David Nail Appears To Be Released From UMG Nashville

nail

Late Wednesday night many started to notice that David Nail was missing from UMG Nashville’s roster page on their website. As you can see here, he’s no longer listed and appears to be done with the label. Giving further credence to this is an ominous tweet Nail sent out on Tuesday night:

I have reached out to UMG Nashville to officially confirm his status and will update this post when they or Nail provide official confirmation. If Nail is indeed done with the label, the move is not entirely surprising. Nail’s most recent single “Good At Night” failed to even crack top 50 at country radio, peaking at #52. Previous single “Night’s on Fire” reached #14 on the charts, but it took nearly a year to reach this spot. Nail hasn’t had a major hit since 2013 with #1 song “Whatever She’s Got” and his last hit before this was in 2011 with #1 hit “Let It Rain.” Radio has basically left him in the dust and UMG Nashville ran out of patience with him essentially, so they cut him loose.

It’s especially disappointing to see after his latest album Fighter released last year was good and was one of the best album releases by a major label country artist in 2016. But this is life on a major label: you either produce or you lose your spot. If you’re a David Nail fan, don’t be too disappointed by this as I expect Nail to bounce back. There’s no reason why an indie label wouldn’t be interested in him eventually and Nail could always go at it independently through some outfit like Thirty Tigers. This story is yet another reminder of the cutthroat nature of the music business and Nail is another victim chewed up and spit out by the Nashville machine.

Album Review – David Nail’s ‘Fighter’ is Surprisingly Solid

David Nail Fighter

David Nail is one of those artists I’ve always seen potential in when looking the popular country landscape. But I feel like he’s never really shown it in an album and definitely not in his singles (the exception being “Let It Rain”). I hear a lot of love for Nail from mainstream country fans and I’ve been waiting to see this validated. When Nail announced his new album Fighter, I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much. In fact I really didn’t plan to review it. I figured I would just give a cursory listen when I was bored and hear the mediocre album I was expecting it to be (like I’ve did with a lot of mainstream albums this year). It’s not like the lead single inspired much confidence and his label MCA Nashville hasn’t handled him the best. So I listened to Fighter and it didn’t meet my expectations at all. It surprisingly exceeded them by a lot.

Fighter kicks off with the upbeat and fun “Good at Tonight.” The Brothers Osborne join Nail and the thing that immediately sticks out about this song is the strong harmonies in the chorus. It immediately hooks the listener in. While the feel good summer night song has been done to death, the infectious vocal performance and warm instrumentation make this not only a solid opening song to the album, but a great future single choice. The album’s lead single “Night’s On Fire” is next. Derek previously reviewed this song and I agree with everything he said in it. This isn’t a completely terrible song, but it’s just generically mediocre in terms of both production and songwriting. Unfortunately, Nail falls into one of my least favorite songwriting pitfalls to hit country in recent years on “Ease Your Pain.” That pitfall is the “your love is my drug” type comparisons that litter this song. So the songwriting wears thin pretty quickly for me here, which might come as a shock because one of the writers of this song is Chris Stapleton (the others are Jesse Frasure and Lee Thomas Miller). The instrumentation isn’t bad, but I just can’t tolerate another song comparing love to drugs because it’s a trope that’s been beaten to death.

Nail rebounds though with “Home,” where he’s joined by the talented Lori McKenna. The song is a piano-driven ballad (with acoustic tinges) about the meaning of home and the relationship bonds tied to them. The songwriting has a lot of heart and it’s very easy to connect with. McKenna sounds fantastic and I’m glad to see her given a chance to shine (definitely looking forward to her upcoming album). This is definitely one of the standouts of Fighter. “Lie With Me” is a love ballad with a great sense of urgency. Upon the first few listens, it feels like this song isn’t much. But upon further listens I find it to be surprisingly catchy. The songwriting isn’t bad and the instrumentation is mostly solid. It could have been better if the production was toned down though.

Nail continues to hit home runs on collaborations with “I Won’t Let You Go.” Here the iconic Vince Gill joins him. Written solely by Nail, it’s a heartbreak song about a man not being able to let go of the relationship he had with his wife. Gill’s contribution to the song comes in the form of his harmonizing with Nail on the chorus, which sounds quite good. It’s kind of perfect for Nail to collaborate with Gill, as I feel they have some striking similarities (strong voices, not traditionally country but clearly talented). The album’s title track is another strong one on the album. The song is about a man praising all of the great qualities of his woman (without reverting to sexist descriptors) and how he admires the fighter in her. While the chorus of this can get a tad checklist-y, it’s a solid effort from Nail. I also enjoy the faint fiddle that intertwines throughout. It’s another song I would like to see as a single.

