Review – Charlie Worsham’s “The Beginning of Things”

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Charlie Worsham is a name that more people should know in country music. His debut album, Rubberband, is an excellent singer-songwriter album with an eclectic sound, rich, heartfelt stories, and Worsham’s smooth, soft vocals. While he hasn’t seen much traction from the album, Charlie Worsham’s career is still young, as he’s set to release his second album this spring. To begin promotion for the album, titled Beginning of Things, Worsham has released the album’s title track for fans to hear. The song centers around William, or Bill, a man who only seems to enjoy the beginning of things. With unfinished home projects and unrealized life dreams, Bill settles down with his childhood love, Sam. Bill and Sam have a daughter, only for him to run out and become an estranged man in the lives of those two women. The song doesn’t resolve Bill’s story in a happy fashion, keeping with the status quo of the story Worsham has presented. In trying to tell a story that pretty much spans a lifetime, writers Abe Stoklasa and Donovan Woods, pack quite a bit into four minutes. The result is a rushed story with details quickly rattled off to get to the next place in timeline. The song itself doesn’t change much with the tempo over the duration, hovering in the mid-tempo range with the same acoustic guitar strum repeated. “The Beginning of Things” is a bold endeavor of a story song that doesn’t quite hit the mark for the intended wordplay or emotional effect. With that said, it’s exciting to hear new music from Charlie Worsham, and his upcoming album is one to look out for.

Grade: 6/10

Recommend? – Worth one listen

Written by Abe Stoklasa and Donovan Woods

Review – Chris Lane’s “Fix” is Pure Pop Trash

Chris Lane Fix

You thought 2015 had some bad mainstream country music? Welcome to 2016, where the bottom of the barrel keeps going lower than anyone could imagine. When Sam Hunt burst onto the scene in the early summer of 2014, I became quite fearful of the ripple effect his success would have on mainstream country music. Keep in mind this was in the midst of bro country reigning supreme on the radio. Hunt came along and managed to produce something even worse. And it’s become an even bigger monster than bro country. Now everywhere you look a new artist or group of spiffy, clean-cut pop artists in suits are “going country” by throwing together some electronic beats and dance club lyrics.

Meet the newest one, Chris Lane. The first time some of you may have come across his name is in the summer of 2014 when he released a single called “Broken Windshield View.” It completely pandered to bro country and I remember just ignoring it, as it didn’t end up getting that much traction. It reached #45 on the Billboard Hot Country Song and had decent sales. Once that song ran its course Lane disappeared for a little while and has now re-emerged with “Fix.” So right away we can establish that Lane is willing to pander to whatever is popular to become famous and well-known. It’s currently rising up the charts quickly, with the big reason being that this current slick R&B, pop phase is still in mainstream country music’s system. And it just continues to get worse with this song.

Chris Lane’s “Fix” is an abomination of a “country” song and really even a pop song too. The song begins with cheap guitar licks and Lane crooning “Hey girl.” Even after its death, bro country’s effects are still felt in this new era of metro country music. Then the chorus kicks in and this song gets even laughably more worse. The chorus:

I’ll be your smooth ride, that late night, your Walter White high
I’ll be your first time, that so right,
Get you falling in love at the end of the night
That good ish, that long trip, that sugar on your lips
That favorite habit, gotta have it, you can’t quit
I got your fix

Where do I begin with these garbage lyrics? I think first and foremost the Walter White namedrop stands out. You see Lane has to namedrop him because 1) love here is being compared to drugs. 2) this makes the song look “cool” and “edgy” 3) Breaking Bad was a popular television show, so they’re hoping this translates to the song. And these are all very stupid reasons. I’m beyond nauseated of country songs comparing love to drugs. 2010 called and Ke$ha wants her lyrics back. It’s just outdated, embarrassing and reminds me of glam rock in the late 80s. Then you have the fourth line of the chorus. Sugar of course is referring to cocaine, as again the whole love being compared to drug references litter this song. But before that the phrase, “good ish,” is dropped. I’m sorry, what? Once again country music borrows another outdated term from another genre. As defined by the Urban Dictionary, ish is: “Slang term often used to replace “shit.” Derived from the process of editing the vocals of rap-songs by reversing the curse words so said song could be played on radio or television.”

This song is everything but country music. But don’t take my word for it. Here it from the people behind this song yourself. From an interview in Billboard in November 2015, Chris Lane and everyone behind the song admit that “Fix” isn’t really a country song. From the interview (props to Zack for bringing it to my attention):

But during downtime at a 2015 recording session, Lane broke into a random song in high falsetto. No one remembers for sure what it was — Usher, The Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake or Nick Jonas have all been mentioned as possibilities — but Lane’s tone was intriguing to producer Joey Moi. And it sparked a complete change in direction.

