Tag Archives: Alison Krauss

Memorable Songs From Overlooked Albums: June 1st

You’ll notice I wrote “overlooked” instead of forgettable this time–that’s because the majority of these fall into the category of us having nothing to say about the album rather than really being forgettable. some of them are, but writing “forgettable albums” would be somewhat misleading for most of them. Now, many of you know the drill–standout songs that truly did come off mediocre/forgettable albums, songs from albums we didn’t cover due to time constraints or out of deference to artists, or like most of today’s, songs from albums we just didn’t have much to say about but still thought some tracks deserved a feature. Today’s is quite an eclectic list, from traditional to Americana to pop country to Texas and Red dirt, so there should be something for everyone. As always, this feature arrives when there are enough songs sliding through the cracks to produce one.

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers: “Keep the Home Fires Burnin'”

Man, this song is absolutely great. I heard it, and I was so excited for their debut album Sidelong. Cool instrumentation, nice lyrics, and really catchy and fun despite it being a heartbreak song which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved all the energy put into it–it’s not something you see every day in Americana/singer-songwriter albums. I thought it could be a really nice debut…and the whole rest of their album was just boring. It’s one of the few that does fit the forgettable albums label. I do think there was great, interesting instrumentation throughout it, but this song opens it amazingly, and then there’s just nothing. It would be extremely sad not to feature this, though, it’s a really good song, and I think they’ve got massive potential.

Dalton Domino: “Decent Man”

Dalton’s album Corners really doesn’t fit the “forgettable albums” label either, more just the “not for us” label; neither Bri nor I could really get behind it, but we’re heavily in the minority. Obviously a lot of people really enjoy it, and so I wanted to feature a song from it so that you all could enjoy it too, if you’re so inclined. It’s definitely unique, and credit to Dalton Domino for doing something cool and different in the Texas/Red Dirt scene, even if I’m not personally on board. I do quite enjoy this one.

Rascal Flatts: “Back To Us”

I went back and forth about whether or not to review this. This was an ironic album title for a project that was mostly mediocre and bland, with some God-awful moments and a couple of bright spots that really drove home the point that if Rascal Flatts actually tried to live up to that title, they could once again make good pop country. I never hated them, they just shouldn’t have started trend-chasing. Anyway, I could have probably written a lot about their album, but the title track has emerged as quite a good song, and I want to remind everyone what Rascal Flatts is capable of when they do it right, so I’m putting it here.

Jade Jackson: “Bridges”

This falls also into that “not for us” category. The music in this album is really very good though, and Jade does a nice job balancing between more country rock songs and more singer-songwriter stuff. It’s the latter, at least for me, which suits her voice more, and this song is a good example. I think Jade Jackson is probably the one that people are either going to love or hate–she’s got a very unique voice, and if vocals aren’t really a factor for you, you’ll probably love this album. But I’m not sure everyone will like her voice, and that’s ok. I want to stress, though, that of the albums I’ve listed here, this is probably the best one in my opinion, and it’s simply personal preference holding it back for me.

Jade Jackson: “Gilded

The title track is probably the best song from it, from those lyrics to the melody to that fiddle. It’s another more singer-songwriter type track, and as I say, Jade Jackson’s voice works more with these songs.

Evan Michaels Band: “Like it Should”

This one comes from an EP, Ain’t no Stopping This, and it’s really more just that we don’t generally cover EP’s for a number of reasons, so they are just held to higher standards. As for this particular EP, from the Evan Michaels Band of Stillwater, Oklahoma, I thought it showed potential, but they will need to do the very thing I credited Dalton domino for above–stand out in the ever-growing Texas/Red Dirt scene. That said, “Like it Should” stands out off the EP as a nice song about missing an ex and shows off that potential I mentioned.

Alison Krauss: “Till the Rivers All Run Dry”

Let’s end this feature in fine fashion, with two excellent covers of Don Williams classics turned in for the Gentle Giants album. Again, cover albums are just held to higher standards, and these two outshined the rest. This is an excellent love song; Don Williams’ version was great, and Krauss does a nice job interpreting it and making it her own.

