Tag Archives: Texas country

Female Fridays: Featuring Angaleena Presley

Last week, I featured her fellow Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe, so this week I thought I would introduce Angaleena Presley.

How You Might Know Angaleena

As mentioned above, she was a member of the Pistol Annies, along with Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe.

Bio

Angaleena Presley’s career has been considerably shorter than those of my previously featured females, so naturally her bio would be shorter. However, while digging for Angaleena info–I also knew less about her than the others I have featured–I found two things that together paint a far better and more accurate picture of the Angaleena I listen to than a long list of facts about her career ever could. From Angaleena’s Web site:

If there’s a pedigree for a modern country music star, then Angaleena Presley fits all of the criteria: a coal miner’s daughter; native of Beauty, Kentucky; a direct descendent of the original feuding McCoys; a one-time single mother; a graduate of both the school of hard knocks and college; a former cashier at both Wal-Mart and Winn-Dixie. Perhaps best of all the member of Platinum-selling Pistol Annies (with Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe) says she “doesn’t know how to not tell the truth”

From an interview with Rolling Stone, in reference to her musical influences:

When I was in college, I was in my dorm and I heard Patty Griffin singing “Sweet Lorraine.” I rose up and was like, “Whoa, she just said a bad word!” Loretta Lynn, she was forthcoming in her songs, but Patty Griffin was just like, “This is how it was: ‘My dad called me a [slut] and [a whore] on my wedding day.'” It opened some kind of Pandora’s box in my creative psyche. I think about a month later I wrote the first song that I thought, “OK, I think I might have something here.”

Angaleena Presley (born September 1st, 1976 in Martin County, Kentucky, and raised in beauty, Kentucky), has indeed gained a reputation for telling “the truth” in her songwriting. After graduating from Eastern Kentucky University, she moved to Nashville in 2000 and soon gained a publishing deal. Through her publisher, she later met Ashley Monroe, which would eventually pay off–but not until 2011, with the formation of the Pistol Annies. As I mentioned last week, they released two excellent albums, Hell on Heels (2011) and Annie Up (2013.) I have already introduced Ashley and Angaleena, and everyone knows Miranda, but I have debated doing an entire Female Friday with Pistol Annies as well, as their music is remarkable in its own right. One of my biggest disappointments last year was the news that Pistol Annies had broken up.

However, the breakup of the Annies was mostly due to the revival of Ashley’s solo career and the beginning of Angaleena’s. Angaleena’s debut album, American Middle Class, was released on October 14, 2014, under Slate Creek Records. It is a traditional country album with some elements of blues and bluegrass mixed in here and there. It does indeed tell the “truth,” containing songs about pregnancy, drug abuse, the bad economy, etc. The album was met with much critical acclaim, and Angaleena finally proved that she could succeed on her own just as Ashley and Miranda had done.

Why Angaleena Belongs on Country Radio

While I do not feel that she is “radio ready” in this current climate like the other women I have featured–they all have songs that lean slightly toward pop country or rock country–she would be ideal for radio if it actually played country instead of everything else. She would benefit if country split into different genres or if Americana started gaining a wider influence and stealing more country artists (this is the direction Kacey Musgraves is heading.) She is a modern day Loretta Lynn, penning songs about real life that she actually lived. I read the quote from her site above and immediately her songs and songs she wrote for Pistol Annies come to mind. She was a coal miner’s daughter from Kentucky, (“American Middle Class” and “Dry County Blues,”) a single mother (“Trading One Heartbreak for Another” and “Housewife’s Prayer” by Pistol Annies and her own song “Drunk,”) a cashier (“Grocery Store,”) etc. I’ll be honest here and say that she was an acquired taste for me both in the Annies and as a solo artist, but there is no question she is a talented singer and songwriter and deserves more recognition. I will also say that while I just described her as an acquired taste, I am glad I took the time to acquire it, because I truly enjoy Angaleena Presley music and am looking forward to her sophomore album.

Tracks I Recommend

Last week, I didn’t want to pick apart Ashley Monroe’s excellent album Like a Rose, feeling that to do so would be a disservice. Many would say the same about the picking apart of Angaleena’s American Middle Class as well. So before I do it, I will say that if you like more twang and/or bluegrass influence, you will like the whole album. There is not a bad song on it lyrically. The purpose of this highlighting of tracks is more to ease newcomers into Angaleena’s style.

1. American Middle Class–American Middle Class
2. Better off Red–American Middle Class
3. All I Ever Wanted–American Middle Class
4. Life of the Party–American Middle Class
5. Drunk–American Middle Class

Listen to American Middle Class

Also, if you are a Texas country fan like me, you should check out JB and the Moonshine Band’s “Black and White” featuring Angaleena Presley. There doesn’t seem to be a YouTube video of that, or I’d post it here. But it’s worth a listen, especially if you don’t end up liking Angaleena’s style.

