Tag Archives: Vince Gill

Album Review: Jason Eady (self-titled)

Rating: 9/10

If there is one album I regret not being able to discuss from this platform, it is Jason Eady’s 2014 masterpiece Daylight and Dark. That year, everyone everywhere was giving sturgill Simpson album of the Year awards, but if Country Exclusive had existed, that distinction would have belonged to Eady and without question. I know this is quite an endorsement, but that record was better than any ten I have reviewed here to date, and if you haven’t listened to it, you are doing only yourself a disservice at the amount of stellar songwriting and true country music you’re missing. All that to say, how do you follow something like Daylight and Dark, and then, how do you give it a fair rating? Well, Jason Eady’s answer was this–to strip everything down and make an album that, aside from some steel guitar, could be played entirely without electricity. My answer was not so easy, but as I’ve listened, the beauty in these songs has spoken for itself in a way that does indeed follow Daylight and dark nicely, even if I couldn’t quite see it at first.

“Barabbas” may be one of the most brilliant instances of songwriting we’ve seen yet in 2017, and Jason eady opens the album with this. Of course it’s stripped down, but since the whole record is, this feels like a redundant point to continue making throughout the rest of the record. As for the lyrics, Eady tells the story of the pardoned man freed by the crucifixion of Jesus yet, aside from the title, never mentions Barabbas, Jesus, or anything religious, thereby making the song relatable and universal, a story for all but still holding a deeper connection for those of faith. “drive” was previously performed by the Trishas and written by Eady, Jamie Lin Wilson and Kelley Micwee, but this is an entirely different, more upbeat track; the song tells the story of someone driving away from an ex and letting go of the pain, “looking for a lighter shade of blue.” “Black Jesus” tells of the friendship formed long ago between a white man and a black man; the black man taught the white man the blues, and the white man taught him Hank and Willie Nelson. Now, years later, the white man sings about their friendship and how one day, they will meet again. The song does a good job explaining the message without being preachy; you get the point that we’re all the same in the eyes of God without it being spelled out, and the story told is better than sermon. We need stories like this more, especially in today’s culture. “NO genie in This Bottle” is your typical classic country drinking song, as Eady searches for answers to his life in a bottle. The steel guitar I mentioned before makes this song–oh yeah, that’s Lloyd Maines playing it, and also, that’s Vince Gill adding harmony. This song is very much a case of less is more, and hearing it will do much more than reading my words. “Why I Left Atlanta,” the lead single, is quite similar thematically to Drive.” If I had to pick a song on this record that didn’t stand out in the context of the album, it would ironically be this one, but that’s not much of a criticism when the rest of the album is this great.

“Rain” is a simple, upbeat little song; again, it could be religiously minded but isn’t necessarily, inviting the rain to come and cleanse him. Eady has a talent for calling to mind religious symbolism and imagery in a way that draws parallels for so many without alienating others. It’s good songwriting because so much more comes across in these words–again, less is more. Next, we have Eady’s version of “Where I’ve Been.” My favorite is still the duet from Something Together, but since Eady wrote this, a recording of it from him was long overdue. Credit to Eady and Courtney Patton for making each version quite unique, and credit to Eady for writing a song worthy of three separate versions because it’s just that damn special. “Waiting to Shine” is probably the most lighthearted moment on the record–I already reviewed this song, but basically it’s a song comparing words to diamonds “buried in the bottom of the coal just waiting to shine.” Jason states that “finders are keepers, and I’ll take all the keepers I can find.” For what it’s worth, that strategy paid off in spades on this album. The album closes with two personal songs for Eady; the first is “Not Too Loud,” a song about his daughter and watching her grow up, and the second about all the things he has learned after forty years. The beauty in both of these songs is twofold; they are obviously deeply personal and real for Jason Eady, and yet people everywhere will be able to relate to them both.

