Album Review – Saints Eleven’s ‘Coming Back Around’

saints-eleven

Saints Eleven are a Red Dirt/Texas country group based out of Dallas, Texas. They’re a group who takes influences from Americana, folk, blues, bluegrass, rock and country in their music. An experienced group of the scene, they pride themselves on making authentic music and shun the polished sounds of pop country. Not to mention they tour relentlessly through their home state. The band is up of founding member Jeff Goodman (lead singer and guitarist), co-founder Jeff Mosley (upright and electric bass) and Alex Shepherd (drums and percussion). Recently they’ve released their third studio album Coming Back Around, which they teamed up with veteran producer Walt Wilkins to make. And they certainly stay true to their sound.

Right away you get a taste of this group’s rustic, no-nonsense approach to music on songs like “My Heart” and the album’s title track. The fiddles sound particularly great on the latter song and multiple other tracks on the album. It’s a real strong suit of the group. While I enjoy the instrumentation of “Heartbreak Songs,” it feels ten minutes long when it’s just a tick above four minutes. “Sunday Drive” is about approaching life with a more positive attitude, in spite of the obvious bad in the world. The twangy guitars give the song some real character. Saints Eleven cover the Buck Owens’ classic “Cryin’ Time” really well. It fits this group’s sound like a glove, not to mention it fits with the rest of the album. Who doesn’t enjoy a good old country song like this one?

The group sings of a man finding his way home on “Almost Home.” He promises to his family he’ll be home soon and promises to make this situation worthwhile in the end. This road lifestyle is something many artists have to put their family through, so I imagine this coming from a pretty real place. The best track on the album is definitely “Let Them Go.” It’s a song about a husband and father’s struggle with alcohol addiction, refusing to give up the bottle. Despite trying to go clean, he vows he won’t stop until he’s dead and that’s exactly what happens. The excellent Courtney Patton joins in on this song too and sounds great with Goodman. The album closes with “The Same,” a song about a couple getting away and changing things up. Despite the change in scenery, they vow to stay together and stay the same people. The smooth steel guitar makes this song really infectious and really puts a nice cap on the album.

Overall Coming Back Around is a good album from Saints Eleven. The end of the album closes particularly strong. They’re a group that knows their sound well, which is certainly popular in their neck of the woods. The instrumentation is definitely a strong suit of this group. I would have liked to have heard more variety overall on this album though, as at times some of the songs can kind of blend together. Goodman is certainly a talented vocalist and his voice has distinctive character. Coming Back Around will certainly appeal to those looking for solid Texas country music.

Grade: 7/10

 

Recommend? – If you enjoy Texas country, yes

Album Highlights: Let Them Go (feat. Courtney Patton), The Same, Almost Home, Cryin’ Time, The Heart

Bad Songs: None

Wallpaper: Heartbreak Songs, For Those That Came


Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year Nominees

A great song is a complete package. Poetic, thoughtful lyrics that evoke emotion and reaction from the listener, a fitting production that amplifies the emotions, and a vocal delivery that drives the feelings straight to the heart of the listener. Happy, sad, positive, negative, it doesn’t matter. Songs are great because the reactions they draw from the listener and not because they sold so many copies or charted for a certain number of weeks. The nominees for Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year all touched Josh or myself in some fashion. These are the songs that we connected with over the course of the year; the songs that most impacted us.

Ultimately, Josh and I will determine the song of the year from this list of finalists. However, we will take reader opinion and feedback into consideration when it comes time to determine the winner. So I encourage you to comment below and share your thoughts. If we left your favorite song off this list, that doesn’t necessarily mean we hated the song. There’s a ton of music released every year, and we had to cap the final list at some point.

