Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (November 7th)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Luke Bryan–“Strip it Down” (2nd week at #1)
2. Old Dominion–“Break Up With Him” (up 2)
3. Florida Georgia Line–“Anything Goes”
4. Cole Swindell–“Let Me See Ya Girl” (up 1)
5. Carrie Underwood–“Smoke Break” (up 3)
6. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You” (up 3)
7. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over” (up 3)
8. Blake Shelton–“Gonna” (up 3)
9. Kenny Chesney–“Save It For a Rainy Day” (down 2)
10. Chase Rice–“Gonna Wanna Tonight” (down 8)
11. Jason Aldean–“Gonna Know We Were Here” (up 1)
12. Cam–“Burning House” (up 1)
13. Tim McGraw–“Top of the World” (up 1)
14. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (up 1)
15. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine” (up 2)
16. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You”
17. Jana Kramer–“I Got the Boy” (up 1)
18. Kelsea Ballerini–“Dibs” (up 1)
19. LoCash–“I Love This Life” (up 1)
20. Thomas Rhett–“Die a Happy Man” (up 1)
21. Brad Paisley–“Country Nation” (up 2)
22. Randy Houser–“We Went” (up 2)
23. Sam Hunt–“Break Up in a Small Town” (down 1)
24. Granger Smith–“Back Road Song” (up 2)
25. Hunter Hayes–“21”
26. A Thousand Horses–(“This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” (up 1)
27. Chase Bryant–“Little Bit of You” (up 1)
28. Dierks Bentley–“Riser” (entering top 30)
29. Lee Brice–“That Don’t Sound Like You” (up 1)
30. Zac Brown Band–“Beautiful Drug” (entering top 30)

  • new #1: “Strip it Down”
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “Break up With Him”
  • Brett Eldredge’s “Lose My Mind” went recurrent and fell from #6 to out of the top 30
  • The Band Perry’s “Live Forever” fell from #29 to #32
  • Dierks Bentley’s excellent “Riser” and Zac Brown Band’s EDM “Beautiful Drug” enter the top 30 this week

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Luke Bryan–Kill the Lights
2. Thomas Rhett–Tangled Up
3. George Strait–Cold Beer Conversation
4. Don Henley–Cass County
5. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
6. Toby Keith–35 Mph Town
7. Kane Brown–Closer (EP)
8. Jana Kramer–Thirty One
9. Eric Church–The Outsiders
10. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
11. Brett Eldredge–Illinois
12. Alabama–Southern Drawl
13. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
14. Maddie & Tae–Start Here
15. Little Big Town–Painkiller
16. Jason Boland & The Stragglers–Squelch
17. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
18. LeAnn Rimes–Today is Christmas [debut]
19. Brantley Gilbert–Just as I Am
20. Alan Jackson–Angels and Alcohol
21. Chase Rice–Ignite the Night
22. Stoney LaRue–Us Time [debut]
23. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
24. Carrie Underwood–Greatest Hits: Decade #1
25. Zac Brown Band–Greatest Hits So Far…

  • Luke Bryan’s Kill the Lights remains at the top
  • George Strait and Don Henley show no signs of slowing down, at #3 and #4
  • Stoney LaRue’s fan tribute album Us Time debuts at #22

Source: Billboard

Album Review: Carrie Underwood–Storyteller

Country Rating: 5/10
Overall Rating: 7/10

Carrie Underwood’s fifth album, Storyteller, has been the subject of heated debate since its first single, “Smoke Break,” was released in August.

Single Review: Carrie Underwood’s “Smoke Break”

Carrie had promised that her next album would be more rock-influenced, have more twang, and respect her country roots. “Smoke Break” was certainly more rock-influenced, but it had so much twang that I felt like Carrie Underwood didn’t sound like herself–instead she sounded like a lesser version of Miranda Lambert. So it was with mixed feelings that I came into Storyteller, and after several listens, I still have many mixed feelings.

The album opens with “Renegade Runaway,” a pop/country/rock song about a woman who is a “Tumbleweed blowin’ in the wind come sundown, call a girl like that renegade runaway.” This immediately reminds me of a Miranda song, but here this is not necessarily a bad thing, as Carrie Underwood does not emphasize her twang and still sounds like Carrie. However, it’s not more country, as Underwood promised–and if you were looking for more of a country sound, I suggest you avoid this album because it does not get better in this regard. However, if you enjoy good songwriting and “storytelling,” Carrie does deliver on this promise, and “Dirty Laundry” does a good job of telling the story of a woman who catches her man cheating by finding his dirty clothes. It’s a nice double meaning, and I’d be able to enjoy this song more without the pop production. “Church Bells” is a pop country song about Jenny, a woman who marries a man for his money, only to find out he is abusive. Carrie sings, “All his money could never save Jenny from the devil living in his eyes.” Jenny slips something in his whiskey and “he hit a woman for the very last time.” This is a Miranda Lambert-esque song as well, but despite this and some overproduction, the story makes it one of the better songs on the album.