This record is one of those that jumps out on the first listen as a good, solid album. But then, as you dig deeper, and the songs begin to speak, and each unique, hidden, sneaky turn of phrase starts to hit you, the greatness of this album starts to shine through. And the fact that the record is stripped down, allowing for this kind of reflection and introspection, is part of the genius that allows these songs to grow. It’s a songwriter’s album, and yet it’s simple and relatable throughout. Add to all this, it’s nothing but country from start to finish, and you have another excellent album from Jason Eady.

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The Case For Inducting Keith Whitley into the Country Music Hall of Fame

It is that time of year when we start anticipating the names who will be added to the famously selective Country Music Hall of Fame. The Hall has been notoriously careful about preserving an elite class of members, to the point there is now a significant backlog of artists, writers, and musicians who probably should already have been inducted by now. I am not writing this to assert that Keith Whitley deserves to be in before say, Alan Jackson, whose exclusion has become almost ridiculous, or to discount others worthy of the distinction. This is why I mentioned the backlog, as Keith Whitley is one of several names who have earned their place here and have yet to receive it. But I do consider it a travesty that Keith Whitley’s motorcycle, pictured here, has made it into the Hall before Whitley himself. So perhaps because of the seeming uncertainty among many that Whitley deserves this honor at all, or perhaps because I want to explain why I signed the petition started by his fans to have him inducted, or perhaps simply because Keith Whitley’s music is one of the biggest reasons I fell in love with country music and still carry a passion for it to this day, I feel especially compelled to reach out and explain why Keith Whitley deserves a place alongside his piers and his motorcycle in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Career

Keith Whitley grew up in Kentucky and first made a name for himself performing in Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys. He was fifteen at the time, and he and fellow singer Ricky Skaggs became widely respected in the world of bluegrass. In 1983, he moved to Nashville and later signed with RCA Records. At first, he made more contemporary country music. His biggest chart successes during this time included the singles “Ten Feet Away” and “Miami, My Amy.” He also married fellow country singer Lorrie Morgan in 1986.

Whitley asked to have his second full-length studio album shelved, feeling that the music wasn’t really his style. Back then, the concept of labels actually listening to artists and giving them creative control was not so foreign, and the result was the 1988 release Don’t Close Your Eyes. This was a more traditional-sounding album, similar to the music being put out by Randy Travis and George Strait. IN fact, Whitley had previously recorded both “ON the Other Hand,” later a hit single by Travis, and “Nobody in His Right Mind Would Have Left Her,” which became a #1 hit for Strait, on his 1985 album L.a. to Miami. Whitley’s vision for Don’t Close Your Eyes proved successful, as the album produced three #1 singles in 1988 and 1989. These included the title track, “When You Say Nothing at All,” and “I’m no Stranger to the Rain,” all of which have become timeless songs. As a fan, I can say they are three of my favorite country songs of all time. “I’m NO stranger to the Rain” won him his only CMA Award and a Grammy nomination. It was expected that Whitley was on his way to becoming a country superstar.

Untimely Death

One of the biggest reasons for the success and popularity of Keith Whitley was the raw emotion he conveyed in his songs. His last producer stated,

There was no Pro Tools at that point. Pitch accuracy and things like that were important. But someone who could express the emotion and really own the song, so to speak, that counted for a lot. And Keith certainly knew how to do that.

Many modern singers have identified Whitley as the one who taught them to bring out this emotion in their songs, not just to sing, but to tell the story of a character.

But the emotional power in Keith Whitley’s voice came at a high price. despite his musical success, Whitley’s life was troubled. He could express pain so easily in a song because he lived it out. His alcoholism was an ongoing battle, made harder by depression and by the fact he had lost both his brother and father by 1987. The country music community was well aware of his struggles with alcohol and were pulling for him; Keith made the issues quite public, and “I’m NO stranger to the Rain” was written about it. He seemed to be trying to deal with it, but on May 9, 1989, at the age of thirty-four, Whitley died in his home of what was ruled to be alcohol poisoning. His blood alcohol level was stated to be .47, the equivalent of 20 1-ounce shots of 100-proof whiskey. And thus, tragically, Keith Whitley’s career had ended just as it had begun.

