Album Review — Jesse Daniel’s ‘Rollin’ On’

I enjoy many styles of country music, but if I had to pick my favorite it would be Bakersfield country. So when I heard about Jesse Daniel and his style of country being Bakersfield, I obviously had to check him out. And after listening to his new album Rollin’ On, I’m pretty happy I did. Opening track “Tar Snakes” is heavy on the steel guitar, an easy-going song about a man hitting the open highway to forget about his ex. It’s your classic country song with the kind of sunny melody that let me know I was in for an album that was going to do Bakersfield country right.

“If You Ain’t Happy Now (You Never Will Be)” is about enjoying the here and now, not worrying about the past or future. It’s a simple and catchy tune with a good message about appreciating what you have in your life. It’s another no-frills, instantly enjoyable song thanks to it’s infectious melody by producers Tommy Detamore and Daniel. When I first heard the album’s title track I said to myself (no joke), “This is some Dwight Yoakam shit.” And this is a great thing of course! The prominent guitars and piano make it a dead ringer for something straight out of Yoakam’s catalog. Also I have to point out that I know it feels like I’m not “reviewing” these opening songs that deeply. But it’s hard to put into words really what these songs get right. I guess the best way I would describe it is you know it when you hear it that these songs just capture what a traditional country song is supposed to sound like in terms of melody and vocals.

“St. Claire’s Retreat” is about a man running off to the mountains and leaving behind his love. But he realizes it to be a mistake, as he loses his love in the process. I feel like this song could have used more emotion, as the story feels too vague emotionally for me to really get into as I’m listening. “Champion” on the other hand immediately hooks me with it’s story about a mammoth of a man who strikes fear into those around him, but also has a sad backstory and ultimately a sad ending. I particularly enjoy how Daniel describes this man named Champion in great detail, as I can vividly picture him. This line in particular struck me: “His hands were big as baseball gloves and fists were solid rock.” On top of that it has a memorable Tex Mex sound that adds even more texture and depth to the song.

I love how Daniel throws a little surprise instrumental track in “Chickadee” in the middle of the album, as typically these are expected at the end. It’s a great instrumental, a tasty blend of guitars and fiddles. I wish more artists would put instrumentals onto their albums (although I understand why because it’s not “consumer friendly”). “Mayo and the Mustard” is my least favorite track on the album, as the song’s hook just doesn’t make sense to me (“keep it between the mayo and the mustard’). Not to mention the story of the song is predictable, as the narrator of the song starts out a young man receiving advice from an older gentleman and by the end becomes the latter bestowing advice. I’ve heard much better versions of this song.

“Bringin’ Home the Roses” is the kind of funny and cheesy country love song I can always get behind. The song is about a man spotting another man at the bar holding flowers and wise cracking to him “How ’bout the weather?” And the man with the flowers hilariously deadpanning “You know pal that ain’t what’s on my mind.” The latter reasons that flowers should at least help him get into his house where his angry wife awaits. The former eventually finds himself in the same predicament. Again, it’s cheesy of course. But this is the type of cheese that’s endearing and clever.

“Sam” is about someone wondering what’s happened to a long lost friend that likes to run the road due to his reckless lifestyle. It’s another simple country song that just works, thanks in large part to the nostalgic retelling of small stories the man experienced with Sam in his life and the reflectiveness in Daniel’s voice as he delivers the hook. Daniel draws inspiration from his life and playing on the road on “Old at Heart.” In his early years he spent time in prison and dealing with various addictions, leading to the haggard inner soul he has despite his outer youthfulness that deceives those out in the crowd. It’s a cool way for Daniel to tell his story to the listener without being so on the nose. And of course the fiddle-driven sound is sweet on the ears.

Daniel’s partner Jodi Lyford joins him on “Only Money, Honey.” The song is about money being less important than love and of course this is quite cliché. It’s certainly no different than any of the other thousands of country songs along these same lines. But it’s nice to see Lyford featured on a track, as she’s been an important part of Daniel’s recovery and life, in addition to helping him write several tracks on this record and having a nice voice. The album closes on a strong note with “Son of the San Lorenzo.” Daniel opens with pondering about fake news and stories before moving to his own story. He recalls his roots, the good and the bad, but ultimately hopes he ends up back there some day. It’s a song that does nostalgia right, not painting everything with rose-colored glasses and harping on memories, but rather a bright hopefulness of return that lives on in Daniel’s heart.