“Babies” sees Nail reflect on his upbringing, which was crazy at times. But now he has a new kind of crazy in having his own children. He also thinks about how he met his wife and where they’re at now. It’s nice to see Nail show a more vulnerable, personal side to himself, as it’s songs like this that show his true potential and why I hear from so many mainstream fans that support him. There are a few sub par tracks on this album and one is definitely “Got Me Gone.” It’s your standard, shallow love song that relies too much on vanity descriptors in its chorus. It also features some pretty mediocre production, as the pop influences and drum loops are overbearing. Not to mention the effects applied to Nail in the bridge are annoying. This one should have been left on the cutting room floor.

“Champagne Promise” is about a man realizing the woman he’s met is worth nothing more than a champagne promise. Basically she’s just a one-night stand, as she’s not the kind for long-term relationships. For a top 40 adult contemporary song it isn’t bad, but for a country song it relies too heavily on the drum machine. The production is also too smooth and vanilla for my taste. Nail closes the album with his second solo written song on it, “Old Man’s Symphony.” Bear & Bo Rinehart of Christian rock band Needtobreathe join Nail on the song. Nail wrote the song about his own father and once again he shines when he digs deep into his own personal life. Nail sings about how his father played the piano and how he expressed doubt of ever breaking his shadow. He also expresses the great respect he has for his father and how he knows he’ll never be the lead in the band, but only entertain with his words. It’s a refreshingly honest song and perhaps the best on the album.

David Nail delivers his best album yet with Fighter. For most of this album, Nail realizes the potential I’ve seen in him for years. It’s good to finally see it shine through in the music and hopefully this will continue when picking the rest of the singles for this album. While I wouldn’t call this album a traditional country record by any stretch of the imagination, its not pop one either despite it’s adult contemporary leanings at times. It sits somewhere between country and pop, depending on how you draw your lines. The songwriting at it’s worst is banal and unexciting, while it’s best brilliantly draws upon personal experiences to bring raw emotion and passion to the music. While this album won’t set the world on fire, it’s the type of solid music that’s missing too much from the mainstream scene. I will gladly admit David Nail proved me wrong with Fighter.

Grade: 7/10

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [July 2011]

220px-dirtroadanthem

This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from July 18th, 2011.

  1. Jason Aldean – “Dirt Road Anthem” -5 [Worst Song]
  2. Chris Young – “Tomorrow” +2
  3. Blake Shelton – “Honey Bee” 0
  4. Zac Brown Band & Jimmy Buffett – “Knee Deep” +1
  5. Justin Moore – “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” +3
  6. Lady Antebellum – “Just A Kiss” -1
  7. Dierks Bentley – “Am I The Only One” -1
  8. Luke Bryan – “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” -5
  9. Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood – “Remind Me” -1
  10. Kenny Chesney & Grace Potter – “You & Tequila” +4
  11. Jake Owen – “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” +1 (I’ll explain why later on)
  12. Trace Adkins – “Just Fishin'” +2
  13. Eric Church – “Homeboy” +3
  14. George Strait – “Here For A Good Time” +2
  15. Billy Currington – “Love Done Gone” +2
  16. Toby Keith – “Made In America” 0
  17. Rodney Atkins – “Take A Back Road” -1
  18. Scotty McCreery – “I Love You This Big” -2
  19. Eli Young Band – “Crazy Girl” -1
  20. Keith Urban – “Long Hot Summer” -1 (I actually think this is a good pop song. But if we’re going by country standards…)
  21. Thompson Square – “I Got You” 0
  22. Brantley Gilbert – “Country Must Be Country Wide” -2
  23. Jerrod Niemann – “One More Drinkin’ Song” 0
  24. Steve Holy – “Love Don’t Run” 0
  25. Darius Rucker – “I Got Nothin'” +2
  26. Ronnie Dunn – “Cost Of Livin'” +5 [Best Song]
  27. Frankie Ballard – “A Buncha Girls” -2
  28. David Nail – “Let It Rain” +2
  29. Craig Campbell – “Fish” -3 (Yes Craig, we get it…)
  30. Joe Nichols – “Take It Off” -2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +2

Even with two outright atrocious songs we managed to net a positive score! Out of 150, a positive two isn’t really that impressive but hey, it’s better than the charts in 2016.

