Category Archives: Random Reflections

Reflecting On: Reckless Kelly – Under the Table & Above the Sun

Reckless Kelly is the band that initially got me into the red dirt and independent country scene. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to discuss them in a Random Reflections article, but I’m fixing that as of today. This album is not my favorite by the band, but it does feature “Nobody’s Girl”, which is the song that first captured my attention.

Release Date: 2003

Style: Red Dirt, rock country

People Who Might Like This Album: People who don’t mind a little rock mixed with country, those who appreciate a fiddle solo

Standout Tracks: “Nobody’s Girl”, “Desolation Angels”, “Vancouver”, “You Don’t Want Me Around”

This album starts out great. When you hear the opening guitar and drums of “Let’s Just Fall”, you’re instantly treated to what a classic, rocking Reckless Kelly song sounds like. The lyrics are clever too, they go “I know we could both fall flat, let’s just fall. Leave it at that”. It’s not a standout track, but I do really like it. “Nobody’s Girl” is one of my favorite songs by the band. As I said above, it’s the one that hooked me, but the fact that it’s held up for me over years of listening is a testament to its strength. It’s all about how a woman keeps men at a distance due to how her father left her mother without a word. Now she’s bitter and refuses to let anyone get close. When I was showing Megan this song, I brought up my favorite lines. “Everybody wants you but you don’t wanna care, so you keep em at a distance with the frown you wear”. That part is just super-catchy, and it never gets old for me. Another classic that just so happens to be on this album is “Desolation Angels”. It’s all about a traveling man who is looking for more out of life, but who is also trying to run from anything permanent, or harsh feelings. . “Wealth and matter has never made much sense to me, it’s bought a lot of souls but never has it set one free” is yet another example of the great writing these guys put out. Also, I love the fiddle on this song!

“Vancouver” is also great. There are a lot of cities mentioned within the lyrics, but it just makes the song more relatable to me. I like that it’s slower, and a love song. It really shows off how vulnerable the band can get. The man in the lyrics wonders where his love is as he’s getting drunk, and she’s off somewhere breaking hearts. “You Don’t Want me Around” is another faster song. It involves a man who wants to be with a girl, but she doesn’t share the same feelings. This one isn’t as deep as a song like “Desolation Angels”, but I just really like the music behind this one, and it’s catchy.

Like I said before, this is not my favorite album by Reckless Kelly. This one has a couple of their best songs ever, though. Also, as it features the track that really got me into the music that is my most favorite today, I figured it was the perfect thing to cover. If you have never looked into Reckless Kelly, I think everyone should give them a chance.

Buy the Album on Amazon

Reflecting on: Steve Earle–Copperhead Road

Yeah, okay, so I’m going to refer to Steve Earle quite a lot in the next few days, so just get used to it. Ever since we heard about the new album, I’ve known I would do a reflection of Steve this week. The obvious choice would be Guitar Town–that’s the one album everyone seems to cite as his best, and it’s the album that Earle said inspired him to make this new record when he revisited it for its thirtieth anniversary. But Copperhead Road is the one I’m doing instead; for one, just because Guitar Town is more well-known, and also because the title track is such a signature song for Steve Earle and a timeless song in country music. It’s a song I’ve grown up hearing everywhere, and my final decision came to do this album when Brianna broke my heart by telling me she’d never heard that song.

Release Date: 1988
Style: country rock, almost like Red Dirt before we called it that
People Who Might Like This Album: fans of Texas and Red Dirt music, especially the harder-leaning stuff, maybe people who like stuff like Eric Church or Kip Moore
Standout Tracks: “Copperhead Road,” “The Devil’s Right Hand,” “Snake Oil,” “Nothing But a Child”
Reflections: All right, so this was cool for me, because I know some Steve Earle songs, but I’m not overly familiar with his albums. It wasn’t a first-listen sort of experience when I played Copperhead Road for this piece, but it also wasn’t something I knew like the back of my hand. What struck me that I’ve not really thought about before is the style; in 1988, you had stuff like George Strait and Keith Whitley and Randy Travis fighting for a more traditional sound on country radio, fighting to take back country from the more pop-influenced stuff–and then there’s this, which is just totally different from any of that. Nowadays, you get so many mainstream artists blending country and rock–some do it well like Eric Church and occasionally Kip Moore, which is why I mentioned them above, and some just release arena rock with no country influence. The point is, it’s normal; that’s basically what the entirety of Red Dirt music sounds like. in 1988, this was a very unique sound, and like I say, I’ve never really taken time to consider that fully.
I mentioned the title track, and now I have to say, if you’ve made it to this point in your journey without hearing “Copperhead Road,” I’m frankly a little shocked; it’s just such a classic, at least where I’m from. I heard it all the time growing up, at various events, bars, wedding receptions, etc. Anyway, it’s a fun song about a Vietnam veteran whose family made moonshine, and after the war, he uses that knowledge to grow and sell marijuana “down copperhead Road.” “Snake Oil” is another fun one; I’m reminded a little listening to this record that stuff can be fun and upbeat and still be well-written, a lesson mainstream Nashville could learn. But there are some serious moments too, like the closer, a stripped-back religious song called “Nothing but a Child.” It’s probably the most country one here.
I don’t think Steve Earle has always put out good music; in fact, I’m more excited for Friday’s release from him than I have been for one of his records in years. But those early albums were great, and you should check them out. And yeah, that goes for Guitar Town as well, even though I didn’t write about it.