Jesse Daniel does Bakersfield country proper justice on Rollin’ On. While it has a couple of just okay spots that mar it from being a fantastic album, it mostly shines throughout with it’s classic country themes and a traditional country sound that fully embraces the roots of the genre in an enjoyable, fresh-feeling way. The best way I would describe this album to someone is I would liken it to fried chicken and mash potatoes. I’ve had it hundreds of times and from many different places, but it never gets old when you eat some great fried chicken and mash potatoes. And this album is certainly a great one.

Grade: 8/10

Video: Sturgill Simpson Performs “All Around You” at the 59th Grammy Awards

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Sturgill Simpson had himself a pretty successful night at the 59th Grammy Awards. I know many are undoubtedly disappointed he didn’t pull off the ultimate upset and win Album of the Year for A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, but this shouldn’t overshadow the rest of what he accomplished (besides Beyoncé fans have more of a right to be angry about how much the academy screwed over Lemonade). Simpson first won Best Country Album on the pre-telecast, beating out the likes of Loretta Lynn, Brandy Clark, Maren Morris and Keith Urban. This comes after losing Best Americana Album a couple of years ago and marks his first ever Grammys win. It’s also yet another feather in his cap to hold over the folks on Music Row who don’t care for him. As he said in his acceptance speech, the revolution won’t be televised. Simpson also talked about working out in Utah on the railroad six years ago and says he owes it all to his family for being where he’s at today.

Later in the night on the main telecast, Simpson was introduced by the legendary Dwight Yoakam before he performed “All Around You,” backed by the fantastic Dap Kings. It was more subdued performance than the one he made on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago, but classy and great nonetheless. I wouldn’t call it the best performance of the night (that would be a tossup between the Anderson .Paak/A Tribe Called Quest collaboration and the Bruno Mars/The Times tribute to Prince), but I would put it top seven for sure. Without a doubt I’m sure he reached more new fans with all of the exposure and last I checked “All Around You” was in the top 150 on the Top Songs chart on iTunes. You can watch his performance on the show yourself below:

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [November 1991]

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This is the Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country  Airplay Chart 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 30 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 pulse 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 Country Airplay Chart from November 9th, 1991.

  1. Alan Jackson – “Someday” +4
  2. Travis Tritt – “Anymore” +3
  3. Keith Whitley & Earl Thomas Conley – “Brotherly Love” +4
  4. Garth Brooks – “Shameless” -2 [Worst Song]
  5. Trisha Yearwood – “Like We Never Had A Broken Heart” +3
  6. Patty Loveless – “Hurt Me Bad (In A Real Good Way)” +3
  7. Marty Stuart – “Tempted” +1 (Love Marty, and the production was cool and different for 90’s country, but the lyrics aren’t great)
  8. Alabama – “Then Again” +2 (I like the restrained production here)
  9. Lorrie Morgan – “A Picture Of Me (Without You)” +3 (Solid George Jones cover)
  10. Joe Diffie – “New Way (To Light Up An Old Flame)” +2
  11. Randy Travis – “Forever Together” +2 (Not his best but still good)
  12. Ricky Van Shelton – “Keep It Between The Lines” +4
  13. Billy Dean – “You Don’t Count The Cost” +3
  14. George Strait – “The Chill Of An Early Fall” +4 [Best Song] (One of my favorites of his)
  15. Pam Tillis – “Put Yourself In My Place” +3 (Interesting production. I like the dobro)
  16. Reba McEntire – “For My Broken Heart” +4
  17. Little Texas – “Some Guys Have All The Love” +1 (Hook is a little corny for my tastes)
  18. Dwight Yoakam – “Nothing’s Changed Here” +3 (Dwight always delivers)
  19. Davis Daniel – ‘For Crying Out Loud” +2 (Don’t care for his voice that much)
  20. Clint Black – “Where Are You Now” +3
  21. Suzy Bogguss – “Someday Soon” +4
  22. Diamond Rio – “Mirror Mirror” +3
  23. Vince Gill – “Look At Us” +3
  24. Conway Twitty – “She’s Got A  Man On Her Mind” +3
  25. Lionel Cartwright – “Leap Of Faith”+1
  26. Brooks & Dunn – “My Next Broken Heart” +2
  27. Restless Heart – “You Can Depend On Me” -1 (Too cheesy for me and that falsetto is just….oof)
  28. Sawyer Brown – “The Walk” +3
  29. Steve Wariner – “Leave Him Out Of This” +3
  30. Doug Stone – “I Thought It Was You” +3 (It’s cheesy, but I like the sound enough to bump it up)

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +76

We usually have good weeks, but honestly there was a lot of true quality on this chart. There were A LOT of ballads which makes sense given the time of year. All in all I’m very happy with this 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!

