The Endless Music Odyssey, Vol. 6 — Reba, Keith Urban, Travis Tritt & more!

Reba McEntireRumor Has It (30th Anniversary Edition)

A classic album full of great love songs and heartbreakers with the iconic “Fancy” that I’m glad to see is getting a special anniversary release. If you’re a country fan and you haven’t heard this, you need to change this asap. One day I hope to give a full review of this album, along with many other past releases. Anyway, this anniversary edition comes with two new additions: a live version of “Fancy” and a Dave Audé remix of it. I want to talk about the latter, as once again Audé delivers a fun remix of a classic country song.

I know remixes aren’t exactly looked well upon by a lot of people in country music, but to me there’s everything to gain by releasing remixes of old country songs. At worst everybody ignores it and keeps listening to the original. But on the other hand you could entice a young listener who isn’t familiar with it to get into country music. Now some might argue this is the wrong way to get someone into country music through something that is sonically not country. But the biggest appeal for me in country music is the lyrics. “Fancy” is iconic because of the story, not the instrumentation. There are thousands of songs with the same sound as this remix and they remain ignored in a metaphorical music landfill. So if someone can find appeal in this remix of “Fancy,” I like to believe it’s because of the song itself.

Keith UrbanTHE SPEED OF NOW Part 1

You know this album starts out promising enough. Opening song “Out The Cage” has the kind of frenetic energy you want to open an album that grabs your attention. The P!nk duet “One Too Many” isn’t terrible, although a bit boring and run of the mill. “Live With” is actually quite enjoyable, as the chorus is catchy and has a good message about seeking a life that can be enjoyed. Not to mention the incorporation of Urban’s solid guitar work gives the song a needed punch. “Superman” is solid pop music with connectable imagery, even though the lyrics are a bit cliché.

With the exception of the nice collaboration with Eric Church on “We Were,” the rest of the album is quite vanilla and goes in one ear and out the other. In other words, what’s been the story for Urban on the last several albums. While the experimentation of Urban in his music was interesting at first, I think he’s well past due to get back to his roots and that’s guitar-driven music. But I don’t foresee this happening, as Urban seemingly got bored with this type of music. So since Urban seems hellbent on continuing the experimenting, here’s ultimately the biggest problem with it: it feels like he just wants to be the Ed Sheeran of country music.

Just like Sheeran in pop, Urban is trying to be everything to everybody and as the old saying goes, if you’re trying to please all, you’ll please none. I guess the most realistic ask I’m hoping from for Urban then is to pick a lane for an album and stick with it throughout. There’s just no constant theme with his albums anymore. It’s just jumping from one thing to the next and as an album listener I become frustrated quickly. Also two thoughts on “We Were.” First, there’s absolutely no need to have the non-Church version of the song. Second, I find it amusing a country artist adding a country artist to a song to make the sound more country to be hilarious. 4/10

Travis Tritt – “Ghost Town Nation”

I’ve quietly been waiting to see what comes of Travis Tritt’s team up with producer Dave Cobb on his new upcoming album and this is the first look. And I have to say I’m looking forward more to what’s in store. This is a great lead single that speaks to the divide between the rural people in towns across America and the media. The term “ghost town nation” is appropriate in this context as it reflects not only how small town America feels like everybody turns their noses up at them and that “there’s nothing there,” but also the loss of jobs and collapse of rural America due to the loss of manufacturing and other industries. If anybody can shine a spotlight on this divide in a way that’s articulate and gives insight to the issues faced by the average, small town American and their feelings of alienation, it’s Travis Tritt. 

NasKing’s Disease

You know I really wanted to enjoy this album. Nas is one of the all-time great rappers in the history of hip-hop and is required listening for anybody who has any kind of interest in the genre. But this album feels too same-y in so many spots and this makes for a tedious listen at times. Songs like “Ultra Black,” “All Bad” and “10 Points” are great, but in between these standout moments are songs that just don’t really stand out in terms of production or lyrics. Of course when you’ve set the bar as high as Nas has with previous albums, that undoubtedly hurts perception of new albums. While this is not a good album, it’s not bad either and it’s worth your time to spin through it once. 6/10

Aaron Frazer – “Bad News”

The fantastic drummer and falsetto vocalist for Durand Jones and the Indications teaming up with Easy Eye Sounds and Dan Auerbach is a combination that absolutely excites me on paper. Each have a foot solidly in the classic/throwback world while delivering lyrics that are modern and fresh. After hearing this enjoyably funky and soulful lead single, rest assured this debut album is one already on my radar for 2021. 

