Tag Archives: Dierks Bentley

Album Review: Travis Meadows–First Cigarette

Rating: 8/10

Travis Meadows adds his name to the growing list of professional songwriters who are gaining a name for themselves and finding more success with their own material. As for songs written by Meadows, try “Knives of New Orleans” by Eric Church, “Riser” by Dierks Bentley, and “What We Ain’t Got” by Jake Owen. These should be enough to get your attention and keep his third album, First Cigarette, firmly on your radar.

I’ve spent a lot of time in 2017 criticizing various independent/Americana singers for their vocals. It doesn’t matter if you can write a good song if you can’t remain on pitch and/or sing with any emotion. But there’s another side to this too, and that’s understanding your tone as a singer and writing and performing songs to suit you. Travis Meadows brings a weathered, unpolished quality to his singing, and no, he’s not the greatest vocalist in that sense, but he is a fine interpreter, able to capture perfectly all the raw emotion on this record. Plus, he can indeed stay on pitch, so that’s just a bonus…but I digress. His tone may not be for everyone, but he utilizes it well here, allowing it to become a feature rather than a flaw.

And his tone actually suits the material here very well, speaking also to his talent as a songwriter, his ability to write according to his vocal strengths. The rough edges in his voice only serve to elevate this particular record because it’s a self-reflective album, sometimes looking back on the past and other times hopeful for the future, at once wistful and content. “Sideways” sets the mood perfectly, opening the album with the hard-hitting statement: “If I could buy myself a conscience that wasn’t broken, Mend every fence I drove my hard head through. Re-lock all the doors I wish I’d never opened, unlearn the things I wish I never Knew.” Meadows thinks back with nostalgia on his youth on “McDowell road” and “Pray for Jungleland,” and looks forward to making life better for his son on “Travelin’ Bone.” (And by the way, “Pray for Jungleland” is actually a good example of how a song about remembering some girl in tight jeans in your car can actually convey a real emotion and tell a real story.) He’s leaning on friends to help him through hard times on “Better Boat” and seems restless on “Hungry,” but he’s perfectly happy with his life on “Guy Like Me.” It all appears to come together on the title track, as he has learned to appreciate the little things in life, like that feeling of the first cigarette in the morning. He also states that he’s “a little more content with who I am than who I was,” which seems to be the thesis of this whole thing.

The production is another thing I’ve harped on many times in 2017, and yet this record manages to get it exactly right. Travis Meadows said that can be attributed to his producers, Jeremy Spillman and Jay Joyce, wanting it to sound like Travis would sound live in a bar. And it does sound rather organic and unpolished like that, very real and raw and fitting for this journey. Also, every song flows straight into the next, with little instrumental interludes to connect the tracks, so you take this trip right along with Travis. It’s a small detail, but it really adds a lot to this album and the sentiments being conveyed here. It makes this not an album of different songs about finding contentment with who you are and where you’ve been, but rather a single experience, a process that is being carried out throughout the record.

The album needed some brighter moments to lighten the mood and in turn make the serious, reflective stuff stand out all the more, and we get that in several places. It doesn’t quite work on “Underdogs,” as this one is kind of generic and doesn’t really say much when you get right down to it. There are a thousand songs out there like this, and while it will probably really excite live crowds, it doesn’t exactly add much to the project. It doesn’t necessarily take away much either, but lighter moments are pulled off better with “Guy Like Me” and “Long Live Cool.” The former has the personal detail which “Underdogs” lacks, seeing Travis content and happy with his life and circumstances. The latter is a nice, catchy ode to rock ‘n’ roll. This one features some lively harmonica and some nice electric guitar. This one fits well within the album context despite it being lighthearted because it carries that nostalgia so often explored on this record.

First Cigarette is getting slightly underappreciated, and I honestly can’t understand why. Travis Meadows isn’t the greatest vocalist in the world, but the roughness in his voice only adds to this record. The production is some of the best I’ve heard this year, and there’s enough sonic variety to keep it from being sleepy. The writing is nice too, and there’s a thematic structure to this album as well, not something we see on many records these days. Not a concept record, but definitely one continuous journey that finds its conclusion in the title track. It’s not a perfect album, but it’s a damn good one and is not to be overlooked in the frenzy of year-end lists. Highly recommend giving this a listen.