Influence

So the question is, after only a handful of hit singles, does Keith Whitley deserve country music’s highest honor? As I stated above, there is no doubt that there are many others also deserving of this recognition, and certainly there are names whose inclusion is long overdue. The problem that arises with Keith Whitley is whether or not his career was impactful and long-lasting enough to warrant him such a distinction. Would he really have been a superstar, or does his legacy elevate his status? Does a career as short as Keith’s merit equal respect and consideration with that of someone like the aforementioned Alan Jackson, who is well-liked by the industry and has been churning out quality and commercially successful music for two decades? What sets Keith Whitley apart from the countless others who charted a small string of hits and then faded into irrelevancy?

The answer is Keith Whitley’s legacy and influence. He continued to produce top 5 singles after his death, and several compilation albums were released. Some of his previously unreleased material would come out in subsequent years, and a tribute album was made in his honor in 1994. Alison Krauss’s version of “When You Say Nothing at all” was released as a single from the tribute album; it became one of her biggest hits and has since been covered by other artists. Whitley is considered to have helped open the door for the class of ’89 which included Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and now Hall of Fame member Garth brooks. Garth initially tried to turn down his induction in 2012 because he felt others, including Whitley, deserved to be admitted before him. Tim McGraw, inspired by Keith Whitley’s music and passion, famously arrived in Nashville the day Whitley died and has also cited him as an inspiration for dealing with alcohol issues of his own. Vince Gill began writing “Go Rest High on That Mountain” after Keith’s death, and although Gill finished it several years later following his brother’s passing, the song remains a tribute to Whitley as well; this is embodied in the line, “You weren’t afraid to face the devil, you were no stranger to the rain.” The song won the 1995 Grammy for Best Country Song and has become a standard at funerals and arguably Vince Gill’s signature song. Ironically, Gill said of “Go Rest High on that Mountain” in his own 2009 Hall of Fame induction, “Turns out, if anybody remembers any of my songs, it’ll be this one.”

Keith Whitley is still influencing artists today. Chris Young paid $15,000 for Whitley’s guitar and says Keith influenced his singing. Part of Young’s decision to sign with RCA was that Keith Whitley had been on that label. It’s a shame Chris Young doesn’t take his Whitley-like voice and lend it to less boring songs, but I digress. Other artists, including Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, are said to play the singer’s music regularly. Perhaps the most impressive and telling sign of the impact of Keith Whitley came in 2014 when then seventeen-year-old Jake Worthington, a contestant on NBC’s The Voice, auditioned with “Don’t Close Your Eyes.” Whitley had died years before Jake Worthington was ever born. The performance became a standout of the season and a hallmark moment for Worthington.

It can be argued that Keith Whitley didn’t do enough in his career to be considered for the Hall of Fame. But few can make the impact he did over such a short time. If he had been able to continue making records, he might be a living legend like George Strait. Or maybe he would have faded into obscurity like so many other artists before and after him. But the fact is, none of this happened, and much like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline before him, his tragic death created a legend and a legacy around him. But it takes more than legacy to explain the kind of lasting impact he had and continues to have on country music. It takes a voice like his that could express such raw emotion, to make songs that inspire people twenty-eight years later. It takes an authenticity and vulnerability rarely seen in music. It takes something real and raw that used to be the foundation of country music, the very thing that is disappearing from the airwaves today. It takes a connection so strong that it can make the kind of impression in a few albums that most artists struggle to make in twenty. Keith Whitley lived out the pain in his songs, and it’s that honesty, that part of himself left behind in his music, which transcends the years, influences generations of artists, and has earned him a place among the most elite in country music.

The Petition to Induct Keith Whitley into the Country Music Hall of Fame

In 2015, a group of dedicated Keith Whitley fans drafted a petition for the singer’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The petition has gained 7,600 signatures so far and states, among other things, that Keith Whitley’s love for and influence of country music should be recognized by the Hall.