As for our best songs, Ronnie Dunn’s “Cost Of Livin'” takes it running away with what I consider to be one of the best songs mainstream or otherwise of the past couple years. Even though radio was a little different back then, I’m shocked a song like this cracked the top twenty. Today I doubt it would chart. And while Kenny Chesney has been the butt of many jokes throughout the years, I’ve always liked the guy, and “You and Tequila” may be his best song ever. Other than that, there were a couple other good ones like “Homeboy” (although, I’m curious to hear what you guys think of this one), and “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away”.

Now, you might be wondering why I gave Jake Owen a positive score. If there has ever been anyone who could pull off a “bro” sound and actually make it somewhat enjoyable, I think it’s Jake Owen. He’s just got a natural charisma that often at least adds some life to his songs. I don’t think “Barefoot…” is a great song, but I never quite understand the hate for it.

As for the bad songs, they’re pretty easy to spot. Jason Aldean takes the “worst song” award easily with the horrendous country-rap song that was “Dirt Road Anthem.” “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” was ironically the first time we had to really come down hard on Luke Bryan for cutting a bad song. Other than that, Craig Campbell’s “Fish” always annoyed the heck out of me, and there are some other stinkers here too. Overall though, not a horrendous chart.

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [July 18]

Each week I take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells” +2 (Up 1)
  2. Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” -2 (Up 1)
  3. Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” -2 (Down 2)
  4. Eric Church – “Record Year” +4 (Up 1) [Best Song]
  5. Chris Lane – “Fix” -5 (Up 1) [Worst Song]
  6. Keith Urban – “Wasted Time” -3 (Down 2)
  7. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” +3 (Up 1)
  8. Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” -2 (Up 2)
  9. Dan + Shay – “From The Ground Up” +1 
  10. Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” -4 (Up 1)
  11. Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” -1 (Up 1)
  12. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink” +2 (Up 1)
  13. Kenny Chesney – “Noise” (Down 6)
  14. David Nail – “Night’s On Fire” -1 
  15. Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” -2 (Up 3)
  16. Kip Moore – “Running For You” +2 
  17. Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” +2 
  18. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls” -3 (Up 2)
  19. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” +1 
  20. Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” -3 (Up 1)
  21. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” +3 (Up 1)
  22. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” +2 (Up 1)
  23. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” +2 (Up 1)
  24. LoCash – “I Know Somebody” -5 (Up 1)
  25. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -2 (Up 1)
  26. Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream” +1 (Up 2)
  27. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” -2 (Up 2)
  28. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” +3 (Down 1)
  29. Old Dominion – “Song for Another Time” -2 (New to Top 30)
  30. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” n/a (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -11

The pulse dropped six spots this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With a Beer” +2
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer” +2

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Old Dominion – “Song for Another Time”
    • After an enjoyable hiatus, Old Dominion unfortunately returns to the top 30. They do return however with what I would call their best single yet. But that doesn’t mean it’s good (the bar isn’t set very high). “Song for Another Time” aims to be a nostalgic summer tune that tries to connect with listeners by name-checking a bunch of songs way better than this one. This begs the question of why you would do this because as a listener this just reminds me I could be spending my time better by listening to those songs. The production of this song is very adult contemporary/pop rock and isn’t really that country. Still this is the first single I’ve heard from Old Dominion that doesn’t make me want to tear my hair out. It just kind of bores me. So I guess this is progress? 3/10
  • Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime”
    • Since Jason Aldean and Broken Bow have a special deal with Apple Music, this song is currently not available to me to listen to unless I would buy it and there’s no way in hell I’m doing that. So this song will have to wait to be reviewed and rated. This is why I hate music exclusivity.

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” – Up 3 from #18 to #15

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With a Beer” – Out of the Top 30
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer” – Out of the Top 30 (#32)
  • Kenny Chesney – “Noise” – Down 6 from #7 to #13

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Kenny Chesney – “Noise”
  • David Nail – “Night’s On Fire”
  • Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need a Drink”
  • Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” (I’m surprised after 10 weeks this is already struggling to make headway. This has been kind of the theme with Paisley singles lately, as they always stall in the teens now. This is not a good sign for him when it’s rumored that his new album is coming in October.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes”
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”
  • Luke Bryan – “Move”
  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”

 

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s Pulse in the comments below. 

