Tag Archives: Texas country

Album Review: Courtney Patton–What it’s Like to Fly Alone

Rating: 9/10

I know, I know, this record isn’t available on Spotify or Google Play, at least for the time being. There aren’t even any videos up on YouTube. It makes arguably even less sense, then, that it can be streamed on Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, as opposed to just being a record available only for purchase through digital download or by buying physical copies. The merits, or lack thereof, of exclusivity can be debated, but that’s not going to change the fact that if you want to hear this new Courtney Patton release, many of you are going to have to look somewhere other than your favorite streaming outlet.

And you know what? Frankly, that’s a real shame, because this new Courtney Patton album deserves to be heard, indeed is probably worth supporting via a purchase rather than simply streaming it–but so many people are going to overlook it instead because that’s just how this often works in 2018.

So don’t be one of those people who misses out on the best record of 2018 so far because of silly things like this.

“This record is full of songs about people who have had to fly alone in some way, whether through grief, loss, life choices, addiction, or love,” says Patton about her latest effort. She goes on to say that it’s not always a depressing thing, that sometimes flying alone can help us figure out who we are and our destinies. It’s evident in this album as well, as there are definitely some melancholy moments, but the whole thing is far from a sad, lonely affair. There’s also a sense of hope and purpose running through this album which connects these characters and their stories.

For each character, flying alone seems to be slightly different. Many of them are here because of their own choices, as Patton explained. There’s the narrator of “Round Mountain,” a woman who abandoned her family after finally admitting that she wasn’t cut out for a life of raising babies and being married to a man she didn’t love. The woman here has made some mistakes and bad choices, like sleeping with another woman’s husband, but she neither apologizes for herself nor makes excuses. She’s not trying to run from what she’s done, and she’ll admit that it was wrong, but it’s also not something she’s sorry for; rather, she’s just stating the facts. It’s the same with the woman from “Devil’s Hand,” as she states that she wanted to see if his hand “felt as warm as it looked,” and that she understood what she was doing when she walked down this path. The narrator of “Open Flame” is self-aware as well, but she’s trying to walk away before the choice of adultery ruins her life and hurts her husband. She won’t be alone physically because she’ll go home to her husband, but she’ll be lonely because, as she says, she wants and needs this man instead of the one she married.

“Words to my Favorite Memory,” which first arrived in acoustic form on Patton’s duets album with Jason Eady, appears here again to explore the grief/loss side of flying alone. This song does a nice job of illustrating the connections we all have to certain songs and stories; the narrator here can’t play “My Favorite Memory” by Merle Haggard anymore because she was spinning the record when she received a call that her lover had died. “Fourteen Years” is a personal one for Courtney, written about her sister, who died tragically in a car accident and is referenced briefly in Courtney’s song “So This is Life.” “Red Bandanna Blue” was inspired by the loss of Kent Finlay, formerly the owner of Cheatham street Warehouse, although this one is written somewhat ambiguously and could be seen as a song about simply missing someone. Similar to “This Road to You,” it could be taken as a song about missing a friend or lover who simply isn’t present at the time.

Speaking of which, “This road to You” is a good example of a character still flying alone, but only for a time. This narrator is simply alone because of distance, and doing her best to get back to the one she loves. It adds a nice moment of levity to some of the darker material here. “Shove” is another one that adds a brighter moment to the album and sees a character admitting to needing some help, not being able to do it all by herself anymore. This one certainly works better in the context of the album than it did as the lead single, and really, all of these songs except possibly the cover of “Gold standard” really fit together lyrically to paint one overall picture, a picture that comes together in the title track.

As great as its lyrics are, however, this album’s strongest points lie in its instrumentation and production. Traditional through and through, this record can’t be labeled Americana or even mistaken for the Texas country sound that one might attach to this artist’s name. This can’t be called anything but stone cold, three-chord country. There’s plenty of fiddle happily contributing here, especially on “Round Mountain” and the title track. Steel guitar cries out in “Devils’ Hand,” “Red Bandanna Blue,” and “Fourteen Years,” making the last three songs of this album the place for steel enthusiasts to start. The piano makes its presence felt in several places as well, particularly on “Open Flame” and “Fourteen Years.” Instrumentally, this is an improvement from Courtney Patton’s last record; while that one was traditional throughout also, this one explores more variety within those parameters, adding texture and color to certain songs. And eat your heart out, Americana artists, this is beautifully, cleanly produced, without any ridiculous attempts to sound retro or throwback or you know, like shit just for the sake of sounding like shit. Courtney produced this herself, and she did a fantastic job with it.

