This is the monthly recap post of all the great music we reviewed on the blog in case you missed it or just came across our humble, little blog. So check this music out if you haven’t already.
Natalie Hemby – Puxico
Natalie Hemby delivers a really solid debut record in Puxico. I think she does well exploring the album’s main theme of small town living, which can be easy to fall into traps when writing about. She keeps a real attitude towards it, acknowledging both the real problems of them and the sentimental feelings we can hold about them too. The instrumentation is pretty good and in some cases really adding something to the song. I’m hopeful we get to hear more from her in the future, as I think Hemby is capable of delivering even better music than what she gives us on Puxico.
Dale Watson & Ray Benson – Dale & Ray
Dale & Ray is an album I instantly grew to love. Both Dale Watson and Ray Benson sound as great as ever, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It’s no surprise these two deliver such a thoroughly great country album, as it’s what they’ve been doing their whole careers. This is also further proof of why we need more collaboration albums like this one because when you put together two highly talented artists like Watson and Benson you get something you’ll certainly remember. Dale & Ray is a really fun album and something any country fan should love and appreciate.
The Band of Heathens – Duende
Overall I find Duende to be a great album. It features rock solid instrumentation, which is a real strong suit of The Band of Heathens. The second half of this album in particular is really enjoyable and is the band shining at their best. The whole album has a great variety of both fun and thoughtful songs. There’s a real smoothness about everything this band does and this really resonates with the listener. Once again The Band of Heathens deliver great music and make Duende an album definitely worth your time.
Blackie and The Rodeo Kings – Kings and Kings
Overall, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings make the most of their talented guests, playing to each of their respective strengths and sounds, to create an authentic sounding roots album. Kings and Kings is the perfect example of why Americana is such a tough genre to define because a variety of sounds and styles all work under that umbrella. Blackie and the Rodeo Kings provide music fans with an album that epitomizes the genre, with great collaborations from the most respected singers of country and Americana music.
Lauren Alaina is one of multiple country artists who broke their way into stardom via American Idol. She was the runner-up on season ten, which was won by fellow country artist Scotty McCreery. Like most country artists who gained fame on a music TV show, it’s been a struggle for her to break out at radio. It’s just an innate problem those not named Carrie Underwood have had to deal with at radio. Alaina released her debut album six years ago and ever since has essentially been grinding away at breaking through before her moment came when her single “Road Less Traveled” got the On The Verge treatment. It was a big moment for Alaina’s career and more importantly is what has allowed her to finally release her sophomore album of the same name. I honestly did not expect much out of Road Less Traveled, even though I’ve always found Lauren Alaina to be a pretty talented artist. Well after giving it many thorough lessons, I shouldn’t have had such low expectations because Alaina pleasantly blew my expectations away with Road Less Traveled.
The album’s opening song “Doin’ Fine” sees Alaina singing about the feelings she experienced as her parents marriage broke down and ended in divorce. While a softer production could have really helped, this is a solid and deceptively deep song. “Three” is one of the most honest songs I’ve heard from a major label country artist in the last few years. Alaina sings of how she has to spend six years on the road to just get played for three minutes on the radio. It doesn’t get anymore honest when describing the life of an artist trying to break out at radio to please their label. Alaina also really showcases her big voice well here. One problem this album has is some of the songs are disingenuous to label country. “Queen of Hearts” is most certainly an example, as it’s loud and lacking any country elements. But as a pop song it’s decent and has a catchy hook. There are a couple of songs that fall into the generic inspiration trap. “My Kinda People” is one of them, as it’s basically a re-skin of “Road Less Traveled.” These songs aren’t necessarily terrible, but just done to death and uninteresting. But then we get to the moments that surprise and straight up impress me. I was most surprised by “Think Outside The Boy.” Based on the title I was expecting something shallow, but it’s quite the opposite. The song is about a woman urging a young woman to not base her life around the boy she’s head over heels for and needs to think about herself because basing your life around one person can lead to heartbreak and disappointment.