Album Review – Sean McConnell’s Self-Titled Album

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 3.44.22 PM

It’s not too often that an artist with over 15 years of releasing music comes out with a self-titled album after nine albums and EPs, but that’s exactly what Sean McConnell has done. This new album is appropriately self-titled because the songs are about Sean McConnell. “It’s a real storyteller record, and it’s pretty autobiographical. I’m learning how to be more honest and understated in my writing, and I wanted to match that sonically and vocally. When I look at this collection of songs, I see a lot of nostalgia, and looking back on sacred moments,he says.  The ten songs touch on a variety of personal aspects in life from having kids, to reflecting back on the early days of marriage.

Sean McConnell begins with the pop/rock anthem “Holy Days.” McConnell’s never really been straightforward country, but his music and style fits with Americana nicely. “Holy Days” recalls the times of the band starting to gain some traction and meeting a woman along the way who steals your heart, if only for a short while. The catchy chorus, passionate vocals, and pounding drums set the mood for an upbeat, fun-loving album. On “Ghost Town,” McConnell revisits his old hometown and reflects back on the good times he and his friends had while growing up. As he walks around, he realizes this place isn’t the same place he once knew because the people are strangers and places have changed.

“Bottom of the Sea” is a re-release from McConnell’s recent B-sides EP. Instead of treading water and taking the easy road, McConnell sings “I’m going down to the bottom of the sea until I’ve found the deepest part of me. And if I drown, at least I know that I died free.” There’s a quiet banjo in the song mix, but this song falls under the same sort upbeat, pop/rock umbrella which grounds this whole album. “Beautiful Rose” has more country instrumentation with the mandolin and simple acoustic guitars. The song deals with how life’s unexpected turn of events can be a blessing, even if it’s something that you never planned. The second verse suggests that the song could be influenced by the birth of child, which makes the song’s hook much more impactful. “Hey Mary” is a quick number about falling in love with a girl. With a sense of maturity, McConnell sings about letting her stay the night in his room while he camps out on the floor, and makes her breakfast after she wakes up.

The theme of love continues with “Best We’ve Ever Been.” The song celebrates the anniversary of a husband and wife, who look back through old photographs of their time together thus far, and go out to relive their youthful spirit for a night. The song’s production fits with the happy, celebratory nature of the lyrics. The highlight of the album is the autobiographical “Queen of Saint Mary’s Choir.” The song touches on Sean McConnell’s musical past: parents who sang and played guitar, and a journey from Atlanta to Nashville chasing musical dreams. He sings of the parts of his parents he sees in himself to begin the catchy chorus, and keeps himself grounded in reality while pursuing his music.

Sean McConnell has never shied away from religious themes in his music, and “Running Under Water” is no different. He compares trying to overcome his struggles, externally and internally, with running under water – the feeling of drowning while working hard and going nowhere fast. “One Acre of Land” is a tender love song about wanting to build a beautiful life with the one you love, even if everything isn’t perfect. He may not make a lot of money or do physical labor well, but those qualities shouldn’t matter when you both love each other, have the essentials. The acoustic production allows the personal plea of the lyrics to breathe and come up front. Sean McConnell ends the album with “Babylon,” using the symbol of the ancient city as a metaphor for a crumbling relationship. The song builds as it progresses from the verses through the chorus and bridge, and hits the emotional peak with the last couple of lines. “Do you ever stop and think about me? Tell me how you even breathe without me? I don’t know how to go on without you.” It’s a great end to the album and shows off McConnell’s strength as a writer.

Sean McConnell’s self-titled album is excellent. He does a great job with composing catchy songs without sacrificing quality in the lyrics; he tells compelling stories and delivers them in an equally compelling way. This is the kind of musical quality you expect from a seasoned artist like McConnell. At ten songs, the album leaves you yearning for just a bit more, but the plus side of the short track list means one is hard pressed to find filler songs on the album. For years, McConnell has been a background player in music, writing songs for others like Wade Bowen, Randy Rogers Band, or David Nail. With that said, this is the kind of album that could capture a larger audience, and bring McConnell’s name into bigger, and well-deserved spotlight.

Grade: 9/10