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Country Music vs. Good Music: Does Genre Matter?

There has been a lot of talk lately about genre lines and how important they really are. Does it matter that an album sounds country if the lyrics are bland? Is hearing songs rife with fiddle and steel on the radio really an improvement in itself, or have we gone so far that country-sounding music is praised over good music in general? Do we overlook artists like David Nail and Eric Church, both of whom have put out solid country albums in the past year, while propping up more traditional artists like Mo Pitney and William Michael Morgan just because they sound a certain way? All of this boils down to one question: Does genre really matter at all?

Well, that is a difficult question to answer, and there are differing viewpoints on all sides. This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write because of the sheer number of people who may disagree, and I could ignore it, but I feel inclined to address it, and to be honest with myself and all of you. Honesty is absent everywhere in music right now, and that is one of the driving factors behind Country Exclusive’s existence, so I am going to do my best to provide it.

The simple answer is no, genre doesn’t matter. Good music is good music regardless of who is singing or what genre it is labeled. This is why I gave Carrie Underwood’s Storyteller two different grades–one as a country album, and one as simply an album. It makes a pretty good pop album. Kelsea Ballerini made a decent pop album too and then sent the singles to country radio–and not the best singles either, I might add, but that’s a different story. I wrote that Courtney Marie Andrews defied genre lines in Honest Life, and while not being the most country album, it is the best album I have reviewed to date. Good music can and does come out of every genre, and that is what we should be looking for the most.

To add to that, I want to say that country can be good without having fiddle and steel. I have written in several Red dirt album reviews a sentiment like, “This isn’t the album to buy if you want fiddle and steel,” followed by praise of the album. Red Dirt has a raw honesty that often surpasses genre, and this is evident in the massive sonic difference between Jason Eady and Reckless Kelly, both of whom have produced an inordinate amount of great music during their respective careers. There’s good pop country too, like the aforementioned Carrie Underwood and David Nail. Eric Church produced one of the better albums of 2015, both musically and lyrically, and you won’t find fiddle or steel anywhere on it. I have written a great deal about Maddie & Tae, advising strict traditionalists to give them a chance because they were bringing country back to radio, even if it was pop country. I praised Aubrib Sellers and her debut album which she labeled “garage country.” I’m far from a country purist, ready to criticize something immediately because it isn’t what country “should” sound like.

However, this idea of good music first has been taken too far. William Michael Morgan got a #1 at radio with “I Met a Girl,” which, while indeed lyrically weak, actually sounded country. It’s a step in the right direction as much as the songwriting on Eric Church’s album or the CMA wins of Chris stapleton. Why? Because something actually resembling country can be heard on country radio for the first time in years. But if genre doesn’t matter, why are we even celebrating? Surely Morgan’s “I Met a Girl” is just more shitty music with fiddle and steel.

It’s because truthfully, genre can’t be ignored completely. If you went to a bookstore and found the books arranged in categories of “good” and “bad,” this wouldn’t help you find a book at all. It’s because these terms are subjective. If you wanted to read crime fiction, you would go to the section marked crime fiction, and from there, you could decide which books you wanted to read. If you found romance in the crime fiction section, you would say the book has been put in the wrong place. Of course, there are books that have elements of both and can therefore be classified as both. Now, let’s apply this to music. Crime fiction might be country, romance might be pop, and the two might blend to make pop country. A book containing many different elements might be labeled just “fiction” or “literature”–in music, this could be Americana, with its blending of many styles. There are probably good books in all the different genres, but since you came looking for crime fiction, you aren’t going to be satisfied with a good romance novel. In the same way, if you want to hear traditional country, you won’t find it in the pop country of Carrie Underwood, the country rock of Eric Church, or the Americana of Jason Isbell.

