Tag Archives: outlaw country

Album Review: Jaime Wyatt–Felony Blues

Rating: 7.5/10

Jaime Wyatt’s debut effort comes to us from a place of authenticity few artists can really claim; she was convicted of robbing her drug dealer and subsequently served time in prison. Upon her release, the hardship and stigma that came with her past eventually led her to country music. I could go into more detail, but I feel like I should keep my focus as much on Wyatt’s music as possible. Still, it is worth noting because the album’s title rings true in a way that much of today’s music doesn’t, and the raw honesty that comes with life experience like this can serve music well, and certainly does in Jaime Wyatt’s case.

This is an interesting album to discuss, as it isn’t really quite an EP or an album. At seven songs and thirty minutes, it lies somewhere between the two. The rating may be slightly misleading because there are some really fantastic songs and some really average songs. So in order to better serve Jaime Wyatt and the potential shown in several places on this record, I will discuss the high and low points rather than going through the album track by track.

A definite high point on this record is the instrumentation. The opener, “Wishing Well,” immediately captured my attention with its driving production. From the opening line, “I wanna wake up somewhere where you don’t have to lose,” I was drawn to the raw quality in Jaime’s voice. This is the kind of song she really excels at, and I’d like to see more like it from her in the future. Lovers of fiddle and steel should check out “Wasco,” arguably the album’s best track. The narrator in this song is in love with an inmate and dreams of graduating high school and going to be with him, singing, “ain’t nobody gonna tell me who to love.” Songs like this and “Stone Hotel” directly speak to Wyatt’s past and give an authentic feel to the album. “Stone Hotel” especially seems autobiographical, telling the story of an inmate looking back on her conviction and forward to the day when she gets out of prison and can try to live a different life. Another song that stood out for me after a couple listens is the easygoing “Your Loving Saves Me.” “Hard as concrete, soft as gravy, Jesus is cool, but your loving saves me.” Once again, the production and instrumentation really fit the song well.

“From Outer Space” is one of the lower points of the album. I have listened to it several times, and it just doesn’t connect with me like some of the other songs. Jaime Wyatt’s voice really elevates the acoustic “Giving Back the Best of Me” and the cover of Merle Haggard’s classic heartbreak song “Misery and Gin,” but these songs don’t stand out like the more upbeat, rocking material. They are still really solid tracks, but I find myself coming back to “Wishing Well” and “Wasco” more than anything else because the personality and potential of Jaime Wyatt is clearest on these songs.

Overall, this is a pretty solid album. The highlights are the more upbeat tracks, especially “Wishing “well” and “Wasco.” The production works well with each song, and there are some nice lyrical moments as well. But more than anything on the album itself, this debut shows the potential of Jaime Wyatt. This won’t necessarily blow you away, but it shows promise, and Jaime Wyatt is a name you should keep an eye on.

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Album Review: Nikki Lane–Highway Queen

Rating: 8/10

For those unfamiliar with Nikki Lane, Highway queen is her third studio album. I will admit to having checked out lane before, but not really being impressed by either of her two previous records. This was mainly due to production, and Nikki apparently wasn’t sold on it either. She has stated that for this album, she wanted a producer who wouldn’t overshadow her and who would bring out the best in her. So her boyfriend, Americana artist Jonathan Tyler, helped produce this record, and what we get is a great showcase of Nikki lane and her talent.

The album opens with the catchy, upbeat “700,000 Rednecks,” a lighthearted song about all the hardships of being a musician, and all the things “it takes to get to the top.” I am very careful about designating something outlaw country–in fact, I am not sure I have ever labeled anything I have reviewed here as such–but that’s what comes to mind with this song and throughout much of the record. A few tracks lean more toward Americana, but mostly I would call it outlaw country. “Highway queen” is a fun, upbeat track that seems to be a personal anthem for Nikki. The woman in the song lives on the road and travels alone; “the highway queen don’t need no king.” “Lay You down” is another upbeat track about a woman watching her man leave her and asking who will be there for him when he dies alone. The instrumentation, which is the strongest point of the record, is catchy, but it doesn’t really go with the lyrics, and for me, this is one of the weaker tracks.

“Jackpot” is a highlight of the album; this is a fun love song comparing true love to finally hitting the jackpot in Vegas after putting in so many quarters that came up short. If you pick one Nikki Lane song to listen to, make it this one. “Companion” is a more serious love ballad, and once again, for me it is a weaker track. Lane’s voice and style just don’t work as much on these types of songs as they do on the more rocking, upbeat, fun tracks. “Big Mouth” is one of those; it’s literally a song about telling someone to shut the hell up and stay out of her business. Think Kacey Musgraves lyrics but with Miranda Lambert attitude. “Foolish Heart” is another more serious song, this time about finally finding love but fearing losing it all again. This one is better than the previous serious tracks. “Send the Sun” is the type of love song Nikki Lane excels at; much like “Jackpot,” it is more lighthearted. It’s about long-distance love; while they miss each other at night, they promise to “send the sun your way, wake you up with a dawn full of golden rays.” Even though the miles separate them, they can’t imagine being with anyone else.