Texas HillTexas Hill EP

A brand new trio formed between Adam Wakefield, Casey James and Craig Wayne Boyd, I was intrigued by this grouping. Their obvious commonality of course is their backgrounds, as they each come from music competition shows. Each hasn’t really had the success as solo artists as I imagine they would prefer, so forming this trio is a pretty good idea. And I will say it’s clear right away their voices harmonize quite well together. Blending country, rock and soul, it’s a catchy sound too. They’ve said though they recorded a dozen songs together, so this EP is only a teaser of the full offering to come. So I’ll keep my comments on the vague side for now, as I want to hear the full project before offering my full thoughts. I’ll say this though: Texas Hill shows a lot of potential with these songs and I’m looking forward to hear what else they have in store. 

The Allman Betts BandBless Your Heart

This is a band on paper that is very much in the same vein of bands like Blackberry Smoke and The Wild Feathers. It’s a band I expect to enjoy, so I expected great things from this album. But there’s a big issue that prevents it from being enjoyable and that’s it’s runtime. There’s no reason why this album should be over an hour long. If you cut about 25 minutes from this album it would be a much better listen, but instead of this album concluding when it hits the sweet spot, it well overstays it’s welcome and makes me not want to revisit it. An undoubtedly talented band that fell into the trap a lot of younger acts fall into with albums. 6/10

JojiNectar

Once again this is another example of an album going way too long. Clocking in at just under an hour, there are multiple songs on this album that feel like a repetition of a previous song. Trim it down to around 30 minutes and this album would have gotten a full review and recommendation from me because Joji has a lot of great ideas, especially production-wise, throughout this album. “Ew” is a fantastically melancholy song about not feeling like enough in the wake of a breakup. “Tick Tock” and “Gimme Love” are absolute jams. Joji shows great introspection on “High Hopes” and “Mr. Hollywood” too. But unlike The Allman Betts Band, Joji’s longer than necessary runtime feels more like a major label trying to game streaming numbers. Despite my issues with this album though, Nectar is worth a listen if you’re into darker, “crying in the club” type R&B-influenced pop music. 6/10

Review – Craig Wayne Boyd’s “I’m Still Here”

CWB I'm Still Here

The start of 2015 for Craig Wayne Boyd looked bright and promising. He kicked off the year with his debut major label single, “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face,” which went #1 on the Hot Country songs chart on Billboard. Boyd was signed to Dot Records/Big Machine Label Group and everything looked just right for him. As I said in my review of that single though, it just didn’t sound like Boyd and I found the single to be completely forgettable. Radio felt the same, as the song was sent for adds and no radio stations were interested in it. It just felt off. Then throughout the spring there was no word on Boyd releasing another single nor an album release date. Many speculated he was kicked off the label, but nobody knew for sure. Then last week on The Voice Boyd performed his new single, “I’m Still Here.” After show it was put on iTunes and under the single information it said it was released under independent label, Long Haul Records.

This confirmed that Boyd was no longer with Dot Records. But did he leave on his own or was he kicked off the label? Boyd clarified this on Twitter with a fan, saying he “ask[ed] off of the label.” So it was a mutual decision between both parties. Deb Bose, aka Windmills Country, has a great writeup on Boyd’s situation over at MJ’s Big Blog that I highly recommend reading if you haven’t read it yet. She found a great quote from Scott Borchetta, who heads up Big Machine Label Group and Dot Records, from a few months back where he seems to be referring to Boyd in a radio interview. You can listen to the interview here. Around the 3:45 mark Borchetta says some artists are “unteachable, that they’re not going to get it, and you have to terminate the relationship, which is very hard to do.” It sounds like Boyd and Borchetta didn’t see eye-to-eye, which doesn’t surprise me at all. Boyd seems like a pretty genuine guy who wants to make actual country music, while Borchetta only cares about the almighty dollar. Borchetta probably pitched him some songs about dirt roads and tailgates and Boyd said no because he has standards (see why I love that song so much from Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers?).