Listen to Album

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

Reflecting on: The Definitive Collection: Don Williams

Friday’s Gentle Giants tribute album to Don Williams has inspired me to go back and search through his discography. I know Brianna did a Greatest Hits collection last week, but this is honestly one of the best examples of his music that is also easily accessible–many of his original albums can’t be streamed, and hopefully, hearing this one will inspire you to dig further into his albums anyway. His music is some of the first exposure to older country that I ever had growing up, and it’s some I still come back to, and for good reason.

Release Date: 2004
Style: mostly countrypolitan/the Nashville sound, some more traditional country as well
Who Might Like This Album: fans of Ronnie Milsap, fans of Sam Outlaw, fans of softer country, love songs, and heartbreak ballads
Standout Tracks: “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend,” “If Hollywood Don’t Need You,” Lord, I Hope This Day is Good,” “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” “Come Early Morning,” “I’m Just a Country Boy,” “She Never Knew Me”
Reflections: You might think Sam Outlaw is an odd reference to make when referring to a classic country singer like Don Williams, but it’s the Nashville sound that Outlaw has modernized which Williams helped to make popular in the 70’s and 80’s; he wasn’t an outlaw like Merle or Willie, and his brand of country, although sprinkled with traditional songs, leans more toward the pop country of that time–which just shows you how far the term pop country has slipped, and also that it wasn’t always synonymous with crap. There’s a reason he is called “gentle giant,”–that unmistakable bass voice is known best for love songs like “I Believe in You” and heartbreak songs like “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend” than anything else. This album, and really all Don Williams music, is an easy listen. It just puts you in a good mood. It’s relaxing and simple, and it reminds you that it didn’t take grit to make timeless music.
There’s a sincerity and depth of emotion in these songs that’s hard to come by in today’s writing, and “gentle” is also the right word to describe the voice of Don Williams. I mentioned simplicity, and it shines through on “Lord, I Hope This Day is Good,” a little prayer for just that, a good day in the midst of struggle, and “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” a song that reminds you you can sing about growing up in the South without it being one giant cliché. He can share sentiments like “If Hollywood don’t need you, honey, I still do” from my personal favorite Don Williams song, or “most of all, you’re my best friend” and have them come off as sincere rather than cheesy. It could be the bass voice or simply the way you believe the words, but Don Williams has a way of selling these types of songs that would perhaps otherwise come off too sappy. I keep coming back to that word, “gentle,” which seems to describe his voice, his style, and his songs. As I said, it’s a nice, easy listen. Start with this, and work your way through his music. I have yet to find a bad Don Williams song.

Listen to Album

Reflecting On: 20th Century Masters- The Millennium Collection – The Best Of Loretta Lynn

Growing up, I heard Loretta Lynn’s music a lot. Although it took me years to understand the lyrics fully, my love for her music was something I picked up quite early on in life. This album, in particular, was the one I heard the most. While I have since heard her original albums, I always come back to this greatest hits collection.

Release Date: 1999

Style: Traditional Country

People Who Might Like This Album: Fans of female artists, and those who appreciate songs about real emotions

Standout Tracks: The whole album since it’s a greatest hits collection

If you don’t know any of Loretta Lynn’s songs, this is a great place to start. You get to hear about her childhood growing up in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, where her father worked in the coal mines, on “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. There’s also the fantastic “You Ain’t Woman Enough”, where Loretta Lynn tells a woman who’s trying to win over her husband that she isn’t going to let said woman have him. This album also features the classic “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’”, where she tells the previously mentioned husband not to come home after he’s been out drinking all night. There’s also two of her duets with fellow classic country artist, Conway Twitty. As one of the premiere sets of duet partners in country music, you can’t get any better. “Lead Me On” is a fantastic example of a cheating song from both the male and female perspective. Really, the only downside to this album is that it doesn’t contain “Fist City”.

The thing that makes Loretta Lynn so good is that she wrote relatable songs from a woman’s perspective, in a time when nearly all country stars were male. That part hasn’t changed a lot nowadays, which only means that her music applies just as strongly today as it did then. Loretta Lynn wrote about the harsh realities of growing up poor in Kentucky. Her songs discussed what it was like to be a housewife to a husband who didn’t always put her first, and she even talked about jealousy. Her music is very human and real, and it’s something I come back to, time and time again.

Buy the Album on Amazon