on the album which I didn't out and out hate: first was "Make You Miss Me," a song about a breakup with a girl where Hunt declares that everything will lead her to missing him. Lyrically, it's actually a strong song.song - one of the two strongest on the entire album. The production is a bit overdone, but Hunt doesn't drive into rap or spoken word, and it's not over electronified (is that a word?). It's not a song I would seek out, but it's also not one I would change the dial from either if it were to come on the radio.

The second song that I didn't despise was "Cop Car," which Hunt co-wrote (and was recorded by Keith Urban). Hunt's version is definitely a bit more pop, but like "Make You Miss Me," Hunt keeps this one more musical: no rap, no spoken word. There's some electronic work going on in the background, but it doesn't ruin the song entirely. It's also a very unique and original song with very original lyrics. Personally though, I still prefer Mitch Rossell's cover version of the song, mainly because it's just him and his guitar and the guy has great vocals.

Overall, this album is pretty bad. Only a few small aspects prevent it from being a total disaster, but those moments are few and far between. And the truth is, they're not worth weeding through the entire album to wait for the two decent songs in the collection.

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Wade Bowen
Wade Bowen
Price: $10.00
28 used & new from $6.13

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wade Bowen Has Done It Again, October 28, 2014
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This review is from: Wade Bowen (Audio CD)
Wade Bowen has done it again. My own personal most anticipated album of the year arrived at my door early Tuesday evening, and the wait had been well worth it.

Bowen is a master singer and songwriter and this album is yet another showcase of his extraordinary talent.
The album kicks off with the lead single from the album, "When I Woke Up Today," I reviewed the single back in early September and gave it great praise. My praise now is even higher having heard how it fits with the entire album. Unlike many mainstream artists, Bowen knows how to do uptempo songs without turning them into rock, and that's what this song does. It kicks off the album with a feel-good up-tempo beat.

Bowen also showcases his willingness to delve into different styles and grooves. "My California" and even more-so with "Welcome Mat," have a very different vibe to them, but it also never feels like a deviation from the roots of Bowen's music or his country style.

This is the kind of album where I'm hesitant to list "standout tracks," largely because every track stands out in its own way. These aren't just rehashed versions of previous recordings; they aren't repeated versions of themselves. Each song is unique and individual. And while there are one or two that I may find myself less likely to put on repeat than others, I can't claim to dislike any of them.

Bowen also has some incredible talent joining him on the album. From Vince Gill to Sarah Buxton, to other Texas Country favorites Sean McConnell, Randy Rogers, and Cody Canada (of Cross Canadian Ragweed), Bowen has pulled out all the stops to make this album.

And he's succeeded.

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