“It definitely was a defining moment for me,” says Lane, “because that ultimately led us to finding ‘Fix.’ “

Lane represented a change in direction for “Fix,” as well. The song has a dance-ready groove that leans toward The Bee Gees or Maroon 5, and country wasn’t even on the radar when it was written in February.

You know Joey Moi, the producer behind Florida Georgia Line and Nickelback? He’s also responsible for this monstrosity of a song. Moi later goes on to say, “We had to countrify it.” So Lane and Moi enlist some of the most infamous country music hit makers in Nashville to make it happen: Abe Stoklasa (co-wrote “The Driver”), Jesse Frasure (co-wrote Florida Georgia Line’s “Sun Daze” and Thomas Rhett’s “Crash and Burn”) and Sarah Buxton (co-wrote Keith Urban’s “Put You in a Song” and The Band Perry’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”). Frasure in particular has been popping up on a lot of bad hit country songs lately and I’m guessing is the one responsible for the “ish” line.

But wait there’s more. Later in the interview:

A big portion of that was putting real musicians in place of the demo’s synthetic atmosphere. Ilya Toshinsky perfectly recreated the waterfall guitar sound and added chunky rhythmic parts, while Russ Pahl laid on atmospheric steel. A number of words were changed to make it more PG for country radio, particularly “good shit,” which became “good ish.” And Moi coaxed an abundance of breathy breaks and whines out of Lane that they refer to internally as “sexhales.”

Sexhales? Yeah I’m done. There’s nothing else that needs to be said about this song. “Fix” is one of the most blatant attempts I’ve ever seen of making a hit song to appeal to the mass. The look behind the curtain to see “how the sausage is made” makes the song even more repulsive and disgusting. This is not artistry, but rather cold and calculated manufacturing of content to sell. There is nothing thoughtful, original or appealing about this song. Most importantly it’s not country in any way, shape or form. “Fix” is just plain bad and everyone responsible for it should feel bad.

Grade: 0/10

Review – Charles Kelley Impresses With Debut Single “The Driver”

 

Charles Kelley The Driver

About a month ago I started to hear rumors swirl about the breakup of Lady Antebellum. It came as a surprise to many, as this group has been a mainstay in mainstream country for several years. At the same time it wasn’t that surprising to hear considering it has felt like Lady Antebellum has been passed by in mainstream country music for younger, male artists. It feels like ages since their mega-hit “Need You Now.” The good news for Lady Antebellum fans is that they aren’t breaking up, but the group is taking an “open-ended hiatus.” I think this is a smart move, as it will allow them to recharge their batteries and allow them to get back to the drawing board so to speak. In the meantime though one member of Lady A isn’t taking a break. Surprisingly, one-third of the group, Charles Kelley, is embarking on his own solo career (by the way, those vague ads by Capitol Records in Country Aircheck were indeed Kelley’s). Along with Hillary Scott, Kelley has been the lead vocalist for the group. His first single is here too, with “The Driver.”

And I have to say this song is a real pleasant surprise. In fact after my first listen I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “The Driver” is pretty good and has real sincerity about it. This starts with the acoustic guitar that opens the song and maintains a presence throughout the album. An electric guitar also joins it and gives the song an earthy, singer-songwriter vibe about it. It feels and sounds like something that belongs on country radio. The song itself (written by Kelley, Eric Paslay and Abe Stoklasa) is a feel good sing-a-long about traveling around on the road and making music. So it’s only appropriate that Kelley is also joined on the song by Eric Paslay and Dierks Bentley. They harmonize in the chorus and it’s just fantastic. This is why I want more collaborations between the best artists in country music. Bentley’s solo in the bridge is really good and sets up nicely for Kelley hitting the high note shortly after.

Kelley choosing Bentley and Paslay to join him on the song is a brilliant move, as their voices mesh together well. It also brings in more ears to the song, as fans of all three will certainly want to give this song a listen. All in all I’m impressed by this first single from Charles Kelley. “The Driver” is the kind of song we desperately need in mainstream country music. Kelley has a great voice, which is something we’ve all known hearing him in Lady Antebellum all these years. But hearing him solo he sounds even better for some reason. Kelley is set to release his debut solo album in 2016, as he was said to impress industry insiders at a private show earlier this week. Whatever happens next, don’t worry about it and just savor this great song.

Grade: 9/10