The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [September 5]

Each week I take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. How do I determine if a song is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Songs rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Songs rated between 5 and 6.5 receive a 0. Songs rated 4.5 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Frankie Ballard – “Young & Crazy” (Up 1)
  2. Sam Hunt – “House Party” -1 (Up 1) [Tied for Worst Song]
  3. Dustin Lynch – “Hell of a Night” -1 (Up 1)
  4. Thomas Rhett – “Crash and Burn” -1 (Up 2) [Tied for Worst Song]
  5. Chris Janson – “Buy Me A Boat” -1 (Up 2)
  6. Keith Urban – “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16″ -1 (Up 2)
  7. Zac Brown Band – “Loving You Easy” +1 (Down 6)
  8. Brett Eldredge – “Lose My Mind” -1 (Up 1)
  9. Kenny Chesney – “Save It For A Rainy Day” 0 (Up 1)
  10. Michael Ray – “Kiss You In The Morning” -1 (Down 5)
  11. Eric Church – “Like A Wrecking Ball” 0 (Up 1)
  12. Maddie & Tae – “Fly” +1 (Up 1)
  13. Chase Rice – “Gonna Wanna Tonight” -1 (Up 1)
  14. Florida Georgia Line – “Anything Goes” -1 (Up 1) [Tied for Worst Song]
  15. Cole Swindell – “Let Me See Ya Girl” -1 (Up 1) [Tied for Worst Song]
  16. Luke Bryan – “Strip It Down” -1 (Up 7) [Tied for Worst Song]
  17. Old Dominion – “Break Up With Him” -1 (Up 2) [Tied for Worst Song]
  18. Dan + Shay – “Nothin’ Like You” -1 (Down 1)
  19. Jake Owen – “Real Life” -1 (Down 1) 
  20. Lady Antebellum – “Long Stretch of Love”
  21. Kip Moore – “I’m To Blame”
  22. Blake Shelton – “Gonna” -1 (Up 4)
  23. Cam – “Burning House” +1 [Best Song] (Down 1)
  24. Carrie Underwood – “Smoke Break” +1 (New to Top 30)
  25. Chris Young – “I’m Comin’ Over” +1
  26. Big & Rich – “Run Away With You” +1 (Down 2)
  27. Brothers Osborne – “Stay A Little Longer” 0
  28. Parmalee – “Already Callin’ You Mine” -1
  29. Tim McGraw – “Top of the World” -1 (Re-Entered Top 30)
  30. Jason Aldean – “Gonna Know We Were Here” -1 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -12

The pulse improved two spots this week!

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Luke Bryan’s “Kick The Dust Up” went recurrent (finally) and fell from #11 to out of the top 30.
  • Hunter Hayes’ “21” fell from #29 to #33.
  • Kelsea Ballerini’s “Dibs” fell from #30 to #31.

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Carrie Underwood’s “Smoke Break” (Hot Shot Debut, Most Increased Audience & Most Added Song of the Week)
  • Tim McGraw’s “Top of the World”
  • Jason Aldean’s “Gonna Know We Were Here”

New #1 Song This Week:

  • Frankie Ballard – “Young & Crazy”

Song I Predict Will Reach #1 Next Week:

  • Sam Hunt – “House Party”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Luke Bryan – “Strip It Down” – Up 7 from #23 to #16
  • Blake Shelton – “Gonna” – Up 4 from #26 to #22
  • Tim McGraw – “Top of the World” – Up 4 from #33 to #29
  • Jason Aldean – “Gonna Know We Were Here” – Up 4 from #34 to #30

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Luke Bryan – “Kick The Dust Up” – Out of the Top 30
  • Zac Brown Band – “Loving You Easy” – Down 6 from #1 to #7
  • Michael Ray – “Kiss You In The Morning” – Down 5 from #5 to #10

Songs I See Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Michael Ray – “Kiss You In The Morning”
  • Zac Brown Band – “Loving You Easy”
  • Kip Moore – “I’m To Blame”
  • Big & Rich – “Run Away With You”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Dibs”
  • Hunter Hayes – “21”
  • Jana Kramer – “I Got The Boy”
  • Darius Rucker – “Southern Style”

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s chart in the comments below.

