Song Review: “White Man’s world” by Jason Isbell And the 400 Unit

Rating: 8.5/10

Let me first say I didn’t want to review every single from the new Jason Isbell album, so I didn’t cover “If we Were Vampires,” but that is one of the best songs of jason Isbell’s career. I wouldn’t have covered this one either, except that I feel it needs discussing, and more than a couple sentences in an album review. More than that, I see, understandably, that people are hesitant to review it because of the political backlash that could ensue. But we all pretty much knew Jason Isbell was going to get political at some point on this albu, and he released this song ahead of The Nashville Sound for a reason; he didn’t want it to be an album cut that people ignored or passed over, he wanted people to be talking about it, so I’m rising to that challenge.

Jason Isbell is quite up front in his delivery of this, speaking as the white man in a “white man’s world,” a “white man’s street,” a “white man’s town,” and “a white man’s nation.” This is what makes this song speaking out against discrimination arguably more hard-hitting; it’s not coming from a minority, it’s coming from a white man who recognizes that it’s a white man’s world and wants to change that. He looks at his daughter and notes that “thought this world could be hers one day, but her mama knew better.” He goes on to explain that “her mama wants to change that Nashville sound, but they’re never gonna let her.” It’s acknowledging both the discrimination against women in general and specifically within Nashville and country music. Isbell goes on to lament that the highway was built over a Native Ameircan burial ground–“got the bones of the red man under my feet” and then regrets that he ever turned a deaf ear to “another white man’s joke” when he looks “into a black man’s eyes.” It’s told with frankness and honesty, and the little details like that last fact, that he has been guilty of ignoring such things in the past, make the song real and regretful as opposed to just preachy. He ends the song by saying that he still carries hope, maybe because of the “fire in my little girl’s eyes.” It’s exactly the kind of song we need in 2017, and credit to Jason Isbell, a white man, for being the one to deliver it.

My slight criticisms with this song have to do with the fact it doesn’t quite stick melodically. The verses do, when he’s listing the examples I mentioned, but the chorus isn’t really grabbing me, and in that sense, it sort of reminds me of the first single, “Hope the High road,” because the melody doesn’t stand out all that much. There’s some really nice blending of country and rock instrumentation, and the fiddle solo adds a nice touch. Still, although the music is where my criticism lies, it’s the lyrics that make this song important, and it’s the lyrics that Jason Isbell wanted us to be discussing and pondering. So, overall, it’s a very nice and timely song that has me looking forward even more to Jason Isbell’s record.

Written by: Jason Isbell

Reflecting On: Corb Lund – Cabin Fever

Today, I decided to discuss Corb Lund. He’s a very underrated Canadian country artist. I love Corb Lund’s music, because he can be funny, serious, and tell you a good story. He does this all on Cabin Fever, his release from 2012. I chose this particular record both for this reason, and because it’s the one that got me into Corb Lund’s Music.

Release Date: August 10, 2012

Style: Traditional Country

People Who Might Like This Album: Fans of quirky songwriting, people who love story songs

Standout Tracks: “September,” “Drink It Like You Mean It,” “Priceless Antique Pistol Shoots Startled Owner,” “Pour Em Kinda Strong”

First off, this album is really diverse in its songs. Corb Lund is funny on tracks like “Cows Around and Bible on the Dash”, heartbroken on “September”, and tells an amazing story on “Pour Em Kinda Strong”. I love how his music has a lot of cowboy themes. He is very witty in some of his lines, too. There is something here for everyone, that’s for sure.

Cabin Fever made a great introduction for me when I was first getting into his music. It’s not all doom and gloom, but there are some really good stories here too. “Pour Em Kinda Strong” may possibly be my favorite song in Corb Lund’s whole catalogue. It tells the story of an arrogant outlaw who ends up getting killed by the bartender he started out the song being a jerk to. The lyrics go “pour em kinda strong cuz I won’t be here long”, which is ironic given that he ends up dying at the end of the song. It’s pure genius. “September” is all about how much he misses his girlfriend who left him for New York City. He states that “there ain’t nobody in New York City who could need you half as bad”. I love the guitar on this song. “Priceless Antique Pistol Shoots Startled Owner” tells the tale of an expert gun owner who is killed by a man to whom he was showing said gun. The thing I like about this song is that it’s instrumentally quieter, so it really lets the lyrics shine, which is very important on a track like this. Finally, “Drink It Like You Mean It” is just a very fun drinking song. It’s got some good steel guitar, and it’s a well-done honky tonk track. He says “Drink it like you mean it, like the serious people do”. I just really love the instrumentation and lyrics here.