So yeah, in short, there’s not a lot wrong with this record at all. The only thing I can maybe say is it could have had perhaps another upbeat moment, but that’s me being very nitpicky, as this also is an improvement from her last album in terms of variety in tempo and mood. IN fact, I’d have sooner taken out a track like the “Gold Standard” cover that doesn’t add to the theme of the album than added anything to what feels like a complete story. The lyrics and stories work very well together to paint this picture. The production is tasteful and pretty much nearly flawless. You can tell a lot of care went into this album both lyrically and musically, and the result is the best record yet to grace our presence in 2018. Courtney Patton should be proud of this.

Buy the Album

Collaborative Review: Wade Bowen–Solid Ground

For our first collaboration of 2018, Brianna and I discussed Wade Bowen’s first original solo album in four years.

Conversation

Megan: So, Solid Ground. Seems like an appropriate title. Very solid album, and very much feels like Wade Bowen settling fully back into the Texas scene after not making a solo record in four years.

Brianna: I think it’s fitting, too. He’s getting back into the swing of things after a long delay in albums.

Megan: Yeah, it’s certainly nice to have some new Wade Bowen music, well overdue. This one has some nice Mexican flavor as well, like Vaquero from Aaron Watson. I enjoy that. Would be nice to see this continue to be a thing in Texas music.

Brianna: I’m definitely in favor of more Mexican flair in my Texas country. I have a lot of love for the sound of the accordion, so the fact that it shows up here makes me very happy.

Megan: The accordion makes an appearance on several songs. We also get some Spanish guitar licks and even some mariachi style stuff on “Day of the Dead.” This song is one of the highlights for me.

Brianna: “Day of the Dead” is awesome. It both calls to Mexican beliefs and talks about lost love. It’s a standout for me both lyrically and musically.

Megan: Yes, and it has some excellent metaphors, like saying the love between him and his ex has “gone home to Jesus.” Actually, it’s interesting that you make that connection with this song, tying the themes of death and lost love together, because both death and lost love pop up in several places on this album. Or maybe not exactly lost love, but not necessarily love going smoothly. “Couldn’t Make You Love Me” and “Broken Glass” are obvious examples, and “So Long 6th street” alludes to this as well.

Brianna: Also my favorite song, “Anchor.” It also has those metaphors in spades, like the rock versus a stone. He wonders if his partner still loves him, and if he’s her anchor, or if he’s just a rock she drags around. I love it because he’s speaking about a mature relationship, where you think things would be perfect, but instead, he’s wondering if everything has become boring to her.

Megan: “Anchor” is one of my favorites too, and it also explains where the title Solid Ground came from. AS for the death side of the equation, it arrives in the heart of the album on two very different songs. There’s “Death, Dyin’, and Deviled Eggs,” which is reflective and almost peaceful. And then “7:30,” which is either a reference to the time of morning or to the fact the song goes on for over seven minutes–or maybe both–but it captures the exact moment the narrator finds out a loved one has died.

Brianna: Both of those songs are great. “Death, “Dyin’, and Deviled Eggs” explores all of the inane things that we do when someone passes away. Like you said, it’s both sad and peaceful, though it could be seen as partly bitter, seeing as things do go according to a sort of routine whenever there’s a death. It’s an interesting song.

Megan: That’s interesting, I never thought of it in the bitter sense.

Brianna: Well, I just think you could take it as him feeling wrong about how quickly and by rote someone is laid to rest, if that makes sense.

Megan: It makes total sense, good point.

Brianna: As for “7:30,” it puts you right there in the moment. It’s a very painful song, and the fact that things are included like coffee that’s not even cold just makes it all the more real. I will say, though, that I did get a bit bored at the extended instrumental side of things in that song.

