Random Thoughts of the Week: In Memory of Lynn Anderson

Lynn Anderson, best known for the hit (“I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” passed away Thursday night (July 30th) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville after a heart attack. She was sixty-seven years old. The singer, known as the “Great Lady of Country Music” had twelve No. 1’s in her career and has been one of the most successful females in country music history.

Lynn Rene Anderson, (born September 26, 1947, in Grand Forks, North Dakota), was interested in country music at a very early age. Her parents were both songwriters; her mother, Liz Anderson, wrote Merle Haggard’s “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive.” Lynn released her debut album Ride, Ride, Ride in 1966 at age nineteen. She is best known for (“I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” a country hit that was also an adult contemporary and pop crossover success. She won the ACM Top Female Vocalist award in 1967 and 1970, as well as the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year award in 1971. Lynn won a Grammy Award in 1971 for Best Vocal Performance for “Rose Garden” and became the first woman to win an American Music Award. She was named one of Billboard’s Artists of the Decade in 1980.

Perhaps more important than her own success is the
path she paved for female artists. Lynn became the first country female to sell out Madison Square Garden in 1974. She had over fifty Top 40 hits in her career, making her one of the most successful women in country music to date. She has been considered many times for, but not yet inducted into, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and it’s unfortunate that they didn’t induct her before she passed away.

Lynn was known early in her career as the “California Horse Show Queen.” She raised horses and obtained several distinctions, including sixteen national championships and eight world championships. Later in life, she worked with the “Special Riders of Animalland,” a therapeutic horseback riding program for children. She never stopped showing horses or recording. In fact, she had just released a gospel album entitled Bridges on June 9th. The “Great Lady of Country Music” will be missed. Lynn has left her mark on the genre, as well as on music in general. At a time like this, it is especially important to remember the difference female voices can make in country music.

Tomato of the Week: Lindi Ortega

Her album comes out Friday, so it’s time to feature Lindi Ortega on Female Friday! By the way, don’t buy Luke Bryan or Michael Ray’s albums this Friday, buy Lindi Ortega’s…this will do more for country music than Jason Isbell did by beating Alan Jackson.

Random Country Suggestion: Jason Eady–Daylight and Dark

This was probably my favorite album of 2014. Plus, there’s been a lot of talk about Texas country on here lately, so seems appropriate.

Listen to Daylight and Dark

No non-country suggestion, just go listen to “Rose Garden.”

Single Review: Luke Bryan Explores a New Kind of Crap With “Strip it Down”

Rating: 0/10

Luke Bryan has released a second song from his upcoming album Kill the Lights–and it actually is not a copy of “That’s my Kind of Night” or “Kick the Dust Up.” Country Exclusive didn’t exist when the atrocity that is “Kick the Dust Up” came out, so you were saved the rant, but let me say that that “song” was one of the driving factors behind this blog. I didn’t think I could possibly hate anything Luke produced worse than “Kick the Dust Up,” but then I have underestimated these things before. Enter “Strip it Down,” the r&b/pop copy of Jason Aldean’s hit “Burnin’ it Down.” Incidentally, Luke released this lyric video “exclusively” on Tinder, and I won’t go into a rant about how sleazy this is, but do yourself a favor and go read Trigger’s own rant on SCM
Here From the article:

It’s only fair to mention that officially, Tinder is not meant to be exclusively about setting up sex rendezvous. It’s just a dating app. But I’ll tell you this: If I was looking to blow off a little steam and hook up for the night, or was feeling a little lonely and wanted to go looking for love, the last thing I would want to see is the country music Gomer Pyle on there shilling his stupid video. I mean shit, you can’t get away from this guy.

But since SCM took care of that, let’s discuss the song itself. It’s about Luke wanting to reconnect with an old love by “stripping it down.” Immediately, Dierks Bentley’s “Come a Little Closer” comes to mind, as this is basically the premise of that song as well. So let’s compare the two.