Country Perspective’s Best Music Reviewed in September

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This is the monthly recap post of all the great music we reviewed on the blog in case you missed it or just came across our humble, little blog. So check this music out if you haven’t already.

10/10

Songs:

Artists of Then, Now & Forever – “Forever Country”

 

9/10

 

8/10

Albums:

Cheryl Desere’e – Cheryl Desere’e

Whiskey Myers – MUD

Dwight Yoakam – Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…

Album Review – Dwight Yoakam’s ‘Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…’

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It’s pretty simple: If Dwight Yoakam releases new music, you should pay attention. At least that’s how I feel about the iconic Bakersfield-sound country artist. When discussing the titans and legends of country music you’ll always (rightly) hear about Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, George Jones, Willie Nelson and George Strait. But you never hear Yoakam’s name thrown in with them when in my opinion he 100% belongs amongst the best in the history of country music. Thanks to him, Randy Travis and Keith Whitley, they brought style and tradition back to a genre in the 80s that sorely lacked the earmarks that had made the genre special and memorable. Yoakam’s incorporation of elements of rock into his brand of country music quickly made him a ton of fans and still has a pretty loyal following to this day. He really did introduce a lot of rock fans who didn’t bother with country before to the genre, something that often gets overlooked.

The last we heard from Yoakam was his 2015 album Second Hand Heart, released via Warner. It was personally one of my favorites from last year and found it to be a solid country album from start to finish. And unlike a lot of older country artists Yoakam has accepted that country radio won’t play him anymore. He certainly won’t ever be one to chase trends either. In fact he’s done the opposite with his newest project. Yoakam announced earlier this year he was going to do a bluegrass album that would consist of some of his best music, only in bluegrass form (plus a surprise I’ll get to in a second). That album, Swimmin’ Pools, Movies Stars…, is now here (released via Sugar Hill Records). If you’re a fan of Yoakam or bluegrass, you’ll certainly have a lot of fun listening to it.

While it’s jarring at first to hear iconic songs like “Two Doors Down” and “Guitars, Cadillacs” in bluegrass form, after a few listens they’re really fun and it’s cool to hear them in a different way that’s still great. They don’t top the original versions of course, but it’s interesting as a fan to hear Yoakam be able to craft such untouchably good songs into something different and still make the music sound great. What also impressed me about these bluegrass covers is Yoakam’s swagger and attitude really doesn’t disappear. When I think of bluegrass I think of a humble tone, yet Yoakam makes it sound cool because I think it’s impossible for Yoakam to not give his music a feeling of coolness. Of course while I’m impressed by the album as a whole, the track that undoubtedly stands out for me and I think a lot of listeners is Yoakam’s cover of the legendary Prince’s “Purple Rain.” The one-of-a-kind artist’s death earlier in 2016 undoubtedly sent shockwaves throughout the entire music world, as Prince’s music influenced and touched artists and fans of all genres. It was no different for Yoakam, who felt inspired to honor the artist’s late memory by covering one of his best songs he told People:

“I always loved the song. The first time I heard it, it stopped me in my car. It struck me as interesting and as unique an expression of love musically as anything ever in pop music,” Yoakam says. “I thought it spoke volumes about the honest willingness of the person who wrote it to bare his heart to the world through his music. Prince, I never really knew you, but I’m sure going to miss you.”

I recommend reading the whole interview he gave on recording it and deciding to put it on the album if you haven’t yet. One thing I love about Yoakam’s cover is that he keeps the rawness and passion of the song intact. That’s what makes the song standout so much for me, as Prince just puts all of his heart and soul into the song. Yoakam’s interpretation doesn’t match it because nobody can match it, but I’m glad I still felt those elements when listening to Yoakam’s version. It’s good the instrumentation was kept downbeat too, as this song is supposed to have a melancholy undertone to it. So many artists covered Prince after his death, but not many did him justice like Yoakam does here.

I always find it fun and exciting to watch legendary artists take on new and different musical side projects and Dwight Yoakam’s Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars… is no different. It’s yet another album for fans of Yoakam to enjoy, as well as a pleasure for anyone who enjoys bluegrass. Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars is one of those albums you can just throw on at anytime and enjoy.

Grade: 8/10