“Heartbeat” is a straight pop song that Carrie should have left off the album–it’s a female bro country song, albeit more romantic, but we’ve already heard 957 songs about people hooking up by rivers, and so this is just unnecessary. Also, if you didn’t hate this, prepare to–Sam Hunt is the backup singer. Next is “Smoke Break” which I already shared my thoughts on in my review, and in the context of the album, it actually bothers me more. The story told here, of characters who drink and smoke (or would like to but don’t actually do it) to cope with the pressures of their daily lives, doesn’t compare to the other stories on the album, and her Miranda Lambert impression is more noticeable in the context of an otherwise Carrie Underwood-like sound on this album. “Choctaw County Affair” is one of the best songs on the album; this is a country rock song about a small town murder. Carrie sings from the view of one of the suspects. It’s great songwriting, and the production doesn’t overshadow it. I recommend listening to this if you only listen to one song on Storyteller, and I will post it here.

“Like I’ll Never Love You Again” is another of the better songs–a pop country love song in which Underwood gives us a rare subdued moment on this album. The sincerity in this song makes it even better. “Chaser” and “Relapse” could have been left off the album, as neither of them add a thing to it. The first is a pop rock song basically about telling a man to go ahead and “chase” the other woman. It doesn’t work as a pop song or a country song. “Relapse” does have a more pop country sound, but it’s just a boring song. It tells the story of a woman having “relapses” with an ex–that’s all I can say, as this is all there really is to it. “Clock Don’t Stop” is another straight pop song, complete with a clock ticking. This is a song explaining that “the clock don’t stop ticking away”–I wouldn’t blame anyone for hating this song, but I actually don’t mind it as a pop song. At least it chooses a genre, and this certainly helps it as a song, even if it does nothing for Storyteller as a whole.

“The Girl You Think I Am” explores the relationship between a father and daughter. The daughter just wants to be the girl that her dad sees–the girl in church who was “eight years old wearing angel wings.” It’s a heartfelt moment with stripped-back production that I also recommend you listen to. “Mexico”–now that sounds like a bright, happy beach song. Not from Carrie Underwood–it’s a song about running from the law with “blue lights on the horizon, dust clouds filling the sky.” This is a mix of country, pop, and rock that actually works–another Miranda-esque song that Carrie doesn’t overdo with twang. The album closes with “What I Never Knew I Always Wanted,” a personal song for Underwood about her marriage and new son. She says she never thought she would be this type, but now she has “what I never knew I always wanted.” Despite the fact that this song is a pop song, it is one of the better ones because it shows some of Carrie Underwood’s heart.

Storyteller came with many expectations. It was said to be more twangy and contain more stories. On this front, Carrie delivered–the songwriting here is actually really great, with the exception of a few songs. Carrie Underwood had a hand in writing many of these songs, a fact that should certainly be noted. If you prefer great songwriting, you’ll really enjoy this album. On the other hand, Carrie Underwood promised this album would sound more country–it’s actually an album of pop and rock and country mixed together to create a unique sound. If you place emphasis on a country sound, you will probably find a lot to hate with this album. I personally find more to enjoy than to criticize, but it’s an album you must hear for yourself.

Listen to Album

Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (October 31st)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Luke Bryan–“Strip It Down” (up 1)
2. Chase Rice–“Gonna Wanna Tonight” (up 3)
3. Florida Georgia Line–“Anything Goes” (up 2)
4. Old Dominion–“Break Up With Him” (up 1)
5. Cole Swindell–“Let Me See Ya Girl” (up 2)
6. Brett Eldredge–“Lose my Mind” (down 5)
7. Kenny Chesney–“Save It for a Rainy Day” (down 4)
8. Carrie Underwood–“Smoke Break”
9. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You” (up 1)
10. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over” (up 2)
11. Blake Shelton–“Gonna”
12. Jason Aldean–“Gonna Know We Were Here” (up 2)
13. Cam–“Burning House” (up 3)
14. Tim McGraw–“Top of the World” (up 1)
15. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (up 2)
16. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You” (up 2)
17. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine” (up 2)
18. Jana Kramer–“I Got the Boy” (up 3)
19. Kelsea Ballerini–“Dibs” (up 1)
20. LoCash–“I Love This Life” (up 2)
21. Thomas Rhett–“Die a Happy Man” (up 4)
22. Sam Hunt–“Break Up in a Small Town” (up 5) [biggest gainer, sadly]
23. Brad Paisley–“Country Nation”
24. Randy Houser–“We Went”
25. Hunter Hayes–“21”
26. Granger Smith–“Back Road Song” (entering top 30)
27. A Thousand Horses–(“This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” (up 1)
28. Chase Bryant–“Little Bit of You” (up 2)
29. The Band Perry–“Live Forever”
30. Lee Brice–“That Don’t Sound Like You” (entering top 30)