I could write many paragraphs detailing Corb Lund’s lyrical genius. He’s ironic on “Priceless Antique Pistol”, hilarious on songs like “Cows Around” where he details the blessings and curses of having cows, and just generally unique in his approach to song writing. I definitely think this is a great place to start getting into Corb Lund’s music. If you like cowboy stories, fun songs that aren’t cliche, and some interesting themes you don’t really hear in songs today, I definitely recommend Corb Lund and all of his albums.

Buy the Album on Amazon

Album Review: Kasey Chambers–Dragonfly

Rating: 8/10

Kasey Chambers is a household name in Australia; she’s released eleven albums, and she’s been winning awards and selling millions of records for years. Still, her name is somewhat obscure in the States, and that’s honestly probably because she wouldn’t have that type of mainstream success here–her music ranges from more traditional, rootsy material to country rock to folk rock to the occasional country pop song to some blues, all of which are represented on this record, but the commonality in all of it is that it’s quite unpolished. Even the more pop-leaning offerings aren’t pop enough for the American mainstream, and so she remains as unknown to some as many of her independent American counterparts despite her success in her home country. It wasn’t until 2015’s excellent Bittersweet that I discovered Chambers and her music, and I’ve since found a lot to enjoy throughout her discography. She’s back now with a double album, which is always a risky undertaking, but for the most part, this is a strong one, and though there’s some filler, it’s minimal.

Disc 1: “The Sing Sing Sessions”

I separate this into two discs because this isn’t just a long album, it’s two albums with completely different producers that make a consistent, cohesive record despite themselves. I almost hesitate to rate this as one project, and the only reason I do is because you must buy them together. This first disc, dubbed “The Sing Sing sessions,” is the stronger of the two and was produced by Paul Kelly, another Australian household name. ON its own, I’d give it an 8.5 at least, maybe a 9.

This disc opens in fine fashion with the banjo that backs many of Kasey’s songs on the catchy, infectious “Pompeii.” I should mention that Kasey Chambers underwent nodule surgery between Bittersweet and the recording of this album, and her voice is definitely stronger. The new depth comes out in full force on the empowering, angry “Ain’t No Little Girl,” easily one of the standouts of this whole thing. If you single out one track of twenty, make it this one, and if you can afford two, “Jonestown” is the other crown jewel. This one tells a great story of a town where people take refuge from hardship and discrimination. It’s an excellent piece of songwriting, and it’s also beautiful melodically. I mentioned the sonic variety of Chambers, and it speaks to her talent that she can deliver equally great performances on a traditional song like this and the rocking, bluesy “Ain’t NO Little Girl.” She explores faith in many of her songs as well, and this album is no different; “Golden Rails” is a fun little gospel-infused tune that may not stand out on the first listen, but you’ll keep coming back to it for its catchy production and lyrics. Kasey also has a knack for story songs, and “Behind the Eyes of Henri Young” captures perfectly the emotion in the chilling tale of a seventeen-year-old boy who went to Alcatraz for petty theft and ended up dying there after being mistreated in prison. There’s also “Romeo & Juliet” featuring Irish singer-songwriter Foy Vance, which tells this story in a new, fresh way, although the lyrics can be admittedly hard to understand at first, and I wish Vance had been given more to do than just echoing chambers in the verses. Kasey also tells her own humorous story in “Talkin’ Baby Blues,” complete with running away from home at thirteen and dating a man who was “barely old enough to vote,” all while putting everything she felt down in song. “Summer Pillow” touches the slightly more pop leanings of Chambers, delivering a nice heartbreak song–“isn’t that life, to give me that, for just a minute and then take it back. Isn’t that love, to make me see everything that never will belong to me.” “You Ain’t worth Suffering for” is also basically pop rock, and this is the only moment of filler on this first disc, although it’s grown on me a little. Mainly, it’s the production here that doesn’t do it for me, and overall, this first half–well, eleven of the twenty, so slightly more than half–is quite strong and does a good job showcasing all the different styles explored by Kasey Chambers over the years. but it’s always a risk extending things and going for quantity, so it’s with that in mind that we head into Disc 2.

