Single Review: Cam’s “Diane”

Rating: 5/10

Cam has been getting a lot of attention for this song, and as someone who was excited by her potential and loved “Burning House” but wasn’t necessarily blown away by the rest of her debut, I went into this hesitantly. I hope for Cam’s sake and the sake of talented women seeking to make it on country radio that she can have success with this song–because the half of this song that is great is the half that Cam has some responsibility for.

So let’s just ignore the supposed ties to that old Dolly Parton song that literally every other outlet everywhere is discussing and take this as a song. It’s told from the point of view of the other woman, speaking to Diane and telling her that she didn’t know he was married and that she’d give back the nights he spent with her if she could. She’d rather Diane hate her than not understand what happened, but she knows Diane will probably choose to blame her instead of believing the whole truth “because that’s what a good wife would do.” Yes, a song in country that tells a story, and about adultery no less. I love the little details like how Diane will probably hate her anyway, but this woman is desperate to tell her the truth in order to keep Diane from being deceived. Cam sings it quite well too, with nice vocal delivery and heartfelt sincerity that elevate the lyrics.

So why the lukewarm rating? Simply put, the arrangement/production of this thing is horrendous. It’s too frantic and upbeat for the words Cam is saying. There’s supposed to be all this cool harmony in the chorus, but it’s the result of effects rather than actual four-part harmony. I respect the fact that acoustic guitar drives the melody, and you don’t really hear electronic beats, but as I say, this song is moving along at such a rapid, frantic pace that it feels like Cam is just trying to keep up. It could have been a great song, it’s got a great country theme. I’m all for even modernizing it some to give Cam a fighting chance to make it on radio, but she can sing the hell out of stuff like “Burning House,” and if they’d stripped this down even a little, it would have flattered both her voice and the song. As it is, this arrangement has absolutely killed it and forsaken the melody. Further, it’s still not exactly radio-friendly, as it’s kind of vintage poppish with a little country flavor, so in essence, it’s probably not going to fly either on radio or with her more country-leaning fans. So it’s lukewarm all around, and maybe that’s the genius in tying it back to that Dolly Parton song, to attach it to an admittedly interesting talking point.

I hope I’m wrong for Cam’s sake, and for the sake of more songs buried in there like “Burning House” that need this single to be successful in order to see the light of day. But in the meantime, this is a case of a good country song on paper ruined at the hands of a pop producer, and my fear is that Cam will suffer for it.

Written by: Cam, Jeff Bhasker, Tyler Johnson

Collaborative Review: Turnpike Troubadours–A Long Way From Your Heart

Brianna and I are both huge fans of this band, and again, I do apologize that this comes late, but the only fair way to review this is a collaboration, and so we are here now to discuss our thoughts. Both of us enjoyed the new album, but this is definitely the most we’ve differed on a collab piece, which certainly made it a fun discussion, hopefully also a fun read.


Megan: So first off, how would you say this is stacking up against other Turnpike albums? Obviously we’ve both been big fans for a long time, and I’ll just say, this had to grow on me.

Brianna: This one had to grow on me too. But at this point, it’s my second favorite after Diamonds and Gasoline. The band really bring the energy this time around, and the musicianship is stellar. I feel like this is their best album musically, as far as the various styles that are featured.

Megan: See, this is why the collaborations are good. Because for me, musically this is actually my least favorite. I’m not as much a fan of the more rock-influenced direction they went in for some of it. I feel like what got better on this album in particular was the songwriting.

Brianna: I love their country sound so much. Particularly the fiddle and also all the steel guitar on this album. It’s great! But songs like “Something to Hold On To” really show off their abilities with a more rock sound. It’s actually my top favorite song, I think. Also, I have to mention the musicianship on “A Tornado Warning.” That part where the lyrics speak about country music and the band breaks into this great sort of country sound for those few seconds is one of my favorite moments on the whole album instrumentally. As for the songwriting, I agree that it got a lot better. I like the albums before this one a lot, but not since Diamonds and Gasoline have I felt so drawn to the stories and characters.