  • new #1: “Strip it Down”
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “Strip it Down”
  • Maddie & Tae’s “Fly” and Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” fell from #9 and #13, respectively, to out of the top 30
  • Granger Smith’s terrible bro anthem “Back Road Song” enters at #26
  • Lee Brice’s mediocre “That Don’t Sound Like You” enters at #30 this week
  • Chase Rice’s terrible, bland, unforgettable “Gonna Wanna Tonight” has literally been on this chart for a year…

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Luke Bryan–Kill the Lights
2. Toby Keith–35 Mph Town [debut]
3. Jana Kramer–Thirty-One [debut]
4. Don Henley–Cass County
5. George Strait–Cold Beer Conversation
6. Thomas Rhett–Tangled Up
7. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
8. Kane Brown–Closer (EP)
9. Alabama–Southern Drawl
10. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
11. Jason Boland & The Stragglers–Squelch [debut]
12. Brett Eldredge–Illinois
13. Eric Church–The Outsiders
14. Maddie & Tae–Start Here
15. Little Big Town–Painkiller
16. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
17. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
18. Brantley Gilbert–Just as I Am
19. Alan Jackson–Angels and Alcohol
20. Josh Thompson–Change: the Lost Record Vol. 1 (EP) [debut]
21. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
22. Chase Rice–Ignite the Night
23. Alabama–Angels Among Us: Hymns and Gospel Favorites
24. Zac Brown Band–Greatest Hits So Far…
25. Kelsea Ballerini–The First Time

  • unfortunately, Luke Bryan is back at the top of this chart
  • four albums debuted on the chart this week…incidentally, the only one really worth checking out is Squelch

Source: Billboard

Album Review: Jason Boland & the Stragglers–Squelch

Rating: 9/10

For those unfamiliar with the Texas/Red Dirt scene, Jason Boland & The Stragglers is one of the first bands you should know. The Oklahoma-based band have been a presence in Red Dirt since 2001 and have gained a reputation within the scene for their traditional country brand of Red Dirt. They are back with Squelch, a great country-sounding album full of political and social commentary. Though this type of album might not be for everyone, with its highly political nature, Squelch is an album many will find themselves enjoying.

For those unfamiliar with the term “Squelch,” it refers to the knob on a CB radio used to mute the static. This static seems to be a metaphor for the information surplus we receive daily, and “Break 19,” the album’s opener, continues with CB lingo to protest the amount of information we are fed daily. “Once you read between the lines, you miss the days when you were blind”–what an excellent line. “The First to Know” is more ambiguous, seeming to call out social media for its controlling nature. “If my voice sounds scared and frozen, it’s because I’m afraid and cold, and when I am, you’ll always be the first to know” is a disturbing truth about the hold social media has on many. The fiddle in this song is excellent. Next is the straight rock “I Guess it’s All Right to be an Asshole.” The premise here is “Genius is always bound to be misunderstood, I guess it’s all right to be an asshole if you’re good.” It’s as simple and as true as this.

“Holy Relic Sale” is next. Currently at #24 on the
Texas Music Chart, this song is the first break from social commentary. Inspired by Jason Boland’s wife’s lucky blue socks, the song tells of a day they found themselves enjoying, despite the fact that she left her lucky socks at home. “The sun will also shine on the nonbeliever” reminds us that we will all have our good and bad days in life. “Heartland Bypass” is a musically excellent song featuring acoustic guitar, steel, and fiddle–here, Jason is asking his woman to get away with him. It’s my personal favorite of the album and one that you should just listen to, and then listen to again. “Lose Early” is a country rock critique of the wealthy–the great Red Dirt mix of fiddles and rock guitars fits this song perfectly. It’s a sound like no other, even if you don’t like political commentary. “Do You Love Me Any Less” is a traditional country song in which the narrator is asking a woman if she’ll love him less while he is on the road. “Do you love me any less when I’m gone?”–what a line. It should be noted that Cody Angel, the newest Straggler, has brought some remarkable steel guitar to this album, and it shines on this song in particular.

