Tag Archives: Something More Than Free

Album Review: Lindi Ortega–Faded Gloryville

Rating: 8/10

As mentioned in Female Fridays, Faded Gloryville is Lindi Ortega’s fourth album for Last Gang Records. She brought in producer Dave Cobb from 2013’s Tin Star, as well as Colin Linden from 2012’s Cigarettes and Truckstops. Dave Cobb seems to be on a roll–he worked on Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free as well. Lindi experimented with “a more Muscle Shoals sound,” for which she got help with Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes and John Paul White of The Civil Wars. The result is the most soulful album of her career to date.

The album opens with “Ashes,” which is also my favorite track. Basically, the premise is that she was once in love, but now the fire has burned out, and he has left her with “these cold, dark ashes.” Lindi’s voice soars through this song, singing, “Darling, this is madness, why don’t you come back to me? Don’t leave me in the ashes of your memory.” The title track is similar to “Tin Star” and is an ode to the disillusioned dreamers who feel like there is no hope left. However, unlike “Tin Star,” which was only for musicians, this feels more universal. It is a theme that I feel Ortega uses too often, but this is still a good song, and I prefer it to “Tin Star.”

“Tell it Like it Is,” takes a more bluesy, soulful approach. Lindi is trying to persuade a man to stop pretending and “tell it like it is.” It’s a more interesting version of Clare Dunn’s “Move On.” Next is “Someday Soon,” which is one of the more relatable songs on the album. Lindi says she’s been “spending all my nights on someone that just ain’t right” and looks forward to a day “someday soon” when she can move on from her disappointing life. This is another song that stood out for me and will hit different people in different ways. Lindi then does a cover of “To Love Somebody,” and although it is unique, I prefer the original. Some people will probably love it, I am just not one of them. It was released ahead of the album, and it was the only song I heard beforehand that I didn’t like. I haven’t warmed up to it much.

“When You Ain’t Home” is an upbeat song ironically about the narrator feeling lonely while her lover is away. I said before that I hear Dolly Parton, Stevie Nicks, and Emmylou Harris in Lindi’s voice, depending on the song, but never have I heard so much soul in her voice. I can’t think of anyone to compare her to, and while it sounds less country, it makes her sound even more like just Lindi. This side of her adds to the individuality that she so obviously prizes. I can’t say I love this song, but I do love what it brings out in her.

“Rundown Neighborhood,” is a lighthearted track about two friends who look out for each other in a bad neighborhood. They are “bad for each other,” but that’s all right because they will always have each other’s backs. Among other things, they share whiskey, rum, cigarettes, and weed. Next is “I Ain’t the Girl,” a relatable song in which Lindi tells a guy she’s not the girl for him because he’s too straight-laced. She likes “long-haired guys” who are “rugged with tattoos,” and he wears a suit and tie. It’s a fun song, but it speaks to many people who feel like they are with the wrong match. As a girl who doesn’t like pretty boys like the one she seems to be describing, I am a little biased toward this song.

In “Run Amok,” Lindi pours out her frustration with someone who is doing “every crazy drug,” alcohol, etc. It’s upbeat and catchy, but a line still caught my attention–“When you run with the devil you burn everything you tuch, bridges and money and everyone you love.” In the end, she finally gives up and decides, “I’ll just let you run amok.” The album slows down to close with “Half Moon,” a thought-provoking ballad. This is actually one of my favorite songs on Faded Gloryville, but I was surprised that I enjoyed it because it is one of those that has to be heard to appreciate. She compares people–or at least herself–to “Half moons hanging in the sky,” with something to hide, but still shining some light. This is probably the most country song on the album, and the mystery in her voice fits the lyrics very well.

All in all, this is my favorite Lindi Ortega album as a whole. Some people will not like it as much as her previous material because of the more soulful songs, but I think this is more in her wheelhouse. This is also a better mix of ballads and upbeat songs, as well as a better balance of lighthearted and dark material. Faded Gloryville is a solid album and one that I would recommend, especially for people who have just been introduced to her work.

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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

Billboard Country Airplay and Country Albums Chart (August 8th)

Billboard Country Airplay

1. Brantley Gilbert–“One Hell of an Amen” (up 1)
2. Jason Aldean–“Tonight Looks Good on You” (down 1)
3. Michael Ray–“Kiss you in the Morning” (up 1)
4. Luke Bryan–“Kick the Dust up” (up 2)
5. Zac Brown Band–“Loving You Easy” (up 4)
6. Frankie Ballard–“Young and Crazy” (up 2)
7. Dustin Lynch–“Hell of a Night” (up 5)
8. Sam Hunt–“House Party” (up 3)
9. Brad Paisley–“Crushin’ It” (up 1)
10. Canaan Smith–“Love you Like That” (down 5)
11. Thomas Rhett–“Crash and Burn” (up 2)
12. Chris Janson–“Buy me a Boat” (up 3)
13. Keith Urban–“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” (up 4)
14. Brett Eldredge–“Lose my Mind” (up 2)
15. Eric Church–“Like a Wrecking Ball” (down 1)
16. Maddie & Tae–“Fly” (up 3)
17. Kenny Chesney–“Save it for a Rainy Day” (up 6) [biggest gainer]
18. Jake Owen–“Real Life” (up 2)
19. Chase Rice–“Gonna Wanna Tonight” (down 1)
20. Kip Moore–“I’m to Blame” (up 2)
21. Cole Swindell–“Let me See ya Girl”
22. Florida Georgia Line–“Anything Goes” (up 5)
23. Old Dominion–“Break up With Him” (up 1)
24. Lady Antebellum–“Long Stretch of Love” (up 2)
25. Dan + Shay–“Nothin’ Like You”
26. Cam–“Burning House” (up 2)
27. Big & Rich–“Run Away With You” (up 2)
28. Brothers Osborne–“Stay a Little Longer” (up 2)
29. Parmalee–“Already Callin’ You Mine” (entering top 30)
30. Chris Young–“I’m Comin’ Over” (entering top 30)