Therefore, when an artist like Morgan comes along, who actually sounds traditional, it’s right to be excited that he’s getting airplay. It’s right to fight to hear more country on country radio–in fact, many of us ran to underground country simply because of the lack of country on country radio. And it’s right to want to see mainstream Nashville and country radio embrace people like Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price. We can run to Americana and give up on the mainstream altogether, but no matter how you look at it, Americana isn’t country. Some of it is excellent, but it still isn’t country. It isn’t the music we fell in love with, the music we miss. We should praise music of substance regardless of how it sounds, but the lack of country on country radio is just an important a problem as the lack of substance in the music.

I daresay the majority, if not all of us, fell in love with country music, at least in part, by listening to country radio. Maybe you grew up with the legends like Haggard and Nelson. Maybe you remember Keith Whitley and Randy Travis, or maybe you miss the sounds of Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Vince Gill. Maybe you’re like me, and the first country you ever heard was the Dixie Chicks. Regardless, you heard all of them because they were played on country radio and available to the masses, just like their pop country counterparts. Pop country has always been around, but never has it replaced and eradicated the traditional as it has in recent years. Wherever your nostalgia comes from, you fell out of love with country radio after it lost the sound and substance you were drawn to. Today, even though the substance is slowly returning, there is still a noticeable lack of the sound. People growing up with country radio today might associate country with Luke Bryan or Thomas Rhett, both of whom lack the sound and the substance. Or maybe they’ll associate country with Carrie Underwood and Eric Church–they will recognize the substance but lose the sound. But until Morgan and Pardi, there hasn’t been a traditional sound being carried to the masses in years. Pop country isn’t a bad thing, but the complete elimination of the traditional is a terrible thing, and a dangerous thing for country as we know it. Therefore, when an artist like Morgan breaks through and gets a #1 single, we should all be celebrating. There is still much work to be done in Nashville, both in sound and substance, but Morgan, and others like him, are bringing hope for everyone who thought traditional country was lost. He’s not pop country, he’s not country rock, he’s not Americana. He’s just country. And I miss country. I fell in love with country. Country is my passion as a fan and my focus as a reviewer. It’s what I’ll always love the most, even though I praise and listen to plenty of good music from other genres, and it seemed, not long ago, that the music I loved would be lost forever in the mainstream. I am nothing but glad that Morgan and Pardi have broken through, and that young people out there listening to country radio once again have the opportunity to fall in love with real country the way I did. As I said, there is still a lot of work to be done, but let’s all recognize this for what it is, a positive step, and be glad for how far we’ve come.

Album Review: David Nail–Fighter

Rating: 7/10

David Nail is one of those artists that flies under the radar a lot in Nashville, never really selling out to trends, always producing decent or solid albums–in short, he’s one of the artists out there proving pop country doesn’t always equal bad music. I’ve always been impressed with Nail and thought he had a lot of potential, particularly on his songs “The Sound of a Million Dreams” and “Turning Home.” That all shines through in his fourth album, Fighter, his best album to date and definitely what I look for in good pop country.

The album opens with “Good at Tonight,” an upbeat anthem featuring Brothers Osborne that would be a great second single choice. I am surprised by how much I enjoy this song because it’s similar to a lot of songs out there, speaking about living life to its fullest and seizing the moment. “I ain’t much for the morning but I’ve always been good at tonight.” The production makes this enjoyable–it features accordion and is something I can call pop country, as opposed to similar, overproduced straight pop songs. “Night’s on Fire,” the first single follows–this is the typical song about hooking up by a river. However, this one is not terrible, as it has really nice descriptions and focuses on the experience and the surroundings rather than just having sex. I didn’t review it when it came out because it’s just there; it’s mediocre and filler, but it does serve the purpose of proving there is a better way to portray this overdone story. “ease Your Pain” is about a man saying he can be there for a woman and well, ease her pain; I would probably enjoy this more if it didn’t compare love to a drug because I am personally sick of that metaphor. Still, it’s a solid pop country song.

