Album Review – BJ Barham’s Gut Wrenchingly Great ‘Rockingham’

BJ Barham Rockingham

If you’re looking for an album full of rainbows, sunshine and uplifting themes, you’re not going to find it with BJ Barham’s Rockingham. In fact you’re going to find the exact opposite. For those unaware, Barham is the lead singer of indie country-rock band American Aquarium. They’re a band known for their excellent live shows and their relentless touring schedule. Barham is most certainly not parting ways with the group, but felt it was time for his first solo release. The inspiration came to him last November when American Aquarium was doing a show in Belgium on the night of the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris, France at the Eagles of Death Metal concert. It really disturbed Barham that something like this could happen at a music venue, something he calls a safe space where everyone can forget their troubles. A couple of days later he had eight songs that just came to  him and that’s the songs that make up his new record Rockingham.

The album begins with “American Tobacco Company,” a song about the broken American dream and the illusion of hard work always paying off. Barham says his grandfather inspired this song, as his grandfather served four years in the military in World War II only to come home and work 42 years at tobacco company. His grandfather never got ahead, despite always being told that hard work will always pay off. It’s after years of backbreaking work that his grandfather realizes the American dream is a lie. It’s a depressing, sober song that will punch you right in the gut. The album’s title track is about Barham’s father realizing the same thing his father did about the American dream. Barham’s hometown of Rockingham, North Carolina is the other main theme of this song. It’s a small town that has long been passed by the rest of the world and offers very little opportunity for a good life. Rockingham is a perfect representation of many small towns across America where good, hard-working people realize that life is hard and your dreams don’t always pan out. As someone who has been through Rockingham multiple times, I feel like Barham perfectly captured the spirit of the town.

“Madeline” sees Barham singing to his yet to be born daughter. He imagines what it’s like holding his daughter in his arms and the innocence he sees in the eyes of a newborn child. He tells her about the world being a scary place and bestows advice he hopes serves her well in her life. It’s a theme we saw most prominently on Sturgill Simpson’s new album earlier this year. I can imagine for parents who just had a kid, this song really connects and Barham really delivers an excellent vocal performance on this emotional song. The entirety of Rockingham is one big, emotional gut punch, but it’s perhaps demonstrated best on “Unfortunate Kind.” Once again Barham’s inspiration comes from family, as he incorporated his own parent’s loving relationship into crafting this song. It’s about a couple that mistakenly fell in love and loved each other every year they were married. One story particular demonstrated this, as in their first week of being married the wife burns the pecan pie and the husband eats it anyway since he doesn’t want her to cry and feel bad. Eventually the man’s wife gets sick and dies, leaving the man to mourn the death of his best friend. But he looks back as lucky to have her in his life and the time they had together. It’s a heartbreaking, touching song that is absolutely fantastic.

Barham tackles the American dream again in “O’ Lover.” The song is a pretty messed up story about a man explaining to his love that things haven’t been going the way he planned and the farming life isn’t providing for them. So he’s planned to rob a store for money, is armed with a pistol he got from his father and has a getaway car to boot. To take it even further he points the gun at her and tells her get in the back of the car, not giving her choice of whether or not she wants to participate in this robbery. While it’s a disturbing story, stories of this level of desperation for money take place every day and once again I marvel at the absolute honesty that shines in Barham’s songwriting. This is followed by “Road to Nowhere,” a song about a man getting his heart-broken by the woman he thought was the love of his life. Her leaving destroys him, as once again someone he invested all of his trust and love in has left his life. It’s a tragic song and unlike a lot of modern country breakup songs, this doesn’t even involve alcohol or a happy ending. It’s just a crippling loneliness and darkness that you’re left with because that’s how it is in reality.