  • new No. 1: “one Hell of an Amen”
  • next week’s No. 1 prediction: “Kiss You in the Morning”
  • Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” fell from No. 3 and No. 7, respectively, to out of the top 30
  • an actual good song enters the top 30 (Chris Young) but is balanced by crap entering as well (Parmalee)

Billboard Top Country Albums

1. Jason Isbell–Something More Than Free [debut]
2. Alan Jackson–Angels and Alcohol [debut]
3. Sam Hunt–Montevallo
4. Zac Brown Band–Jekyll + Hyde
5. Eric Church–The Outsiders
6. Little Big Town–Painkiller
7. Kacey Musgraves–Pageant Material
8. Various Artists–Now That’s What I Call Country, Volume 8
9. Jason Aldean–Old Boots, New Dirt
10. Brantley Gilbert–Just as I Am
11. Florida Georgia Line–Anything Goes
12. Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard–Django and Jimmie
13. Moonshine Bandits–Blacked Out [debut]
14. Luke Bryan–Crash my Party
15. Easton Corbin–About to Get Real
16. Chase Rice–Ignite The Night
17. Luke Bryan–Spring Break…Checkin’ Out
18. Lee Bryce–Mixtape: ‘Til Summer’s Gone (EP)
19. Kenny Chesney–The Big Revival
20. Cole Swindell–Cole Swindell
21. Carrie Underwood–Greatest Hits: Decade #1
22. Zac Brown Band–Greatest Hits So Far…
23. Blake Shelton–Bringing Back the Sunshine
24. Tim McGraw–35 Biggest Hits
25. Miranda Lambert–Platinum

  • Jason Isbell and Alan Jackson score a huge victory for country music by taking the No. 1 and No. 2 spots this week
  • Canaan Smith and Kelsea Ballerini are no longer in the top 25…Kelsea’s album came out on May 19th, and Canaan’s came out on June 23rd…look at their staying power
  • after a long absence, Miranda Lambert’s Platinum is in the top 25 again this week

Source: Billboard

Random Thoughts of the Week: Jason Isbell and Alan Jackson Prove Quality is Worth More Than Airplay

Congratulations to Jason Isbell and Alan Jackson, who have claimed the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Both released excellent albums–I reviewed them both here on Country Exclusive–on July 17th, the first Friday release date for albums in North America. Jackson’s Angels and Alcohol was a traditional album by a country veteran, released on a major label. Isbell’s Something More Than Free was an Americana/Southern rock/folk/country blend marked by excellent songwriting, released independently. Musically, these albums were polar opposites–well, as opposite as two albums can be within the same genre. While they both had great songwriting, the content on their albums was quite different, and their ways of storytelling and crafting lyrics aren’t similar either.

So what did these two albums have in common? Musically, although different, each had a distinct country sound. As I have mentioned, each contained quality music marked with great songwriting. I gave each album a 9 when I reviewed them. Each contained many songs written solely by the artist. This is especially surprising in Jackson’s case, considering that most mainstream songs are written by at least three people these days. (It takes at least three to write crap about a dirt road, but one can write good music?) Jackson wrote seven of the ten tracks on his album. Isbell’s songwriting is something he has been praised for and something I discussed at length in his review; for him to write the material on his album, however, is not as unusual because he is an independent artist.

But, wait…there’s something else glaringly obvious these two albums have in common. Neither has had five minutes of radio support. Jackson has had a little and may have more with a future single, but he has not had airplay comparative to what he should have with the No. 2 album in the country. Isbell isn’t getting airplay at all and yet has managed to beat Jackson by less than 500 units after a fight that came down to the wire. Both albums sold over 46,000 copies.

And here I thought if you weren’t on country radio, you didn’t exist. If you were living under a rock in February, that is what Gary Overton, CEO of Sony Music Nashville, who was later fired, infamously told The Tennessean–“If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” Overton’s comments were the cause of an uproar from Texas artists such as Aaron Watson who, after claiming the No. 1 album that very week, noted, “My name is Aaron Watson. I’m not played on country radio. And I have the #1 record in country music this week. I do exist.” Aaron Watson went to settle the matter with Bobby Bones and, in a strange turn of events, was told that he was being “disrespectful to women” for calling a producer “sweetheart.” This led to an epic online rant from Texas artist Charlie Robison–too long to post here–which in turn led to Florida Georgia Line’s tweet that they had “lost a lot of respect” for Robison. His reply was, “How do you lose respect for someone who doesn’t exist?”