Buy the Album

Artists I Wish Would Take a Hint From Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley was one of the first artists that got me into country music. He may not be your favorite–and that’s okay–but you can’t argue with songs like “Who Needs Pictures,” “we Danced,” and certainly “Whiskey Lullaby.” He was one of the people that I heard on the radio in the late 90’s and early 2000’s that made me fall in love with this genre. He really disappointed me on his last two albums; they weren’t terrible, but they just weren’t Brad Paisley. You could tell he was trying to be something he was not. His guitar play was noticeably lacking, and he seemed to be veering toward chasing radio success. On his latest album, Love and War, he has gone back to being himself, and that’s just refreshing. There was a discussion on SCM about whether or not Brad will make it into the Hall of Fame, and all that remains to be seen, but he can’t do anything better than be himself, and that’s what he has done on his latest record. It got me thinking and talking about a lot of the artists that got me into country in the first place. A lot of them made some fine music earlier in their careers but have since started to kill their legacies by chasing short-term success and promoting mindless singles to radio. They could learn from Paisley, as well as Tim McGraw, who has also returned to form recently. Zac Brown Band could easily be talked about on either side of the conversation here, but I’ll reserve judgment until May 12th and hope I can include them in with Paisley and McGraw. Anyway, let me know if there are any artists you’d add to this list, as these are just the ones whose decline in quality over the years has personally bother me the most.

Dierks Bentley

Why, why can’t we get back the Dierks Bentley of “Up on the ridge” and “Riser?” Yep, “riser” was released in 2015; even then, he hadn’t sold out. There’s not even any point in him selling out this way–he was getting airplay anyway. Black is certainly not the most terrible album I’ve heard in recent memory, but it’s one of the most disappointing because I really thought we could count on Dierks Bentley. This is what he is capable of.

Blake Shelton

I own a Blake Shelton album called Loaded: the Best of Blake Shelton. Ironically, that album was released just prior to the beginning of his stint on The Voice, and so, essentially, it really is the best of Blake. Anyway, that record is great. But people won’t remember that; he’s done his best to eradicate all that in the past five years with the majority of his singles. I remember when I first heard “Austin,” and it blew me away. Same goes for “Don’t Make Me.” Blake does a lot for traditional country and music of substance from his chair on The Voice, and I just wish he’d take his own advice because if he did, I think he could be remembered for more than his reality show and his obnoxious tweets.

Keith Urban

Those of you that are shocked I own a Blake Shelton album, brace yourselves for this…I own no less than six–yep six–Keith Urban records…I’ll give you a moment to digest the fact that I’m not a Sturgill apologist, yet I own six Keith Urban records…now then. Keith Urban was a prime example of what good pop country is supposed to be–right up till the single “Little Bit of Everything” and his American Idol run (coincidence, Blake?). He used to write much of his material as well, and whether you enjoyed it or not, he was real. Keith Urban might be the most disappointing artist in the mainstream for me because he is just simply better than the crap he is releasing to radio–and it’s not as if he was ever especially traditional in the first place, so I don’t exactly see radio not playing him if he went back to more meaningful material. It literally boils down to laziness in his case, and that’s unfortunate.

Kenny Chesney

He is better than this too, even if you’re sick of beach music. His last record was absolutely boring and lifeless. Even Chesney sounds bored. I miss the days of “There Goes my Life” and “Old Blue chair.” Like Brad and Keith, even if Kenny isn’t your favorite, he used to at least be himself.

Eli Young Band

I remember when Eli Young Band were a cool Texas band releasing equally cool new music instead of shit like “Turn it On.” Yeah, that is basically all.

Honorable Mentions

  • Josh Turner–His last album wasn’t quite disappointing enough to piss me off on this level, it was mainly just boring, but if he releases more like this, he’ll make the list.
  • Little big town–I wish they’d get back to themselves, but I didn’t enjoy them enough when they were themselves to be as annoyed by them now. Also, The Breaker was a small step in the right direction.
  • the Band Perry–I don’t think them coming back to themselves is even possible at this point, so I don’t see the point listing them here.

The 51st Annual ACM Award Nominees, With Commentary

This morning, (2/1), the nominees for the 2016 Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards were revealed on CBS the Morning and ETOnline.com. The ACM Awards will take place on April 3rd at the MGM Grand Ballroom in Las Vegas and air on CBS. For the first time in several years, Blake Shelton will not be one of the hosts–this year it will be Blake’s former co-host, Luke Bryan, along with Dierks Bentley. This seems an unlikely pair to say the least, but we’ll see on April 3rd. Here are the nominees, along with predictions, preferences, and some personal commentary.

Video of the Year

“Biscuits”–Kacey Musgraves, directed by Mark Klausfeld, produced by Nicole Acacio
“Burning House”–Cam, directed by Trey Fanjoy, produced by Trent Hardville
“Girl Crush”–Little Big Town, directed by Karla Welch and Matthew Welch, produced by Amanda Prunesti
“Mr. Misunderstood”–Eric Church, directed by Reid Long and John Peets, produced by Megan Smith
“Riser”–Dierks Bentley, directed by Wes Edwards, produced by Jennifer Rothlein
Prediction: “Burning House” or “Riser”
Preference: none

New Male Vocalist of the Year

Good to see the ACM’s breaking down this category again, as for the past several years it has been simply “New Artist.”