Megan: Yeah, as an Oklahoman, I have to talk about “A Tornado Warning” for a minute. So essentially, they’re trying to use the music to explain how the wind sounds leading up to and during a tornado. I appreciate these details from them. I know it’s important to Evan Felker just based on stuff I’ve read that he writes about and portrays Oklahoma in the proper light, and I think this song is a great example of that.

Megan: As far as the stories and characters, I think a song like “The Housefire” is an example of the improved songwriting because it’s kind of an average song on the surface, but it gets elevated with the attention to detail and the inclusion of the mysterious Lorrie. If you’re new to Turnpike, you’re not impressed, but if you know Lorrie already, it’s even more significant.

Brianna: It sure is. If you’re new to the band, I’d even recommend going back and checking out the songs where she appears. It’s extremely unique and clever how Evan crafts such compelling stories. I love “The Housefire” and think it’s one of their best story songs. It just feels fuller knowing Lorrie’s backstory.

Megan: I’m glad you mentioned going back, because I think that’s my main criticism with this album. Even though the writing is better, it’s almost like an inside thing by now, like you couldn’t start someone new to this band with this album because of the references and interwoven stories.

Brianna: That’s a good point. I haven’t thought about that. On one hand, you’re right. All these little details, like the Browning shotgun that belongs to the narrator of “The Housefire” keep coming up, so yes, you do miss out on some things if you’ve never listened to them before. I”m more fan and think it’s awesome that these guys have created their own world and characters, but if you look at it this way, it can be a bit alienating. Still, if you are unfamiliar, you wouldn’t really know you’re missing out, and you could still appreciate the song. You’d just not get the bigger picture until you listened to their previous work.

Megan: That’s also a good perspective. So, standout moments for you? I know you’ve already mentioned “Something to Hold On To.”

Brianna: OH yeah, the guitar and chorus of that song are just so catchy! I love it. Besides that one and “The Housefire,” I love the fast pace of “Winding Stair Mountain Blues,” with its sort of bluegrass sound. Plus, the lyrics are very interesting. I also really love “Pay NO Rent” because it’s such a heartfelt description of emotion. “Sunday Morning Paper” is very catchy and also pretty timely, as it’s about the death of rock ‘n’ roll. Really, I could go on about almost all of these songs. What about you?

Megan: I’d agree about “The Winding Stair Mountain Blues” and Pay NO Rent” for sure. “Winding Stair” is just stellar instrumentally, and it shows off their fiddle which I always have a weakness for. On the other side of that, you’ve got “Pay no Rent,” which is pretty much Exhibit A for the fact that Evan Felker is a redneck Shakespeare. Incredibly poetic, well-written song. Also really digging “Pipe Bomb Dream” and “Old Time Feeling (Like Before).”

Brianna: OH, how could I forget about those two? The first thing I noticed about “Pipe Bomb Dream” was all the great steel guitar, but I think painting the portrait of a war vet getting into trouble with the law on account of some rather illicit activities was kind of fun. As for “Old Time Feeling,” I thought it was pretty potent emotionally, as he’s saying he felt exactly the same way he used to. Times have changed, but his feelings haven’t. I like the lyrics of that song a lot.

Megan: It’s easy to forget them, I think, because there are so many great songs. So I think we agree on the low point of the record, that being “Oklahoma Stars.”

Brianna: For sure. It’s not a bad song by any means, but the lyrics don’t really do anything for me. There isn’t one Turnpike Troubadours song I think is awful, but this one just kind of…bores me, I suppose.

Megan: Jamie Lin Wilson did that song at Medicine Stone. She wrote all of it and sent it to Evan, who apparently added the last verse. I actually thought her version was beautiful, and I was really looking forward to hearing theirs. She had written the song after Medicine Stone last year about the experience there; that’s why it mentions the “banks in late September” for example. I actually think their version is completely awful in comparison, because it’s a complete misinterpretation of hers. Hers was much more melodic and heartfelt, and I think this one stripped a lot of that away.

Brianna: Oh wow, I definitely need to see if I can listen to her version. I really like her singing, so I’m betting I’ll like that a lot.