Another highlight of Road Less Traveled is “Painting Pillows.” It’s a straight-up heartbreak song about being alone and crying tears into your pillow. This is a modern-day heartbreak country song done right. “Crashin’ The Boys’ Club” is a song I have complicated feelings about. On one hand the production can be annoying and the lyrics are thin. But on the other hand the beat is admittedly catchy and infectious. It’s one of those songs I feel like I should hate, but I just can’t. It’s too fun for me to get grumpy about. The most critically acclaimed song on this album has been “Same Day Different Bottle.” It’s for great reason too because it’s awesome and for me the best on the record. The song is about watching someone destroy their life with alcohol. When you factor in that Alaina based this song off watching her own father go through this, it makes the song even more powerful (kudos to writers Alaina, Caitlyn Smith and Dan Couch). Then you throw in that great pedal steel guitar. It’s simply a phenomenal song. Road Less Traveled concludes with “Pretty.” It’s another song on this album that surprises me with its depth and also sees Alaina incorporating a personal experience. The song is about sending a message to girls that you’re pretty as you are and that skipping meals to get skinnier isn’t the answer. Alaina herself went through an eating disorder, so it’s admirable to see her put this experience into a great song that it can help others in this situation.
Lauren Alaina really surprises me in a great way with Road Less Traveled. I was expecting mostly songs like the album’s title track and there were a few like it on this album. But for the most part this album delivers really good music and at times even great music. I really enjoy the majority of this album and there are multiple songs I would love to see released as singles. I’m still not hopeful radio will take to her, but they should. Alaina reminds me of just how talented she is on this album and I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be one of the best country records from a major label in 2017.
Recommend? – Yes
Album Highlights: Same Day Different Bottle, Pretty, Think Outside The Boy, Painting Pillows, Three, Doin’ Fine
Bad Songs: None
Wallpaper: Holding The Other, Queen of Hearts
Undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the night at the 2016 CMA Awards came in the Vocal Duo of the Year category. Everyone expected Florida Georgia Line to win it yet again. Instead rising duo Brothers Osborne pulled off the upset and took home the award. It was an entertaining moment because the duo were just as shocked as the rest of us and let their pure joy shine through as they accepted the award. It was also deserving because they’re one of the most promising acts on a major country label right now. While their debut album Pawn Shop didn’t blow me away, it showed glimpses of how great they can be and it offered some compelling single choices. And fortunately their new single is one of them, “It Ain’t My Fault.” It’s an instantly memorable song because of its upbeat and fun instrumentation. It’s a cross between roots rock and country, featuring rollicking guitars and rhythmic claps. This is the kind of song you’ll find yourself tapping your toe along to by the time the song ends. The song itself isn’t really deep, as it’s about a guy blaming a fun night out on the town on all of the circumstances around it like the drinks and exes. He’s not guilty of doing anything wrong you see, but just trying to have a good time. Yes, it’s not exactly deep. But this song isn’t going for this, it’s going for something fun and catchy. Considering that accomplished. This song wins me over on pure infectiousness. Compare this to the mid to slow tempo snooze fest at country radio and this song is like a double shot of coffee. Brothers Osborne bring something fun to the table without reverting to childish lyrics and worn out themes. For that “It Ain’t My Fault” is a win.
Recommend? – Yes
Written by TJ Osborne, John Osborne and Lee Thomas Miller
Caitlyn Smith is a name hopefully many of you are going to start hearing more soon. The longtime songwriter just inked a deal with the revived Monument Records this past week. Sony Music is the one who has brought it back to life and has tabbed Sandbox CEO Jason Owen and hit songwriter Shane McAnally to be the co-presidents of Monument. It’s going to be an imprint of Sony Music Entertainment. Smith along with Walker Hayes are the first signees.
Smith released a fantastic EP titled Starfire last year and I highly recommend checking it out. Smith recently performed a track off the album in a bank vault, “Before You Called Me Baby.” Give it a watch and get a glimpse of an artist I believe to be one of the next big deals in country music.
Rising independent country artist Cody Jinks made his national television debut last night on Conan. He performed the title track off of his latest album I’m Not The Devil. I have to say he did a pretty good job and I think it was an excellent song choice for his debut and to introduce himself to new fans. The general consensus seems to be pretty positive to the performance. It’s been a busy time for Jinks lately, who also released a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” earlier in the week. Check out his performance on Conan below: