Review – Ruthie Collins’ “Ramblin’ Man”

Ruthie Collins

When listening to any kind of music, I can pretty much tell you after a few listens what I think of the song or album. It’s kind of important as a reviewer of music. For example, the first time I listened to The Mavericks’ “Come Unto Me” I knew this was a good song. Just like the first time I heard Florida Georgia Line’s “Sun Daze” I knew it was terrible. While it can be described in words, feeling is a big part of the listener experience. Very rarely do I listen to a song and not have any idea how to feel about it. Well one of those rare moments arose when I listened to newcomer Ruthie Collins’ new single “Ramblin’ Man.” And the reason I have this feeling of confusion is there’s so much going on with this song.

For those who don’t recognize it, this song was originally done by Hank Williams. Yes, on her debut single Collins chose to cover the legendary Hank Williams. Talk about ballsy! Oh but that’s not it. She samples the icon’s voice in the song. Okay, but there’s even more. She incorporates drum loops into the song, aka inserts EDM influences into it. So to recap: this is Ruthie Collins debut single, it’s a Hank song, an icon is sampled and EDM is mixed with country music. See what I meant when I said this song has a lot going on? It’s a lot to take in.

The instrumentation in the song used outside of the drum loops and dance beats are bluegrass instruments. Collins voice for the most part is unaltered and is actually quite good. You can’t say she doesn’t have a great voice. The song itself of course is about a rambling man who has a thirst for the open road. Collins though flips the song and sings it from the female perspective, so it’s about how she watches her man continue to leave her for the open road. By the end of the song, the rambling man’s lifestyle catches up with him. As Collins sings, God called home the rambling man.

After giving the song several listens, I wanted to see if Collins had any further information about the making of this song. Luckily, there’s a video on her YouTube page that explains who she is and the making of this song. You can see the video below. The part though that caught my interest is when she talks about “Ramblin’ Man.” She starts to talk about it at the 2:40 mark, although I recommend watching the whole thing because she’s actually quite a charming person and is very candid about the country industry.

Right after talking about how producers push her to a more “poppy” sound, despite her saying that her voice isn’t meant for that, here’s what she says regarding “Ramblin’ Man”:

“But I wanted to be modern sounding at the same time. So the way that we kind of brought that element in is through these really interesting like drum programming. So you really get that cool modern energy, but you’re still basing the sound around these really, organic old-fashioned instruments.

“Ramblin’ Man” was sort of an idea that came out of a writing session. I was like, ‘Man has anyone sampled an old country song?’ And instantly I was like, ‘I know how to do this! We have to do this now.’ You know this is such a cool idea. I just Googled the lyrics on my iPhone and started singing and the melody just came out of nowhere. I don’t know where it came from, but I sang it down the first time and we have never changed the melody since. It was really one of those just…okay it was really meant to happen. We just started working on the track and I took it into Curb and everybody flipped out and it just kind of changed everything for me lately.

To me this was just such a cool thing to bring these old elements of this beautiful, classic country song, but give it a modern twist and bring it to 2014.”

Before I tell you what my ultimate thoughts are on this song, I have to put into context where I’m coming from as a listener because I found myself re-examining my experience of listening to country music. Before I became a “born-again country music fan,” I tried my hardest to accept “the evolution of country music.”, aka the Florida Georgia Line type songs. I tried to reason that rap country and bro-country were reasonable music. In the end I realized I was lying to myself and that this was garbage of course. My heart was never truly into this music, only my brain trying to make the hurdles so to speak. But the one thing I kept from this brief moment of time as a music listener was an open mind. That’s something I still try to keep with me until this day because there’s always an opportunity to introduce a new sound, while still keeping the integrity of the genre.

With all of this being said, I think “Ramblin’ Man” is a song that is completely unnecessary. I applaud the tenacity and attempted creativity by Collins to try to reinvent an old song with her own twist. Ultimately though this isn’t really creative at all. An artist shouldn’t have to rely on a past song to make their own creative song. They should be able to create something of their own, completely by themselves. A Hank Williams song should never be reinvented, let alone have EDM introduced with it. Not to mention that isn’t a long-lasting, sustainable sound. As coined by Trigger at Saving Country Music, this “metro-politan” music in country right now is just a fad (by the way if you haven’t read that piece by Trigger, go do this). It will not be remembered decades from now.

