All posts by Brianna

Album Review – Laura Benitez and the Heartache – With All its Thorns

Rating: 8/10

It’s no surprise to anyone who reads my reviews on Country Exclusive that I love traditional country music. If an artist currently makes authentic country with lots of steel—and said artist has a voice I appreciate—I’m a pretty easy sell. If you feel the same way as I do about music that fits these requirements, you need to check out Laura Benitez and the Heartache.

When you press play on the first song on this album, you know what you’re in for right away. There’s well-done instrumentation with lots of steel guitar, some nice and mostly upbeat rhythms, and even the occasional accordion. I was immediately interested in what kind of work Laura Benitez would create.

If the instrumentation is what caught my interest first, it was the lyrics that made me stay. The thing about this album is, there are a few songs where one line tells the whole story. “Ghost Ship” uses the line “I don’t know where you are” to help tell the tale of someone who has lost a loved one in a fire, and cannot locate that person afterword. “In Red” uses the lyrics “I should have married you in red” to act as a well-done omen. Upon a couple’s marriage, the new bride spills wine on her dress and jokingly says “I should have married you in red”. By the end of the song, the marriage isn’t going well at all, and she kills her husband. Then, there are songs that take words and twist them around. “The Fool I Am Right Now” is a honky tonk song about a woman who has been the fool who has maxed out her credit cards. She’s been the fool who didn’t take care of her car. However, she’d rather be the fool she is right now, which is a fool in love. “Why Does it Matter” details a woman saying it doesn’t matter if her man doesn’t love her, she’ll still do the same things she always does. It doesn’t matter to her if he has any feelings for her anymore. “But if it doesn’t matter,” she sings, “why does it matter so much?”

The rest of the songs are just as good. The first song, “Something Better Than a Broken Heart” revolves around a woman who thought she’d get something better than a broken heart. Her dreams of a home and love were all proven wrong when her partner left her. One of my favorites is the next track, “Easier Things to Do”. She sings about how it would be easier to not play music and to not love the man she loves, but she still does. “Our Remember Whens” is an awesome honky tonk song about a woman who’s just met someone. She’s excited for them to get to all of their memories. She looks forward to looking back into the past with her partner, sharing jokes and good times together.

“Whiskey Makes Me Love You” is an upbeat song, but it essentially says that alcohol makes her love the person she’s with, even though she already loves them a lot. “Almost The Right One(Casi Mi Cielo” is a sad song about a woman who thought she found the perfect man for her, the one she’d be with forever. As it turned out, he was almost the right one, painfully ending things when it could easily have turned into forever. “Secrets” details a couple where both the man and woman are cheating on their spouse. They justify it with “secrets are better than lies”. “Nora Went Down the Mountain” details the story of a woman who had been happily married, until one day when she just left home with no warning. This song is probably the most forgettable on the whole album, in my opinion. That’s saying a lot, though, since I like it well enough.

In case you couldn’t tell, I really liked this album. Laura Benitez brings a nice flair to this music with her voice, and the fact that she’s a Spanish speaker. I love the inclusion of the accordion, all of the steel guitar, and the cleverness of the lyrics. All in all, this is one of my new favorite discoveries of 2018 so far!

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Album Review: Teea Goans – Swing, Shuffle And Sway

Rating: 7.5/10

I always get excited when I discover a new traditional country singer, particularly if that vocalist also happens to be female. Therefore, when I saw Trigger from Saving Country Music talking about Teea Goans in those terms, I knew I had to check her out.

It was love at first listen when I heard the opening notes of “Go Down Swinging’”. It’s a shuffle featuring fiddle and steel, all about how much she loves swing and country music. With her high, clear voice, I admired Teea Goans’ singing as well. The next song slows things down. “I’d Be a Legend in my Time” is all about how if heartache and sadness brought fame, she’d be a legend. It’s a good cover, for sure. She is able to deliver the song in such a way that you really feel the emotion.

“Heart Over Mind” tells of a woman who knows she should leave her partner, but then, he makes the woman think he loves her, and her heart won’t let her end things. This is yet another shuffle, and I have to say that this is very welcome since a lot of albums are filled with more slow songs. “That’s the Thing About Love” has lyrics that revolve around the myriad of feelings one can get while infatuated with someone. While not an especially memorable song, the melody and Teea Goans’ pleasant voice make it listenable.