For your listening convenience, I’ve complied all the songs into one Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Song of the Year Nominees (in alphabetical order)

  • “The Bird Hunters” by Turnpike Troubadours“The song tells an intriguing love story that I’m sure many could connect with. And not only are the lyrics good, but also the fiddles are loud and proud too.” The way in which the story is told is not an easy achievement; “The Bird Hunters” is a well structured story with an excellent country production.
  • “Burning House” by Cam –  The lone acoustic melody on the introduction combined with the opening line of “I had a dream about a burning house” sets the mood perfectly for the sadness to come. The phrase “less is more” couldn’t be more relevant to “Burning House.” The simplicity of the three instruments allows the listener room to breathe and focus on the story.
  • “Clean Up on Aisle Five” by Mo Pitney – The steel guitar and fiddle return, as their featured prominently throughout the song. While the traditional approach is great, it’s really Pitney’s voice that leads the song. The instrumentation is great, but it’s kept quieter allowing his voice to shine…The lyrics really do an excellent job of conveying the feelings of the situation. It’s a real gut punch to anyone who’s experienced this, as it’s easy to connect with.
  • “David” by Cody Jinks – The man talks about all of the memories and how they grew up into different people, but still as things change, the more they stay the same. Up until the halfway point of this song, the listener will think this is just a nostalgia tune. But instead it takes a tragic turn; something the listener will feel when it happens. Jinks’ storytelling chops in this song are fantastic.
  • “Diners” by The Lone Bellow – The lead vocals on this song are spectacular and really set the emotion. The setting of this song takes place in a diner late at night where a man laments letting love, using comparisons to jukeboxes. And of course the harmonies are stellar again.
  • “El Dorado” by Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – ““El Dorado” is a cowboy ballad that puts you in a Western state of mind. From the instrumentation arrangement to the vocals of Bowen and Rogers to the lyrics, the song does a great job of creating a Western feeling in the listener.” From the instrumentation to the lyrics and vocals, “El Dorado” is the whole package.
  • “Guitar or a Gun”  by Will Hoge – “Guitar or a Gun” tells “the story of a teenager deciding between buying a guitar or a gun unresolved. The comparisons drawn between the two and the pictures painted about the life that would come from them are excellent.”
  • “Jubilee” by Gretchen Peters – 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.
  • “Just Like Them Horses” by Reba McEntire – This is the song that Reba sang at her fathers funeral. What a beautiful song…lyrically and vocally. I can’t imagine how a live performance of this song would affect other’s emotions because hearing this song gives me goosebumps. It’s well-written and Reba’s voice makes this song so emotive and heart wrenching.
  • “Just Some Things” by Jamie Lin Wilson (feat. Wade Bowen) – A heartbreaking song about two lovers both in an affair. The duo sing the respective parts of the cheaters, who both regret and feel distressed after betraying the ones they love. As hard as they wish things could be different, they know what they did was wrong and can’t be undone. 
  • “One More Hell” by Hailey Whitters – A song written in the wake of her brother’s death, the song details how she wishes to raise one more hell with him before going to heaven. The lyrics are painfully honest with the first verse essentially ripped out of her personal diary. I applaud the brutal honesty in the lyrics because that’s what makes the story connect.
  • “Record Year” by Eric Church – “Record Year” is about a man who has just broken up with his girlfriend and turns to his vinyl collection to heal his heart. While he plays these records he slowly heals and not only gets over his heartbreak, but also rediscovers himself and some great music along the way. More than anything it’s a song about finding your way in life when things are at your darkest. When Church releases this as a single (it has to be a single), I predict it will be the biggest hit of his career and will go down as one of his signature songs. This is a special song that hits a home run in every department.
  • “Roses By The Dozen” by Jamie Lin Wilson – As Josh praised in his top ten post: “Roses By The Dozen” is a chilling murder ballad that gave me goosebumps on the first listen. It’s not completely obvious the wife in the song murdered her husband until midway through the song, but when that obvious moment emerges it blows the listeners’ minds.
  • “So This is Life” by Courtney Patton – Youthful dreams of fairytale marriages are abandoned as a young mother and father work to make ends meet. As time goes on and more children are in the picture, he works long days and she’s left to tend to the home and all the chaos of raising children. It’s not the life either of them planned, and when separately dealing with this life has taken its toll, divorce is the only answer they find. It’s a heartbreaking song, but so vividly told and sung by Courtney Patton.
  • “Something More Than Free” by Jason Isbell – The album’s title track to me is the crown jewel of the record. From Isbell’s soaring vocals to the poetic lyrics to the instrument arrangement, this song has everything I want in a country song. Isbell sings of being thankful for the work and how he strives to get something more than free. It’s a beautiful song.
  • “Standards” by Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen – It’s rightly being praised too, as it’s a brilliant country music protest song…..What makes this one so great though is the fact that it’s not in your face, but rather has a matter of fact, cool attitude. A country label big wig tries to get Bowen and Rogers to record a song about a dirt road, but they refuse at his every attempt because it’s just not for them. As they say, “I don’t have hits, I’ve got standards,” a statement that means so much.
  • “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” by Whitey Morgan – Everything in this song works so well together that I liken it to a well-oiled machine. You couldn’t make it any better. The punctuating moment of this song is when Whitey croons out, “Well I’m still drunk, still blue, I’m still all fucked up over you/I’m still stoned, I’m still alone.” It really helps paint the picture of a heartbroken man drinking himself silly. It may seem like a simple song, but the emotions and instrumentation really make this song special.
  • “When I Stop Dreaming” by Don Henley (feat. Dolly Parton) – “Both bring out the absolute best in each other. Dolly’s vocals are goose-bump inducing and this isn’t hyperbole. This is one you just need to sit down and hear for yourself because I can’t do it justice.” A duet that sends goosebumps down your spine.
  • “Whiskey & You” by Chris Stapleton – Stapleton’s recording is the best. It’s not just because he wrote the song too. It’s the fact that Stapleton delivers the emotion of this song so much better than those two. He does this by stripping this song down completely and only using an acoustic guitar for instrumentation, allowing his voice to tell the story of the song. It’s raw and grips your attention from start to finish. Stapleton absolutely nails this song.