Album Review – Kasey Chambers’ ‘Bittersweet’

Kasey Chambers Bittersweet

The Australian country music scene deserves more attention. And I can’t stress this enough. A lot of people may not think of Australia when thinking about country music, but they’re a lot more country than you think. There are a lot of great Aussie country artists making music and if there’s one area of the country music world I wish I had given more coverage throughout the year to, it would be Australia country music. I’m going to start making up for it now though with this review. If you aren’t familiar with her, meet Kasey Chambers. She’s a 39-year-old singer-songwriter who has been making music for over a decade and has racked up multiple platinum albums in her home country. She’s signed with Warner Music Australia and she just recently released to the U.S. her new album Bittersweet through Sugar Hill Records. Australia received this album last year, so it’s not new to them. Although I’m very jealous they’ve been listening to this for a year because this album is full of great music.

Bittersweet begins with “Oh Grace,” a beautiful and poignant song. Chambers sings from the point of view of a man in this song, who’s in love with a woman. Her voice is stunning in this song, as it fits perfectly with the mostly banjo instrumentation. It’s very much a throwback song. Chambers sings about religion and believing in God in “Is God Real?” She seems to grapple with the concept throughout the song and it’s certainly an interesting commentary on the subject. Regardless of your stance, the songwriting is solid. “I Would Do” is a love song where a woman professes her love for her man. She would be willing to do anything for his love, as Chambers sings throughout the song. Once again her voice is just great and really something I thought to myself on every song on this album. It’s not only dynamic, but tells a story well and engages the listener.

One of the more rocking tunes on the album is “Hell Of A Way To Go.” It’s a song very much driven by the guitar play and has an infectious rhythm. Once again the great songwriting shines on “House On A Hill.” The imagery the lyrics inspire in the listeners’ heads is so vivid and clear. Her father Bill Chambers, a fellow country singer and her inspiration also joins Chambers on the song. The father-daughter duo sound great together and I’m glad she included him on the song. The oddest song on the album is “Stalker.” Yet it’s also arguably the most fun too. Chambers sings about stalking someone she’s obsessed with and the lyrics are really creepy. Upon first listen I didn’t know what the hell to think. But after several more listens the song is stuck in my head because it’s catchy as hell and the instrumentation is really fun. Maybe I’m just a sucker for these gothic inspired country tunes.

Chambers grapples with another religious related theme on “Heaven Or Hell.” As you can gather from the title, she wonders where you go when you die, to heaven or hell. Again the lyrics are catchy and easy to get stuck in your head, but getting good songwriting stuck in your head is never a bad thing. The album’s title track is the second duet on the album, as Chambers sings with fellow Australian singer-songwriter Bernard Fanning. This is my first exposure to Fanning and I have to say my first impression is a great one. His voice is as smooth as silk and when you combine it with a dynamic voice like Chambers’, you get magic. I can see why this is Chambers’ favorite song on the album. It’s fantastic and a must-listen.

“Too Late To Save Me” is a song about a prostitute living with herself and dealing with the effects of her actions. The mandolin and banjo play on this song first off is just amazing. It immediately made me engage with the song. Then you throw in equally great songwriting and Chambers’ voice. Just when you think you’ve heard the best song on the album, another makes you rethinks this. This is another gem on Bittersweet. With the penultimate song on the album, Chambers sings about…Christmas on “Christmas Day.” This really threw me for a loop, as you don’t hear too many songs about Christmas in the summer. It goes deeper than this, as Chambers recounts the story of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. She puts a spin on it though, as she makes it sound like a more romantic story. I have to admit I never looked at this story from this angle, but I’ll be damned it works. This is one of those songs you need to hear yourself, as I’m sure even my description leaves you a little puzzled.

The album closes out with “I’m Alive,” a song with plenty of harmonica and good ole fashioned picking, if you know what I mean. It’s a bluegrass tune about just being thankful to be alive, something I’m sure we’ve all thought after going through a crazy experience. It’s one of those simple life songs that after a long day, hits you just right. Chambers shows off her bluegrass style in this song and they’re just as impressive as the rest of her styles throughout this album.

