Country Perspective didn’t come into existence until late May 2014. This means there was a lot of great country music released before then we had to catch up with, along with keeping up with all of the other country music being released at the moment. It’s impossible of course to cover everything released. So as we reach the end of another year, I went back and looked at all of the albums that were released that have not yet been covered here on Country Perspective. This is probably going to be the last review I do this year because I’ll be focusing on the year-end awards here. I went back and forth on which album I should review, but the one I kept coming back to was Karen Jonas’ Oklahoma Lottery. Several of the fellow critics I respect have given this album high praise and I was eager to give it a listen to see if it meets these high expectations. Does it meet these expectations? No. It exceeds them!
If you have not listened to this album yet, do yourself a favor. Go buy it and listen to it. This is one of the best albums in country music this year. The album starts off with “Suicide Sal,” a song about a girl named Suicide Sal who’s on the lam for committing a crime she didn’t commit. It’s a catchy song with an interesting story you need to really hear for yourself. Jonas’ vocals are great and draws the listener into the album quite easily. This is followed by “Get Out of My Head.” It’s a song about a woman trying to get her ex out of her head. She’s doing everything she can to get rid of his memory, but she can’t shake him. Jonas’ raw vocals create that conflicted emotion of a woman who can’t shake love, but yet doesn’t want to. This is true artistry.
The album’s title track is the best song on the album and one of the best country songs of 2014. I can’t do the song justice with words. It’s so damn fantastic in every single element. Just listen for yourself:
One of the more fast paced songs on the album, “Money” is about how money isn’t everything and that it can’t get what you really want in life. It has a similar vibe to Sturgill Simpson’s “Life Ain’t Fair and the World is Mean.” The messages of both are the same: the world sucks and you may have to sacrifice a lot of money to be happy. “Thinkin’ of You Again” is a slow and sultry feeling love song about a woman who can’t stop thinking about a man who was in her life. She’s done a lot since moving on from him and been with a lot of other men, trying to shake her memory of him. Yet she can’t stop thinking of him. Again Jonas does a great job conveying the conflicted emotion in the song.
“I Never Learn” is about a woman who continues to be fooled by men who only use her and then leave her, but she continues to not learn from this situation that continues to happen to her over and over again. There is some damn solid instrumentation in this song. Jonas takes a more bluesy approach with “Lucky.” This is a song about luck in life. The woman in the song recounts moments through her life where she lucky and unlucky as she’s playing poker. Jonas’ vocals are perfect in this song.
As I listened to the final three songs on this album, (“Steppin’ on Your Toes,” “The River Song” and “White Trash Romance”) I became speechless. I felt it was unnecessary to continue to repeat over and over again how great the songs are. So I’ll just say this once about the final three songs: they’re great vocal wise, instrumentation wise and each bring something different to the table. And you know me. I’m rarely at a loss of words.
If there was something bad about this album or any album, I would point it out with hesitation. When it comes to Oklahoma Lottery though, I just can’t find anything wrong. I mean if you’re really nitpicking you could say it’s too raw at times, but I think the rawness adds another layer to the album. Really it enhances it and makes the more emotional songs stand out. I find it very hard for anyone who likes traditional country music to not like this album. Karen Jonas is truly breaking out with this album and I am very eager to hear her next album. You can’t do much better for a debut album. Expect to see Jonas’ name a lot in Country Perspective’s year-end awards list of nominees. Oklahoma Lottery comes with my highest recommendation.