The album ends with Barham covering two songs off American Aquarium’s 2012 album Small Town Hymns. “Reidsville” is about a young couple realizing over the course of their lives that their fates living in small town are already pre-determined. It’s a life destined to be filled with difficulties and having to work the family business just to make ends meet. Eventually the town robs them of the joy they had when they were young and leads the man to declare he’s going to ask God when he dies why he gave up on the town. The song perfectly captures the dark cynicism of small town life. Rockingham concludes with the introspective “Water in the Well.” It’s about a man who sees his family farm taken away by the state of Georgia and is now left with nothing. He reflects on how long his family owned the farm and how he did his best to carry on the legacy that was passed down to him, but ultimately failed. Faced with the haunting failure and lack of money, he wonders what will become of him once he runs out of stuff to sell to make a living. And just like the rest of this album we don’t get a happy ending, but we’re all left wondering what’s next.

BJ Barham’s Rockingham will flat-out knock you on your ass. It’s depressing as hell and it’s full of raw emotion. Don’t take this as bad as it’s quite the opposite. It’s a beautifully dark album that paints a poignant tale of the failed American dream, lost hope, the hells of small town living and the trials and tribulations of everyday life. The songwriting is absolutely flawless and couldn’t be any deeper if it tried. While I didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the instrumentation on this album because the songwriting is so excellent, it also shines bright and does a good job of letting the lyrics do the heavy lifting. At eight songs long, this album is somehow the perfect length. It doesn’t let up and hits you in the gut every step of the way. I don’t think there will be another album released this year as morbid as Rockingham. But I don’t know if there’s an album better than it this year too.

Grade: 10/10

The Hodgepodge: The Confusing Saga of The Band Perry Continues…..

The Band Perry confuses me. I have no clue what their intention is within the music industry. Are they mindless drones stuck in a contract that rebrands the band every year? Or are the three Perry siblings just trying to do all the different musical genres they can? The spark notes of the band’s short history:

  • In 2010, they release their first album with the great single “If I Die Young.” It’s an album I actually enjoy with a good modern country production.
  • Two years later, the band releases their follow up album Pioneer. The album has a little bit of more edge to it with songs like “Better Dig Two”, “DONE!” and “Chainsaw” being released as singles.
  • In 2014, The Band Perry returns to total country roots with their rendition of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” released as a standalone single. A recording that won the band a Grammy last year.
  • Late last year, the band takes a 180 turn and decides they want to be a pop group, with “Live Forever” acting as the jumping single for this transition. “Live Forever” bombs on the charts and The Band Perry stumbles through an awkward period of having their third album release get delayed, getting dropped from their label and presumably taking the reigns themselves for their pop move.
  • And now The Band Perry signs a joint deal with UMG’s Interscope and Mercury Nashville and is readying a new single for country radio titled “Comeback Kid.”

The big take away from all this is that The Band Perry’s attempt to turn pop failed…miserably. The new yellow branding and inspirational, youthful pop anthems like “Live Forever” and “Put Me in the Game Coach” crashed hard and fast. And now with “Comeback Kid,” the band is desperately trying to erase any evidence of the past 11 months. They’ve deleted all their tweets prior to the comeback branding, their website is completely redesigned with the ugly pink/beige color and typewriter text, only promoting upcoming concerts and the Fan Club. Yet going to their online store, for the moment, one can find old shirts for “Live Forever” on a page still designed for the Heart + Beat brand.

Clearly the band is moving on from the failed pop experiment and trying to reestablish themselves in country music. They’ve given no hint or preview as to what “Comeback Kid” may sound like. So maybe it’ll be more country along the lines of “If I Die Young” or “Gentle On My Mind”, or maybe it’ll be a song more in line with the Adult Contemporary musical trend hitting Nashville at the moment. But the real question is, how seriously will people take this move and return?

A year ago, The Band Perry basically admitted that they were a musical sellout by blatantly shifting to pop without warning. Are fans and radio alike ready to welcome the group back with open arms? It’s not like The Band Perry’s absence over the last year has been noticeable or left a gaping hole in country music, unlike Taylor Swift’s departure to pop. I’m sure if UMG is willing to sign the band after this failed move to pop, then the label is ready to invest some time and money to make sure The Band Perry’s image and inclusion in country music isn’t affected.