Next is my favorite song off of this album. “Just Because She Always Has” tells the tale of a man who took his partner for granted. She always cleaned up for him and did the cooking. She had always loved him despite everything, but just because she had always done and felt those things before didn’t mean that she always would. This is an amazing country song, and I highly recommend that if you don’t listen to the whole album, you should check out this individual song, at least. “It Ain’t Nothin’” is a cover sung with Mark Wills. I confess, I keep hearing Randy Travis singing this, but I found it an good cover. It’s upbeat and fun.

“Tell Me I’m Crazy” is another sad country song, with some awesome steel guitar. The woman wants to be convinced that she’s crazy and her relationship isn’t ending. This is probably my second favorite track off of this album. “Steel Guitar Rag” is fun and upbeat, and it’s all about how great the steel guitar sounds. Since I’m all for more steel guitar, I found this song fun. I haven’t heard the original, but I do like this version.

“I Know the Lord Will Stand By Me” is one of two gospel songs on this project. It’s upbeat with some really well-done piano, all about how she knows that Jesus will keep her safe and happy. “You Don’t Know Me” is a song about unrequited love. The woman in the song says that even though she’s been friends with a man for years, he doesn’t really know her. This is because she has dreams of him and wants to be with him. I find this song pretty forgettable, but it’s not bad.

“A Way To Survive” features some more awesome fiddle. It’s a song wherein the protagonist keeps her former lover’s picture and letters. Reliving her memories is what kept her going and helped her survive. The last song is the other gospel track on the album. “Mercy Walked In” is about a person who was guilty of something unspecified, but then was let go due to mercy. For me, this song gives way too few details. I know logically that it’s all about God and his mercy, but the vagueness keeps me from really getting emotionally into the song.

Overall, I quite like this album. I think Teea Goans is a singer to watch if you like more traditional country music. I even like that she was willing to include some gospel on this album, since there are some gospel influences in country. The instrumentation on here is stellar, too. There is a pretty even number of fast and slow songs, which makes a refreshing change from all of the slower albums. In short, if you are looking for a female singer who does traditional country right, look no further than Teea Goans.

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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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Reflecting On: Micky and the Motorcars – Hearts From Above

Since I have previously talked about Reckless Kelly in a Random Reflections article, it was only a matter of time until I discussed their younger brothers’ band, Micky and the Motorcars. The bands share a similar sound as far as their more rock leanings, but I’d argue that the two are different from one another. There’s Micky Braun himself, whose voice is a bit rougher than Willy Braun’s. Also, Gary Braun takes lead vocals on some songs, and on this album, they incorporated some very well-done accordion. For another thing, Micky and the Motorcars use more steel guitar in their music, making them have a country sound. Hearts From Above is my favorite album by Micky and the Motorcars, which is the reason this is the one being discussed.

Release Date: July 29, 2014

Style: Red Dirt, Rock Country

People Who Might Like this Album: Fans of Reckless Kelly, people who like their country with a bit of a rock edge

Standout Tracks: “Long Road To Nowhere”, “Destined To Fall”, “Fall Apart”, “My Girl Now”, “From Where the Sun Now Stands”

I like all of the songs on this album. However, there are twelve tracks, so I will just talk about the ones that stick out the most to me. “Long Road to Nowhere” is an interesting song, because it features the accordion I mentioned above. It’s a song about a man who regrets the end of his relationship. I love how he compares his life without her with the metaphor, “It’s a long road to nowhere, with a million miles to go, I reach for you”.

“Destined to Fall” tells the story of two people who came from broken families who were destined to fall in love with one another. The woman’s father left their family, and her mother had men in and out of their lives. As for the man in the song and whose perspective the lyrics are from, he came from a wealthy family and went to a boarding school. He broke the school’s rules, but his parents didn’t care. They just let him do whatever he wanted, so that they wouldn’t have to think about him. When he met the woman discussed in the song, they fell in love, despite their differences. I love the fiddle on this song, and how the imagery and characters are so well-developed in just a few minutes.

