All posts by Megan

Album Review: Brett Eldredge–Illinois

Rating: 3.5/10

“Country” has become nothing more than a label put on albums for marketing purposes. “Country” no longer has a definition other than “whatever won’t make it in another genre.” Therefore, as a reviewer, I find myself in a curious position of reviewing albums like Kip Moore’s Wild Ones, a decent rock album incorrectly labeled as country. Sam Hunt and Kelsea Ballerini slapped country labels on their pop albums, making Sam Hunt’s album crap in two genres and Kelsea’s an incorrectly labeled album that would have been decent in the correct genre. In the case of Brett Eldredge, I find myself reviewing a decent, if generic, r&b album slapped with a country label, thereby turning it into a pretty bad country album.

The album begins with “Fire,” an upbeat, infectious song in which Eldredge is caught up in a woman’s “fire.” I commend him for the energy and life brought to this song, but there’s one glaring problem: it’s blatantly far from country, and this is the opener. And the search for country begins. I don’t find it on the next track, an r&b song called “You Can’t Stop Me.” Here is a party song made intolerable to listen to by the inclusion of Thomas Rhett, the poster child for this trend in country music. Next is the single, “Lose my Mind,” which is about a woman who makes him “crazy, and I kinda like it.” This suffers from the obvious problem of the stupid line about being in a straightjacket, as well as the same problems as “Fire”–Brett brings energy to this song certainly, but it’s still not country. Still, “decent but not country” is better than whatever I just heard with “You Can’t Stop Me.”

“Wanna be That Song” is a decent love song with lyrics that paint some nice pictures–“every life has a sound track,” and he wants to share those moments and be a part of hers. This song is pretty well-written; I only wish it had more country instrumentation because it is just a well-written r&b song. But there is heart in this song, and it is appreciated. Next is “Time Well Spent,” a beach song with the premise “wasted time is time well spent.” I find nothing especially noteworthy or offensive about it; it’s just there. “If You Were my Girl” is a love song listing all the things he would do if this were the case; it has the same problem as “Time Well Spent”–nothing stands out here at all. This is a problem throughout the album; the lyrics are bland in many of the songs. The title track, “Illinois,” shows some more heart–Brett Eldredge is from Illinois, and this is a nice ode to his home state, the “wild blue yonder.” This is a rare personal moment from Brett and the most country song on the album. I might call this “r&b country.”

“Just a Taste” sees Brett once again singing a forgettable song about a girl, whom he refers to as his “favorite flavor”–enter the token bro country offensiveness. “Drunk on Your Love” is a terrible R&b song about waking up with someone and still being “drunk on your love.” This is the worst song on the album, and if they labeled it r&b, it would still suck. Next is “Lose it All,” a song in which Brett seems to be warning a friend that he will “lose it all” if he doesn’t change his ways. Brett says, “Take it from a man who knows just how to break a heart, listen hard and listen close, I got it down to an art.” This is a surprisingly well-written song, and a bright spot on Illinois.

“Shadow” is next–here is another good song about a “shadow,” his alter ego, following him around; there’s one glaring problem, however–this is blatantly a rock song. If anyone here is familiar with the Christian rock band Skillet, you will understand when I say it’s so much a rock song that they could pull it off if they wanted to. It’s a good rock song and actually one of the better songs on the album, but to call it country is laughable. This is probably the most hated and polarizing song on Illinois, but I disagree here. Now, here’s my unpopular opinion: on an album of actual country songs, this song would have stood out as a fun experiment that worked, and people would have loved it. Think of Zac Brown Band’s “Overnight,” the r&b standout on the otherwise country Uncaged. As it is, “Shadow” is just another non-country song badly labeled as such on Illinois, an album already full of such material. The album closes with “Going Away for a While,” a catchy song about leaving to get away from the pressures of life.

