Country Perspective’s Best of Country & Americana Music – January 2016

January 2016

Welcome to the revamped and improved monthly best of lists from Country Perspective. Last year Derek and myself would each pick the top ten songs of each month and then write something about each of them. By the end of the year I felt like the feature was getting stale. With the addition of Zack this year, I realize putting out three different playlists would be overkill. Not to mention there’s so much good music that can be released each month that it can be hard to choose just ten songs. So I went to the drawing board and came up with some tweaks to make it better. Now each month we will have one post where all three of us share our thoughts on the music that was released and some of our favorites. Below that will be a Spotify playlist of all the songs we enjoyed. If you’re a fan of Spotify and use it, we have good news as we now have a Country Perspective Spotify page. You can check it out and subscribe here. So let’s talk about the month of January!

Josh

There was certainly plenty of music to enjoy this month. Many people think January is a dead month for new music, but I learned last year that this stereotype is wrong. Once again this is proven to be true. One of the most anticipated releases of the month was Randy Rogers Band’s Nothing Shines Like Neon and it certainly lived up to my expectations. I think this group has found their perfect niche and that’s an early 90s, neo-traditional sound along the lines of Strait and Jackson. A softer sound suits them over trying to rock hard like some of their fellows Texas country artists. “Old Moon New” and “Neon Blues” were the songs that really stood out to me on this album. Aubrie Sellers delivered big with her debut album New City Blues. It’s getting near universal praise for its garage country sound that is diverse and engaging. It’s an album you need to hear if you haven’t yet. I find it hard to pick a favorite from it, but if I had to choose one it would be the “Dreaming In The Day” with its spacey production.

Outside of these two big releases, there were some really enjoyable singles put out by both mainstream and independent artists. Jennifer Nettles’ “Unlove You” is very much in the same vein of Cam’s “Burning House.” Mary Fletcher’s “I Called Him Dad” showed how to properly write a memorial song for a deceased loved one. Andrew Pope impressed me with his new single “Stormchaser.” Brothers Osborne put out a decent debut album in Pawn Shop that featured enough solid tunes that keep me optimistic about their future. And The Cactus Blossoms dazzled me with their throwback sound on their new album.

Derek

I’d say that January has been a strong start to country music this year. Nothing Shines Like Neon not only brought Randy Rogers Band back to their truest form, but gave fans some great country songs from the album. From the heartbreak song of “Neon Blues” to reinvigorating love in “Old Moon New,” Randy Rogers Band put a fresh spin on old stories. The Brothers Osborne’s debut album was rather average, but a song like “Heart Shaped Locket” showcased the duo’s full potential as a musical act. Aubrie Sellers’ New City Blues introduced us to an impressive garage country style of music with an album of many great, well written songs. “Losing Ground” was the song that stood out to me the most from New City Blues.

Established artists released some well-written songs detailing their struggles of moving on. Jennifer Nettles’ soaring “Unlove You” and Will Hoge’s subdued, quiet “Through Missing You” took different approaches to heartbreak, but both singers carry the story with confidence. Sierra Hull’s bluegrass album Weighted Mind featured song after song of beautiful vocals and impressive instrumentation, but the heartbreaking “Birthday” finds Hull having difficulty getting over a failed relationship.

Zack

The month of January definitely brought about a fine start to 2016. With new releases from Randy Rogers Band, Brothers Osborne, Aoife O’Donovan, and Aubrie Sellers, I certainly think the bar has been set for this year. Here’s my favorite music from this month.

My favorite album this month was the debut effort from Aubrie Sellers, and honestly it wasn’t even close. The combination of edgy rockers like “Paper Doll” combined with softer tracks such “Like The Rain” fuse to make one hell of a debut effort. You can waste time saying how much she sounds like her mother, but with her “garage country” sound, we have an artist who isn’t afraid to be herself and show the world who she is. Another album that I thoroughly enjoyed was Aoife O’Donovan’s “In The Magic Hour. I still want to review this album, and it may come soon, but for now I’ll tell you that Aoife’s divine, almost ghostly voice fits the melancholy vibe of these tracks like a glove. If you don’t believe me, then just check out “Stanley Park,” “Hornets,” and “The King Of All Birds.” Another album that I thought was seriously underrated was Randy Rogers Band’s “Nothing Shines Like Neon.” The major complaint I saw with this album was that it didn’t go “deep” enough. With tracks such as “Old Moon New”, and “Look Out Yonder” combined with nice mature love songs such as “Rain and The Radio” and “Meet Me Tonight” I thought there was certainly a lot to enjoy here.

Review – Andrew Pope’s “Stormchaser”

Andrew Pope Stormchaser

Throughout 2015 Country Perspective came across a lot of young and promising country artists. It’s always exciting to come across an unknown artist who is making a name for themselves and shows a lot of potential. I expect 2016 to be no different, as already rising country artists are making their presence known. One of them is Andrew Pope. Out of Geraldine, Alabama, he signed to MillTown Records in 2012 and released his debut album later that year. And you know it’s pretty eye-catching when a country icon like Bobby Bare calls you “the future of country music.” When you see this kind of endorsement, it’s certainly intriguing. So I gave a listen to Pope’s brand new single “Stormchaser.” While I won’t go as far to call Pope the future of country music, I could tell within the first 30 seconds of this song that Pope is one talented artist.

“Stormchaser” opens with some soft, pedal steel guitar before Pope begins to sing. The song is about a man who caught his woman in bed with another man. The pain from this is coming on for him and compares it to a storm rolling in. He sees the clouds rolling in and expects to be struck by lightning. But instead of being down about it, he’s embracing it with open arms, as he says he’s addicted “to the sound” of the storm coming in. He’s used to it, as he aptly describes himself as a stormchaser. The pain of heartbreak has become such a normal thing to him. The songwriting is really simple, yet really effective. By comparing heartbreak to a thunderstorm, it gives the listener a pretty clear idea and allows them to easily connect with it. That soft pedal steel guitar that begins the song lingers throughout and flows well with the theme of the song.

This song and Pope’s voice is very much in the same vein of Chris Stapleton and even a little bit like fellow Alabama country artist Jamey Johnson. Pope’s voice is just naturally made to sing about country music. It’s warm, inviting and feels so familiar even upon your very first listen. “Stormchaser” is the type of song you would hear on country radio right now if country music had “evolved” properly. Of course with the success of Stapleton, maybe we’ll be hearing more songs like this on it. This would certainly be great news for Andrew Pope, who shows a lot of promise with this song. It definitely makes me want to hear more from this promising young artist and someone who you need to hear for yourself. “Stormchaser” is a solid, traditionally based heartbreak ballad that any true country fan can listen to and enjoy.

Grade: 9/10