All posts by Brianna

Reflecting On: Ricky Van Shelton – Greatest Hits Plus

Ricky van Shelton is an interesting artist. I will readily admit that I do not know his studio albums that well, which is something that I really need to remedy. Since I still would like to talk about his music, though, I thought I’d talk about a collection of his biggest songs entitled Greatest Hits Plus.

Release Date: August 11, 1992

Style: Traditional Country

People Who Might Like This Album: Those who love the 90s country sound, people who like love songs

Standout Tracks: “Somebody Lied,” “Statue of a Fool,” “From a Jack to a King”

This album starts off with one of my favorite songs by Ricky Van Shelton, “Just As I Am”. It’s a love song all about how he was accepted, just as he was. I love this song, because it’s all about knowing that despite someone’s flaws, they still have good parts to them. I love the steel guitar in this song too.

“Somebody Lied” is my favorite song on the whole album, I think. It’s fantastic in that it tells the story of a man who gets a call from his ex. He says he got over her the day she left him, and someone is making up stories about him crying over her, and talking about her. What would it matter if the rumors were true, would it change how she feels, he wonders. Would she show up to help him heal? It doesn’t matter though, because it wasn’t him, just someone who looks a lot like him and loves someone like her. The most poignant moment in the song for me, because I know it so well, is when he sings about someone saying he showed her picture to a stranger, and he sings “don’t you think I’ve got no pride?” It’s incredible, really.

Because I can’t seem to stop talking about the love songs, I’ll discuss “I’ll Leave This World Loving You”. It’s my second favorite, I think. It’s basically about how a man will leave the world loving a woman, even though she’s leaving him. His voice in this song is really amazing, and when combined with the lyrics, it really creates the feelings he’s trying to convey.

I know that “Statue of a Fool” is a cover, but this is my absolute favorite version of this song. His voice really makes the lyrics of the song shine. The lyrics describe a man who let love get away from him, and now he bitterly regrets it. This is the first version of the song I ever heard, and for me, it’s what I come back to whenever I want to listen to the song. I just love the imagery and how it’s describing the statue and how it resembles him.

Then, there’s a duet with Dolly Parton, “Rockin’ Years”. This is the very first song I heard by Ricky Van Shelton. I love how it details the story of two people pledging to stand by each other throughout their lives. They’ll be there for one another always, and they won’t ever stray from each other. I think these two really shine together, and it’s a great place to start if you have never heard of Ricky Van Shelton.

I also love “From a Jack to a King”. I believe this is another cover, but again, I love this version. The card puns are fantastic, detailing how he is the “king of her heart” because of “lady luck”. The song is more upbeat, and I like the cleverness of the lyrics.

As I’ve said before, I think Ricky Van Shelton is pretty underrated. I love his singing, and he does emotional songs very well. There are some more upbeat songs on this album, I just highlighted my favorites which mostly happen to be slower and more emotional. I think you’re definitely missing out if you don’t at least check out his music and see if he’s your kind of vocalist.

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Reflecting On: Marty Robbins – Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs

I have alluded to my love for Marty Robins in the past, and I figured that it was about time that I discussed one of his albums in detail. It may be a cliché choice, but for this week’s reflection, I’m going to discuss what is probably his biggest album, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.

Release Date: September 1959

Genre: The Western side of country and western

People Who Might Like This Album: Those who like cowboy stories and songs

Standout Tracks: “Big Iron,” “They’re Hanging Me Tonight,” “Utah Carol,” “Running Gun,” “El Paso”

The thing about Marty Robbins is, a lot of his songs are stories. They are sung stories, but stories nonetheless. Many of them do not have a traditional chorus, just one or two phrases that link the whole thing together. “Big Iron” is a fantastic example of this. It’s all about how an outlaw underestimates a ranger who had come to take him in. Even though I have heard the song multiple times, I still find myself drawn to the story and what will happen next.

Then, there’s “They’re Hanging Me Tonight.” It’s all about a man who was going to be hanged for murder. He had killed his ex-girlfriend because she’d left him for another man. He knew it wasn’t right, but he did it anyway. What I find interesting about this song is that the man does not run, he knows he deserves his punishment.