Overall, Illinois is generic and forgettable. It’s mostly an r&B album, and as such, it would be a decent but bland album. However, someone thought to give this album the designation “country.” “Country” it is most certainly not, and although there are a few good songs and personal moments, this fact can’t be overlooked. It says a lot to me that what I consider the best song on this album, “shadow,” is the most blatantly non-country song of them all. So, would I recommend this album? Well, if you like r&b, maybe. If you like rock, listen to “Shadow” certainly–in fact, that’s what I’ll post here. If you were hoping for country, then keep looking.

Listen to album

Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (September 26th)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Thomas Rhett–“Crash and Burn” (up 1)
2. Keith Urban–“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (up 1)
3. Chris Janson–“Buy Me a Boat” (up 1)
4. Kenny Chesney–“Save It for a Rainy Day” (up 2)
5. Brett Eldredge–“Lose My Mind” (up 2)
6. Dustin Lynch–“Hell of a Night” (down 5)
7. Sam Hunt–“House Party” (down 2)
8. Luke Bryan–“Strip it Down”
9. Florida Georgia Line–“Anything Goes”
10. Maddie & Tae–“Fly”
11. Chase Rice–“Gonna Wanna Tonight” (up 1)
12. Old Dominion–“Break Up With Him” (up 2)
13. Cole Swindell–“Let Me See Ya Girl”
14. Carrie Underwood–“Smoke Break” (up 3)
15. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You”
16. Blake Shelton–“Gonna”
17. Lady Antebellum–“Long Stretch of Love” (up 2)
18. Jake Owen–“Real Life”
19. Cam–“Burning House” (up 3)
20. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over”
21. Tim McGraw–“Top of the World” (up 2)
22. Jason Aldean–“Gonna Know We Were Here” (up 5) [biggest gainer]
23. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You” (up 1)
24. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (up 1)
25. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine” (up 1)
26. Kelsea Ballerini–“Dibs” (up 2)
27. LoCash–“I Love This Life” (up 2)
28. Jana Kramer–“I Got the Boy” (up 2)
29. Hunter Hayes–“21” (re-entering top 30)
30. The Band Perry–“Live Forever” (entering top 30)

  • new #1: “Crash and Burn”
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”
  • Eric Church’s “Like a Wrecking Ball” and Kip Moore’s “I’m To Blame” fell from #11 and #21, respectively, to out of the top 30
  • Hunter Hayes’s “21” re-enters the top 30 this week, along with The Band Perry’s terrible new pop single, “Live Forever”
  • at least “Strip it Down” has stalled a little in its ridiculous climb to the top

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Luke Bryan–Kill the Lights
2. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
3. Maddie & Tae–Start Here
4. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
5. Eric Church–The Outsiders
6. Elvis Presley–Elvis Presley Forever
7. Kip Moore–Wild Ones
8. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
9. Little Big Town–Painkiller
10. Alan Jackson–Angels and Alcohol
11. Brantley Gilbert–Just as I Am
12. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
13. Chris Stapleton–Traveller
14. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
15. Various Artists–Mud Digger, Volume 6
16. Luke Bryan–Crash My Party
17. Kacey Musgraves–Pageant Material
18. Jason Isbell–Something More Than Free
19. Zac Brown Band–Greatest Hits So Far…
20. Chase Rice–Ignite the Night
21. Darius Rucker–Southern Style
22. Cole Swindell–Cole Swindell
23. Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard–Django and Jimmie
24. Kelsea Ballerini–The First Time
25. Carrie Underwood–Greatest Hits: Decade #1

  • Luke Bryan is still at the top
  • Maddie & Tae sit at #3 like beacons of hope…they really have the top country album, because neither Kill the Lights nor Montevallo are country albums
  • Chris Stapleton’s Traveller moved up 7 spots from #20 to #13 this week

Source: Billboard

Random Thoughts of the Week: The “Random Thoughts” of Merle Haggard and Jason Aldean

I was actually going to focus this entirely on merle Haggard until today, when I heard of the news of Jason Aldean’s comments. Both Haggard and Aldean shared some very interesting random thoughts on country music this week, and they are made even more interesting in light of each other, so I decided to look at them together.

