Tag Archives: RaeLynn

Review: Jake Worthington–hell of a Highway EP

Rating: 7/10

Jake Worthington, whom many will remember from The Voice and perhaps most specifically from that wonderful 2014 performance of Keith Whitley’s “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” is probably the most promising traditional country artist to have come from that show. Sure, we’ve had success in the country world from RaeLynn recently, as well as some for Cassadee Pope and others, but if we’re just talking about straight-up, traditional country, Jake Worthington is the one with the most potential. You cheer for him when he gets success on the Texas charts and hope his name recognition and experience from the show can help him, because you know he is the real deal, and you want to see that potential realized.

His sophomore EP only strengthens that notion. You only get five songs and fifteen minutes, but Jake uses every minute to further reinforce his traditional country sound and lyrics. You get three heartbreak songs in “Big Time Lonesome,” “A Lot of Room to Talk,” and “Hell of a Highway” that, while they probably shouldn’t have been placed right in a row, still all sound unique and tell a different story. “How do You Honky Tonk” is reminiscent of a 90s radio hit and manages to be fun and upbeat without veering into the territory of cliché. “Don’t Think Twice” is probably the weakest of the five, but it’s still a nice love song, and Jake delivers a strong effort here, especially considering the length. The fact is, it’s one of three EPs I’ve enjoyed this year (the others being Whitney Rose’s South Texas Suite and Lindi Ortega’s Till the Goin’ Gets Gone.)

However, I can’t help but feel that it’s time for Jake Worthington to release an album. He’s given us two EPs now when he could have delivered one full-length project; both EPs were strong, but I think more people would be paying attention to an album. This has been debated a lot recently, but the fact is that more people pay attention to albums, for better or worse, and that’s mainly because Eps often leave you wanting more. With both Whitney Rose and Lindi Ortega, the projects were somewhat of an exception, each reflecting a time in the artist’s life that might not have been captured if they waited to release full albums. Those projects both had a cohesive theme despite their short length and therefore stood out as only few EPs manage to do. With Jake Worthington’s Hell of a Highway, there’s no overarching theme that holds this together–it feels more like a preview of Jake, and while that worked nicely for his debut EP, it doesn’t work as well this time. Still, it says something about these songs and Jake Worthington’s potential that this EP still manages to stand out despite these factors. As I mentioned, it’s one of only three that have made an impact on me in 2017, and that can’t be taken lightly. It took so long after his release to write about this because it’s harder to talk about EPs in general–but that’s also a testament to the fact that this particular EP still deserves talking about. All in all, it will leave you wanting more, but it’s still a nice place to start with Jake Worthington’s music.

Listen to EP

Memorable Songs From Forgettable Albums: April 24th

So, this is a semi-regular feature in which I highlight songs from albums that weren’t good enough to be praised or horrific enough to warrant a rant, albums where we feel we would benefit the artist and serve the music more by isolating certain tracks, and sometimes albums we simply didn’t have anything to say about but still felt deserved some attention. It’s a fun way to highlight more music and save us the time of writing–and you the time of reading–reviews we weren’t passionate about. This feature will appear whenever enough songs are sliding through the cracks to produce one.

RaeLynn: “Love Triangle”

This is the one many of you will know, as it was the single off her recently released album. I’ve been one of RaeLynn’s biggest critics in the past–although, ironically, not on Country exclusive–but this song about the “Love triangle” between a daughter and her divorced parents that is autobiographical to RaeLynn is pop country done right and the kind of song we should be championing on radio. the youth listening to country radio today need real songs like this–and when RaeLynn’s being herself, her vocal quality also improves.

RaeLynn: “Diamonds”

RaeLynn’s WildHorse is mostly a pop album–and not a great one–but this one stands out as a nice pop song and would be a nice single choice, explaining how diamonds mean nothing unless they come with the right person and sentiment. It’s another one where you can see RaeLynn’s potential.

RaeLynn: “Praying For Rain”

Not much to say here, and they did overproduce it, but I can’t help enjoying this. It just feels like another, rare moment where Raelynn is being herself.

Trace Adkins: “Watered Down”

Man, what an all-around disappointing album from Trace. It wasn’t terrible, but it just felt like a wasted opportunity most of the way through. This song about coming to terms with his age stands out in a weird way on an album where mostly he’s not letting go, but on its own, it’s quite a fine listen, and he should do more stuff like this.

Trace Adkins: “Something’s Going On”

Ok, so the title track to Trace’s album starts out making you think the woman is cheating–she’s wearing her clothes tighter, her heels higher, and “something’s going on.” It ends up being a sex song, and yeah, it would have been better as a cheating song because the dark melody fits this. But it’s still a nice song, and Trace Adkins pulls this off rather well. And that melody is still just quite cool.

Trace Adkins: “Gonna Make You Miss Me”

Just catchy as all hell…sue me.

Caroline Spence: “Heart of Somebody”

Yeah, this one is just an album neither Brianna nor I could think of much to say about, but it seems to be getting overlooked by a lot of blogs, and there’s some fine songwriting here. If this album, Spades and Roses, gets reviewed, I’m probably giving it a 6/10–but it’s an unfair 6 because there were four songs I’d cherry-pick. The rest of the album was honestly really sleepy for me; style wise, Caroline’s a bit like Sam Outlaw, and where the quality of the writing doesn’t match the mood, the record can drag on. But don’t overlook her just because we couldn’t find any words. (Also, look, we’re giving an independent/folk/Americana album criticism.)

Caroline Spence: “All the Beds I’ve Made”

It occurs to me I didn’t really say what “Heart of Somebody” was about, and there, Caroline was dreaming to give her heart to someone; it seems here, she found someone in this nice love song.