As someone who has mostly enjoyed the band’s output so far, I can’t say I’m excited about this. I think moving on and forgetting isn’t a good strategy. Personally, I’d like to see some transparency from the band about the move to pop, how it didn’t work, and why they did what they did. I do respect them for returning to country and possibly (hopefully) returning to their folksy/pop country style of music because that’s who they are. I just want to see them approach this comeback with some accountability that their attempt to move pop wasn’t a good move. Even Kimberly Perry took to twitter to throw some shade toward Little Big Town about collaborating with Pharrell, because we can only assume that was what The Band Perry was doing/wanted to do with their pop album. (Can’t link the tweet because even the siblings’ personal accounts have had tweets deleted).

August 1st will be the day that some of these questions will be answered. For some, The Band Perry may be forever tainted by this ungraceful move to pop, and others undoubtedly will be excited for the new music as if nothing happened. Aside from the fact that country radio is congested with singers desperately trying to make a name for themselves, I don’t think The Band Perry’s return to country will be smooth or grand. Maybe they’ll get a top 20 single with “Comeback Kid”, but I think this move pop hurt the band’s standing within the country music industry. And now they’re crawling back as if the last year didn’t happen. Regardless of how good their music ends up being, I think their musical saga lately has hurt the band to the point that they’ll never again be as big a country group as they were in the first half of the decade.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • The Turnpike Troubadours have a new single called “Come As You Are.” The song will officially be available for purchase tomorrow.
  • Blackberry Smoke has released a new single to promote a new album. “Waiting For the Thunder” will be the first track off their upcoming album Like an Arrow, expected October 14.
  • Lori McKenna‘s The Bird & The Rifle will be released tomorrow.
  • Hillary Scott‘s Love Remains will also be released tomorrow.
  • Cody Jinks‘ I’m Not the Devil will be released on August 12.
  • American Aquarium frontman BJ Barham will release a solo album called Rockingham on August 19.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Sick and Tired” Cross Canadian Ragweed (feat. Lee Ann Womack) From the band’s great album Soul Gravity, this collaboration with Womack has some excellent lyrics and great vocal harmonies. The song managed to hit 46 on the charts in 2004.

Non Country Suggestion of the Week

Cold War Kids. I as continue to explore some modern music outside of country and Americana, I heard this song on Alternative radio and I like it a lot. I’ve been listening to the band’s new album Hold My Home and it’s good music to check out.

Tweet of the Week

In the short lived twitter feud between Dylan Scott and Wheeler Walker Jr., Dylan Scott came to defend Chewbacca Mom after she joined him on the Opry stage. If you follow WWJ on twitter, then you probably know he hates that Chewbacca Mom has become so famous from her laugh video, and made fun of modern country’s embrace of the internet sensation. Dylan Scott (who has since deleted all the tweets) claimed that Walker’s music is trash and not representative of country music. That was an entertaining half hour to witness on twitter, and I hope someone somewhere grabbed screenshots of Scott’s tweets.

iTunes Reviews for Brantley Gilbert’s “The Weekend”

We’re sure has hell not going to bother with reviewing “The Weekend”, as I’m pretty sure our regular readers can anticipate what we’d say about it. But in case you’re curious, these reviews about sum up how I feel.

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The consensus here speaks volumes.

Country Perspective’s Best Country Albums of 2015 So Far

We’ve reached the mid-point of 2015, so it’s time to look back at the year so far for country music. Up first we take a look back at the best country albums of 2015 so far. There has certainly been a lot of great albums and the competition for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year award is already tightly contested.

Remember for an album to be considered for Album of the Year, it must receive a 10/10 score. Those won’t be the only ones listed below though, as all the highly rated albums so far will be highlighted. Remember too that it’s impossible for us to keep up with every single release and we do our best to cover the most albums possible. So please don’t be that person in the comments section that says something along the lines of: “This list is irrelevant because (insert album) isn’t on it” or “This list sucks.” Agree or disagree all you want, just be respectful about it. Not everyone has the same opinion, so keep this in mind.