In an interview on September 9th, Merle Haggard said, of modern country music,

It needs a melody real bad. Not sure what they’ll have to remember. A song is defined as words put to music, but I don’t hear any music. All I hear is the same band, the same sound, and everybody screaming to the ceiling. You stand off at a distance and you couldn’t tell who they are. They are all screaming for one note they can barely get. I don’t find it very entertaining. I wish I did.

This comes after these comments on September 3rd, shared in another interview:

I can’t tell what they’re doing. They’re talking about screwing on a pickup tailgate and things of that nature. I don’t find no substance. I don’t find anything you can whistle and nobody even attempts to write a melody. It’s more of that kids stuff. It’s hot right now, but I’ll tell you what, it’s cooling off.

Now, aside from the obvious fact that Merle Haggard has just said what many of us are thinking, this news is significant because these words have come from a legend. Mainstream outlets are actually reporting it; Merle Haggard is name-dropped in many of today’s songs, and yet he is calling out mainstream country. A more underrated but no less significant fact is that he said it’s “cooling off”–Merle Haggard has been around awhile, and if he says a trend is dying, we all might want to listen to him. Also, Merle points out Sturgill Simpson and
Taylor Swift, of all people, as being current artists he respects. Sturgill Simpson, seen by many people on these blogs as our biggest hope, who carries a giant torch for traditional country, and Taylor Swift, who, even though she eventually went pop and made an entire career on “kid stuff” knows how to write a melody better than most of our generation. I love that he called out Swift especially, because as I said, she made a name for herself writing “kid stuff.” By mentioning her name, Merle Haggard is separating himself from those “old” country fans who just want everything to sound like Hank Williams. He’s acknowledging that you can still write “kid stuff” and be relatable; also, as a commenter on SCM pointed out, Taylor was a kid when she wrote “kid stuff,” whereas the bros are adult frat boys.

And speaking of the bros, there’s one that actually agrees with Haggard…well, sort of. Monday, (September 14th), Jason Aldean said this when asked about the lack of female representation in mainstream country music,

I feel like a lot of times female singers, to me, when they’re singing – and I’ll probably kick myself for saying this – a lot of times, it just seems like I can’t distinguish one from the other sometimes if I just listen to them, you know? A lot of times they just sound really similar to me.

Well, cluelessness of that statement aside, it does seem interesting that Aldean hears the sameness in country music that Haggard noted. However, back to the cluelessness–so he can tell all the bros apart? The females are easily more distinguishable–has anyone here heard Kelsea Ballerini sing and assumed it was Miranda Lambert? Then Aldean went on to say:

…you have some that come out like a Carrie [Underwood] or Miranda [Lambert] or somebody like that, that really has a different, distinctive sound to their voice, then it’s like, oh, okay, you can tell them apart all of a sudden. They go on to be obviously big stars, but I think it’s because you can distinguish between them … Listening to country radio, you always have these labels that are putting out new acts and it’s like, you already don’t know who this person is. So what is going to make you remember them?

Oh, okay, so he can tell two females apart on the radio: the two that are played on country radio!!! Here’s a thought; I bet, just maybe, possibly, if he heard more females, he might be able to tell more of them apart! So, in reference to females, his comments become absolutely ridiculous. However, in reference to country in general, it is interesting that both Merle Haggard and Jason Aldean, who come from very different backgrounds and perspectives, have noticed a sameness and lack of individuality in country music. Too bad Jason Aldean’s comments were only directed at women; Merle Haggard made no distinction between men and women. Still, regardless of the intent of Jason Aldean, his comments were no less honest than those of Merle Haggard, and both point to an increasing notice of, and concern for, the lack of individuality in a genre that once embraced it.

Tomato of the Week: Courtney Patton

I am going to turn my attention to the Texas scene for this week’s Female Friday–it seems Texas is just as lacking in female representation as Nashville–and I look forward to featuring Courtney Patton.

Random Country Suggestion: Josh Turner–“Lay Low”

The excellent single from the album that has yet to be released or even announced.