If you’re not familiar with the name Kasey Chambers, you’ve picked the perfect time to do so with her new album Bittersweet. It’s an absolutely fantastic record that excels in every area throughout it. Her voice is definitely one of the best and a great throwback to the female country artists of days past. The instrumentation is rich and full of variety. I also must point out that the banjo is essentially the base instrumentation of the entire album, giving the album a very old school feel, which is a nice touch. This is an album that has something for everyone and one you need to hear.

Grade: 9/10

 

 

The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown [August 24]

Jason Isbell Something More Than Free

This is The Americana Airplay Chart Rundown. Every week I’ll post the top 40 from the Americana Airplay chart, which is obtained from AmericanaRadio.org. From the site: “The Americana Airplay chart represents the reported play of terrestrial radio stations, nationally syndicated radio shows, satellite radio and internet stations who have agreed to submit weekly spin counts. For more information please visit www.americanamusic.org.”

The goal of this feature is to track and monitor the current most popular music in the Americana realm, as I believe it’s starting to take on a bigger importance in the world of music, especially concerning the current state of country music. In addition it will bring some new names to the site that haven’t been covered here before and could lead to more Americana coverage. It’s also a place to discuss anything going on in the Americana genre at this moment. Be sure to weigh in on the chart in the comments below.

  1. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Grade: 10/10)
  2. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Grade: 9/10)
  3. Richard Thompson – Still 
  4. Watkins Family Hour – Watkins Family Hour [Up 1]
  5. Amy Helm – Didn’t It Rain [Up 2]
  6. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind (Grade: 9/10) [Down 2]
  7. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie (Grade: 9/10) [Down 1]
  8. Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet 
  9. Dale Watson – Call Me Insane (Grade: 8.5/10) [Up 2]
  10. Warren Haynes (feat. Railroad Earth) – Ashes & Dust [Up 2]
  11. Ashley Monroe – The Blade (Grade: 7/10) [Up 7]
  12. Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams – Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams [Down 3]
  13. Chris Stapleton – Traveller (Grade: 10/10) [Down 3]
  14. Uncle Lucius – The Light [Up 3]
  15. Sonny Landreth – Bound By The Blues [Down 2]
  16. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color [Down 2]
  17. Rhett Miller – The Traveler [Down 2]
  18. Statesboro Revue – Jukehouse Revival [Up 7]
  19. Eilen Jewell – Sundown Over Ghost Town 
  20. The Deslondes – The Deslondes (Grade: 8.5/10)
  21. Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart (Grade: 10/10)
  22. Jonathan Tyler – Holy Smokes (Grade: 10/10) 
  23. Daniel Romano – If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ [Up 1]
  24. Ray Wylie Hubbard – The Ruffian’s Misfortune [Down 8]
  25. Langhorne Slim – The Spirit Moves [Up 2]
  26. Sam Outlaw – Angeleno (Grade: 10/10) [Down 3]
  27. Waifs – Beautiful You [Up 9]
  28. Jackie Greene – Back To Birth [Up 12]
  29. The Grahams – Glory Bound [Up 6]
  30. Steeldrivers – The Muscle Shoals Sessions [Down 4]
  31. Sugarcane Jane – Dirt Road’s End [Down 2]
  32. Jimmy LaFave – The Night Tribe [Up 1]
  33. Whitey Morgan & The 78s – Sonic Ranch (Grade: 10/10) [Up 4]
  34. Leon Bridges – Coming Home [Down 2]
  35. Samantha Crain – Under Branch & Thorn & Tree [Down 5]
  36. Dar Williams – Emerald [Down 5]
  37. Milk Carton Kids – Monterey [Down 3]
  38. The Mike & Ruthy Band – Bright As You Can [Up 1] 
  39. Bellfuries – Workingman’s Bellfuries [New]
  40. Honey Honey – [Down 12]

Album Review – Pat Green’s ‘Home’

Pat Green started his career as an independent artist self-releasing his first three albums. Then in 2001, Green signed with Universal Records in Nashville, which began a string of five straight top 10 albums for Green released under Universal and BNA. After 2009’s What I’m For, Green decided to move back to Texas and continue his country career through the Texas/independent scene. It’s been six years since an album of original material, but Pat Green has released his first album since leaving Nashville in Home.