So without further ado, the best country albums of 2015 so far (in no particular order)….

(Click on the album name to see the full review)

Album of the Year Candidates

Chris Stapleton Traveller

Chris Stapleton – Traveller

The hype was high heading into Chris Stapleton’s album. Not only did he meet the hype, he surpassed it with Traveller. I don’t think I could ask anymore from a country album than what I hear on this album. It has everything a country music fan should want in their music. What impressed me the most out of all is Stapleton’s voice. Holy shit I did not expect him to blow me away so much vocally. He’s easily one of the best in country music today. The songwriting is top-notch, but we knew that already. The instrumentation and production is spotless, as once again Dave Cobb is in top form. I have no complaints with this album, as Stapleton is a visionary. Traveller is a must-own and is easily one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

Whitey Morgan – Sonic Ranch

Whitey Morgan Sonic Ranch

What makes this album stand out above a lot of other country albums released so far is how cohesive and tight-knit everything is on this album. The instrumentation and the production is flat-out perfect. The lyrics are emotional and tell brilliant stories throughout it. Morgan’s bellowing voice reminds me of a lot of Waylon Jennings and Sturgill Simpson, yet Whitey is much more gruff and gritty giving it a different texture compared to the likes of Jennings and Simpson. The album is the exact right length of 10 songs. It leaves no room for unnecessary filler that can bring the quality down. It’s straight, no-holds barred, outlaw-style country music that will leave you wanting more. This is the kind of album that will make people take notice of Whitey Morgan and put him on the radar of country music fans everywhere. This is an artist and album everyone needs to hear. Sonic Ranch right now is one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. There are very few country albums better than this one.

Houndmouth Little Neon Limelight

Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight

Little Neon Limelight is flawless in every aspect. Houndmouth’s vocals are dynamic and the harmonies will stick with you for a while. Each song tells a story or conveys some sort of emotion in the listener, which is what great music does. While there are a few somber songs, this album is mostly fun and even mixes in some good humor. This is an album I thinks some people might let slip through the cracks and miss out on. Don’t be one of these people. Anyone who appreciates great music should hear it. If you’re into groups like Shovels & Rope or The Lone Bellow, you’ll enjoy Houndmouth even more. I highly recommend this album. Without a doubt one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2015.

Blackberry Smoke Holding All The Roses

Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses

Overall, Holding All The Roses is what southern rock is all about. Each song is unique and adds quality to the album. The lyrics are fresh and just damn fun to listen to; it’s really hard to find a song on here that’s bad. The album is paced well and even when Blackberry Smoke venture down a country alley for a song or two, those country songs are better than pretty much everything that radio offers. Holding All The Roseshas a throwback feel to a golden era of rock and country music, delivering on every track. Their previous album, The Whippoorwill, was fantastic in its own right, but Blackberry Smoke followed it up with an equally outstanding record. Holding All The Roses will be a tough act to follow.

Bowen & Rogers Hold My Beer

Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – Hold My Beer, Vol. 1

Hold My Beer is simply put a fantastic album. There are no down moments in this album and it holds the listeners’ attentions the whole way through it. The rich and traditional instrumentation makes you want to listen to every song over and over again. I don’t think you can find too many pairs that would gel better than Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers either. This is a perfect example of why I want to see more collaborations in country music. On this album this two great artists in their own right came together and produced something amazing. I like how the full album name is Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. because that means this is the first of hopefully many more collaboration albums from these two. I definitely recommend buying this album. It’s a must-own for fans of country music.

The Malpass Brothers

The Malpass Brothers – The Malpass Brothers

Very rarely am I left speechless and a loss for words when listening to a great album, but this is the case with The Malpass Brothers’ new self-titled album. This is just pure, classic country that words can’t do justice. I’ve listened to this album over and over. I can’t get over how great it is and how two young artists like Chris and Taylor Malpass get country music so damn well. These guys were born to make country music. If you’re a fan of pop country music, don’t listen to this album. It’s simply too country for you. For those who love traditional and classic country, buy this album, press play and prepare to be amazed. You can’t get anymore country than this album. This is one of my favorites of 2015 and I can’t wait to hear more music from The Malpass Brothers for years to come.

Dwight Yoakam Second Hand Heart

Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart

There’s no other way to say it: Second Hand Heart is awesome. You aren’t going to hear many country albums as good as this one for the rest of the year. It has touching ballads, rocking honky-tonk and some of the best instrumentation I’ve heard on an album in recent memory. Yoakam’s voice is as brilliant as ever. I think I speak for Yoakam fans everywhere when I say this: don’t ever leave music again. While I enjoyed Yoakam as Pastor Phil in Four Christmases, I would much rather listen to him produce amazing albums like this one. I give Second Hand Heart my highest recommendation, as it’s definitely a top candidate for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. Just like he did back in the 80s, Yoakam brings us traditional country in a world that badly needs it.

The Mavericks Mono

The Mavericks – Mono

Mono from start to finish seduces you with its sultry songs. The deeper you go into this album, the more you will love it. I thought In Time was the best this group could do, but they proved me wrong. Mono is even better than In Time, which I did not think could be possible. They have just set the bar pretty high for everyone else in country music in 2015. There’s a lot of heavy hitters yet to release their albums in 2015, but they better bring their all if they want to top this album. Without a doubt, a top contender for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. Go buy this album and listen to it over and over. The Mavericks’ Mono is a shining example of not only how country music should be done, but really how all music should be done.

Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds

Overall, Blackbirds is dark and heartbreaking, but there’s an ironic beauty to the darkness. Gretchen Peters is a seasoned, award-winning songwriter. Her writing onBlackbirds is top-notch; with scenes and feelings described perfectly within each song while still driving the story forward. And as I mentioned before, the production on each track adds even more to the mood of the songs. Regardless of how dark the album may be, the consistency and focus put into making every aspect work in conjunction pays off. Blackbirds is a fantastic album.

The Lone Bellow

The Lone Bellow – Then Came The Morning

The Lone Bellow’s Then Came The Morning simply blows me away. The year is still new, but this album will hold up as one of the best in country music all year. I don’t think it would be a stretch to call this trio one of the most dynamic in music. If you’re looking for a comparison, I would say the closest is Shovels & Rope, except more bluesy and not quite as dark. So if you love Shovels & Rope, you’ll love this group. Some may say this isn’t a country album, but I don’t care what genre you put it under. This is just great music that everyone should hear. This is without a doubt a strong contender for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

Diamondwolf – Your Time Has Come

Overall, Your Time Has Come, is a fantastic album. Many times, it’s the Indie music artists who are the most talented in both writing and instrumentation, and Diamondwolf is no exception to that thought. In fact, they’re a great example of that thought. The deep metaphors and meaning found in the writing of these songs are a lost art in mainstream music. Alicia Dara and Glen Cooper sing these deep lyrics beautifully on every track. Even though you may have to listen to some of these songs a few times to fully grasp the meaning, it’s worth it. The reality and honesty grounded in each track only makes Your Time Has Come that much better. I highly recommend this album.

Other Highly Recommended Albums

Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter

Allison Moorer – Down To Believing 

Will Hoge – Small Town Dreams

Jon Pardi – The B-Sides, 2011-2014 EP 

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie 

Jamie Lin Wilson – Holidays and Wedding Rings 

Justin Townes Earle – Absent Fathers 

Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions

James McMurtry – Complicated Game

John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat 

Reba – Love Somebody

Ryan Bingham – Fear and Saturday Night

Cody Canada and the Departed – HippieLovePunk 

The Western Swing Authority – Now Playing 

Judson Cole Band – Eastern Skies 

Striking Matches – Nothing But The Silence

Aaron Watson – The Underdog 

William Clark Green – Ringling Road

American Aquarium – Wolves 

Josh’s Top Ten Country Songs – February 2015

Feb. 2015

January produced a lot of great country music and once again we have another great month of country music! This is the kind of start I love. February produced two albums that earned 10/10 here on the site, along with a couple more pretty good albums. So once again it was a challenge to narrow it down to the top 10, but that’s a good problem to have. Without further ado here are what I considered the top ten country songs of February 2015:

  1. The Mavericks – “What Am I Supposed To Do” – The Mavericks once again produced another fantastic album in Mono and of course it’s filled with a lot of great songs. It took many enjoyable listens to figure out the best of this album and without a doubt I deemed it to be “What Am I Supposed To Do.” The lyrics are good, the beat is catchy and the instrumentation is flawless. I’ll be keeping this in mind for my best country songs of 2015 list.
  2. Gretchen Peters – “Everything Falls Away” – Going into The Mavericks album I had an idea what to expect, but with Gretchen Peters’ new album Blackbirds I had no idea what I would hear. After reading Derek’s excellent review of the album I immediately stopped listening to the music I had playing. Then I listened to Peters album. And I sat in silence after hearing such a hauntingly, dark album. The song that immediately stood out to me on the very first listen was “Everything Falls Away.” You know what the sign of a good song is? It makes you feel something and this song definitely made me feel something.
  3. American Aquarium – “Losing Side of Twenty Five” – The North Carolina band produced a solid album in Wolves and there were a couple of songs that definitely stood out to me on it. The one that was easily the best on the album to me is “Losing Side of Twenty Five.” Like Derek, I really connected with this song because I’m right around the age of the man in the song and I can relate to the feeling. The song has really great storytelling and killer instrumentation. Perhaps one of the best songs American Aquarium has ever released.
  4. Gretchen Peters – “Jubilee” – Derek’s description of “Jubilee” nails it: “Told from the point of view of a person on their death-bed, this song focuses on final thoughts and gearing up to go to heaven. This is a beautiful, gospel like song, with a piano driving the song and excellent vocals from Peters. Also, “Jubilee” features one of the best lines I’ve heard in a song. “My body’s broken, but not my soul. You know it’s love and only love that’s made me whole.” It’s simply a beautiful song.”
  5. The Mavericks – “The Only Question Is” – Raul Malo absolutely kills it on “The Only Question Is.” His dynamic vocal range flourishes throughout the song and keeps the listener hooked from beginning to end. The cherry on top is the equally great instrumentation, from the piano throughout to the saxophone in the bridge. This song brilliantly blends country, rockabilly and jazz to produce one hell of a sound.
  6. Gretchen Peters – “When All You Got Is a Hammer” – Did I mention Peters’ album is dark? There are a lot of dark songs, but the darkest track on the album to me is “When All You Got Is a Hammer.” The song is about a soldier dealing with post dramatic stress disorder (PTSD) and how everything around him is pretty much hell. It’s a raw and honest song that tackles a tough subject.
  7. The Mavericks – “Fascinate Me” – This is another song on Mono where Raul Malo simply amazes me with his vocal control. Some people may consider this a boring song, but to me it’s the perfect romance song. Malo is pretty much seducing your ears with his voice. To me what made Mono even better than In Time was how the romantic, slow songs on Mono were better executed and did a better job of conveying emotion in the listener. Essentially “Fascinate Me” is what put this album over the top for me.
  8. American Aquarium – “Man I’m Supposed To Be” – As I said in my album review of Wolves: “This is followed by the reflective “Man I’m Supposed to Be,” a soft, statement song. Lead vocalist BJ Barham certainly relates to the song, just being just a singer always on the road doing what he loves, as well as the rest of the band of course. As he sings, “Never first, never last just somewhere in-between, that’s the man I’m supposed to be.” This is one of the highlights of Wolves for sure.”
  9. Aaron Watson – “Fence Post” – Aaron Watson’s new album The Underdog has certainly caused a lot of buzz in the last week, from reaching #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart to his run-in with radio shock jock Bobby Bones. And of course it’s a solid album too. The big highlight and real ear-catcher of the album is “Fence Post,” the first big country music protest song of the year. Watson basically spells out the bullshit in the country music industry and reflects on his own career. Sure the country protest song has become a little clichéd, but I’m still a sucker for them.
  10. The Mavericks – “All Night Long” – The Mavericks sit at the top of the list and round out the bottom. While “All Night Long” is the last on the list, it was the song that kicked off Mono and set the tone. You want to start off an album with a song that will hook you and this song does it within the first ten seconds. I find this song impossible to like and impossible to dance to. Plus it’s a good pick-me up after hearing Peters’ dark album.