Album Review – Courtney Patton’s ‘So This Is Life’ Shines a Light on Relationship’s Darker Corners

Courtney Patton is still relatively new to the country music scene, but she’s made a quick impact. Her simple, observant writing steeped in descriptive, effective imagery as earned herself a large fan base. Her musical arrangements are simple, yet beautiful; relying on an acoustic guitar, fiddles, and a steel guitar. As Courtney told Ken Morton Jr. Country music to me is simple stories with beautiful words with a simple melody and beautiful arrangement.” Patton’s follow up to her 2013 debut album, Triggering a Flood, comes after a time of life’s changes. Her parents have divorced and remarried others, and Patton herself has gotten married to fellow Texas singer/songwriter Jason Eady. The varying emotions that stem from those events make their way into the songs on Courtney Patton’s new album So This Is Life.

The album starts off with the heartbreaker “Little Black Dress.” The violins are present along with Patton’s acoustic guitar. The song’s subject packs a black dress and prepares for a night on the town, hoping to find some comfort in the arms of a stranger. Maybe she’s hoping to fall in love; maybe she’s hoping not to attach feelings to the one night with him. Regardless, the night ends with her alone, after he leaves, feeling heart-broken. “War of Art” feels a bit more personal. In this song, Patton wrestles with the conflicting desires of being a stay at home mother/wife and fueling her passion for playing music on the road. The steel guitar and accompanying production give the song a feeling of forward movement, giving her internal debates a slight sense of urgency.

“Her Next Move” deals with a woman who vies for attention from her husband. She consistently threatens to leave town and end the relationship, but her constant game of crying wolf no longer worries her husband, as he knows she’ll never act on her words. One night stands are the explored again in “Need for Wanting.” Here a woman is alone in the bar conversing with a man. She knows the man’s intentions, as she says “you look like a lesson I learned long ago.” This country ballad makes it clear that if they do end the night together, it’s nothing more than that night.

Relationships of a husband away from his wife are explored in the next two songs. “Twelve Days” is a song Patton wrote early in her marriage with Eady. The traveling musician is back on the road and the listener hears the wife’s side of their many conversations. From her telling about her local show, to asking if he brought his coat for the cold northern weather. It’s a beautiful song of a wife coping alone while she misses her husband, and both Josh and myself included this on our lists of best songs from June. On the flip side, “Killing Time” deals with a husband who is carted off to jail for stealing money. This is a more upbeat country song where the husband knows he has screwed up, and she’s left waiting for his sentence to end.