Megan: Man, it was exactly the opposite for me. The instrumental allowed me to sit and think of people I’d lost and what that felt like. It was a very real and painful moment for me as a listener that first time, and it’s as if the writers and producers sensed that, like Wade knew he needed to get out of the way of the song and in turn allow that song to become uniquely relatable and heartbreaking to everyone who heard it. I will say that I was not overjoyed by “Acuna” head of the release, but in the album context, “Acuna” was exactly what I needed after this, and it took nearly the whole song to get my head clear. This is why album context and song placement are two sorely underrated concepts.

Brianna: You know, I never thought about that part of the song in those terms. I think you might be onto something there. I agree about “Acuna,” that it’s a song I like better now that I’ve heard the album. I like how reflective it is.

Megan: I think it fits in very well with the Texas theme. It’s very much a Texas record without really being obvious. There’s “So Long 6th Street” about Austin, and that song, and the Mexican undertones, and other little atmospheric things. And something you pointed out to me as well, the excellent cover of “Calling All demons.” I’ll let you tell them more about that because I had not a clue, but the point I’ll make is it’s a very Texas artist thing to do to cover another Texas artist. Also to collaborate with other Texas artists, like he does with Jack Ingram and Miranda Lambert, but not in the way of Nashville, where everyone’s name is always on the track. They do it more out of a sense of family. All those little things point to this being his Texas album. It’s sort of like something you said to me earlier, that Wade Bowen’s made a Texas record without actually saying “Texas.” And I’ll add here, without doing anything dumb and cliché like one would normally do on such an album.

Brianna: He’s made a great Texas record. It does make me wish I knew all the places he talks about because I imagine anyone who does will have a great time with this album. In regards to the cover of “Calling All demons,” I think it’s a good one. It’s slower and less bluesy than when Seth James sang the song on the album Adventus by The Departed, but Wade Bowen certainly makes it his own. His version is more thoughtful, like the majority of the songs on this record.

Megan: I’ll have to hear that version, thanks for bringing my attention to it. As for thoughtful, I think that perfectly sums up this record. Good variety of instrumentation and subjects, and some very interesting songwriting. Not quite perfect, a filler moment or two, but nothing downright bad or even quite skip-worthy. All in all, very solid, like its title suggests. Nice slice of Texas country music. Solid 8.5 from me.

Brianna: I would agree. I do think this album needed some more upbeat moments, (so even though I don’t love “Fell in Love on Whiskey,” I think it was needed.) The instrumentation was very cool. The lyrics were reflective and thoughtful overall. I, too, give this a rating of 8.5. This will probably end up as my favorite Wade Bowen album.

Collective Rating: 8.5/10

Buy the Album

Album Review: Mike and the Moonpies–Steak Night at the Prairie Rose

Rating: 7.5/10

If you’re looking for something new and fresh in the Texas scene, I invite you to get acquainted with Mike and the Moonpies and their latest record, Steak Night at the Prairie Rose. This is not going to blow you away with especially well-crafted lyrics or wow you with some groundbreaking sound; rather, it’s just a solid collection of fun, upbeat country tunes. But sometimes, that’s all you really need. It can make writing a review difficult because there isn’t much to say, but it makes the listening easy, and even welcome after digesting some deeper albums.

You’ll find a couple moments of greater depth on this album, however. The title track and album highlight is a great little narrative and ode to his father, centered around a place called The Prairie Rose where they shared drinks and listened to bands while he was growing up. Pick this one if you only single out one track from the record. “Beaches of Biloxi” straddles the line between light and serious as it details the unfortunate loss of all the narrator’s money at a casino in Mississippi. It’s delivered in a somewhat offhanded way, but a closer look at the lyrics reveals that he’s losing his savings and quite probably his wife due to the gambling. This one is another standout. “The Last Time” and “The Worst Thing,” though neither are really album standouts, also dig for something more serious on this otherwise lighthearted affair.