Brett Eldredge [no]
Chris Janson [no]
Thomas Rhett [really?]
Chase Rice [hell no]
Chris Stapleton [thank God]
Prediction: Chris Stapleton
Preference: Chris Stapleton…I would prefer Chris Stapleton anyway, but out of these, do I really have a choice?
Note: When is Thomas Rhett going to stop getting nominated for New Artist awards?

New Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini [no]
Cam [yes!]
Mickey Guyton [good]
RaeLynn [oh God no]
Prediction: Cam or Kelsea Ballerini
Preference: Cam
Note: Only four artists here…what happened to including more women? This is the only category to be missing an artist….and if we can nominate Thomas Rhett, surely we can nominate Ashley Monroe or Jana Kramer. Many more if they knew how to think outside the box…Jamie Lin Wilson anyone? Having said that, I’m impressed with the inclusion of Mickey Guyton, it is well deserved.

New Vocal Duo or Group of the Year

A Thousand Horses [ok]
Brothers Osborne [good]
Maddie & Tae [yes]
Old Dominion [please]
Parmalee [no]
Prediction: Maddie & Tae
Preference: Maddie & Tae
Note: I am sorry that Maddie & Tae and Brothers Osborne must be in the same category with the likes of Old Dominion. Maddie & Tae really deserve this award and should win it…they deserve to be the Duo of the Year, but this would involve de-throning Florida Georgia Line.

Vocal Event of the Year

“Hang Over Tonight”–Gary Allan featuring Chris Stapleton, produced by
Gary Allan and Greg Droman, MCA Nashville
“Home Alone Tonight”–Luke Bryan featuring Karen Fairchild, produced by Jeff Stevens and Jody Stephens, Capitol Nashville
“Raise ’em Up”–Keith Urban featuring Eric Church, produced by Nathan Chapman and Keith Urban, Hit Red Records/Capitol Nashville
“Smokin’ and Drinkin'”–Miranda Lambert featuring Little Big Town, produced by Frank Liddell, Chuck Anilay, and Glenn Worf, RCA Nashville
“Wild Child”–Kenny Chesney with Grace Potter, produced by Buddy Cannon and Kenny Chesney, Blue Chair Records/Columbia Nashville
Prediction: “Raise ’em Up”
Preference: “Wild Child” out of these, but there are better nominees by far.
Note: Why is “Hang Over Tonight” being nominated for anything? This was not successful commercially or critically, has stalled Gary Allan’s entire career, and cost him millions of fans…but let’s nominate it for an ACM, makes perfect sense. “Home Alone Tonight” is trash, “Smokin’ and Drinkin'” is just there, and the others are decent. Terrible list altogether. The CMA nominated Willie and Merle’s collaboration album at least.

Single Record of the Year

Interestingly, or stupidly, the Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year nominees are not out yet and should be announced “in the coming weeks”…Song of the Year has traditionally been about critical acclaim, and Single Record was for commercial success, but lately they have become somewhat interchangeable.

“Burning House”–Cam, produced by Jeff Bhasker, Tyler Johnson, and Cameron Ochs, Arista Nashville/RCA Records/Kravenworks [excellent]
“Buy me a Boat”–Chris Janson, produced by Brent Anderson, Chris DuBois, and Chris Janson, Warner Music Nashville [no]
“Die a Happy Man”–Thomas Rhett, produced by Dan Huff and Jesse Frasur, The Vallory Music Co. [to be expected, but hell no]
“Girl Crush”–Little Big Town, produced by Jay Joyce, Capitol Records Nashville [yes]
“I’m Comin’ Over”–Chris Young, produced by Corey Crowder and Chris Young, RCA Nashville [decent]
Prediction: No idea…this could go to Cam, Thomas Rhett, or Little Big Town, if we’re talking commercial success. All three would deserve it based on this.
Preference: “Burning House” or “Girl Crush”
Note: The only thing I’m certain of here is that Chris Young has absolutely no chance.