A true form of art comes from the heart, not a drum machine. A true artist catches people’s ears with their storytelling and songwriting. Ruthie Collins has the talent and skills to capture people’s attention with her dynamic voice and storytelling. Relying on a drum machine to do this is quite frankly beneath her and as much as she seems to be behind the idea, I don’t buy it. Those producers who push her to sound more “poppy” sound like the culprits behind it more than anything. As notable country critic Grady Smith has said though, this will be a smash hit on radio. It will also be one of the most polarizing country songs of the year. If you like this song, I don’t blame you. It’s quite catchy and easy to dance to. It’s not a offensively bad song, but it would be wrong to call it good too. I judge “Ramblin’ Man” based on what it’s labeled. It’s labeled country when it clearly is not, therefore on principal I dismiss it. This is a fad and fads are what is killing mainstream country music.

Grade: 4/10

Hodgepodge of Country Stuff: Bro Country is Fading, Sam Hunt is Rising & Country Music is Shattering Into Pieces

The Division of Country Music

The Hodgepodge of Country Stuff is a weekly column where I discuss some country stuff, non-country stuff and maybe even stuff in-between. So that’s a lot of stuff! I’m sure you’ll find some stuff you even like. So welcome! 

Over the past few years country music has been dominated by a sub-genre called bro country. If you’re a music fan who hasn’t been living under a rock, you’re well aware (even non-country fans). It was coined by writer Jody Rosen and it refers to party songs that rely on the same old tropes of drinking, trucks, tailgates, river banks, moonlight, fields and most of the time involves a bro trying to get some sex from a girl. Most of the time the “girls” in these songs (they’re never called women) are treated like crap and are referred to in a derogatory manner. Bro country been the bane of existence for traditional country fans. It’s dominated radios, charts and in my opinion dragged the good name of country through the mud several times.

Those days are coming to an end. Bro country is on it’s very last legs and is no longer the popular taste of the month in country music. Sure there are a few songs of this nature on the charts and playing on radio, but they aren’t as widespread as before. Now just because bro country is on its death bed doesn’t mean it’s not going to fight until the end. The artists who have gained the most from it will fight tooth and nail to keep it alive. I’m looking at you Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, Chase Rice and Jason Aldean. To me the final litmus test for this will be Luke Bryan’s new album later this year. Will it feature a lot of bro country and if so will it be popular? We’ll have to wait and see.

On top of this a lot of bro country is being replaced by quality music. Tim McGraw finally woke up and realized trying to keep up with the bros wasn’t going to fly with his fans and went back to his old late 90s and early 2000s sound. It’s paid dividends as “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” and “Shotgun Rider” both became #1 songs. He also netted a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. Maddie & Tae’s debut EP was a nice sample of traditional country music and continue to gain more popularity. Carrie Underwood’s “Something in the Water” has been a hugely popular songs on the Billboard and iTunes charts. Mickey Guyton has caught everyone’s attention early in 2015 with her country waltz single “Better Than You Left Me.” Even Jake Owen, who benefitted greatly from the bro country fad, put out a great single in “What We Ain’t Got.” On top of this Sturgill Simpson signed with major label Atlantic Records recently.

Things are going great for traditional country fans, right? Well there’s one big elephant in the room you’re kind of forgetting. While a good bit of bro country has been replaced by more quality country songs, the rest has been replaced with something arguably worse. I’m of course referring to Sam Hunt. While independent country fans point to the aforementioned Simpson’s meteoric rise in the last year, mainstream country fans will point to Hunt’s own impressive rise. Last year at this time hardly anyone knew Sam Hunt. He was just another songwriter in Nashville. Then his single “Leave The Night On” came out and became a huge hit. I hoped he was just a flash in the pan and just a one-hit wonder. But at the same time I knew this was naive. When something shows any success in country music, everyone else will rush to copy it and ride the trend.