Megan: Yeah, hearing it on this album was majorly disappointing for me. She’s singing with him on it, but it still just doesn’t sound right. Anyway, I’m interested to see what your overall rating of this will be because based on this conversation and some things we’ve said in private, I think this may be the first time your rating beats mine.

Brianna: I think I’ll have to go with a 9.5 on this one. The instrumentation really is stellar, and the sound is much fuller than on their previous albums. The writing is very well done, and I love most of these songs. Really, the only thing bringing this album down for me is my total lack of feeling toward “Oklahoma Stars.” While I definitely acknowledge your point about the number of things on this album that are kind of special only if you’re already familiar with their work, it’s just something that draws me into their music and this album even more.

Megan: Everyone, take note, this is the highest rating for an album Brianna has yet given here. I myself don’t love it as much as you, I’d go with an 8 for this album. The songs I enjoy I absolutely love, but it’s not the entire album for me. Definitely a solid addition to their discography, but I guess I’ll be in the minority because I don’t think it’s their best album overall. And we’ve created a weird collective rating for this which has never happened before.

Collective Rating: weirdly, 8.75/10

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Go See the Turnpike Troubadours Live If It’s the Last Thing You Do

It’s been a weird month for me, and I’m sorry I’m just getting to this now, but trust me, I had to take some time for myself, and it was well worth it. I do expect there to be quite an influx of writing during the next few days because I’ve been listening to a lot of music but haven’t had the time to really sit down and write my thoughts on anything.

But absolutely the first thing I have to address is the live show I saw last Friday in Oklahoma City at a place called the Criterion for the Turnpike Troubadours’ album release party. I’ve now seen Turnpike three times live, and I’m so glad I finally get to devote an entire post to this. I will freely say that in September at Medicine Stone, they didn’t live up to themselves as much, and their show didn’t blow me away on the level that it has each other time, but without a doubt, the Turnpike Troubadours is the best live music experience I’ve had the opportunity to see.

It’s hard to even begin to put into words the kind of brilliance you see at a Turnpike show, but you know all that ridiculous fiddle and guitar and just generally awesome instrumentation? It’s barely contained on their albums, and then you hear it just basically come unleashed in a live setting. There’s nothing like the opening to “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead” as the band just breaks out into the song, and all hell breaks loose. It’s surreal to listen to a song like “Seven and Seven,” meant to be such a deep and thought-provoking number, be screamed out among thousands of people because somehow this band managed to write it in an upbeat, concert-friendly way. This helped me to enjoy some of the new album more–you’ll see my thoughts on that shortly, by the way–because songs like “The Housefire” work better in a live setting, and suddenly a serious song becomes lively and fun. And then you get moments like “Pay no Rent,” where the songwriting of Evan Felker is on full display, and even if you came here looking for a party, you can’t help but be hit by the genius in these lyrics.

Even having seen Turnpike twice already, “Long Hot Summer Day” is a moment I was looking forward to, just hearing the fiddle over and over for the chorus. At Medicine Stone, they had tended to do this as an encore, but here, they did it as the finale, to ridiculous applause. The encore featured Jamie Lin Wilson, who had been the opener and is another great live performer, and she was there for “Call a Spade a Spade,” a song she appears on in its studio version. The night ended with “The Bird Hunters,” which is amazing in and of itself, because that song is a five-minute, waltzing heartbreak song, and yet, the Troubadours manage to make it something lively enough for the end of a concert. It’s truly special to hear everyone singing along to this, and it makes me go back to Jamie Lin saying that Evan Felker somehow manages to write “deep, thoughtful songs that also make you want to party.” This is extremely rare, and it means both that this band’s writing might be a little underappreciated and also that they’re accessible enough for everyone.

They’re certainly being given greater attention now, but the Turnpike Troubadours are still massively underrated. Trigger addressed this a little on SCM, but it’s a shame that artists like Turnpike and others are struggling to find live audiences outside Texas and Oklahoma because they should be on the level of Isbell and Simpson. NO question. So go out and support the best band making country music today if you have any interest in live music at all.