I love the melody of “Utah Carol”. The story is sad too. A cowboy was in love with his boss’s daughter, and so he put a blanket on his saddle so that she could ride his horse easier. The blanket caused a stampede, and though she tried to tie the blanket in place, she fell off the horse and into the cattle, while doing so. Utah Carol tried to save her, and was ultimately successful, but he himself was killed. This is one of my favorite songs, just because it’s such a poignant tale. He saved the girl he loved, but not himself.

“Running Gun” is a fantastic song. A man leaves his girl far behind, because he feels guilty for becoming a paid killer. He planned to send for her when he’d reached Mexico, but never got that far as the man was killed by a bounty hunter who was faster than him. He knows that the bounty hunter will one day face someone else who is faster than him, but his last thoughts are of his girlfriend and how a woman should never love a running gun.

Lastly, there’s “El Paso”. I cannot talk about Marty Robbins without mentioning it. This is his best-known song, and for good reason. In it, he tells yet another story. This time, it’s all about a man who was in love with a Mexican dancer. He got jealous of a cowboy who captured her attention one day, and a gunfight ensued. He killed the stranger and rode away from El Paso, where the song is set. However, he eventually went back because he missed the dancer, and when he got there, he was killed. I remember watching TV as a kid, and a countdown of the best songs of all time was on. I don’t recall if it was just in country, but “El Paso” either made number one, or close to it. Either way, I was fascinated, and it led me to Marty Robbins’ other music. It’s still my favorite song of his.

Like I said before, Marty Robbins does a lot of story songs, and this album is almost nothing but. I love a good story song, though, and I’m pretty sure my love for them started here when I first heard “El Paso”. Another thing I love about Marty Robbins is his voice. I have never heard anyone who sounded like him. Of course, everyone has different voices, but something about his particular voice and singing style is just fantastic. If you like music set in the West or cowboy stories, I highly recommend checking this album out if you have not.

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Album Review: Sons of the Palomino (self-titled)

Rating: 7/10

Before I get too in-depth about this album, I would like to talk about what Sons of the Palomino are trying to do here. With this album, the band tries to recapture an era and a feel, that of the Palomino, a club where classic country stars played during the 80s and 90s. Megan told me I should read the band’s biography before listening to the album, and though I would have liked it anyway given how country the material is, I’m glad I knew all of the information about the band’s goals going in. It helps give the album a special feel.

As for the album itself, I did not love the whole thing. There were songs that I felt were too sleepy for my taste, like “Old Roads and Lost Highways”. Then, the album had a couple songs which I did not connect to emotionally, like “Whiskey Years”. I should have liked the latter more than I did, as it tells the tale of a man looking forward to the day where he can be sober and not have to drink his pain away.

For all of the lackluster moments on this album, though, I felt a real love for the instrumentation. Even on songs I did not care for, I always loved the actual musicianship. The steel guitar, fiddle, piano…it all goes back to the days of an older style of country. It’s a style that I personally gravitate toward, so even when I was ambivalent about the actual lyrics, I always liked the instrumentation.

With all of the things I didn’t personally get into about this album out of the way, let’s talk about the good stuff. The first track, “Runnin’ Around,” is what convinced me I needed to hear what this band were selling. It’s a mid-tempo country song about a man who knows his girlfriend is cheating, and how he won’t be there when she comes looking for him. Done a million times? Sure, but this band makes it fun, and again. The instrumentation here is stellar. The next song, “Authentic,” brings in something else unique about this album. At various points, there are featured guest stars singing in parts of the song. Well, the band certainly couldn’t get more “Authentic” than John Anderson, and let me tell you. Hearing him on this track was awesome. The actual lyrics tell of being real and true to yourself, and not trying to be some fake version of country. In the days of pop country, and many people not knowing what country really is, this song is a must-listen. “Countryholic” is pretty hilarious, as the song discusses a man who just loves Waylon and Willie, steel guitar, and boots. It’s a bit cliché, but I chuckled a few times.