Courtney Patton sings of a woman who messed up in the relationship on “Maybe It’s You.” This woman left her man for a little bit and feels guilty about her actions. It could be the actions themselves that cause the feelings, or it could be the comfort at home and forgiveness from her husband. The simple production of the acoustic guitar and slight percussion and violins work wonderfully on this song. Another late night rendezvous is the subject of “Sure Am Glad.” This mid-tempo song finds both the man and the woman sleepless in their own homes. They both are lonely and vulnerable, and while his knock on her door was unexpected, his arrival is welcome.

The title track is a brutally honest exploration of how life can disrupt relationships. Youthful dreams of fairytale marriages are abandoned as a young mother and father work to make ends meet. As time goes on and more children are in the picture, he works long days and she’s left to tend to the home and all the chaos of raising children. It’s not the life either of them planned, and when separately dealing with this life has taken its toll, divorce is the only answer they find. It’s a heartbreaking song, but so vividly told and sung by Courtney Patton. “So This Is Life” is why people refer to country music as three chords and the truth.

The theme of loveless marriage continues on the next few songs. “Battle These Blues” deals with a husband who drinks too much and stays out too late. A common subject for females in country music, and the woman in the song is left heartbroken, unsure of how to handle this season of life. However, “Where I’ve Been” finds the woman of the marriage being the night owl. Life at home isn’t pretty, and she feels unloved by her husband. In order to fill the hole in heart he can’t, she takes to the nightlife, presumably being unfaithful. Though she’ll be ready to drop this lifestyle when he’s ready to begin again, as long as he doesn’t ask where she’s been. Finally, the album ends with “But I Did,” a song that feels like a Courtney Patton autobiography. It’s song that details the values she’s inherited from her parents while having her own free spirit. She’s always been a dreamer with a love for playing music who follows her dreams with blind faith.

So This Is Life couldn’t have a more appropriate album title. The songs detail relationships of all kinds: happy and sad marriages and temporary flings with strong women and weaker women. It’s a personal album where Courtney Patton has dug into her soul with a few songs that could be direct snapshots from her life. These songs are delivered with eloquent lyrics and vivid images and a vocal delivery that matches each mood beautifully. The musical arrangements, as beautiful as they are, sometimes drag the album. There’s a bit of monotony among some of the songs’ productions. So This Is Life is a songwriters album: the focus is on the stories that Patton has penned. It’s a darker album simply because it tosses a spotlight on real moments that most would want to avoid in songs. However, country music’s legacy wouldn’t be what it is without songs like the ones found here. Courtney Patton’s So This Is Life is real; it’s honest; and it’s as heartbreaking as it is beautiful.

Grade: 8/10

Josh’s Top Ten Country Songs – June 2015

June 2015

Was it just me or did June feel like it was a long month? It feels like ages since the beginning of June. Anyway the month of June for country music releases was certainly an interesting one. At the beginning of the month two legends released a stellar album. Then an urban cowboy out of nowhere released one of my favorite albums of the year. A critical darling released her sophomore album and another talented female country artist captured critics’ attentions with her new album too. And On The Verge finally chose a song I like to push on their program. It was this music that helped distract from all of the mediocre and forgettable releases from mainstream country music. So without further ado the very best ten songs from country music in the month of June 2015.