Album of the Year

I’m Comin’ Over–Chris Young, produced by Corey Crowder and Chris Young, RCA Records [lol]
Montevallo–Sam Hunt, produced by Zach Crowell and Shane McAnally, MCA Nashville [never]
Mr. Misunderstood–Eric Church, produced by Jay Joyce, EMI Records Nashville [yes]
Tangled up–Thomas Rhett, produced by Dan Huff, Jesse Frasur, and Chris Destafano, The Vallory Music Co. [absolutely horrifying]
Traveller–Chris Stapleton, produced by Dave Cobb and Chris Stapleton, Mercury Records [yes]
Prediction: Traveller
Preference: Traveller
Note: Glad to see Eric Church with a nomination here, and disappointed in the lack of women. Thomas Rhett’s Tangled Up is even worse than Montevallo which is saying something…some good nominees, but a bad category overall. At least Stapleton is now a front runner, after his upsets at the CMA’s. But Kacey Musgraves should definitely have a nomination here. The fact that Chris Young’s boring effort is here is completely laughable.

Vocal Duo of the Year

Brothers Osborne [good]
Dan + Shay [no]
Maddie & Tae [yes]
Joey + Rory [good]
Florida Georgia Line[no]
Prediction: Maddie & Tae…going out on a limb.
Preference: Maddie & Tae
Note: I don’t think Florida Georgia Line will do it again…they’ve slipped in popularity. Also, never underestimate the power of the sympathy vote for Joey + Rory, cancer is a powerful thing. I’m glad to see Joey + Rory with a nomination too, but they shouldn’t get the win…that right belongs to Maddie & Tae, and enough splitting of the votes may happen here that we will see them take it.

Vocal Group of the Year

Wow, what an awful category.

Eli Young Band [no]
Little Big Town [yes]
Old Dominion [for the love of God]
Rascal Flatts [no]
Zac Brown Band [not after this year….”Beautiful Drug” is not worth any recognition, even if the group is]
Prediction: Little Big Town…they’ve become the Miranda Lambert of the Vocal Group category.
Preference: Little Big Town
Note: Can we give it to Turnpike Troubadours?

Male Vocalist of the Year

Jason Aldean [no]
Dierks Bentley [good]
Eric Church [yes]
Brett Eldredge [lol]
Chris Stapleton [yes]
Prediction: Eric Church or Chris Stapleton
Preference: Chris Stapleton, but I’d be happy with Eric.
Note: No Blake Shelton…interestingly, Blake Shelton was shut out entirely from this extravaganza.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Kelsea Ballerini [no]
Jana Kramer [good]
Miranda Lambert [duh]
Kacey Musgraves [good]
Carrie Underwood [good]
Prediction: Miranda Lambert–like with the CMA’s, I’m not an idiot.
Preference: Carrie Underwood
Note: Glad to see Jana Kramer with a nomination…if we could have replaced Kelsea with Ashley Monroe, this would have been a pretty fair list.

Entertainer of the Year

Jason Aldean [no]
Garth Brooks [good]
Luke Bryan [duh but no]
Eric Church [good]
Miranda Lambert [good]
Prediction: Luke Bryan, with an outside chance of Garth Brooks
Preference: Garth Brooks

Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (November 28th)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over” (up 2)
2. Cole Swindell–“Let Me See Ya Girl”
3. Carrie Underwood–“Smoke Break” (up 1)
4. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You” (up 1)
5. Blake Shelton–“Gonna” (up 1)
6. Old Dominion–“Break Up With Him” (down 5)
7. Jason Aldean–“Gonna Know We Were Here” (up 1)
8. Tim McGraw–“Top of the World” (up 1)
9. Cam–“Burning House” (up 1)
10. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (up 1)
11. Thomas Rhett–“Die a Happy Man” (up 1)
12. LoCash–“I Love this Life” (up 2)
13. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine”
14. Jana Kramer–“I Got the Boy” (up 1)
15. Kelsea Ballerini–“Dibs” (up 2)
16. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You”
17. Sam Hunt–“Break Up in a Small Town” (up 2)
18. Granger Smith–“Back Road Song” (up 2)
19. Randy Houser–“We Went” (down 1)
20. Brad Paisley–“Country Nation” (up 1)
21. Hunter Hayes–“21” (up 1)
22. Zac Brown Band–“Beautiful Drug” (up 1)
23. Chase Bryant–“Little Bit of You” (up 1)
24. A Thousand Horses–(“This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” (down 1)
25. Keith Urban–“Break On Me” (up 4)
26. Rascal Flatts–“I Like the Sound of That” (up 2)
27. Dierks Bentley–“Riser” (down 1)
28. Lee Brice–“That Don’t Sound Like You” (down 1)
29. Luke Bryan and Karen Fairchild–“Home Alone Tonight” (entering top 30)
30. Eric Church–“Mr. Misunderstood” (entering top 30)