I have listened to “Muddy Waters” several times, and honestly I have no idea what it’s trying to convey. It’s a pleasant song musically and lyrically, but it seems underdeveloped somehow. Lane repeats, “I don’t believe ’cause I don’t wanna believe” but it’s pretty unclear what she’s referring to. Maybe someone more intelligent than me can figure it out. The album ends with the excellent “Forever Lasts Forever,” and for the first time on the record, Nikki really nails a serious song. This one is about divorce. The lyrics in this song really paint a great picture; “we swore for better or worse, and it was better at first, and worse at the end. They say forever lasts forever till forever becomes never again.” Lane also brings out the emotion in this song well, and it closes the album on a high note.

This is the best place to start with Nikki Lane’s music. The instrumentation is definitely the high point of the record. Lyrically, some of the serious songs don’t connect with me as much, but Lane proves she can deliver them well with “Forever Lasts Forever.” The highlights are the more fun tracks like “Jackpot,” “Highway queen,” and “700,000 Rednecks.” This is a really unique style like that of outlaw country, and Nikki’s unique voice works well with it. I”d definitely recommend getting to know this album and Nikki Lane.

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Random Thoughts of the Week: Luke Bryan Apoligizes, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert Announce Divorce

This column has previously been on Sundays, but this weekend I was moving so it comes late. However, since music is now being released on Friday, changing the times for album reviews, this column will move to Tuesdays starting next week.

Last week, I used the Random Thoughts column to rip apart Luke Bryan for his disparaging comments about outlaw country, as well as his mischaracterization of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard. Since then, Luke has called the families of Waylon and Merle to personally apologize for his actions. Both Shooter Jennings and Ben Haggard have come forward publicly about this to say basically that this is water under the bridge, and that Luke did an honorable thing by apologizing privately. I happen to agree. Whether he meant to disparage them or not, he proved by apologizing personally that he truly cared about how it affected them. he had already tried to repair his public image on Twitter–and that is all most artists would have done. Regardless of my opinion of Luke or his music, this was a very classy thing. Last week, my post was entitled “What Happened to the Class in Country?” and this was Luke showing he still has some.

Earlier today, (July 20th), Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert released a statement announcing their divorce. They said this was not the future they had “envisioned” and added that “it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately.” The statement continued, “We are real people, with real lives, with real families, friends, and colleagues. Therefore, we kindly ask for privacy and compassion concerning this very personal matter.” In respect to them, we should not, and I will not, seek to decipher what led to the divorce. However, I do wonder how it will affect their careers. Will Blake Shelton lose some relevancy? He gained much more radio relevancy when he married Miranda, although this was also around the time he started on “The Voice,” which certainly played a role. If this had happened a few years ago, he might have been in trouble, but now, with the male-dominated radio waves and his job on “The Voice,” I think he will not be affected, but who knows? Miranda could continue to lose airplay as well–she is a female and that is an automatic strike against her, and now she won’t be married to Blake, so radio will probably give her less of a chance. Their dominance at the ACM and CMA Awards will certainly end, and Carrie Underwood will have a well-deserved shot at Top Female Vocalist. Personally, I hope neither of their careers is seriously hurt, but I prefer Miranda over Blake, and I would hate to see one less female on the radio because she lost her “ticket.” As I mentioned, I will not speculate on what led to the divorce, but we all know if cheating was indeed involved–as many gossip sites would have us believe–Miranda will put it in her next album. However, their privacy should be respected. Just because we hear their music and see Blake on TV does not mean their lives should be put under a microscope.

Tomato of the Week: Ashley Monroe

Her new album comes out Friday–I have been waiting for this since her last album–so what better day to feature her? Here’s the lead single from the new album, The Blade

Random Country Suggestion: Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, “Better in the Long Run”

A song from happier times–incidentally, co-written by our featured female Ashley Monroe.

Non-Country Suggestion: Taylor Swift, 1989

I’m late to the party on this, as I could not stand Taylor’s previous album Red attempting to be both pop and country and thus failing at both. However, I recently bought 1989 and now that she is not pretending and is embracing a pop sound, Taylor is better than she ever was in country. If you like pop, give it a listen.

Listen to 1989

That’s all for this week’s Random Thoughts!

Random Thoughts of the Week: What Happened to the Class in Country?