“Fall Apart” is another excellently drawn character portrait. This song tells of a girl who is rich and has no problems, and she just wants to escape it. She wants to have something to lose and to feel deep emotions that mean something. “She just wants to fall apart, just so she can feel it”, says the chorus. This song features some harmonica, and it works really well to set it apart. I just love how this track talks of someone who has no problems, but who wishes they had some.

“My Girl Now” is another love song. I really like the tempo and instrumentation of this one. The man in the song pleads with the woman he loves to give him a chance. If she does, he will do what he can to make her happy, and to erase the pain of her past relationships. By the end of the second verse, he’s got the girl and her life is getting better.

Finally, there’s “Where the Sun Now Stands”. It’s one of the two songs sung by Gary Braun. This is a sad song, as the lyrics detail what happened to the Nez Perce Native Americans in the nineteenth century. After a bloody war, they were promised to be returned to their homes if they would surrender. However, upon doing so, they learned that yet again, they had been lied to. The fact that these things really happened make the song that much more poignant.

If you have not heard any music by Micky and the Motorcars, I recommend checking this out. If you like Reckless Kelly, you should have no problem liking these guys. This album is a great place to start, plus it has a lot of faster and mid-tempo songs full of well-drawn characters and important topics. It has a great mix of happy and sad songs, too, and I think it is the best showcase of this band’s work.

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Reflecting On: Jason Boland & The Stragglers – Rancho Alto

Jason Boland & the Stragglers is one of the best bands making country today. Their instrumentation, lyrics, and vocals all combine to make the perfect package. When thinking of which album I wanted to discuss by this band, I debated between this one and their 2013 release, Dark and Dirty Mile. I settled for Rancho Alto because it has the first song I ever heard by the band on it, and it’s the first album I ever bought from these guys.

Release Date: 2011

Style: Traditional Country

People Who Might Like This Album: Those who love their country music with great singing, lyrics, and instrumentation, Fans of the Turnpike Troubadours, Fans of anything authentically country

Standout Tracks: “Down Here in the Hole,” “False Accuser’s Lament,” “Woody’s Road”

The album starts off with one of the band’s best songs, “Down Here In the Hole”. It details the day of a miner who gets trapped in the mine. The line that gets to me the most is “The sun never shines down here in the hole”. The man in the song is mining because he needs the money. The track ends when he gets trapped in the mine, and nobody knows if he fell or was shoved. The instrumentation is stellar with some great fiddle play. It’s a faster song, too, which you wouldn’t expect with this subject matter.

Another favorite from this album is “False Accuser’s Lament”. The song tells the story of a man who lied about seeing someone commit a murder. The person telling the story doesn’t know if the man he accused actually did it, but he wanted the money for a new plow and to keep his land. The banker offered to pay the man in the song, along with some others, to say that they’d seen a specific man shoot someone. This is because the banker’s wife had cheated on him with the person the banker wanted imprisoned for committing murder. In the end, the false accuser loses everything to the banker due to bad weather destroying his crops. . This is yet another story song that I think is fabulous. The steel guitar and fiddle make this song stand out instrumentally, too. This track is just so layered, because you have the jealous banker bribing poor people to say the man his wife cheated on him with had committed murder. You also have the main character in the song detailing his remorse and how he keeps seeing the accused man be killed. It’s just fantastic.

“Woody’s Road” is the first song I ever heard by Jason Boland & the Stragglers. Upon doing some research, I discovered that the song was actually written by Bob Childers, but I have not heard any other version. I love this song. It’s a tribute to Woody Guthrie. The man in the song tries to follow Woody Guthrie’s example of being a friend to everyone, rambling, and doing his best to help everyone. I confess, I do not know all that much about Woody Guthrie, but this song certainly has always made me curious about him. Adding to the lyrics is the stellar instrumental talent of the Stragglers, and the great melody, and I was hooked.

The rest of the album is good, but these three songs are my favorites. “Woody’s Road” certainly led me to discovering the Stragglers, and I have not regretted it since. They make some of the finest country music being produced today, and I hope everyone reading this will check them out.

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