I liked the slower and more feeling-driven “Outta This Town”. It’s all about a man who can’t seem to leave his hometown. The planes never stop there, the train never makes a trip to the town, and he gets a woman pregnant and marries her. Thus, he’s stuck in the town. This one features Emmylou Harris on backing vocals, and I thought it made a nice change from all the faster songs. As much as I’m bored of all the drinking songs in today’s mainstream country scene, “Hole In The Wall” was an easy listen. I didn’t love it, but it was pleasant enough. The lyrics revolve around wanting to find a little bar with cold beer, a small dance floor, and a jukebox. I just liked the instrumentation, the lyrics, and everything combined to make this an enjoyable, if not completely amazing, song. My favorite emotional song is definitely “Unbroken People”. It’s all about feeling the pain of losing loved ones, but leaning on platitudes people say like “everything will be okay,” or “you’re gonna make it.”. This was the song that really resonated with me emotionally, where most of the others failed to do so. Finally, there’s “Used to be a Country Town”. I loved Gretchen Wilson’s part of the song, and it really just made me want to go listen to more of her music. The song itself is all about how they used to party in a town that used to be country. They wasted their money, but they had fun doing it.

Overall, I liked this album. The guest stars featured made it really unique. There were some I actually missed until I later went back and looked at who was featured. I did not catch Vince Gill or Jamey Johnson. The musicians did a wonderful job at bringing back the sounds of 80s and 90s country, too. I love good piano, fiddle and steel guitar, and I got all three of those in spades. Lastly, I must talk about the skills of the lead singer. Jeffrey Steele has quite the vocal range. When I was first listening to this album, I thought there were more guest stars than the site of the Sons of the Palomino alludes to. In fact, it’s just that Steele can sing in both very low and very high registers. It’s pretty awesome stuff. I think if you like the 80s and 90s era of country music, you are doing yourself a disservice by not checking this album out. The instrumentation is great, there are some really well-done songs here, and seeing names like John Anderson’s on a contemporary project like this is really cool.

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Reflecting On: Sarah Gayle Meech – One Good Thing

I had a hard time settling on what to write for this week’s Random Reflections article. Nothing was really sticking out to me. However, from reviewing the latest Gretchen Wilson album, I’ve been in the mood to listen to straight-up country music sung by a woman. I finally chose Sarah Gayle Meech’s album, One Good Thing after much deliberation.

Release Date: August 2012

Style: Traditional Country

People Who Might Like This Album: Those who appreciate the fiddle, and country songs with classic country themes

Standout Tracks: “One Good Thing,” “Old White Boots,” “No Angel”

When you first start this album, you immediately know what you’re in for. The title track is all about how heartache makes for a good song. It’s pretty hard to get more country than that. I mean, lots of classic country songs had heartbreak at their core, and the fact that Sarah Gayle Meech is acknowledging that right off the bat just tells you what kind of album this is going to be. Plus, I really love the fiddle and faster tempo in this song. It doesn’t hurt that she shouts out Hank Williams. Now, I know a lot of people do it, but somehow, it doesn’t seem cliche when Sarah Gayle Meech does it. You can believe she’d actually listen to the artists she points out.

“Old White Boots” is another faster song. They’re just the ones that really stick out to me with this album, and they have the best fiddle play. I love this song though. It’s all about how she just wants to go to a honky tonk in her old white boots. It’s a fun track about being simple, and just wanting to have a good night on the town.

“No Angel” is definitely my favorite song on the entire album. I love the instrumentation of the track, with its guitar. The song is all about how she’s not an angel. She says and does what she wants. I love how she tells the guy “You ain’t my first, and you ain’t my last. I ain’t no angel.” It’s so refreshing to have a woman speak out and say that she breaks rules, says how she feels, and drinks. Far from trying to be perfect, Sarah Gayle Meech is just being herself and she won’t change for anyone. Sure, it’s a bit shallow, but I can’t help loving the song with all its straightforwardness.

I know that from these songs I’ve picked, the album seems all fast and fun. However, there is real heartbreak and emotion on here. “Foolish” shows these feelings off the best, where Sarah Gayle Meech has let down the person she was in a relationship with. She doesn’t know how to be in a relationship and is used to being alone. Therefore, she leaves the person and later regrets it. For me, though, as much as I like this song, the three I highlighted above are what really make Sarah Gayle Meech stand out as an artist. I recommend checking out this album if you want something that’s traditional country, and if you want to find a new female artist to like.