(Note: Deciding the top four was very difficult to me. I consider them pretty much dead even. I just wanted to point this out.)

Honorable Mentions:

  • Aaron Watson – “Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song)” & “Freight Train”
  • The Western Swing Authority – “Rocket To The Moon”
  • Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires – “Mutineer” & “I Follow Rivers”
  • Jana Kramer – “I Got The Boy”
  • Love & Theft – “Everybody Drives Drunk”


Derek’s Top 10 Country Songs – February 2015


Two months into 2015, and we’ve had two months of great country music releases. I found February a bit easier to narrow down to ten song, but the music is still, nonetheless, fantastic. From singer songwriters to bands we have a multitude of country styles and songs. I have a diverse top ten list this month:

  1. “Jubilee” by Gretchen Peters – A beautiful song told from the point of view of someone on death’s bed. Reflecting back on what made life meaningful and looking onward with your head held high in acceptance, Peters knocks this one out of the park. “Jubilee” is not only, in my opinion, the best song off Blackbirds, but is also my favorite song of the month.
  2. “Out The Door” by The Mavericks – On an album chock full of energetic and unique productions, this song stands out with is old-school Doo-Wop melody. Even the more somber material of a broken love doesn’t bring down the fun groove of this song.
  3. “When All You Got is a Hammer” by Gretchen Peters – A rough song dealing with the horrors and anxiety that comes from PTSD. This song about a soldier returning home has great detailed writing with a nice, rocking beat that compliments the material well.
  4. “Slow Boat to China” by The Western Swing Authority – A love song about wanting to spend as much time as possible with the one you love. I applaud the band for taking an original approach to a love song. The vocals and melody shine on this track, not to mention a pleasing instrumental break in the song. My favorite off Now Playing.
  5. “Mutineer” by Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires – A love song told with pirate and maritime metaphors. What more can you ask for? I love the stripped down production of the song, and both vocal performances here are top-notch. The better offering off the two-song E.P Sea Songs.
  6. “What You Do to Me” by The Mavericks – Equally as fun and energetic as the other Mavericks’ song on this list, but a more light-hearted and positive love song.
  7. “52 Vincent Black Lightning” by Robert Earl Keen – This timeless song has been a favorite of mine ever since I first heard it a few years ago. An outlaw on a motorcycle falls for a girl, and leaves her his prized motorbike after his untimely death. A unique love story with great writing and rhyme schemes. Robert Earl Keen’s bluegrass rendition of Richard Thompson’s classic is well done here.
  8. “Blackbirds” by Gretchen Peters – The title track to Peters’ fantastic album cannot be overlooked. The intense guitar riffs combined with Gretchen Peters’ haunting vocal delivery and biting lyrics create a wonderfully dark, yet great murder ballad.
  9. Fence Post” by Aaron Watson – Songs that call out mainstream country are always a nice treat. The fearlessness and fun that Aaron Watson sings this song with are great. Watson is a true underdog, and he pulls no punches with this one. Plus, Watson does actual country spoken word on this song and not bogus R&B/Pop/Hip Hop spoken word.
  10. “Losing Side of Twenty Five” by American Aquarium – This is my favorite song off Wolves. As a man right around this age group, I like the way the story and life situations are presented in this song. It’s authentic and well told. Also, the guitar lick on this song is awesome.

That’s my top ten!  I’d love to hear some of your favorites from the month.