  1. Sam Outlaw – “Ghost Town” – I know Sam Outlaw’s debut album Angeleno isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But dammit does it resonate with me. I find Angeleno to be one of the most intriguing albums of the year for daring to make Countrypolitan music. One song though I’ve found that everyone liked off of it was “Ghost Town.” It tells a great story with the perfect haunting vibe that hooks you right into the song.
  2. Courtney Patton – “So This Is Life” – I’m going to admit that I don’t love Courtney Patton’s new album So This Is Life as much as everyone else seems to like it. But that’s because this is a “grower” album to my ears. It’s an album you have to listen to several times until you fully appreciate it. So if you ask me a month from now what I think of it, I’ll probably say I love it. I was the same way with Jamie Lin Wilson’s album and Willie and Merle’s too. But one song I did love from the first listen was the title track. It’s a painfully honest song about life and dreams. Not to mention the brilliant instrumentation that sets the tone of the song perfectly.
  3. Courtney Patton – “Twelve Days” – Again this was another song from So This Is Life that immediately caught my ears. The song is about being married to a husband who is always out on the road and the pain of having to live away from each other all the time. Patton of course is relating to her own life, as she’s married to fellow alt-country artist Jason Eady. Patton, just like Eady, really gets how to sell the emotion of darker and sadder songs. “Twelve Days” exemplifies this.
  4. Kacey Musgraves – “Good Ol’ Boys Club” – I know it’s another country protest song. But the timing of this song is absolutely perfect. This song was needed after the debacle of #SaladGate. It’s an honest, straight-forward, to the point song that makes me chuckle and nod my head in sad resignation at the current state of country music radio. It was easily one of the standouts for me on Musgraves’ great new album Pageant Material.
  5. Sam Outlaw – “Who Do You Think You Are?” – This is the opening song on Angeleno and this song is the perfect opener to the album. It’s a love song with a breezy, carefree attitude that quite frankly is missing from a lot of country love songs nowadays. Most are too serious or too light, but this one feels just right.
  6. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – “Missing ‘Ol Johnny Cash” – Two legends remembering the memory of another. Hipsters nowadays love to claim Cash as a rock artist, but when it comes down to it Cash is a country artist first and foremost. Willie and Merle knew him better than a lot of people, so their homage to him in this song is something special. Not to mention the hilarious anecdote at the end of the song about Cash’s casket prank. This was one of many songs on Django and Jimmie that proved these two legends still got it.
  7. Kacey Musgraves – “Pageant Material” – The title track of Kacey Musgraves’ new album just felt like the perfect song for her. To me it’s the first song where I felt like we got a song where Kacey was referring to herself rather than others. In other words, it felt personal. It also has a great message of doing things the way you want to do it, damn the conformities society tries to put you in.
  8. Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” – Only these two could make a light-hearted, almost funny song about getting out of a relationship.
  9. Cam – “Burning House” – Okay I bent the rules a little by including this song. It was officially available for purchase in the spring and officially goes for adds in July. But then again I make the rules for this, so I’m going to break them once. Besides it was announced for On The Verge this month and that’s close enough. This haunting song about a deteriorating relationship is the exact type of song Cam needed to garner the attention to become a star. I hope this song is a big hit, as it would bring not only another worthy female artist to the forefront, but also more quality music.
  10. Sam Outlaw – “I’m Not Jealous” – Outlaw’s third appearance rounds out my top ten list for this month. It’s a cheating song with a different twist. Instead of the man being jealous or angry about finding out his woman is cheating on him, instead he’s embarrassed for her. He knows it’s making her look worse, not him, so why get angry about it? This is the kind of sensibility missing in cheating songs.

 

Honorable Mentions

  • Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – “Somewhere Between” & “Swinging Doors”
  • Kacey Musgraves – “Dime Store Cowgirl” & “Somebody To Love”
  • Sam Outlaw – “Hole Down In My Heart” & “Angeleno”
  • Dale Watson – “Jonesin’ For Jones” & “Burden of the Cross”
  • Courtney Patton – “War of Art”
  • Easton Corbin – “Like A Song”

 

Derek’s Top Ten Country Songs – June 2015

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I’ve just come to the conclusion that 2015 will continue to be a great year for country music behind the curtain of Nashville’s rollout of non-country pop and R&B wave. The first half of the year has been incredible with great album released after great album, and June continued the trend. You can also expect the trend to continue into July and the fall as the upcoming releases appear to be just as good as what’s been released thus far. The return of a few legends who continue to release consistently great country music, a new country cowboy, and two great albums from two great female singers and songwriters. June had it all!