  • new #1: “I’m Comin’ Over” [an actual good song]
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “Smoke Break
  • the atrocity that is “Home Alone Tonight” enters the top 30 this week, along with a good song, Eric Church’s “Mr. Misunderstood”
  • Florida Georgia Line’s “Anything Goes” finally fell from #7 to out of the top 30

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Chris Stapleton–Traveller
2. Eric Church–Mr. Misunderstood
3. Tim McGraw–Damn Country Music [debut]
4. Carrie Underwood–Storyteller
5. Old Dominion–Meat and Candy [debut]
6. Luke Bryan–Kill the Lights
7. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
8. Blake Shelton–Reloaded: 20 #1 Hits
9. Josh Abbott Band–Front Row Seat
10. Thomas Rhett–Tangled Up
11. Cole Swindell–Down Home Sessions II (EP) [debut]
12. Little Big Town–Painkiller
13. Chris Janson–Buy me a Boat
14. Don Henley–Cass County
15. George Strait–Cold Beer Conversation
16. Hunter Hayes–21 Project
17. Eric Church–The Outsiders
18. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
19. Alan Jackson–Genuine: the Alan Jackson Story
20. Sam Hunt–Between the Pines: Acoustic Mixtape (EP)
21. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
22. Alabama–Southern Drawl
23. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
24. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
25. Brett Eldredge–Illinois

  • Chris Stapleton enjoys a 2nd week at #1 with Traveller
  • Tim McGraw’s mostly good Damn Country Music debuts at #3
  • Josh Abbott Band’s concept album, Front Row Seat, debuts at #9

Source: Billboard

Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (November 14th)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Old Dominion–“Break up With Him” (up 1)
2. Cole Swindell–“Let Me See Ya Girl” (up 2)
3. Florida Georgia Line–“Anything Goes”
4. Carrie Underwood–“Smoke Break” (up 1)
5. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over” (up 2)
6. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You”
7. Blake Shelton–“Gonna” (up 1)
8. Luke Bryan–“Strip it Down” (down 7)
9. Jason Aldean–“Gonna Know We Were Here” (up 2)
10. Kenny Chesney–“Save It for a Rainy Day” (down 1)
11. Cam–“Burning House” (up 1)
12. Tim McGraw–“Top of the World” (up 1)
13. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (up 1)
14. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine” (up 1)
15. LoCash–“I Love This Life” (up 4)
16. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You”
17. Jana Kramer–“I Got the Boy”
18. Thomas Rhett–“Die a Happy Man” (up 2)
19. Kelsea Ballerini–“Dibs” (down 1)
20. Randy Houser–“We Went” (up 2)
21. Brad Paisley–“Country Nation”
22. Sam Hunt–“Break Up In a Small Town” (up 1)
23. Granger Smith–“Back Road Song” (up 1)
24. Hunter Hayes–“21” (up 1)
25. A Thousand Horses–(“This Ain’t No) Drunk Dial” (up 1)
26. Chase Bryant–“Little Bit of You” (up 1)
27. Dierks Bentley–“Riser” (up 1)
28. Lee Brice–“That Don’t Sound Like You” (up 1)
29. Zac Brown Band–“Beautiful Drug” (up 1)
30. Rascal Flatts–“I Like the Sound of That” (entering top 30)

  • new #1: “Break Up With Him,” aka the douchebag anthem
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “Let Me See Ya Girl”
  • Chase Rice’s “Gonna Wanna Tonight” finally, mercifully fell out of this chart after a year

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Carrie Underwood–Storyteller [debut]
2. Blake Shelton–Reloaded: 20 #1 Hits [debut]
3. Luke Bryan–Kill the Lights
4. Thomas Rhett–Tangled Up
5. Don Henley–Cass County
6. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
7. Sam Hunt–Between the Pines: Acoustic Mixtape [debut]
8. George Strait–Cold Beer Conversation
9. Eric Church–The Outsiders
10. Jimmy Fortune–Hits & Hymns [debut]
11. Toby Keith–35 Mph Town
12. Jana Kramer–Thirty One
13. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
14. Colt Ford–Answer to No One: The Colt Ford Classics [debut]
15. Kelsea Ballerini–The First Time
16. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
17. Little Big Town–Painkiller
18. Brett Eldredge–Illinois
19. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
20. Carrie Underwood–Greatest Hits: Decade #1
21. Alabama–Southern Drawl
22. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
23. Brantley Gilbert–Just as I Am
24. Kane Brown–Closer (EP)
25. Chris Stapleton–Traveller

  • Carrie Underwood’s Storyteller debuts at #1
  • Sam Hunt’s “acoustic mixtape” Between the Pines debuts at #7
  • Kelsea Ballerini’s The First Time moved up to #15 this week from #28

Source: Billboard