Caroline Spence: “Softball”

The highlight of Spades and Roses, focusing on equality for women and how women can sometimes do the same things as men and it’s still seen as different; even if you’re hitting home runs and stealing bases, it’s called softball.

Caroline Spence: “Hotel Amarillo”

The only one on the album where Caroline deviates slightly from her sound; this one’s more folk rock and tells of her life on the road and missing those she loves.

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

Random Thoughts of the Week: Country Music Should Move Forward, Not Backwards

Last Friday (August 28th), Maddie & Tae’s debut album became the first mainstream album to receive a ten from me in the short history of this blog. It was characterized throughout by great country instrumentation–fiddles, steel guitars, mandolins, and banjos being used for good. There were a few lyrical weak points, but overall, the songwriting was great too, displaying a maturity that Kelsea Ballerini and RaeLynn lack, while still relating to the same demographic. In short, Maddie & Tae did something no one has managed to do in years; they brought real, traditional country music, albeit slightly pop-influenced at times, to the generation that believes “country” = hip-hop beats, bad rapping, and a token banjo. The impact this album and these ladies could have on the mainstream should be apparent to all of us, and if we truly want country music to survive, this is a victory we should be celebrating.

But apparently this is still not good enough for some people.

I have seen a number of comments on various reviews of this album saying that this is not country, that this is immature, and/or simply dismissing it out of hand because it is pop country. These people can’t even acknowledge that this is progress for country music because they immediately focus on the electronic beats, which were such a minimal part of this album that I didn’t even mention them in my review. First of all, I’d definitely say this is country-pop, not pop country, but if you don’t like pop country, fine. If you listen to this album and can’t deal with the occasional electronic beat–even with the fiddles, steel guitars, mandolins, and banjos always front and center–fine. But everyone reading this knows the fans I am addressing–these are the fans that want country music to return to its “golden age” and are so close-minded that they cannot even accept progress when it is staring them in the face. I actually addressed a commenter on SCM who listened to twenty-six seconds of one song and judged Maddie & Tae for being “bleach blondes.” Comments, and fans, like this, are hurting the genre as bad as, if not worse than, Sam Hunt fans who refuse to listen to Merle Haggard or Jason Isbell for more than twenty-six seconds. Close-minded classic country fans, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but country music is not going to return to its “golden age,” and Hank Williams is not going to be reborn, nor should we wish for this. Being stuck in the past like this does not help the genre–it is not progress to move country backwards. Rather, country music should move forward, while still respecting the roots of the genre. That’s right, I’m saying country should “evolve”–and no, that doesn’t equal Thomas Rhett’s “Vacation,” The Band Perry’s “Live Forever,” or Luke Bryan’s “Strip it Down,” but it does equal Maddie & Tae’s entire album.

Many of us remember the infamous remarks that Blake Shelton made in 2013, calling classic/traditional country fans “old farts and jackasses” among other things. Granted, he made this comment to defend the false “evolution” of country music, but there is some truth to his point that was overshadowed back then by the remarks themselves, as well as by his motive. I didn’t link this article because I don’t want to focus on the ridiculous/incorrect part of his remarks; however, part of his point is indeed valid. He said that young people don’t want to listen to their “grandpa’s music” and that is generally true. I am a twenty-three-year-old country fan interested in keeping the genre that I love alive, and while I respect the talent of the country legends who came before my generation, I generally prefer to listen to good country music of my generation. I’m sure you can understand this, older country fans, since you prefer to listen to the legends of your generation. However, as I said, I do respect the talent and vision of the legends that established the genre and made country what it is today; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t care what country “evolved” into. And respect is all I am asking of you–you don’t have to like Maddie & Tae or similar artists, but if you really want country music to survive, understand that it’s people like Maddie & Tae who have a chance of making that happen. Respect them as artists who can bring real country music to the generation that sees “country” as Sam Hunt and Kelsea Ballerini, and understand that this is what it will take to change the state of mainstream country music. And don’t say their music isn’t country–just as a banjo doesn’t automatically make music country, the presence of an electronic beat doesn’t immediately disqualify music from being country.

Older country music fans, instead of dismissing Maddie & Tae or another artist like them because of looks or style, at least give them a listen. If they’re not your cup of tea, fine. But maybe your children or grandchildren could relate to them. Instead of being close-minded and wishing for the days of George Jones, try introducing your children and grandchildren to country music through people like Maddie & Tae. This will do far more to “save country music” than ranting on a blog. Please don’t be one of the “old farts and jackasses” that Blake Shelton was referring to. Don’t be someone that makes true country fans like myself, who want to see the genre move forward and survive beyond our generation, look like close-minded, uninformed people who want everything to sound like Hank Williams. As long as there are comments and fans out there like these, the artists and labels will use them to their advantage to support their brand of “evolution” and ultimately to kill country music. Close-minded classic country fans, if you truly love country music, please do your part to keep it alive.

Tomato of the Week: Brandy Clark

Many people are somewhat familiar with, or have at least heard of, Kacey Musgraves. Brandy Clark has had a hand in writing many of Kacey’s songs and is a talented singer in her own right. See her full article on Female Friday!

Random Country Suggestion: Keith Whitley–“I’m No Stranger to the Rain”

A #1 hit for Keith back in 1989 and one of my all-time favorite country songs. See, there will never be another Keith Whitley, and why should we want one?

Non-Country Suggestion: Skillet–“Salvation”

As I say anytime I post Christian music here, if you don’t like Christian music, ignore this. If you do, this is the best song from their latest album.