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard Luke Bryan’s chosen “defense” for his brand of “country,” as told in an interview Thursday. But in case you haven’t, here’s the now infamous quote, given in an interview with Hits Daily Double:

Well, yeah. I think that people who want Merle, Willie and Waylon just need to buy Merle, Willie and Waylon. I’ve never been a ‘Those were the good old days’ kind of guy. I’m not big on looking back on the past. I’m not an outlaw country singer. I don’t do cocaine and run around. So I’m not going to sing outlaw country. I like to hunt, fish, ride around on my farm, build a big bonfire and drink some beers—and that’s what I sing about. It’s what I know. I don’t know about laying in the gutter, strung out on drugs. I don’t really want to do that.

Then, after the backlash from a significant portion of the country community, Luke took to Twitter to respond (in other words, his manager told him, “Hey, everyone thinks you’re a douchebag, and your public image is in jeopardy.”) Here’s his response

I’ve been thinking about this all day, every now and then I feel I need to defend myself in this business. I did a great interview with many topics discussed. It’s so frustrating that something negative has spun out of the story. I would never speak against any artist. It’s not my style. I consider Willie, Waylon and Merle musical heroes. I was trying to state what I was about and where I come from with my music. It’s simple as that.

Now, before I pick apart this ridiculously fake “response,” let me first say that “outlaw country” refers to taking creative control of one’s music. I am not going to spend a lot of time covering this; a lot of other blogs have done a great job with this. I will simply say that Luke isn’t an outlaw country singer because he sings whatever the labels throw at him. He sings shit like “Kick the Dust UP” and “That’s my Kind of Night” to make money. He has no original thoughts of his own, and even if he did, his desire for money has overshadowed them. 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.

But let’s pretend “outlaw country” did mean “laying in the gutter, strung out on drugs.”
Saving Country Music has a great article documenting Willie, Merle, and Waylon’s own words about their experiences with cocaine, and I have copied the link here. To summarize, Willie fired anyone in the band caught with cocaine, Merle tried it once and would never do it again, and Waylon was a long-time addict who finally quit and overcame his addiction. So now we can add “uneducated idiot” to Luke’s first crime of “classless douchebag.”

But let’s pretend further that they did, in fact, “do cocaine” and “run around.” This boils down to Luke’s lack of disrespect for legends of the genre that allowed him to become successful. Country music is (or used to be) about class. Here’s what Toby Keith had to say about Willie Nelson after the success of their duet “Beer for my Horses:”

When you see somebody that still has the love and passion that he’s got, you don’t understand why they can’t have a [No. 1] shot like these young guys and girls…but I’ve told him time and time again that I’m glad to be the guy that got to take that ride with him

And here’s Kenny Chesney, atWaylon’s passing: “I learned a lot from him, for not even meeting him. He had his niche. He had his style. He blazed his own trail. He didn’t care what anybody thought about it. That was a true artist.” (Also, apparently Kenny knows what “outlaw” means.)
And finally, just last year, country artists voted Merle Haggard the first-ever
Artist of a Lifetime and numerous artists spoke about his career and influence. And now Luke, who says, “I would never speak against any artist” has chosen to do just that–instead of defending his douche “country,” he has chosen to misuse the term “outlaw” and drag the names of legends through the dirt for his own gain. So it wasn’t enough to destroy country radio with the shit you call music, Luke, but now you are seeking to destroy the last shreds of class and knowledge left to country music with your ignorance and disrespect…nice.

Waylon’s daughter-in-law, Kathy Pinkerman Jennings, has spoken out against Luke in a Facebook post and YouTube video. I will close this post with her thoughts, as I couldn’t have said it better myself

To Luke Bryan:

I hope your family members are proud of you for using your WORLDWIDE platform to take the time to disrespect my Father in Law. You have managed to PROVE to the world your true self.

Albeit that Waylon’s drug use is well documented and something he overcame, I assure you, he was never “laying in a gutter.” At the peak of his career and drug abuse, he was making history and setting records. He, single handedly paved the way for you and everyone else to make music the way the artist wanted to make it. I’m not willing to waste my time to debate your “music” and / or the fact you have zillions of fans – I will however, not sit back and be quiet when you have so blatantly disrespected Waylon.

I recall the time I was at the Grand Ole Opry to visit with Andy Griggs, you were making your debut appearance. My friend that was with us had just seen your video. As we stood at the side of the stage, Jeannie Seeley [Seely] was talking to us and you walked over to introduce your self to her and told her how much you admired her, she in turn introduced you to myself and my husband. I almost got a cavity because of the sweetness of the words coming out of your mouth – you told us Waylon was one of your musical heroes. You went on and on and on.

This is not about music, Outlaw Country, whatever – it’s about DISRESPECT.

You are a platinum, disrespecting, no singing, whining, grasping for media attention, asshole. Use your platform for something good, instead of bashing the LEGENDS that came before you.

Tomato of the Week: Sunny Sweeney

As she just had two singles hit No. 1 on the previously mentioned Texas Music Chart, I thought it appropriate to feature her this week. Check out her full article on Female Friday!

Random Country Suggestions

This week I am including two country suggestions, because they both seem appropriate. There will be no non-country suggestion.