But it’s the fun songs that really bring out the personality on this album and from this band. We’ve got an opener here solely about some guy on their road crew, complete with plenty of great traditional instrumentation. Actually, I’ll go ahead and insert that the lively, most definitely country instrumentation throughout this record is one of its greatest strengths and makes for an engaging, energetic listen. I’ll give Mike and the Moonpies this: after a 2017 filled with many mid-tempo, boring Americana affairs, they’ve started off 2018 right with the vibrancy and spirit on this album. The organ seems to be a favorite instrument of this group, and I’m not sure I’ve heard anyone else utilize it quite as much in recent memory. The closer, “We’re Gone,” sees the band on the road again, traveling from town to town and spending all their money as soon as they make it at each show. There’s the almost ridiculous “Might be Wrong,” a song which would have come off as a completely self-absorbed moment of arrogance had the narrator not hit on this girl outrageously throughout the verses and then declared in the chorus that perhaps he’s spectacularly wrong, and maybe she doesn’t want him after all. There’s “Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be,” taking a message that certainly can relate to a lot of people and adding specificity and humor. And you can’t help but smile at “Getting High at Home”–the title here should be self-explanatory.

There honestly isn’t much else to say about this record. This will be my shortest album review to date, but it’s an album that isn’t conducive to extensive analysis and critical thought. Fans of traditional Texas country, or Texas country that blends in a little rock, you’ll enjoy this. It may not blow you away, but it’s just a solid, upbeat record that proves you don’t have to be serious or deep or thought-provoking all the time in the independent scenes while simultaneously making a case that you can make fun music with smarter lyrics than much of the stuff released in the mainstream. More can be gleaned about this project from listening to it than from reading my words. So go listen, it’s definitely an album worth checking out.

Fun little record, a nice breath of fresh air that should put a smile on your face.

Buy the Album

Reflecting On: Micky and the Motorcars – Hearts From Above

Since I have previously talked about Reckless Kelly in a Random Reflections article, it was only a matter of time until I discussed their younger brothers’ band, Micky and the Motorcars. The bands share a similar sound as far as their more rock leanings, but I’d argue that the two are different from one another. There’s Micky Braun himself, whose voice is a bit rougher than Willy Braun’s. Also, Gary Braun takes lead vocals on some songs, and on this album, they incorporated some very well-done accordion. For another thing, Micky and the Motorcars use more steel guitar in their music, making them have a country sound. Hearts From Above is my favorite album by Micky and the Motorcars, which is the reason this is the one being discussed.

Release Date: July 29, 2014

Style: Red Dirt, Rock Country

People Who Might Like this Album: Fans of Reckless Kelly, people who like their country with a bit of a rock edge

Standout Tracks: “Long Road To Nowhere”, “Destined To Fall”, “Fall Apart”, “My Girl Now”, “From Where the Sun Now Stands”

I like all of the songs on this album. However, there are twelve tracks, so I will just talk about the ones that stick out the most to me. “Long Road to Nowhere” is an interesting song, because it features the accordion I mentioned above. It’s a song about a man who regrets the end of his relationship. I love how he compares his life without her with the metaphor, “It’s a long road to nowhere, with a million miles to go, I reach for you”.

“Destined to Fall” tells the story of two people who came from broken families who were destined to fall in love with one another. The woman’s father left their family, and her mother had men in and out of their lives. As for the man in the song and whose perspective the lyrics are from, he came from a wealthy family and went to a boarding school. He broke the school’s rules, but his parents didn’t care. They just let him do whatever he wanted, so that they wouldn’t have to think about him. When he met the woman discussed in the song, they fell in love, despite their differences. I love the fiddle on this song, and how the imagery and characters are so well-developed in just a few minutes.

“Fall Apart” is another excellently drawn character portrait. This song tells of a girl who is rich and has no problems, and she just wants to escape it. She wants to have something to lose and to feel deep emotions that mean something. “She just wants to fall apart, just so she can feel it”, says the chorus. This song features some harmonica, and it works really well to set it apart. I just love how this track talks of someone who has no problems, but who wishes they had some.

“My Girl Now” is another love song. I really like the tempo and instrumentation of this one. The man in the song pleads with the woman he loves to give him a chance. If she does, he will do what he can to make her happy, and to erase the pain of her past relationships. By the end of the second verse, he’s got the girl and her life is getting better.