The fun, upbeat “Fat and Merry” is another attack on the wealthy, this one much more obvious and all the more entertaining. This song is rife with excellent, sarcastic lines, but this one sticks out: “Here in the land of plenty, there are plenty that could land a little more.” “Christmas in Huntsville” is the darkest point of the album. Here, the narrator is on Death row for a crime he did not commit. He reflects on God, his family, the “man I didn’t kill,” and his last meal, which is “turkey and dressing for this Christmas in Huntsville.” After this utterly depressing song, I am thankful for “Bienville,” a song about a traveling man who meets a woman with a like-minded spirit in the Bienville hotel, and the two fall in love. There are a lot of great lines on Squelch, but the best are found here: “All of my life I prayed I would find another lost soul with the travel in mind. The years I spent wishing left me ill-prepared for the Bienville hotel, and the time that we shared.” The instrumentation is also excellent, with more of that great balance of acoustic guitar, steel and prominent fiddle. The album closes with the blazing, upbeat “Fuck, Fight, and Rodeo,” an attack on American politics and leaders, whom Jason Boland simply labels “their kind.” It’s an ironically cheerful song, as the premise is basically that nothing will ever be fixed with “their kind” in charge. It’s definitely an appropriate way to close such an album.

Squelch is an album which I would describe as surprisingly enjoyable. It’s certainly charged with political and social commentary, and many won’t like these lyrics, but they are delivered to us in musically excellent songs that any country fan will enjoy. As a person who does enjoy the lyrics, I find Squelch to be a rather excellent album, but I recognize some won’t be able to appreciate it as much. Still, it’s a great introduction to the world of Texas country/Red Dirt and an album worth checking out.

Listen to Album

Texas Music From Oklahoma: A Look at the Texas Music Chart (October 19th)

Texas Music Chart

1. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen–“Lady Bug” (up 2)
2. Bart Crow–“Life Comes at You Fast”
3. Curtis Grimes–“Smile That Smile” (up 1)
4. Casey Donahew Band–“Loser” (up 1)
5. Mike Ryan–“Girls I Date” (up 2)
6. Kevin Fowler & Deryl Dodd–“Damn This Ol’ Honky Tonk Dream” (down 5)
7. The Statesboro Revue–“Undone” (down 1)
8. TJ Broscoff–“Phone Calls” (up 1)
9. Josh Grider–“You Dream I’ll Drive” (up 2)
10. Stoney LaRue–“Easy She Comes” (up 3)
11. Roger Creager & Cody Johnson–“If You Had to Choose” (up 4)
12. Jon Wolfe–“Don’t It Feel Good” (up 7)
13. Mario Flores–“Beer Time” (up 3)
14. Uncle Lucius–“Don’t Own the Right”
15. Saints Eleven–“I Don’t” (up 3)
16. Reckless Kelly–“Real Cool Hand” (down 8)
17. Turnpike Troubadours–“Down Here” (down 7)
18. Zane Williams–“She Is” (up 2)
19. JB and the Moonshine Band–“Shotgun, Rifle, and a .45” (down 2)
20. Chance Anderson Band–“245 Miles” (up 1)
21. Jason James–“I’ve Been Drinkin’ More” (up 1)
22. William Clark Green–“Ringling Road” (up 5)
23. Josh Ward–“Whiskey & Whitley” (up 16)
24. Jason Boland & The Stragglers–“Holy Relic Sale” (up 6)
25. Dalton Domino–“Jesus & Handbags”
26. Luke Robinson–“Roses on the Radio” (up 3)
27. Green River Ordinance–“Red Fire Night” (up 13)
28. Miles Williams–“Teasin’ Me” (down 16) [biggest loser]
29. Casey Berry–“Blood of the Lamb” (up 2)
30. Cameran Nelson–“Nothing’s Got Nothin'” (up 18) [biggest gainer]
31. Bri Bagwell–“My Boots” (up 2)
32. Ray Johnston Band–“Small Town Square”
33. American Aquarium–“Losing Side of Twenty-Five” (up 3)
34. The Damn Quails–“Just a Little While”
35. Cody Jinks–“Loud and Heavy” (up 2)
36. Micky & the Motorcars–“Tonight we Ride” (down 1)
37. Pat Green–“While I Was Away” (down 11)
38. Cody Joe Hodges–“One More Drink” (up 4)
39. Paul Thorn–“Everybody Needs Somebody” (down 1)
40. Josh Abbott Band–“Amnesia” (up 3)
41. Jason Cassidy–“Rest of Forever” (up 4)
42. Aaron Watson–“Getaway Truck” (entering top 50)
43. Blue Water Highway Band–“Medicine Man” (up 4)
44. Kaleb McIntire–“Ozark Mountain Stomp” (down 16)
45. Breelan Angel–“She Made Your Bed” (up 1)
46. Tori Martin–“Woman Up” (down 5)
47. Prophets and Outlaws–“Country Music Gold” (entering top 50)
48. Parker McCollum–“High Above the Water” (up 1)
49. Folk Family Revival–“I Drew a Line” (entering top 50)
50. Zach Coffey–“Love Will Lead me Back to You” (re-entering top 50)

  • New #1: “Lady Bug”
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “Life Comes at You Fast”
  • Aaron Watson is back on the charts with “Get Away Truck,” entering at #42

Source: Texas Music Chart