The album kicks off the title track, a song about settling down back home after some time away chasing dreams. The song paints the picture of youthful naivety that life is “nothing but money and pretty girls.” However, the lyrics suggest that this song could be Green’s homecoming to Texas after nearly a decade in the Nashville side of country music. You can hear a faint fiddle mixed with a nice mid-tempo production that does a good job getting the listener excited. “Break It Back Down” explores the busy, instant gratification life of the modern-day. Green lists a range of trends in today’s world referencing Twitter, random YouTube stars, tabloids, reality TV, and the misguided notion that money is all you need to be happy. The jump is made in the chorus how he wishes for him and his baby to break it back down to just the two of them and shut the world out. While I get the sentiment Pat Green pushes for, the content varying from the verses to the chorus is too different. It’s a song that could have been better with some lyrics devoted as to how the busy world actually affects their relationship.

Pat Green is joined by Lyle Lovett to sing a pandering Texas song called “Girls from Texas.” The pair list off simile after simile of how the girls are around the nation. Take the opening stanza: “Girls from Georgia are sweeter than peaches, the ones from California are made for bathing suits and beaches. Minnesota gals sure fill out the sweater, but the girls from Texas are just a little bit better.” And that’s the song in a nutshell, simply with other states involved. When it comes to the Texas country scene, these “Texas pride” songs are just as cliché as a back road party in Nashville. “Bet Yo Mama” is more rock influenced with a heavy guitar riff carries the song throughout. Lyrically, the song deals with Pat Green telling this girl of his affection how hot the rest of her family is. Mom, sister, grandma, and aunts all get thrown in to build his theory of how good looks run in the family. I find this song to be annoying and just a bit creepy.

Pat Green strips it down with a sentimental ballad in “Right Now.” He knows that he’s not the best man in the relationship. He knows she expects more from him, and he wants to be that man she expects to see. The song acts as his declaration to change his ways for the better of the relationship. It’s a touching song made better with vocal harmonies by Sheryl Crow. While I would have liked to hear a duet between the two, Crow’s harmonies add a nice layer to the song. This is followed by Green’s current single “While I Was Away.” This song explores the relationship between a traveling musician father and his child. The chorus and the song are tied together through the heartbreaking line “the hardest part of working hard ain’t the bills I got to pay. It’s you growing up while I was away.” This poignant ballad shows the power of a country song.

The collaborations continue as Pat Green is joined by Delbert Mcclintion and Lee Roy Parnell for “May the Good Times Never End.” This upbeat, old-time rock and roll influenced song features a great harmonica and quick drum beats led by simple guitars and a keyboards. The song is simply about people enjoying life while reminiscing on the good times back in the day. Mom and Dad look happy in an old photograph, and they’re still joyous today; you can still sing along with all your favorite songs from 20 years ago. This is a fun, rocking country song. “Life Good as It Can Be” deals with the stressful monotony life can bring and changing perspective. Instead of moaning about a dead-end job, enjoy the pleasures the paycheck can bring you. The song calls for looking at the good life offers and focusing the lens on the light side. The song is accompanied by pleasant, mid-tempo production that aids in the uplifting message of the lyrics.

Pat Green sings of love in “No One Here But Us.” Green finally had his time with the girl he’s longed for. The couple took the opportunity to have their fun between the sheets, and he wants the relationship to continue. Perhaps the best part of the whole song is steel guitar in the mix of the acoustic guitars and violins. “No One Here But Us” features some excellent country instrumentation. Home picks back up with “I’ll Take This House.” This anthemic song is an ode to family and the life they’ve built. Green is more than happy with the children and work put into making the house a home. He has pride in the house and the family that lives inside.

On “I Go Back to You,” Green explores memories and the one he always turns to first. It’s the first love and the memories of that love forever stamped in his brain. To me, the song is just sort of there. It’s well-written and sung by Green, but it’s not exactly original to country music, and the instrumentation doesn’t offer anything different from what you’d expect in a song like this. However, on “Day One,” Green presents an excellent, well-written break up song. Green sings of getting over the relationship and how slowly but surely the pieces will be mended back together, but if, and only if, he can survive the first day of heartache. The song touches on the strength of getting over a tough break up while not ignoring the pain that comes from it.