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Album Review – Gretchen Wilson – Ready to Get Rowdy

Rating: 8/10

Gretchen Wilson is an artist whose singles I heard on the radio growing up. However, I don’t remember ever listening to one of her full albums. I have always liked her though, since her music tends to be faster and a little bold. What I also appreciate is how unafraid she is to be country, whether that’s in her instrumentation or her references. Sure, she may overuse the term “redneck”, but still. Anyway, when I heard that Gretchen Wilson had released a new album, I was intrigued. It’s been a while since I’ve covered a female artist, and I Was in the mood to listen to something faster and fun. Which all means that I quickly opted to check this album out. I’m quite glad I did so too, since I really like what I heard.

It starts off with a song called “Stacy”. It tells the tale of a woman who always has to be the center of attention for any man that she’s with. The funny part of the lyrics is when Gretchen Wilson says “Ain’t it so sad when girls like you make women like me look bad”. I loved the harmonica on this song. I think it is a very energetic way to open the album. Megan has reviewed the next song “Salt Mines. I won’t elaborate on it, other than to say that I fully agree with Megan’s take on the song. It’s very country both in instrumentation and in the way Gretchen Wilson sings it. The track is describing a woman who would leave her drunken slob of a husband if only the physical aspect of their relationship didn’t go so well. It’s definitely one of my favorites off of the album. I really like “Summertime Town”, too. I love how the imagery of beaches closing up and people driving away is used in the lyrics. It all represents a woman not wanting to be a man’s fling. If he’s not sticking around, she’s not interested.

“Rowdy” isn’t my favorite song on the album. It’s not bad, just not a standout. The lyrics are saying that she’s ready to get rowdy. It references her older songs “Here for the Party” and “Redneck Woman”, which makes me think she’s really saying she’s ready to be back in the music scene. I could be possibly overthinking that, though. “Whiskey and My Bible” is a slower song involving a woman who’s just trying to hold on and keep on living. She uses religion and whiskey to do these things. It’s an emotional song which is nice because it shows off Gretchen Wilson in a rare vulnerable moment, but I just can’t quite connect with it. I know it’s good, but it doesn’t really work for me emotionally. “Bad Feeling” features Kid Rock, which made me really unsure of what to expect. It turned out to be a very soulful song about too people leaving each other. She has a feeling he’s leaving, and he’s saying that nothing she does will make him stick around. I like Gretchen Wilson’s part more than Kid Rock’s, since he really sounds like he’s trying overly hard to sing in the key the song is in.

“Letting Go of Hanging On” has some really nice steel guitar and banjo. The lyrics tell of a woman who is sick of trying to hang on to her relationship. Their bond isn’t that strong anyway, so she’s done trying to make it work. I really like “I Ain’t That Desperate Yet”. She’s unwilling to change anything about herself just to make someone happy, and she refuses to settle for being with just any man. I love the message of this song, and think we could always use more songs like it. “Hard Earned Money” involves people working for a living and getting to spend the money that they make. They work way too hard for said money, but they’re just glad to have the job. In times where work isn’t always available for everyone, I definitely think the song will be relatable to a lot of people.

“Mary Kay & Maybelline” is a very emotional song, and one of my favorites. It starts off describing a woman who remembers how her mother made up her face every day, just to get by. Her father never really showed affection to her mother, and she tried to make herself feel better by hiding her sad and bloodshot eyes. Then it goes on to talk about how if love is going bad, just make up your face so you won’t look like the mess you are on the inside. This is definitely the best vulnerable moment on the whole album. “A Little Loretta” is a fun song. First of all, it references Loretta Lynn. Normally I wouldn’t claim that with such certainty, but one of Loretta Lynn’s first songs is referenced in the lyrics. It’s all about a woman who has had enough of her man going out in bars and cheating on her and now she’s “on the warpath”. It immediately made me think of Loretta Lynn’s song “Your Squaw is on the Warpath”. Of course I like this. The final track, “Big Wood Deck”, is just a fun summertime song. The lyrics tell of sitting on a big wood deck with beer in the sun, and really, who can’t resist a summertime song now when it’s as hot as it is, at least in my part of the world?

Overall, I like this album. Not all the songs are very deep, and honestly, I think I’m about overdue for a more upbeat and fun album like this. The Lyrics aren’t super-vague, and you always know what message Gretchen Wilson is trying to send. “Salt Mines” is way too underrated in my opinion, and more people should check out this album. I, myself, plan to look into Gretchen Wilson’s other music.

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