Dierks’s is country with some rock. Like I already said, this is pop and r&b, with the only reference to country being the comment about getting back to the way things were “When it was an old back road and an old school beat, Cowboy boots by your little bare feet.” Dirt roads get an obligatory mention even when the song is not bro country. I assume the “old school beat” is the bro country sound before this new r&b/pop/metro-politan disease infected the genre…irony at its finest. Also, Dierks Bentley talked much more about the girl. “I feel like layin’ you down on a bed of sweet surrender where we can work it all out,” “I wanna touch you like a cleansing rain,.” and “I feel like lettin’ go of everything that stands between us and the love we used to know.” Luke does say, “Let me run my fingers down your back” but more often we find lines about the scenery, like the “white cotton sheets,” “feel my belt turn loose from these old blue jeans,” and this completely unnecessary “I wanna drop this cell phone out, Let it shatter on the ground.” It’s trying to be romantic, but it comes off like he is in a hurry to have sex rather than desperate to get back the love they lost. In fact, love is never mentioned, at least not in that context; the song simply says, “We both know that we lost it somehow, let’s get it found, strip it down, down, down.” The word “Love” is mentioned once in the bridge, with the line, “I just wanna love you so bad, baby.” So again, it sounds like he is just desperate to hook up with her. Then again, if they are getting back to the way it was on an old back road with an old school beat, then hooking up with her by a river is probably what he is going for here. Last, but certainly not least, Dierks Bentley’s “Come a Little Closer” shows emotion and actually makes you want to go have sex, whereas Luke Bryan’s “Strip it Down” just made me bored, distracted, and eventually disgusted and ready to rant about it.

This is not headache inducing like “Kick the Dust Up” and maybe wouldn’t have gotten a 0 if I hadn’t compared it to “Come a Little Closer.” But the fact is, I immediately did, and in that light, this song goes from being boring, unoriginal crap to something I hate as bad, if not worse than, his bro country collection. Those songs, at least, did what they set out to accomplish. This, after “Kick the Dust Up,” certainly does not bode well for Friday’s album.

Texas Music From Oklahoma: A Look at the Texas Music Chart (August 3rd)

So, if you have read this blog for more than three minutes of its short existence, you have probably heard me talk about Texas/red dirt country. Please don’t ask me to tell you the difference; some say there is no difference and others argue about it. I grew up with Texas country being played on my local Oklahoma station The Twister quite frequently. In fact, The Twister used to feature “Red Dirt Nights,” a program that has been replaced with the unfortunate “Country House Party.” In Oklahoma, the red dirt music that we once proudly supported has been blacklisted along with the music of traditional artists. This is especially unfortunate here, as many Oklahoma artists found their success in the genre.

But Texas music is still alive and well. Independent country fans long for a system that is entirely free of Music Row, Nashville, etc. Some look for the split of country music and/or the taking over of real country by Americana (which might actually be happening.) Meanwhile, Texas has already seceded from Nashville. They have stations playing Texas country only and others mixing it in with mainstream country music, giving it the level playing field that independent/Americana fans speculate about. They even have their own airplay charts, the Texas Music Chart and Texas Regional Radio Report. Just as I report the Billboard charts, I will now report the Texas Music Chart, giving Texas artists the equal opportunity to be discovered and appreciated that Oklahoma radio once gave them. I hope you will find new and deserving artists here, and that a love for Texas/red dirt country will be cultivated.

Texas Music Chart (August 3rd)