  1. “So This Is Life” – Courtney Patton – Brutal honesty of a woman who dreamed of fairy tale life, only to end up a young stay-at-home mother dealing with daily struggles of chaos at home and a husband who works long days. “So This Is Life” explores how life’s hard times takes its toll on her; the song deals with rolling with the punches of life, especially if it isn’t a life you ever dreamed of living. Unfortunately, the reality is sadder and tougher than the dream. This gut-punching honesty of life is country music at its core, and Courtney Patton’s vocals set the mood perfectly.
  2. “Unfair Weather Friend” – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Not to be all dark and morbid here, but Django and Jimmie felt like a swan song album for Willie and Merle as a duo. That’s not to say they’re going to stop making music, but the nostalgia and odes to friendship and life in many of the album’s songs give off a feeling of celebrating a long life. No song is more evident of this than “Unfair Weather Friend.” Beautifully written and delivered by the two legends.
  3. “Twelve Days” – Courtney Patton – Patton wrote this song about her husband, Jason Eady, being out on the road while she’s at home. While never explicitly mentioned, the song feels quite like an autobiography, and details how she survives at home alone. She misses her husband and wishes he could be there to share her experiences, and she worries about him. It’s a poignant feeling of great love while missing that person.
  4. “Ghost Town” – Sam Outlaw – The smooth Countrypolitan sounds of Sam Outlaw may feel a little too polished at times, but in “Ghost Town,” it works wonderfully. Josh said it best in his review of Angeleno: What makes it so great is how the instrumentation, lyrics and Outlaw’s vocals just go together perfectly. It’s a song about a guy on the road trying to get back home and passing through ghost towns. The past of both the towns and the guy are reflected on throughout the song, giving the song a haunting feeling.
  5. “Fine”/”Are You Sure” – Kacey Musgraves feat. Willie Nelson – “Fine” is a breath of fresh air from Kacey Musgraves. Hearing her sing of a broken heart and missing someone is a nice change, and “Fine” is a well written song with a great vocal performance to match. Add in the hidden track of Willie Nelson’s “Are You Sure” that Kacey was able to sing with the man himself. This double shot of country music was a great conclusion to Pageant Material.
  6. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – When you take one of the best folk songwriters of all time and let two country music legends record the song, you’re bound for something special. The smooth country production is great, and the vocals from Willie and Merle are wonderful on this Bob Dylan song of a rambling man leaving his woman and urging her to not follow after him.
  7. “Burden of the Cross” – Dale Watson –  Another song that feels autobiographical. Watson sings of a roadside cross that was left after an accident took the life of the one he loves. When the highway is expanded, the cross is taken away, leaving Watson to replace it once the road work is done. Dale Watson lost his fiancé in a car accident, so it’s easy to deduce how a song like this comes from a more emotional place from the singer songwriter. Burden of the Cross” is the type of song country music was built on, and it’s the best song off Call Me Insane.
  8. “Pageant Material” – Kacey Musgraves – Kacey details how she isn’t a “girly girl” so to speak. She isn’t the kind of girl who’s going to act in a way if she isn’t feeling it. It’s as much of Kacey celebrating her individuality as it is calling out the pageant world and the girls who are objectified and expected to act a certain way, regardless of circumstances. I especially love this lyric: “it ain’t that I don’t care about world peace, but I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage.
  9. “Country Love Song” – Sam Outlaw – The road has taken its toll on Sam Outlaw, and while he wishes to see his love again, the love letters aren’t working. He wishes to send his love a country love song and make her see how much he loves and misses her. The production builds nicely through the song and layers the sorrow behind Sam Outlaw’s emotional vocals.
  10. “Live This Long” – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Another song from Django and Jimmie that celebrates the life of Willie and Merle. Together they sing of the wild times they had and the trouble they got into. The duo caps it off with the reflective line “We’d have taken much better care of ourselves if we’d known we we’re gonna live this long.”  The honesty imbedded in the lyrics are wonderful.

Honorable Mentions:

  • “Call Me Insane” & “Jonesin’ For Jones” by Dale Watson
  • “Good Ole Boys Club” & “Late For the Party” by Kacey Musgraves
  • “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” by Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard
  • “I’m Not Jealous” by Sam Outlaw
  • “Heaven Is Close” by A Thousand Horses

Listen to my top ten in the Spotify playlist below.  And as always, I’d love to hear your top ten from June!