Disc 2: “The Foggy Mountain Sessions”

Disc 2, produced by Kasey’s brother and longtime producer Nash Chambers, opens just as strongly as the first, if not more so, with the excellent “Shackle and Chain.” With its call-and-response style lyrics and sparse production, it’s more akin to some of the material from Bittersweet,–which production wise was quite different from other Chambers albums–so if that’s the Kasey Chambers you were looking for, you’ll find more to appreciate on this half of the record. There’s the ever-building, almost Gothic “If I Died,” which sees Chambers issuing out some last requests–“If I died on the bayou, and the sun is goin’ down, would you float me like Moses, so they don’t put me in the cold, hard ground?” It’s got some very nice production which really makes the song, and I think Nash Chambers shines brightest on this track. There are also two great collaborations on this half; one is a banjo-driven gospel song called “NO Ordinary Man” featuring great harmonies from Harry Hookey, Vika Bull, and Linda Bull, and the other is a nice duet with Keith Urban called “If we Had a Child.” The latter has the same problem as the Foy Vance collaboration, however–Keith Urban’s contributions consist of nothing more than harmony and echoing Kasey, and I’d have liked to have heard more from him. The album closer is another version of “Ain’t no Little Girl,” this one called the “FM Lounge Version,” and basically, it boils down to being a subdued version of the song. I prefer the angry version, but both are nice, and both stand out and manage to sound unique, and it’s interesting to have two versions of the same song from two different producers which still serve to unite this whole record.

Disc 2, however, does have some filler. I would say that this second disc is a more consistent record production wise, and therefore, when you do hear the more country pop songs, they stick out on this half of the album. The lyrics in the title track and “satellite” are also pretty weak, and so for multiple reasons, these two just seem like filler on a twenty-track project. I love the production of “Annabelle,” but the lyrics here leave me wanting more too. I feel like it’s trying to tell a great story, but I’m just not getting it somehow. If I’m rating disc 2 by itself, it’s still a solid album, and it probably gets a 7.5.


People say that double albums always have too much filler, and I’d have to say this one does have a little. However, I wouldn’t say that Kasey Chambers made a mistake in releasing two separate discs because each disc represents a distinct style in production. I do think the first is stronger, but if you trim this down to traditional album length, ten to twelve songs, you leave out some good stuff, as well as possibly making the songs not flow as easily into each other being from two different producers. If you trim this down to fifteen songs, you have an excellent album, so maybe it’s a bit long at twenty, but again, it’s not your traditional double album with the different producers and styles, so I’m not sure that would flow as well either. As it is, we have a two-disc, twenty-track offering from Chambers, and for the most part, it’s very strong. It showcases a wide range of sounds, so there’s something here for everyone. The songwriting is solid throughout, and overall, I really enjoyed this record. Definitely recommend this both as a nice place to begin with Kasey Chambers and as a solid addition to her discography.

Listen to Album

Collaboration with Critically Country and the Critical abyss

So I did another collaboration piece for the month of May, this time with both Alex of Critically Country and Leon of The Critical abyss, formerly Country Music Minds. Topics include stuff we covered in May, that God-awful Chris Young song, midyear lists and albums emerging as our respective favorites of 2017. You can check that out here.

The Country Music Chat Featuring The Critical Abyss and Country Exclusive

Memorable Songs From Overlooked Albums: June 1st

You’ll notice I wrote “overlooked” instead of forgettable this time–that’s because the majority of these fall into the category of us having nothing to say about the album rather than really being forgettable. some of them are, but writing “forgettable albums” would be somewhat misleading for most of them. Now, many of you know the drill–standout songs that truly did come off mediocre/forgettable albums, songs from albums we didn’t cover due to time constraints or out of deference to artists, or like most of today’s, songs from albums we just didn’t have much to say about but still thought some tracks deserved a feature. Today’s is quite an eclectic list, from traditional to Americana to pop country to Texas and Red dirt, so there should be something for everyone. As always, this feature arrives when there are enough songs sliding through the cracks to produce one.