Jason Aldean surely did as his single “Burnin’ It Down” became one of the biggest hits of 2014. Half of his album featured EDM and heavy pop influences similar to Hunt’s album. I can say the same of Chase Rice and Florida Georgie Line’s albums. Meanwhile Sam Hunt has four songs in the top 40 of iTunes. That’s insane. Each song is also a straight pop song and people are eating it right up. What’s the deal? Well last week I really explored the review sections on Sam Hunt’s Montevallo album and there was a comment I saw a lot that stood out to me. “I usually hate country music, but I love this album and Hunt’s music.” In other words, they like this country music because it isn’t country music. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Sturgill Simpson gets the same exact comment from people and has said as much in interviews. Another similarity both Hunt and Simpson share is they get showers of love from the critics.

So what we got here are two completely different artists with completely different music with both sides claiming it’s country music. It’s truly a sight to behold. Country music is in a war right now. In one corner you have the bro country fans touting the success of Florida Georgia Line and have a legitimate claim. Then you have the traditional country fans who can preach the success of Sturgill Simpson. And of course the pop/EDM country fans who have their poster-boy Sam Hunt. All are having success and gaining more fans by the day.

So you’re probably wondering who’s going to win? Well right now all of them. In the future, all of them can win too. Remember the splitting of country music is coming. It’s pretty much inevitable because I find it impossible to have all of these different sounding acts under one genre. The fans and critics can’t stand it. The labels know there’s money in a split too. But there’s one thing I do disagree with about this whole split. Everyone says it will simply split into two parts, but I find that to be unbelievable. There isn’t a lot of crossover between Sam Hunt fans and Luke Bryan fans. There are many on each side that despise the other. Go read message boards and comments sections. Country music is going to split into multiple sub-genres similar to rock music. You could conceivably have traditional country, rock country, pop country, bro country, EDM country, hip-hop country and even more.

This could be a good thing. No more quarreling amongst opposing fans of what is and isn’t country music. A possibility of a fair platform for all artists of all kinds. This could also be a bad thing. Look at how divided rock music is with its hundreds of sub-genres and it’s presence in the mainstream. It’s an absolute mess and country music could end up in the same boat. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but everyone will have a side in this fight. I know one thing for certain: It’s going to be entertaining. So grab your popcorn and get ready. Also go traditional country!

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • The Lone Bellow just released their new album Then Came The Morning. They performed on Letterman the album’s title track on Letterman this past week and it was a fantastic performance. I already wrote a review for the album and trust me you don’t want to miss this one.
  • Carrie Underwood announced her next single will be “Little Toy Guns.” It was the second new song she released on her greatest hits album released last November along with “Something in the Water.” It was only announced a few days ago and it’s already in the top 20 of the iTunes country chart. We’ll have a review on this one soon.
  • Lindi Ortega teased her new upcoming 2015 album on Instagram this past week. If you haven’t heard it yet, click here to hear it. Based on this small sample, we have another great country album to look forward to. 2015 is going to be a great year to be a country music fan.
  • Maddie & Tae recently released their second single “Fly.” I would’ve personally released “Sierra” as the second single as it’s a better song with more of an edge. “Fly” could be successful though because it’s an inspirational song that appeals to younger women. It’ll be interesting to see how it fares on the charts and the radio.

Throwback Thursday Song

 

Brad Paisley, George Jones and Bill Anderson – “Too Country.” One of the many great songs off of Brad Paisley’s Part II album. Nothing would please me more if did another album like this one. My other favorite from that album is his cover of “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” It’s kind of funny looking back at this now after his latest album.

My Non-Country Song of the Week

 

Fall Out Boy – “Uma Thurman.” Yeah yeah I know it’s a mindless pop song, but sometimes I like to take a break from the more substantial stuff and listen to something upbeat. In my opinion, Fall Out Boy used to be a pretty good band. Their quality lately however has slipped and there are several bad tracks on their new album. But “Uma Thurman” works for me and I’m a sucker for a song that samples The Munsters’ theme song.

Tweet of the Week

The Brothers Osborne are definitely one of the most underrated follows on country music Twitter. And this tweet is proof.

A Google Play Review That Will Make You Face Palm

RaeLynn Google Play Review

This was left under RaeLynn’s Me EP on Google Play. I shit you not. I think this wins the prize for most ridiculous review to date.