Trisha Yearwood: “Maggie’s Dream”

Yes, the best for last. Honestly, this cover is better than the original. Maybe it cuts deeper with a woman singing the lines, or maybe you just believe Yearwood’s rendition more, but this story of Maggie, a waitress at a truck stop in Asheville who’s nearing fifty and longing to be married despite what she tells everyone around her, was good before and now even better. Honestly one of the best songs I’ve heard this year despite the fact it’s a cover.

Memorable Songs From forgettable Albums: March 22nd

So, I honestly just thought of the idea for this feature while I was sitting here for what has to be at least the fifth time trying to articulate something intelligent to say about Josh Turner’s latest album, Deep South. That album is not really a bad record, but fell short of the expectations of a lot of Josh Turner fans, including myself, and honestly, after this review, the only song I’m probably ever going to listen to again is “Lay Low.” It’s very hard to sit down and write about an album like this because it’s not bad enough to warrant a rant but it’s not good enough to praise and if it’s not worth my time to listen to, it’s difficult to make it worth my time and energy to write about. The same is true for Little Big town’s latest effort because, while it’s definitely a step in the right direction after Painkiller, it’s not something I want to listen to again. The problem is that the good songs on these albums get overlooked when the records don’t get reviewed. So I think I’ve found a way to highlight standout songs on less than stellar albums in a way that benefits the artists and better serves the music, all while saving myself and you the time of discussing mediocre music. You can expect these features whenever, well, I feel that there have been enough songs sliding through the cracks to warrant one. 🙂 let me know what you guys think!

Natalie Hemby: “Cairo, IL”

Yes, I know, this album came out in January, and I should have talked about it then, but I couldn’t think of anything to say. The overall album has a very sleepy feel to it, and I didn’t have much to put to paper. But this is one of the best songs of the year, and it’s better to recognize it late than never. It’s a beautiful, stripped-back song about a Mississippi river town, now a shell of what it once was. If you haven’t heard it yet, do it now. You will fall in love with it.

Natalie Hemby: “Time Honored Tradition”

The other standout of Puxico that shouldn’t go overlooked. Just an easygoing, nostalgic track where once again, the production and lyrics really work.

Little Big Town: “Better Man”

I will go right ahead and say strict traditionalists aren’t going to like this because it’s way more pop than country. It’s the songwriting that got to me on this, and it’s no surprise that Taylor swift wrote it. That’s going to immediately turn some people off and immediately make others hit play. I almost didn’t even include it because most have already heard it since it was a radio hit, but it did stand out for me on their album, so here it is.

Little Big Town: “Beat UP Bible”

This one is the most country on their otherwise pop/adult contemporary album and tells the story of a Bible that’s been in the family for generations. It’s also one of the most interesting moments on The Breaker. Kimberly Schlapman can’t be anything but country, and if they’d give her the lead on more songs, they’d be going in a much better direction.

Alison Krauss: “You Don’t Know Me”

Alison Krauss’s classic covers album Windy City is an interesting one. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, and by placing this song here, I’m really kind of calling the album forgettable. It’s really quite good but sleepy. It’s not really for me, and it’s something I respect more than I enjoy. I thought there were some good covers, especially “Gentle on my Mind.” However, this one really stood out above the others and stood out more than as a great cover, it stood out as a great Alison Krauss song.

Josh Turner: “Lay Low”

Well, you probably all know this one too, as this came out ahead of an album meant to be released in March 2015, but as it was the very song that inspired this feature in the first place, I thought it deserved to be here. As far as Josh turner’s album, there are probably Josh fans who are going to get behind it more than I did, but basically it was just underwhelming and lackluster, and then you had this great song “Lay Low” sticking out like a sore thumb to remind you of better days.

Album Review: Randy Rogers Band–Nothing Shines Like Neon

Rating: 9/10

Following the excellent 2015 collaboration with Wade Bowen, Hold my Beer, Volume 1, Randy Rogers is back with his band for Nothing Shines Like Neon. This album marks the return of the Randy Rogers Band to Texas after some albums in Nashville, and it was preceeded with news that it would be an album of traditional country, complete with appearances by Alison Krauss and Jerry Jeff Walker. Well, the album is available today, and I can safely say it lived up to its expectations, and it is the first great album of 2016.