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers: “Keep the Home Fires Burnin'”

Man, this song is absolutely great. I heard it, and I was so excited for their debut album Sidelong. Cool instrumentation, nice lyrics, and really catchy and fun despite it being a heartbreak song which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved all the energy put into it–it’s not something you see every day in Americana/singer-songwriter albums. I thought it could be a really nice debut…and the whole rest of their album was just boring. It’s one of the few that does fit the forgettable albums label. I do think there was great, interesting instrumentation throughout it, but this song opens it amazingly, and then there’s just nothing. It would be extremely sad not to feature this, though, it’s a really good song, and I think they’ve got massive potential.

Dalton Domino: “Decent Man”

Dalton’s album Corners really doesn’t fit the “forgettable albums” label either, more just the “not for us” label; neither Bri nor I could really get behind it, but we’re heavily in the minority. Obviously a lot of people really enjoy it, and so I wanted to feature a song from it so that you all could enjoy it too, if you’re so inclined. It’s definitely unique, and credit to Dalton Domino for doing something cool and different in the Texas/Red Dirt scene, even if I’m not personally on board. I do quite enjoy this one.

Rascal Flatts: “Back To Us”

I went back and forth about whether or not to review this. This was an ironic album title for a project that was mostly mediocre and bland, with some God-awful moments and a couple of bright spots that really drove home the point that if Rascal Flatts actually tried to live up to that title, they could once again make good pop country. I never hated them, they just shouldn’t have started trend-chasing. Anyway, I could have probably written a lot about their album, but the title track has emerged as quite a good song, and I want to remind everyone what Rascal Flatts is capable of when they do it right, so I’m putting it here.

Jade Jackson: “Bridges”

This falls also into that “not for us” category. The music in this album is really very good though, and Jade does a nice job balancing between more country rock songs and more singer-songwriter stuff. It’s the latter, at least for me, which suits her voice more, and this song is a good example. I think Jade Jackson is probably the one that people are either going to love or hate–she’s got a very unique voice, and if vocals aren’t really a factor for you, you’ll probably love this album. But I’m not sure everyone will like her voice, and that’s ok. I want to stress, though, that of the albums I’ve listed here, this is probably the best one in my opinion, and it’s simply personal preference holding it back for me.

Jade Jackson: “Gilded

The title track is probably the best song from it, from those lyrics to the melody to that fiddle. It’s another more singer-songwriter type track, and as I say, Jade Jackson’s voice works more with these songs.

Evan Michaels Band: “Like it Should”

This one comes from an EP, Ain’t no Stopping This, and it’s really more just that we don’t generally cover EP’s for a number of reasons, so they are just held to higher standards. As for this particular EP, from the Evan Michaels Band of Stillwater, Oklahoma, I thought it showed potential, but they will need to do the very thing I credited Dalton domino for above–stand out in the ever-growing Texas/Red Dirt scene. That said, “Like it Should” stands out off the EP as a nice song about missing an ex and shows off that potential I mentioned.

Alison Krauss: “Till the Rivers All Run Dry”

Let’s end this feature in fine fashion, with two excellent covers of Don Williams classics turned in for the Gentle Giants album. Again, cover albums are just held to higher standards, and these two outshined the rest. This is an excellent love song; Don Williams’ version was great, and Krauss does a nice job interpreting it and making it her own.

Trisha Yearwood: “Maggie’s Dream”

Yes, the best for last. Honestly, this cover is better than the original. Maybe it cuts deeper with a woman singing the lines, or maybe you just believe Yearwood’s rendition more, but this story of Maggie, a waitress at a truck stop in Asheville who’s nearing fifty and longing to be married despite what she tells everyone around her, was good before and now even better. Honestly one of the best songs I’ve heard this year despite the fact it’s a cover.