So now Craig Wayne Boyd is a free man who can make the music he wants to make. Is his new single “I’m Still Here” better than “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face”? 100% yes. This is a complete 180 from the first single he released back in January. The song is about basically what just happened to him, as his recent departure from Dot absolutely influenced this song. He sings about how he’ll never stop performing and won’t ever give up. The hook of the song, “I’m still here,” could be viewed as some shade thrown towards Music Row, especially in light of the comment earlier this from former Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton, where he said if you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist. Boyd clearly exists and isn’t going anywhere. Performing this on The Voice in front of a national audience was a smart move on Boyd’s part, as it gains him more sympathy and you can tell he sang this song from his heart. The production is a little too polished and the theme is slightly broad, but it works well in this situation.

This new single from Boyd confirms that his previous single was a complete concoction from his label. Good on Boyd for getting out of Dot Records and making the music he wants to make. It’s further proof of what I’ve said before and that’s some country artists would be better off independent than on a major label. Sure by doing this you’re guaranteed not to be played on mainstream radio, but do you really want to be played on today’s mainstream country radio? In the long run fans will remember integrity over sales and radio play. “I’m Still Here” is a very good song that I recommend checking out and I’m definitely looking forward to hearing a new album from Boyd. Now that he’s free from being shackled creatively, Boyd is an artist to keep an eye on.

Grade: 8/10

 

The Hodgepodge: What Is Going To Happen to Mainstream Country Music Next?

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Over the last couple of weeks we’ve discussed right here in The Hodgepodge what I think is going to happen to mainstream country music next. Two weeks ago I discussed why mainstream country music is on a path of destruction and how decision-making now can have a huge impact on the future of the genre. This would lead to the mainstream country bubble popping. Last week I then discussed what the state of the genre would be like after that bubble popping and why I advocate for it to happen. So if you haven’t read those first two posts, read them before proceeding with this post.

This week I’m keeping it short in my opener because I want to hear more from you the readers on what you think of all of this. I want to know what you think will happen next in mainstream country music. Your guess is as good as mine. We’ve discussed in the past the genre splitting, something I pretty much ruled out happening for now. But maybe you feel different. Perhaps you think we’re on the cusp of another neo-traditional movement like in the mid-to-late 80s. Whatever you feel I want to know what you think is going to happen to country music in the next five to ten years. There are no wrong answers, as I’m pretty sure none of us own a crystal ball or time machine. And if I did have one of those I would be using it to get tomorrow’s lottery numbers.

So what is going to happen to country music next? Voice your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll be there waiting to discuss.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Roots/Rock artist Pat McGee is releasing a self-titled album next Tuesday. I’ll have a review on that one.
  • The bluegrass quartet Della Mae will be releasing a self-titled album next week. I’m not very familiar with this group, but my interested to hear what they have come up with on this new album.
  • Craig Wayne Boyd just released a new single, “I’m Still Here.” Thank you Ryan for brining this to my attention. For those unaware Boyd was kicked off his label Dot Records and is now with an independent label. You can definitely sense the emotions Boyd went through after being let go by Dot on this new single. I hope to have a review on this one soon.
  • A few weeks ago I forgot to mention that Canadian country artist Dean Brody released a new album titled Gypsy Road. It was on my radar, but with so many releases it slipped through the cracks. It’ll be reviewed by Ryan.
  • Brantley Gilbert is releasing a platinum edition of his 2014 album Just As I Am later this month to commemorate the one year anniversary of it. It includes eight new songs and no I am not reviewing it. We will review singles from it though. One interesting song in particular is a pro bro country song titled “Same Old Song.” That’s right pro. If it gets released as a single, it will be reviewed. If not it will be promptly ignored.
  • The Cadillac Three just released a new single titled “White Lightning.” No, it isn’t a cover of the iconic George Jones song. Based on one listen it sounds better than their previous singles. We hope to have a review on this one soon.
  • Ashley Monroe announced she will be releasing her sophomore album on July 24. No album name has been officially announced, but you can view the track list for it here. Vince Gill is once again producing, after being the producer for Monroe’s first album Like A Rose.

Throwback Thursday Song

Sturgill Simpson – “You Can Have The Crown/Some Days” – Simpson recored this live at the Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis, Indiana two years ago before he was heralded by everyone in the country music industry as the next big thing. These two songs mesh together perfectly. It’s still hard to believe how far he has come in just a couple of years. That third album can’t here quick enough.