The album opens with “San Antone,” a nice ode to Texas that celebrates coming back after their years away. Songs about Texas are common in Texas country, but this one stands out after the band’s years in Nashville and works perfectly. It is a fitting opener for the album, and right away I can see that the promise of traditional country rings true. Fiddle, steel, and acoustic guitar are prominent here, and will continue to be throughout the album. “Rain and the Radio” is a catchy, upbeat song about a couple enjoying being with each other when the power is out. They don’t need anything but the rain and the radio; this doesn’t stand out as one of the best songs on the album, but it is a song that gets better with each listen and earns its place quietly. “Neon Blues,” the album’s first single, is a classic song about a woman in a bar drinking away the pain of a past relationship. Much like “Rain and the Radio,” this one is catchy and gets better with each listen. It is unclear here whether the narrator is the one who hurt her, the bartender, or just someone in the bar, but he has observed this woman and is advising someone else not to waste his time pursuing her. It was certainly a good single choice.

“Things I Need to Quit” sees a man listing all the habits he needs to rid himself of: alcohol, cigarettes, but most importantly, the woman who has him in this position. Randy Rogers sings of a girl who is getting dressed and waiting for a cab–“she looks a lot like you, ain’t that a shame. Girl, I’m all messed up, and you’re to blame.” It’s a very honest and relatable song that will connect with many. “Look Out Yonder” is one of the best songs on the album. Featuring Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski, it tells the story from a brother’s point of view, as he looks out at the road and sees his wayward brother finally coming home, guitar strapped to his back. The instrumentation, lyrics, and harmonies blend beautifully in this song, and it is really one that you should hear. “Tequila Eyes” sees the narrator seeking out his friend, who is trying to find comfort in a bar. Apparently this is quite unlike her, and this narrator is broken, trying to tell her that tequila won’t hide the pain. Randy Rogers delivers the emotion in this song wonderfully, and the fiddle in this song is excellent. After the rawness of “Tequila Eyes” comes the expertly placed “Taking it as it Comes.” This is one of the most fun moments on the album, and the fiddles and rock guitars on this song remind me of a Turnpike Troubadours track. Jerry Jeff Walker is featured here, and basically this song is just about taking life as it comes and not letting life get to you; it’s just a fun song.

“Old Moon New” is probably the best song on Nothing Shines Like Neon. Here, a man sings about writing a woman clichéd love letters and giving her eleven roses “just to shake it up.” He says he knows that “there’s nothing new under that old moon” but “girl, you make that old moon new.” It’s a beautiful song and stands out in contrast to all the songs about back roads and moonlight we’ve been hearing from mainstream country music. “Meet Me Tonight” is another standout on this album; it reminds me of an earlier Randy Rogers Band song, “One More Goodbye.” Here, a man is asking an old love to meet up with him one last time; he knows it won’t last, but he still misses her. The Randy Rogers Band really seem to have a knack for capturing the emotion in these types of songs, and I think this is one that while having the unfortunate placement after “Old Moon New” will surpass it in quality with more listens.

“Actin’ Crazy” is an instant personal favorite. If “Old Moon New” is the best serious song, this song is the most witty. Featuring Jamey Johnson–has Jamey Johnson ever lent his voice to a bad song?–this song tells the story of a man writing a letter back home to Texas, presumably from L.A. or some other city. This man is living a life that is “one chaotic wreck” and knows he is getting nowhere. Some of my favorite lyrics are present here, among them “these folks make me proud to be from Texas” and “the rent’s as high as Willie.” This song also makes me ready for that Jamey Johnson album we’ve been hearing about forever. The album closes with “Pour one for the Poor One,” your classic country song about a man drinking away his troubles after his woman has left him. They promised traditional country, and this song is a perfect way to close an album of such music.

Overall, this is a truly enjoyable album. The Randy Rogers Band balance serious and fun songs well, and the light and dark material combine to make this an album that is not only critically great, but listenable and relatable as well. They promised an album of traditional country, and that is what this album delivers. Nothing Shines Like Neon is a great start to 2016 for country music.

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