Album Review – Whitney Rose – Rule 62

Rating: 7/10

When I saw that Whitney Rose was going to release an album so soon after her recent EP, I was excited. I really like the sound that she is developing, and her voice is unlike any other I know of today. After hearing this record, I have to admit that I am a touch disappointed. While it is still instrumentally appealing and has some good songs, I have to say that I believe that Heartbreaker of the Year was abetter album to me.

“I Don’t Want Half (I Just Want Out)” starts the album off in a very country way. The lyrics tell of a woman who just wants a divorce. her husband and his girlfriend can have the house, all of her possessions, even the cat. She simply doesn’t want to be reminded of her husband anymore. I like this song’s instrumentation, because it’s very country with the fiddle solo. I like the fast pace of “Arizona”, as well. In this song, Whitney Rose tells of dreaming of Arizona where there is heat, because her partner is so cold. It’s an interesting kind of track lyrically. Plus, there is some really well-done saxophone. Another song I enjoy is “Better To My Baby”. The woman in the song wants her ex’s new partner to treat him better than she did. I don’t think I’ve heard a song speak about an ex in that manner, which makes it very refreshing. Like many songs on the album, it’s faster and not sad at all, and I quite appreciate that.

“You Never Cross My Mind” slows everything down, though. This song is just a bunch of lines that aren’t true, such as how oceans aren’t deep and mountains aren’t tall, and he never crosses her mind. While I do like that, it quickly becomes a bit dull. “You Don’t Scare Me” is a song I find unique. It tells the story of a woman who meets a man at a bar and goes home with him. When the man points out that it’s only for a night, she laughs and says that’s fine. She’s not scared of him, because her heart’s already been broken. There’s nothing that he can do to her that hasn’t already been done.

Now we come to what is my least favorite song by Whitney Rose. I haven’t heard her first album, but out of the songs from this album, her EP, and Heartbreaker of the Year, this is definitely the track I like the least. It’s essentially about being nervous and tense, but the fact that she keeps repeating the phrase “I can’t stop shaking” makes it all very redundant. Not even the fast instrumentation got me into this song. I really like the next track, “Tied to the Wheel”, however. I read somewhere that it is a cover, but this is the only version I’ve heard. The track tells of a trucker who loves what he does, but at times he feels tied to the wheel. He misses his family but never sees them due to his job. I’m sure that this theme is very relatable for people who aren’t home as often as they might like. There is some accordion in this song, and it just adds to the appeal for me.

Probably my favorite song on the whole album is “Trucker’s Funeral”. It tells the tale of a funeral where the person telling the story finds out that her father, who was a trucker, had another family across the country. It’s an interesting story, and like a good book, when I first heard the song I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. “Wake Me In Wyoming” is a sad song about heartbreak. The person in the song is sad about the fact that their relationship has ended, and in order to not be tempted to go back home, she doesn’t want to be woken up until she’s thousands of miles away in Wyoming. I like the instrumentation of this song, but the way it’s sung, as well as the vagueness of the story keep it from really standing out to me.

“You’re A Mess” is another song I don’t particularly like on this album. The lyrics tell of a woman trying to love the person she is with, but they make it hard for her. She loves him, but he makes her angry. Yet again, this one isn’t particularly memorable for me. I don’t know if it’s how Whitney Rose sings the song, the instrumentation, or just the somewhat vague lyrics, but I just can’t get into this song. I do like the last track, “Time To Cry”, though. It’s fast and fun. The lyrics revolve around a woman who left the man who had made her cry, and now she says it’s his turn. I find it interesting how this song is right after “You’re A Mess”, so it could be taken as a kind of story. I think this was a good way to end the album.

In the end, I like this album. I don’t like all the songs, as evidenced by my feelings for songs like “Can’t Stop Shaking”, “You Never Cross My Mind”, and “You’re a Mess”. Still, I enjoy how a lot of these songs are at a faster tempo. I especially like how upbeat “Time To Cry” is, since I initially assumed it’d be slower and sad. This album features some very well-done steel guitar, accordion, and fiddle. I continue to like Whitney Rose’s singing, although I had to get used to her tone on some of the songs. Still, I think if you are a fan of her, this album is at least worth looking into. While I don’t believe it’s her best work, it’s by no means a bad example of it either.

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