Non-Country Music Recommendation of the Week

You see the name Lunchmoney Lewis and you’re thinking this guy isn’t much of a singer. But you’re dead wrong. He just came out with his debut EP Bills and some of you may be familiar with the lead single of the same name. Lewis is one of the charismatic hip hop artists I’ve heard in some time. He brilliantly combines hip hop and R&B in this EP, while also mixing in some great humor. The horn production and piano play is stout too. If you’re going to listen to pop music, this is an artist worth checking out.

Tweet of the Week

I see nothing wrong with this meme. Keep our highways clean! By the way if you’re not following Farce the Music yet you’re doing it wrong.

An iTunes Review That Will Make You Smile

iTunes Hero Slams FGL

This week instead of jeering an idiot iTunes reviewer, let’s applaud an iTunes reviewer doing it right. This was under Florida Georgia Line’s album Anything Goes. Bravo to you sir or madam for this nice little takedown of a terrible album. Usually they’re compared to Nickelback (the comment above this one did this), but an N’Sync and New Kids on the Block comparison works too.

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments! 

Review – Craig Wayne Boyd’s “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face”

CWB

In 2014 it became pretty obvious that country music is the most popular genre in music. The popularity of bro country shot it into mainstream and the incorporation of pop elements has allowed the genre to remain in the mainstream conscious. Why else do you think Jason Aldean and Sam Hunt had such big years last year? Another thing that has benefitted from the increase of popularity of country music is music talent shows. Whether it was American Idol, The Voice or that new music show on ABC that I’ve completely forgotten about with Brad Paisley, country music artists have done pretty good on it in recent years. Just look at all of The Voice alumni I’ve reviewed on the site (Gwen Sebastian, RaeLynn, The Swon Brothers, etc).

One problem though that everyone notices is that after the show these artists drops off the face of the earth. One minute they’re in the spotlight and next they’re just another artist struggling to make it. I thought these shows are supposed to make stars? Other than Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, almost all of the other winners disappear after the show. Several months after finishing runner-up on season six of The Voice, Jake Worthington has yet to release any new music. How is this show beneficial to him again? Well the people at The Voice finally wised up for season seven as the finalists all performed and released an original song at the end of the show’s season. This is great for the artists, as it will help them springboard into the “real world” of music.

Today I take a look at season seven winner Craig Wayne Boyd’s single “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face.” Now I no longer watch The Voice, but I do monitor it just to make sure I don’t miss anyone interesting. It’s a good thing too because Boyd is certainly interesting. Just like Worthington he played a lot of traditional country music throughout the season (Cash, Haggard, Strait) and also paid tribute to fallen outlaw singer Wayne Mills (who mentored both Boyd and Blake Shelton early in their careers). Boyd isn’t some fresh face either. He has toured around the country and opened for big acts such as Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and Brantley Gilbert. So don’t worry, Boyd has “paid his dues.”

Boyd’s new single “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face” isn’t terrible nor is it great. The instrumentation is certainly solid. It plays right into Boyd’s wheelhouse of a rock country feel (with a few fiddles thrown in) while also being friendly enough for soccer moms. It goes perfectly with the radio friendly, upbeat lyrics that are borderline milquetoast. This song is very safe and doesn’t take any chances. It’s definitely going for a universal feel that appeals to a wide swath of listeners. I’m neither offended nor impressed, although after a few listens it makes me sleepy. It’s just another song to me.

While this will have no bearing on the grade, I have to say something about the music video. Specifically I want to bring up the casting of the woman in it. She looks like she’s around my age and yet she is supposed to be Boyd’s “baby” in it. For reference, Boyd is in his mid-30s. She passes more for his daughter than girlfriend/wife. This comes off as a little creepy and off-putting, a sentiment shared by many in the videos’ comments too.

Nevertheless this song is doing what it’s supposed to do and that’s get Boyd noticed by the country music audience. It shot up to #1 on the Billboard Hot Country chart in the first week of January. It has since fallen out of the top 25 completely, but still not many artists can claim to have a #1 song and I’m sure it brought him some new fans in the process. I think Boyd is capable of producing great music that is certainly much higher in quality than this single. “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face” is just an average showing that I’ll probably forget about a month from now.

Grade: 4.5/10