Updated: Stoney LaRue Arrested and Charged with Domestic Violence

Red dirt artist Stoney LaRue was arrested early Monday morning (July 20th) and charged with domestic abuse for allegedly pushing his girlfriend down a staircase. According to the Oklahoma City police department, they were dispatched to the apartment at approximately 7:30 A.M. The victim, Amanda Winsworth, told police that Stoney LaRue (Phillips) and Richa Chandra had been out drinking and came home around 4 A.M. The victim went out to her car to sleep because she had to leave for work in a few hours. At 6:50 A.M., she came inside and began getting ready. Her hair dryer woke Phillips, which started an argument. Phillips then threw her makeup bag, curling iron, and other toiletries down the stairs. When she bent to retrieve the items, she claims he pushed her from behind, causing her to fall headfirst down the staircase. He was arrested on charges of domestic vilence, and Chandra was arrested on charges of public drunk after attempting to interfere with his arrest. Police noted scratches and scrapes on the victim’s legs and back.

Early this morning, (July 21st), Amanda Winsworth posted this on Twitter: “The happenings of this incident have been blown out of proportion by the media. I was never struck by my boyfriend. Please respect our privacy while we fix this matter.” This story will be updated when we have more information.

Update

Stoney LaRue has released the following statement concerning the charges:

I want to apologize to my family, my friends and my fans for the recent circumstances that have come to light. I am going to take some time to work on myself. I will be entering an intensive and extensive program, and I appreciate your thoughts and good wishes for me during this trying time. Please check my website and Facebook page for updates on my upcoming tour dates, but most importantly, I appreciate your support during this time.

Female Fridays: Featuring Sunny Sweeney

Last week, I featured Katie Armiger and noted that she is one of my favorite underrated female country artists. I love her sound because it is pop country that is done very well. This week, I am featuring Sunny Sweeney, one of my favorite traditional country females.

How You Might Know Sunny

Sunny Sweeney had a top 10 hit in 2011 with “From a Table Away” which many will remember. She was also an opener on Miranda Lambert’s recent Certified Platinum tour.

Bio

Sunny Sweeney (born December 7, 1976 in Houston, Texas, and raised in Longview), got a degree in public relations and even tried to make it in the “real” world for awhile. That is, until one day when she picked up a guitar and made the life-changing decision to pursue singing and songwriting. She began playing several shows a week in Texas and quickly had a growing fan base. In 2006, she independently released Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame, which, according to her Web site,
found its way onto the desk of Big Machine Records president Scott Borchetta
This turn of events led to a record deal and the re-release of the album in 2007, with three singles making the Texas Music Chart.

In 2010, after signing to Republic Nashville, a joint venture between Big Machine and Universal Republic, Sunny released the well-known “From a Table Away.” This has been her highest charting single–on a major chart–and peaked at No. 10. it was followed by the excellent album Concrete. Concrete was my first experience with Sunny Sweeney, and I couldn’t wait to hear more music from her. Other less-known singles from that album include “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving” and “Drink Myself Single.”

For whatever reason–we can speculate on many–Sunny Sweeney and Big Machine parted ways after this album. In 2014, Sunny released her third album, Provoked with Thirty Tigers, the self-proclaimed
“home for independent artists.”
The first two singles, “Bad Girl Phase” and “My Bed”–a duet with fellow Texas singer Will Hoge that Sunny co-wrote with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley of the Pistol Annies–hit No. 1 on the Texas Music Chart. This makes Sunny Sweeney the first female to have two consecutive singles hit No. 1 on the Texas charts. She said of the experience, “I am very honored to be the first female to ever have two number one songs back to back on the Texas music chart…I believe firmly that if you just keep following your heart and working your butt off, you will see the payoff and positive results.”

Why Sunny Belongs on Country Radio

Why? Well, for one, she’s already proved she can get chart success with “From a Table Away.” That song wasn’t a pop song either–it was a traditional sounding song about the “other woman” witnessing the husband, whom she thought was ready to leave his wife, from a table away with his wife. The husband is obviously still in love with the wife, and the other woman is confronting him later after having seen them together. This song did well on the charts, so why is it inconceivable to think Sunny could have radio success again? Not to mention she’s doing very well on the Texas Music Chart right now–proving that if actual country music was getting played on “country” radio, she would be highly successful. Also, much like Katie Armiger, her songwriting is relatable and autobiographical. However, unlike younger artists, such as Katie and Taylor Swift, Sunny writes from a place of more experience. Her songs speak of marriage, divorce, and adultery–many times from the view of the “other woman,”–in a way that says she’s lived the lyrics.