The first truly amazing moment on the album is “Home.” This is a collaboration with Lori McKenna featuring excellent piano and acoustic guitar. It speaks of home in a bittersweet way, about leaving and coming back, etc. David Nail’s strength is his voice, and it really shines on songs like this. Also, this makes me look forward to Lori McKenna’s album tomorrow! Next is “Lie With Me,” a song about a man asking a woman to “lie” with him and pretend she is staying, even though he knows she is about to leave. This song could have been better, but it does suffer from some overproduction, especially in some very distracting cymbals. Next is “I Won’t Let You Go,” another excellent collaboration, this time with Vince Gill. Vince Gill is a great choice; both Vince and David Nail have strikingly strong, tenor voices, neither really traditionally country but both undeniable in talent and sincerity. This song is about the relationship between a man and his wife; “I know that this is hard to do, you loving me, me loving you, so long since we have felt brand-new, but I won’t let you go.” The production works well in this one and allows their voices to shine.

“fighter,” the album’s title track, is next. This is admiring a woman who stays beside him through struggles; it doesn’t stand out on the first listen, but it will on the second. There is also a soft fiddle on this track that really adds to it. “Babies” feels very personal to Nail and is about how he lived his life as a thrill seeker, but now “I’ve found a better kind of crazy now that I got babies.” It’s a refreshing moment of honesty that mainstream country really needs. “Got me Gone” is similar to “Night’s on Fire”–it’s not a terrible song, but it doesn’t really add anything to the album and could have been left off it. In fact, it probably does less than “night’s on Fire,” because that made a decent single choice, and this, while still being about a woman who turns him on, has really bland and boring production that probably wouldn’t serve that purpose either. “Champagne Promise” is the moment where a good song is ruined by production; this is a good pop song but is not country at all. Here, the narrator has realized that the woman will be nothing more than a “champagne promise,” a one-night stand. It’s really a pretty good song, but the production is just completely wrong. The album concludes with “Old Man’s Symphony,” an absolutely brilliant track featuring Bear and Bo Rinehart of Christian band Needtobreathe. This is an autobiographical song about David Nail’s father, a man who “plays the piano, any song you wanna hear.” Nail sings about living in his shadow and moving to Nashville, despite the whole town saying “I could never make it here if my dad never did. Guess there is a part of me that still agrees with them.” If you only pick one song to listen to from this album, please make it this one.

Overall, this is a really solid album from David Nail. His voice really stands out, and the collaborations are excellent. There are some production issues, and a couple songs could have been scrapped, but the songwriting is brilliant in some places, and at its worst, is forgettable. Even the radio-friendly filler from David Nail is better than most similar stuff from mainstream country, and the album can, for the majority, be called pop country and not straight pop. For the most part, David Nail has delivered us a nice example of good pop country music.

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Album Review: Vince Gill–Down to my Last Bad Habit

Rating: 7.5/10

Vince Gill has had one of the most successful careers in country music history, earning numerous awards, as well as inductions into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Grand Ole Opry. Unlike other artists his age, he is aging gracefully. He isn’t pulling an Alabama and releasing a “Southern Drawl” in misguided hopes for radio play. He is still making the records he wants to make, and his signature tenor voice has been unaffected–if anything, it has only grown stronger on this record. Even if you don’t like Vince Gill’s discography, you probably like Vince Gill himself; he seems to be one of the most respected and well-liked people in the business. In fact, it took me some time to review this record because I am an unashamed Vince Gill fan. But I have finally hit on the problem with this album–it’s not a bad album by any stretch, and there are a few songs you will keep coming back to, which I will point out. If you aren’t a Vince Gill fan, you may really enjoy this album–but if you are familiar with his work, this will mostly just make you want to listen to better Vince Gill material.

As I said earlier, Vince is making the albums he wants to make; he has a songwriting credit on every track and was a producer. It is for this reason that I can’t immediately dismiss the production on this record, but I do want to address it now, lest I should have to on every song–the production is heavily influenced by r&b, although not the trend-chasing r&b of Thomas Rhett, more like an age-appropriate version. I might call this 80’s R&b country, and since this was obviously Vince’s decision, I won’t critique it, except where it especially helps or hinders certain songs.