The last song of the album is another collaboration, this time with Marc Broussard. “Good Night in New Orleans” is a song where the duo simply details a night out among Bourbon Street and many of New Orleans’ offerings. The song features a nice mix of country and Cajun music to fit the mood and title of the song. While it’s not the best song, it works well as an album closer. But really, I could do without it.

Overall, Home is a nice offering from Pat Green. There were a few songs that I could do without, but for the most part, the writing and the content make for enjoyable country music. Pat Green really strives in the ballad area on this album with songs like “Day One”, “While I Was Away” and “Right Now.” To me, if you drop this album down to 11 songs instead of 13, then it’s a better album. It seemed to me like there were a few filler songs on Home. But overall, Home is a good album and the kind of album you’d expect out of Texas country.

Grade 6.5/10

Jon Pardi Announces Headlining “All Time High” Fall Tour

After opening for Alan Jackson’s 25th Anniversary Keepin’ It Country Tour throughout this year, Jon Pardi is having a tour of his own now. Announced today on his website, Pardi will have his own headlining tour starting this fall. The All Time High Tour will be an 18-stop tour that takes place all across the country, kicking off on October 8 in San Diego at the House of Blues. Here’s the entirety of the schedule:

 Oct. 8     San Diego, Calif.    House Of Blues
 Oct. 9     Anaheim, Calif.    House Of Blues
 Oct. 15   Orlando, Fla.    House Of Blues
 Nov. 7    Cincinnati, Ohio    Bogart’s
 Nov. 21  Myrtle Beach, S.C. House Of Blues
 Dec. 17   Washington, DC    Fillmore
 Dec. 18   New York, N.Y.    Irving Plaza
 Jan. 7      Indianapolis, Ind.    Egyptian Room
 Jan. 8     Cleveland, Ohio       House Of Blues
 Jan. 9     Detroit, Mich. St      Andrew’s Hall
 Jan. 14   Boston, Mass.       House Of Blues
 Jan. 15   Philadelphia, Pa.    Theatre Of Living Arts
 Jan. 16   Huntington, N.Y.    Paramount
 Jan. 22   Houston, Texas       House Of Blues
 Jan. 23   Dallas, Texas          House Of Blues
 Jan. 28   Greensboro, N.C.    Cone Denim Entertainment Center
 Jan. 29   Charlotte, N.C.       Fillmore
 Jan. 30   Raleigh, N.C.       The Ritz

For those interested in tickets you can purchase tickets beginning August 28 at http://www.jonpardi.com with an exclusive pre-sale for Pardi’s fan club starting August 26.

Pardi will be joined on the tour by the Brothers Osborne, a duo like Pardi that just emerged into the mainstream country scene in the last couple of years. Here’s what Pardi had to say about the tour and being joined by the Brothers Osborne:

“Out of all the tours I’ve been fortunate to be a part of, this one is especially exciting because we’ve been building towards this moment for a while. I have been buddies with TJ and John [Osborne] since moving to Nashville and we have talked about touring together for years. It’s finally here and going to be a blast,” shares Pardi. “I really love the new music I have been working on for the next album and cannot wait to start playing it out on the road for the fans.” 

Pardi and the Brothers Osborne also posted this short video on their social media channels:

I think it’s a great development to see, as these are two of the most promising acts I see rising up in mainstream country music right now. Pardi’s debut album, as well as his new EP he released this year were really well done. Both featured a great mix of the Bakersfield sound and traditional country elements, making for not only quality music, but fun music too. The Brothers Osborne released a solid EP themselves and I’m looking forward to hearing their debut album too. It’s important for these up and coming acts to go out and have their own headlining tour, as opening for the big names doesn’t allow them grow as much as artists. A headlining tour allows them to play more of their own music and find more about themselves as artist, while also allowing fans to find more about them too.

Be sure to weigh in below on what you think of this announcement and these two promising acts.