Finally, there’s “Where the Sun Now Stands”. It’s one of the two songs sung by Gary Braun. This is a sad song, as the lyrics detail what happened to the Nez Perce Native Americans in the nineteenth century. After a bloody war, they were promised to be returned to their homes if they would surrender. However, upon doing so, they learned that yet again, they had been lied to. The fact that these things really happened make the song that much more poignant.

If you have not heard any music by Micky and the Motorcars, I recommend checking this out. If you like Reckless Kelly, you should have no problem liking these guys. This album is a great place to start, plus it has a lot of faster and mid-tempo songs full of well-drawn characters and important topics. It has a great mix of happy and sad songs, too, and I think it is the best showcase of this band’s work.

Buy The Album On Amazon

Reflecting on: Jason Eady–Daylight and Dark

I commented during my review of the new Jason Eady record back in April that it has to be one of my biggest regrets about starting Country Exclusive in June 2015 that I never got the opportunity to talk about the masterpiece that is Daylight and Dark from this platform. But hey, now we have a category for it, so I’ll take any excuse. This may be my favorite album of all time–don’t lock me into that, because it’s a close race between several, and these things are very subject to change, but it’s up there.

Release Date: January 2014

Style: traditional country/Texas country

People Who Might Like This Album: fans of really traditional country with lots of steel, people who like darker lyrical content

Standout Tracks: This is hard to do but…”Daylight and Dark,” “The Other side of Abilene,” “Temptation,” “Lonesome Down and Out,” “OK Whiskey,” “Liars and Fools,” “we Might Just Miss each Other” (featuring Courtney Patton)

Reflections: I remember the exact day I heard this…sort of. Not the exact date, and not much about the day itself prior to discovering this album, it was just one of those days back when I was first getting into this scene and before I started here where I was discovering all kinds of new music. I kept being flooded with new names to check out, and some of them were good, some of them boring, but all a cool discovery process. The thing I remember about the day I found Jason Eady was it hadn’t been an easy day for me personally, and we all know those albums and songs that connect with us and send us back to emotions and feelings long ago. It wasn’t a good time in my life when I found this album, and maybe that’s why, though dark stuff usually isn’t what I gravitate toward, something about the depth of sorrow and uncertainty in this album, coupled with all that traditional instrumentation in a time when my ears were starved for it, and topped off with the raw emotion in Jason Eady’s vocal delivery, just made me stop what I was doing and sit there and listen to this whole album. And then a good chunk of the rest of his discography. I don’t think I’ve ever done that for any artist unless I meant to sit and listen to them for review; with Jason, I heard one song and then made it the priority of my day to hear the rest. It brought me comfort and healing in a way that only certain things can–there’s a lot to be said for music that can cheer you up, and I’m a real proponent of stuff like that, but this just connected with me in a way that’s undeniable.

So now that I’ve rambled on about that, I guess I should actually talk about the songs and why it’s so great. “Daylight and Dark” is just excellent, capturing perfectly the state of mind of someone caught both literally and metaphorically between daylight and dark and not sure where to go in his life. The same sentiments echo in “Lonesome Down and Out” and more subtly so in “Late Night Diner,” even though that’s an Adam Hood cover. There’s a cleverness in the writing here that is just unmatched; even now, I hear cool new underlying things in the lyrics. That’s true on his newest record too, although not quite to this degree. He doesn’t just have “one too many” in that song, he has “one, two…many.” Also, “one becomes tomorrow.” And “we might just miss each other” means they might barely miss running into each other and not have to dredge up old feelings, they might only miss each other and not get the chance to run into each other and see where those feelings lead, and they might, after all, though they didn’t want to admit it, miss each other. This one, sung with Courtney Patton, gave me my first clue that a duets album from them would be great. These are just two of many cool examples of subtleties in the writing; in fact, the two I’ve illustrated are more obvious ones. It’s also just really country, and just a comfort to listen to. I could go on and on, but for multiple reasons, not the least of which that I am procrastinating packing for my trip by writing this, I will conclude this by saying that nothing I write will do it justice, and if you haven’t heard this, you’re missing out on one of the best and most traditional albums released in the past ten years.

Buy the Album