Overton’s comments were overshadowed by the idiocy of Keith Hill in May, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. Alan Jackson and Jason Isbell certainly exist–and there is a silent majority out there buying their albums saying they’d rather search the Internet and streaming services to find good music than listen to what is offered on radio. Kacey Musgraves has been all but blacklisted on country radio, and she has held her position on the chart, debuting at No. 1 quietly. We may also see this next week with Ashley Monroe–fingers crossed–whom I have never heard on the radio. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard don’t get played anymore, and their album Django and Jimmie has had no problem staying in the top ten, while radio-supported Billy Currington, Canaan Smith, Kelsea Ballerini, and Easton Corbin struggle to keep their places on the charts. What would happen if they lost radio support? How long will country radio ignore the numbers? Maybe they can ignore a bunch of traditionalists griping on blogs, but It’s not just people griping on blogs anymore, it’s on the charts now.

Tomato of the Week: Angaleena Presley

As I featured her fellow Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe last week, I thought it fitting that she should be this week. Check out her article on Female Friday!

Random Country Suggestion: Zac Brown Band–“Bittersweet”

Great song off their new album, Jekyll + Hyde. It should be a future single.

Non-Country Suggestion: Chris Tomlin–Love Ran Red

I often post pop music here, but as I’ve mentioned before, I like a little of everything, and I like some Christian music too. If you don’t like Christian music, don’t listen. If you do, you are probably familiar with Chris Tomlin, and his work speaks for itself. He is the Strait or Jackson in the Christian world that just keeps releasing good music, and his latest album is no different.

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

Album Review: Jason Isbell–Something More Than Free

Rating: 9/10

Jason Isbell follows up the critically acclaimed Southeastern (2013) with Something More Than Free. He has been praised for his excellent songwriting, and while it is justified, I felt that Southeastern was dry in places because of it. This is probably just personal taste–I don’t tend to like dark albums–but though I knew him to be talented, I found that album to be pretty boring. There are a lot of Isbell lovers out there, so please understand this is in no way a reflection of his talent, just personal taste. However, I found Something More than Free to raise the bar that many felt Southeastern set–because while the excellent songwriting is still there, it is not at the expense of the melody, and these songs are much more relatable. I found much more I could connect with in this album. People who already love Isbell–and there are many–will love this album. Those who weren’t sold before–and there were many of them as well–should check this album out.

The album opens with “If it Takes a Lifetime,” which finds the narrator searching for happiness and determined to find it if it takes him a lifetime. The track is lighthearted and immediately refreshing after the general darkness of Southeastern. Next is “24 Frames,” an excellent track about how short life is and how before you know it, it could all be gone. While the message is deep, the lyrics are light, so it does not leave you feeling utterly depressed; it’s a great balance. Next is “Flagship,” and I know a lot of people like this song, but it just does not connect with me, and here’s where the album falls from a 10 to a 9. “Flagship” is a love song, and it is marked by Jason’s excellent songwriting, but for me, the lines are so “deep,” for lack of a better word, that they aren’t relatable. I like the acoustic guitar, but I am a little bored by the melody.

“How to Forget” is an upbeat song about forgetting an old love. The melody is catchy and reminds me of something a 70’s Southern rock band might have sung. “Children of Children” is autobiographical but still relatable. Here, Isbell tells of being raised by his mother, who had him when she was a teenager. “All the years I took from her, just by being born”–what an excellent line. “Life You Chose” is an upbeat song asking an old flame if she is happy in her current life. “Are you livin’ the life you chose, are you livin’ the life that chose you?”–another excellent line that will hit many differently. The title track is an excellent song where Jason sings about thanking God for the work and looking forward to the day when he will have his reward. He says he works for “something more than free.”

If you only listen to one song on this album, please make it “Speed Trap Town.” This is about a teenage boy saying goodbye to his father in a hospital bed. I will post the opening lines here, as that is what hooked me.

She said it’s none of my business, but it breaks my heart
Dropped a dozen cheap roses in my shopping cart
Made it out to the truck without breaking down
Everybody knows you in a speed trap town
Well, it’s a Thursday night, but there’s a high school game
Sneak a bottle up the bleachers and forget my name
These 5A bastards run a shallow cross
It’s a boy’s last dream, and a man’s first loss

“Hudson Commodore” is a song about an independent woman in the Great Depression. I payed more attention to the music in this song than the lyrics. This is not a bad thing, as the 400 Unit is an excellent band. The same is true for “Palmetto Rose,” a Southern rock tribute to South Carolina, which Isbell calls the “iodine state.” This is a close second to “Speed Trap Town.” The album closes with “To a Band that I Loved” which is just that–a song about a band that Jason loved. It’s a good way to close this excellent album.

This album is great, and if you like Americana or Southern rock, or if you just like good, relatable songwriting, you should check it out.

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