1. Wade Bowen–“Sun Shines on a Dreamer” (up 3)
2. Aaron Watson–“Freight Train”
3. Josh Ward–“Highway” (up 2)
4. William Clark Green–“Sticks and Stones” (down 1)
5. Rich O’Toole–“Talk About the Weather” (up 1)
6. Pat Green–“While I Was Away” (up 1)
7. Granger Smith–“Back Road Song” (up 1)
8. Cody Canada and the Departed–“Easy” (up 1)
9. Sam Riggs–“Long Shot” (up 1)
10. Matt Kimbro–“Livin’ the Good Life” (up 1)
11. James Lann–“Let it Rain” (down 10)
12. Whiskey Myers–“Shelter From the Rain” (up 1)
13. Cory Morrow–“Old With You” (down 1)
14. Kyle Park–“What Goes Around Comes Around” (up 1)
15. Prophets and Outlaws–“Texas Home” (down 1)
16. Bart Crow–“Life Comes At You Fast” (up 2)
17. Turnpike Troubadours–“Down Here” (up 8)
18. Matt Hillyer–“If These Old Bones Could Talk” (down 1)
19. Asleep at the Wheel featuring Randy Rogers, Reckless Kelly, and Shooter Jennings–“Bob Wills is Still the King”
20. Reckless Kelly–“Real Cool Hand” (up 1)
21. Curtis Grimes–“Smile That Smile” (up 1)
22. JB and the Moonshine Band–“Shotgun, Rifle, and a .45” (up 11) [biggest gainer]
23. Kylie Frey–“The Chase” (up 1)
24. Uncle Lucius–“Don’t Own the Right” (up 3)
25. Gabe Garcia–“Country Looks Good on You” (down 5)
26. Adam Fears–“Golden Gravel Road” (up 6)
27. Aaron Einhouse–“I Could Fall” (up 2)
28. Sundance Head–“Darlin’ Don’t Go”
29. Adrian Johnston–“Avalanche” (up 1)
30. Roger Creager–“Where the Gringos Don’t Go” (down 7)
31. Jesse Raub Jr–“Plead the Fifth” (down 5)
32. Miles Williams–“Teasin’ Me” (up 3)
33. Scott Taylor Band–“By Now” (down 2)
34. Josh Grider–“You Dream I’ll Drive” (up 5)
35. Tori Martin–“Woman Up” (up 2)
36. Stoney LaRue–“Easy She Comes” (down 2)
37. Thom Shepherd–“Little Miss Everything” (down 1)
38. Caleb McIntire–“Ozark Mountain Stomp”
39. Judson Cole Band–“Time to Run” (up 7)
40. Clayton Gardner–“Buy You a Drink” (down 24) [biggest loser]
41. The Statesboro Revue–“Undone” (entering top 50)
42. Mike Ryan–“Girls I Date” (up 2)
43. Jeremy Steding–“Love Love Love” (down 1)
44. Doc West–“Whole Lotta Bull” (down 1)
45. Callahan Divide–“Happy” (up 3)
46. TJ Broscof–“Phone Calls” (entering top 50)
47. Saints Eleven–“I Don’t” (entering top 50)
48. Kevin Fowler & Deryl Dodd–“Damn This ol’ Honkytonk Dream” (entering top 50)
49. Junior Gordon–“Country Lov’n” (down 8)
50. Cody Joe Hodges–“One More Drink” (down 5)

  • new No. 1: “Sun Shines on a Dreamer” (an actual good song hitting No. 1 on an airplay chart?)
  • I have no No. 1 prediction for next week as I just started looking at this chart regularly
  • Texas is as male dominated as Nashville…look at the lack of women

Source: Texas Music Chart

Album Review: Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen–Hold my Beer, Vol. 1

Rating: 9.5/10

There are several albums that came out earlier this year, prior to the existence of Country Exclusive, which definitely deserve discussion–some because they were incredibly awesome, others because they were incredibly awful, and still others, like Zac Brown Band’s latest album, for reasons that can only be explained in a full-length review. On weeks with fewer releases, I will do my best to catch up on albums that I feel especially deserve attention. This album came out on April 20th and is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.

Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen are two amazing artists in their own right. They are two of the biggest names in Texas/red dirt country, and if someone asked me about red dirt, those are the first two names I’d give them. Their putting together a collaboration album is the equivalent of Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan combining their individual bro country arrogance into one glorious album full of dirt roads and bikkinis. So, the correct response to the news that Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen are teaming up and naming an album after their “Hold my Beer and Watch This” tours, is to expect Texas country gold. Thankfully, this album delivered.

The album opens with “In the Next Life,” a reflective song about the highs and lows of their careers. The line “I guess what they say is true, all you need is one good friend” pretty much sums up their chemistry and the tone of the album. It’s lighthearted and upbeat, and the instrumentation is great. Next is “I Had my Hopes up High,” an upbeat track about their experiences hitching rides from various people. I hope these were actual experiences. Once again, the instrumentation is great. In fact, let me say this now so I won’t have to repeat it for every song–Instrumentation is one thing that is awesome throughout the whole album, with steel guitar and fiddle and enough rock for this listener. I recognize the technical awesomeness of straight traditional country, but I do like a little rock as well, and that is something that Texas artists seem to blend into their country fflawlessly. If you want to look for “evolution” of the country sound, this album is where to find it.

The album slows down with the heartbreak song, “Till It Does.” I was hooked with the first line, as Wade Bowen sings: “I never told her that I loved her, but I do.” The premise is that the heartache “don’t happen till it does.” It’s such a simple line, but it’s truth. It was a great time to primarily feature Wade, as these types of songs are one of his strengths. Next is “Good Luck With That,” a fun song in which Wade wants to tell off his boss, a “certified SOB” and Randy wants to tell his wife he’s the “man of the house” and can stay out with Wade as long as he wants to. Each tells the other, “Good luck with that.” As I say often in my reviews, this song would be playing on radio right now if radio was country. The next song, “It’s Been a Great Afternoon,” is also “radio ready.” It’s a drinking song in which they have massive hangovers after possibly the night before from “Good Luck With That.” They reflect, “I can’t say we’ve had a good morning, but damn, it’s been a great afternoon.” This is my least favorite song on the album, but it works after “Good Luck With That” and it has grown on me some.