In addition, Sunny got a lot of exposure from Miranda Lambert’s Certified Platinum tour, so many more people should know her music now. But sadly, when I was standing in line before the doors opened to see Miranda on that very tour, a local DJ was spinning Miranda Lambert and Justin Moore hits (Justin was the other opener.) After awhile, he called out, “All of you know Miranda Lambert” to which we all cheered. Then he added, “But how many of you know Sunny Sweeney?” A handful of people answered. He said, “Well, here’s one of her songs,” and played “Bad Girl Phase,” one of the recent No. 1 Texas Music Chart singles. For many standing around me, that was the first they’d heard of Sunny Sweeney, and that speaks volumes. The same crowd that was cheering for Miranda Lambert should have been cheering for Sunny Sweeney, and yet most did not even know her name.

Tracks I Recommend

You cannot go wrong with either Concrete or Provoked, but if I had to narrow it down, here’s where I’d start.

1. Amy–Concrete
2. From a Table Away–Concrete
3. Fall for Me–Concrete
4. Staying’s Worse Than Leaving–Concrete
5. My Bed (featuring Will Hoge)–Provoked
6. Carolina on the Line–Provoked
7. Find Me–Provoked
8. Bad Girl Phase–Provoked
9. You Don’t Know Your Husband–Provoked
10. Drink Myself Single–Concrete
11. Refresh my Memory–Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame

Listen to Concrete

Listen to Provoked

These are the two No. 1 Texas Music Chart singles. Both are great, but my personal favorite is “My Bed.”

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.

Album Review: Courtney Patton–So This is Life

Rating: 8.5/10

I’ll start here by being honest–when this album came out on June 9th, I had not even heard the name Courtney Patton. So this review comes late for two reasons; firstly, Country Exclusive did not exist then, and secondly, when I did hear of her, I wanted to take my time really listening before reviewing her. For anyone out there like me, Courtney Patton is a Texas country artist, the wife of better known Texas singer/songwriter Jason Eady, and So This is Life is her third album.

So This is Life is characterized throughout by acoustic arrangements and excellent songwriting. I say this now to avoid having to say “the instrumentation and songwriting are excellent” over and over–just assume so unless I say otherwise. “Little Black Dress” tells the story of a one-night stand, and the woman being left alone and brokenhearted. I immediately fell in love with Courtney’s voice here–she tells a story perfectly. “War of Art” is another great story, this one somewhat autobiographical, of a wife and mother struggling with her passion for songwriting and performing. She sings

And I’ve heard it all before
Singin’ to a whiskey-soaked dance floor
Ain’t no job for a mother and a wife
So I try to do things right
But at what cost is it worth the fight
I just couldn’t let that war take my life.

“Her Next Move” is a lyrical low point for me (still good, just not great) about a woman seeking attention from her husband by threatening to do things like “take their daughter across state lines.” “Need for Wanting” is my favorite track on the album; here Courtney again discusses a one-night stand, asking the man in the bar not to “misinterpret my need for wanting tonight.” She says she won’t leave with him but at the end we hear, “But if you like, come in, since you understand my need for wanting tonight.”

“Twelve Days” was written about Courtney missing her husband Jason Eady while he is on the road–“I can make it twelve days, I’ve waited longer.” “Killing Time” is more upbeat, and tells about a woman’s husband “killing time” in prison for stealing money. “Maybe it’s You” is another low point for me lyrically; it is a love song about being forgiven after making some mistakes in the relationship. “Sure Am Glad” goes back to the one-night stand material, this time between two friends–“You caught me off guard when I heard that knock on my door, but I sure am glad that I’m not alone anymore.”

The title track was written about Courtney’s parents. “So This is Life” tells the story of a marriage that wasn’t what they pictured–the wife watches TV and wishes for someone to talk to, while the husband works days and nights trying to get by. They end up divorced after he takes a lover in a midllife crisis. This song is painfully accurate and is my second favorite track. “Battle These Blues” is another lyrical low point for me (again, still good) where a wife deals with a husband who drinks too much and stays out late. By contrast, “Where I’ve Been” is excellent, and here the wife says she’s not getting the love she needs, so she’s being unfaithful. She says, “If you ever decide that you ever want to try again, I’ll be here in the mornin’ just don’t ask me where I’ve been.” “But I Did” closes the album with an autobiographical track about Courtney’s life–“I was born the oldest one with patience like my mother, the fire and heart of my father, and a spirit of my own.”

This album is musically excellent. All twelve songs are good, and most are great. The only thing I wished for is that there were one or two more upbeat songs because listening to the album as a whole sometimes makes it feel slow. All the same, Courtney Patton is a force to be reckoned with, and I highly recommend So This is Life.

Listen to album