“Reasons for the Tears I Cry,” the album’s opener, is a heartbreak song. Vince Gill’s voice is as strong as ever as he sings, “I got reasons, reasons for the tears I cry.” This immediately introduces the adult comtemporary/r&b country production which sets the stage for much of the record. This production works really well for the title track, another heartbreak song in which Vince says that he gave up smoking and drinking and his old friends for a woman–all the things she’d left him for. But, “the one thing that I’ll always be addicted to, oh I’m down to my last bad habit, you.” This is one of the standout songs that works because of its slow-burning, bluesy production. “Me and my Girl” is more country-influenced, and is just an easygoing love song that is pleasant to listen to; this one gets better with more listens and is another one you will find yourself taking away from the album.

“Like my Daddy Did” is a song about a man asking a woman to marry him–but she’s afraid that he will walk out on her like her father did. This is one case where I love Vince’s voice and the songwriting, but I think it would have made a great country song; it makes a pretty good adult contemporary song. “Make You Feel Real Good” is one of the fun, upbeat songs signature of Vince Gill; this one is about a man attempting to seduce a woman. “Baby doll, you know I would make you feel real good.” This one is more country and just suits Vince Gill; it’s just fun. “I Can’t Do This” is a beautifully written song about a man watching his ex with another man; Vince’s voice delivers the emotion wonderfully, but it’s another moment where I wish for more country production. We’re all aware of what kind of emotion Vince Gill can evoke in a guitar, but this song features piano. Songs like this make a review difficult, because there’s nothing wrong with it–it’s just not what Vince Gill is capable of.

“My Favorite Movie” is one of the weaker love songs, this one about a love that is real but it is better than anything on Hollywood screens. It’s easier to dismiss a song like this than “I Can’t Do This,” because here the lyrics aren’t great either. “One More Mistake I Made” is the most adult contemporary of the bunch, even featuring a trumpet. If this entire album hadn’t been such a sonic shift for Gill, this song might have been an interesting experiment–as it is, it’s a piece of great songwriting that is made completely bland by production. “Take Me Down” features Little Big Town and is about a woman who can “take me down every time you come around and make me surrender for you.” The driving production fits this perfectly; this song reminds me of something Fleetwood Mac might have recorded. Good to see Little Big Town contributing to something worthwhile, after their wasted collaboration with Miranda Lambert on “Smokin’ and Drinkin’.” This is what they should be doing.

Next is another collaboration, this one with Cam on a song called “I’ll be Waiting For You.” This is another standout of the record; their voices blend flawlessly, and a song like this reminds you of Vince Gill’s skill at love songs. This one is also very country. Definitely listen to this song. I am pleased that both of the collaborations were highlights of this record. “When it’s Love” is a solid song about, well, knowing when it is love–“When it’s love, it’s like a wild raging river, when it’s love, feel like you’ve been delivered. You might as well just surrender when it’s love.” This song could have been helped by different production, but it’s still solid. Then the album closes with the stunning “I Feel a Sad One Comin’ On (a Song for George Jones),” and here is the Vince Gill I’ve been waiting for. Here is his guitar crying, and the sadness of “Go Rest High on That Mountain” and “I Call Your Name.”

It’s this song at the end that ultimately brings down the record; there were great songs on it, but now they pale in comparison when you hear the potential of Vince Gill. And as a Vince Gill fan, every time I get to this point, all the goodwill I felt toward this record is replaced by desire to listen to other Vince Gill work. However, as a reviewer, I cannot deny that this album is actually quite good in and of itself. Regardless of the r&b influence, it features excellent vocals throughout and great songwriting throughout a good portion of it. The collaborations are standouts, as is the title track. It’s almost unfortunate the Jones tribute is at the end, cheapening the rest of the album–but that’s exactly what it does. Give these songs a listen. As a collection of songs, they ar quite good. But as an album, Vince Gill can deliver much better.

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