Non-Country Suggestion: Kelsea Ballerini–“Secondhand Smoke”

Kelsea Ballerini is a terrible country artist, and should have never been classified as such. But her debut album actually had some decent pop songs and I put this here for that reason; listen to it as a pop song. It’s a personal song for Ballerini and should not be overlooked because of the atrocious “Dibs,” “Yeah Boy,” etc.

One Last Thought

Congratulations to Lindi Ortega, who won the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) 2015 Roots Artist of the Year award Saturday night (September 12th.) This is Lindi’s second win in a row, and hope for females, independent/Americana/roots artists, and music of substance everywhere.

Album Review: The Statesboro Revue–Jukehouse Revival

Rating: 8.5/10

Stewart Mann, the lead singer and chief songwriter for the Texas-based band known as The Statesboro Revue, says he has ” always strived to create a sound that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel; merely merge the little idiosyncrasies of all my influences and shape them in a manner that might someday be looked upon as my own unique sound.” It seems he and the band are well on their way; they have found their home in the Texas country scene, but their sound is far removed from that of many of their fellow Texas country artists, mixing country, rock, and blues into a style all their own. Their third album, Jukehouse Revival, just released in August, is a great showcase of the sound and is seeing success on both the Americana and
Texas charts.

The album opens with “Bedroom Floor,” a catchy, mid-tempo song in which Mann talks about how he likes to “smoke and drink” and “hammer down,” but now, as he gets older, it has caught up to him, and “now I always wind up down on the bedroom floor.” In my opinion, a big part of an album’s appeal comes from track placement, especially an opener. I have reviewed better albums, but this one has one of the best openers I have ever heard, in terms of setting the mood of the album perfectly and and capturing my attention. Also, if this is your first time with the band–it was mine–this is a great song to keep you listening. “Every Town” sees Mann spending the night with various women after each show; “there’s one of you in every town.” He wakes up enjoying the fact that he can leave, but she’ll have to stay and deal with the rumors. I’m not sure if I should like this song so much as a woman, but the country rock production makes it simply catchy and hard not to enjoy. The current single, “Undone,” currently at #17 on the Texas Music Chart, is simply about a man who likes to let go and party on the weekends. The difference between this and any bro country anthem? This narrator “got a family that depends on me” and works hard all week, using the weekend to “come undone” and forget about the pressures of life. The correct use of the banjo is also a glaring difference.

“Tallahassee” is an upbeat song where I pay more attention to the excellent country instrumentation–fiddles and keyboards–than the lyrics. The actual song is about trying to get home and thinking of someone back in Tallahassee, but I had to make myself focus on these lyrics after several listens because I was focused on the music. The keyboards show up again in “Roll on Mama,” in which Mann tries to convince the women in the bars to “take a late night chance” on him. “Count On Me” is a nice love song about how he will be there for his woman through hard times; she can always count on him. This was a nice serious moment in the lighthearted album, but it stood out more for good placement than for anything in the song. “Like the Sound” is basically a bro country song, complete with a river and a name-drop of Johnny Cash; it’s better than its bro country counterparts because of the country rock production, but it was still completely unnecessary. Next is “Honkytonkin,” a song that is simply about this: going “honkytonkin” with his woman. It’s got great country rock instrumentation and more of these awesome keyboards, but lyrically, it’s nothing special. Still, it works well on this album, which I’m finding out more and more is very aptly named.

“Satisfied” is another love song–here the narrator is doing everything he can to win a “pretty little girl from Arkansas,” promising to give her everything he can and saying, “I’ll keep you satisfied.” I can’t help but compare this to “Count on Me,” and this is much better lyrically. “Go Down Slow” is the serious counterpart to “Undone.” In “undone,” the man wanted to just let go and party–here, after the hard week, he is praying the alcohol will “go down slow.” “I’d rather feel some pain than nothing at all” captures the desperation in this song better than anything I could write. The steel guitars add to the sadness here to make this a raw, seemingly brutally honest song that stands out harshly and beautifully on the lighthearted album. Jukehouse Revival closes with “Last Ramble,” one of my personal favorites; here, death is compared to a man’s “last ramble” and looked on as a journey to heaven and God, not something to be sorrowful over. This is told from the point of view of the dying man; it’s a peaceful, comforting song and a good way to end the album.