I talked about “Standards” in a rant about Luke Bryan’s comments on outlaw country. From my rant:
“Outlaw country spawned the Texas/red dirt country movement, and that’s where you will find today’s outlaws; they are people like Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers who sing about having “standards” as opposed to making “hits” and are relegated to the Texas Music Chart and Texas and Oklahoma stations willing to play their music.”

“Standards” is about a “record man” trying to pitch them a song about a dirt road, to which their response is, “I don’t have hits, I’ve got standards.” I don’t even need to explain why this is beautiful. “El Dorado” is my favorite song on the album, and is a ballad about a cowboy who is about to die. I love the line, “Better the angels should claim you than the long ride alone.” The song is reflective and peaceful more than sorrowful. Their harmonies really work well in this song, even more than in the rest of the album. “Hangin’ Out in Bars” is another standout song for me about a man who is “hangin’ out in bars” after his woman left him. This song features Randy Rogers more, and it was the perfect time for that, as this song suits his voice excellently.

Next is “Ladybug,” a lighthearted track in which they look for a ladybug or a four-leaf clover to end their bad luck on the farm. It’s the fun version of Jason Aldean’s “Amarillo Sky.” They end the album with an excellent cover of “Reasons to Quit,” which was on Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s famous 1983 collaboration Pancho & Lefty. They think about quitting their bad habits but decide the “reasons to quit” don’t outnumber “all the reasons why.”

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is indeed Texas country gold. I didn’t love every song on it–I loved some and liked the rest–but the great instrumentation all the way through and their chemistry together adds to it and makes it even better. Every song on it is not a standout, but there is literally nothing to complain about with this album, and it is definitely worth a listen. I hope the “Vol. 1” means we will be getting more from these two soon.

Listen to Album

My Top Ten Country Songs (July 2015)

July had very few releases compared to June, so this is going to be divided between Jason Isbell, Alan Jackson, and Ashley Monroe. However, this is certainly not a bad thing, as all of these releases were great albums.

10. Ashley Monroe–“I’m Good at Leavin'”–A great “rambling woman” song about being the girl who can’t stay home and clean and raise children. When the No. 10 song got a ten in my review, you know the list is going to be great.
9. Alan Jackson–“The One You’re Waiting On”–An excellently written song told from the point of view of a man observing a woman across the room waiting on her date. He watches her check her phone and turn men away, speculating about whether the guy she’s waiting on is really worth it.
8. Jason Isbell–“Something More Than Free”–A great ode to the working class that is what country is really all about…call him Americana or folk or rock, but this is country at its finest.
7. Jason Isbell–“Palmetto Rose”–I hesitated to put this here, as this is more Southern rock, but it would be incorrect not to list this upbeat tribute to South Carolina, the “iodine state.”
6. Alan Jackson–“Gone Before You Met Me”–This is a fun song off Jackson’s album where he meets Tom Sawyer and Jack Kerouac and decides in the end that family life is better than rambling. It’s a good thing to see a singer uphold family values, and it shows that you can name-drop without being obnoxious about it.
5. Alan Jackson–“Angels and Alcohol”–A classic country commentary on mixing women with alcoholism, complete with great instrementation and lyrics.
4. Alan Jackson–“You Can Always Come Home”–As I said in my Angels and Alcohol review, this song took on a double meaning for me, and it felt like coming home after all the crap being marketed as country on a daily basis.
3. Ashley Monroe–“The Blade”–A heartbreak song with perfect imagery and a beautiful melody. “You caught it by the handle, and I caught it by the blade”…excellent.
2. Ashley Monroe–“Dixie”–I said in my review of The Blade that this song should get a twelve, and I still believe that. It’s a great song about being sick of the South, and would have scored No. 1 for me any other month.
1. Jason Isbell–“Speed Trap Town”–I told you once, and I’ll tell you again…please listen to this song. This tear jerker about a teenager saying goodbye to his father in a small town hospital will be a candidate for my song of the year. It’s going to be hard to beat.

Honorable Mentions

  • Jason Isbell’s “Life you Chose” and “24 Frames”
  • Ashley Monroe’s “If the Devil Don’t Want Me” and “Bombshell

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