The aptly named Jukehouse Revival is, for the most part, an excellent album. There are some lyrical weak points, and “Like the Sound” was unnecessary in my opinion, but the unique sound that Stewart Mann seeks makes this album a standout. I have reviewed albums with better songwriting, but this album is simply fun and enjoyable to listen to. If you enjoy country rock, you will definitely like Jukehouse Revival.

Listen to Album

Texas Music From Oklahoma: A Look at the Texas Music Chart (September 14th)

Texas Music Chart

1. Cody Canada and the Departed–“Easy” (up 1)
2. Cory Morrow–“Old With You” (up 2)
3. Pat Green–“While I Was Away” (down 2)
4. Turnpike Troubadours–“Down Here” (up 1)
5. Matt Kimbrow–“Livin’ the Good Life” (down 2)
6. Reckless Kelly–“Real Cool Hand”
7. Curtis Grimes–“Smile That Smile” (up 3)
8. Bart Crow–“Life Comes at You Fast” (up 4)
9. Whiskey Myers–“Shelter From the Rain”
10. Kyle Park–“What Goes Around Comes Around” (up 1)
11. Wade Bowen–“Sun Shines on a Dreamer” (down 3)
12. Kevin Fowler & Deryl Dodd–“Damn This Ol’ Honky Tonk Dream” (up 1)
13. Granger Smith–“Back Road Song” (down 6)
14. Miles Williams–“Teasin’ Me” (up 2)
15. JB and the Moonshine Band–“Shotgun, Rifle, and a .45” (up 2)
16. Casey Donahew Band–“Loser” (up 7)
17. The Statesboro Revue–“Undone” (up 1)
18. Mike Ryan–“Girls I Date” (up 1)
19. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen–“Lady Bug” (up 5)
20. Stoney LaRue–“Easy She Comes” (up 1)
21. Josh Grider–“You Dream I’ll Drive” (down 1)
22. Rich O’Toole–“Talk About the Weather” (down 7)
23. Uncle Lucius–“Don’t Own the Right” (down 1)
24. TJ Broscoff–“Phone Calls” (up 2)
25. Aaron Einhouse–“I Could Fall” (up 2)
26. Saints Eleven–“I Don’t” (up 3)
27. Zane Williams–“She Is” (up 9) [biggest gainer]
28. Mario Flores–“Beer Time” (up 3)
29. Chance Anderson Band–“245 Miles” (up 6)
30. Jason James–“I’ve Been Drinkin’ More” (up 2)
31. Prophets and Outlaws–“Texas Home” (down 17) [biggest loser]
32. Josh Ward–“Highway” (down 7)
33. Tori Martin–“Woman Up” (down 3)
34. Luke Robinson–“Roses on the Radio” (up 5)
35. Dalton Domino–“Jesus & Handbags” (up 2)
36. Casey Berry–“Blood of the Lamb” (up 8)
37. Jon Wolfe–“Don’t It Feel Good” (up 1)
38. Caleb McIntire–“Ozark Mountain Stomp” (down 4)
39. Ray Johnston Band–“Small Town Square” (up 9)
40. American Aquarium–“Losing Side of Twenty-Five” (up 2)
41. Paul Thorn–“Everybody Needs Somebody” (re-entering top 50)
42. The Damn Quails–“Just a Little While” (entering top 50)
43. Cody Johnson–“Proud” (up 7)
44. Roger Creager & Cody Johnson–“If You Had to Choose” (entering top 50)
45. Breelan Angel–“She Made Your Bed” (up 4)
46. Bri Bagwell–“My Boots” (down 3)
47. Cody Jinks–“Loud and Heavy” (down 1)
48. Cody Joe Hodges–“One More Drink” (down 1)
49. Judson Cole Band–“Time to Run” (down 9)
50. Blue Water Highway Band–“Medicine Man” (entering top 50)

  • new #1: “Easy”
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “Old With You”
  • two songs moved up 9 spots this week

Source: Texas Music Chart