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

Photo Credit: SturgillSimpson.com/MCA Nashville/Republic Nashville. Special thanks to PicMonkey.

Country Perspective’s Worst Country Album of 2014 Goes to…

Country music in 2014 saw some highs and lows. Here at Country Perspective we recognize the best of both. Today we focus on the later. What was the worst country album in 2014? Well there was a lot of bad country albums put out this year. Jerrod Niemann’s High Noon was the early favorite in 2014. After all it included auto-tune and electronic beats. It didn’t sound like country music at all. He then remixed “Drink to That All Night” with Pitbull. That wasn’t even the worst of the album. The worst was “Donkey,” one of the worst songs I have ever heard.

Surely nothing could top this pile of crap, right? Wrong! Along came Chase Rice’s Ignite The Night. Other than one giant outlier at the end of the album in “Jack Daniels and Jesus,” this album was straight garbage. I think my asshole could write and sing better music than the rest of Ignite the Night. The amount of auto-tune and EDM incorporated is so gut-wrenchingly bad I’m surprised Waylon Jennings didn’t come back from the dead to just slap Rice in the face.

Yet as terrible as this album was another album went even lower than Rice’s. No it isn’t Sam Hunt’s Montevallo either. It’s a straight pop album, yet Hunt did enough to not garner a 0 in Derek’s eyes or my eyes (shockingly I might add). There was one album that did earn a 0 overall and to this day it’s the only album to receive a 0 on Country Perspective. After listening to this album, I thought…. wait words can’t describe it. I’m going to need some help here. Jeff could you assist me here? Here were my thoughts after listening to this album:

pile_of_shit

Thanks Jeff! Keep up the fine work. What album am I referring to? The winner of Country Perspective’s Worst Country Album of 2014 Award is…

Derek and myself chose this album to win because quite frankly it’s offensive in every single way a country album can be offensive. Other than “Dirt,” every song on this album sucks. The songs don’t sound country at all and sound more suitable for a pop album. The lyrics are so horrendously offensive to intelligence that I felt like I lost a few IQ points after listening to Anything Goes. Their worst song, “Sun Daze,” was nominated for our worst song of the year award and is quite a strong contender. The thing is we could have chosen another song easily and it would still be a top contender to win. When the lyrics weren’t sexist and misogynistic, they were just outright cheesy and cliché. Take for example “Angel.” They use the cheesiest pickup line ever as the chorus. So hilariously dumb! And I don’t know how many alcohol brands are name-dropped.

You know what else is terrible about this album? How everyone at the mainstream country outlets and people in the mainstream industry just accept this as an “evolution” of country music. They’re missing a letter. Devolution is the proper word. How in any way, shape or form is this helping the genre? It’s just maintaining the status quo of country music being a laughing-stock to anyone outside of the genre. I don’t know how many people laugh off and dismiss country music because of asshats like Florida Georgia Line putting out terrible music. Casual observers judge country music based on what they hear on the radio and what they hear on radio is garbage.

Mainstream country music appears to be improving for the most part. That’s a good sign. There are still a lot of problems though and Florida Georgia Line represents one of the biggest. Bro country is slowly dying, but I guarantee Florida Georgia Line and other bro country artists will fight to the bitter end to keep it alive. In the end though it is a fruitless endeavor. Bro country will be gone in 2015 and so might Florida Georgia Line’s stardom.

So stand up with me and boo Florida Georgia Line’s album Anything Goes. This is a historically bad country album that may never be topped by another album in horribleness ever again.

Album Review – Sam Hunt’s Montevallo

Hunt Montevallo

We’ve arrived folks. This trend of letting outside musical influences like hip hop and EDM creep into country music has been a slow process, but with each mainstream release we’ve been subjected to more and more pop/hip hop influenced beats and rhythms in lieu of our beloved country sounds of banjos and steel guitars. And now Sam Hunt has a full-length album released via MCA Nashville. Sam Hunt, a co-writer of hits like Kenny Chesney’s “Come Over” and Keith Urban’s “Cop Car”, brings a slew of hip hop/EDM inspired pop songs on his debut album, Montevallo. This album is terribly mislabeled. For whatever reason, Music Row thought it’d be okay to slap a country label on an album and artist who brings no country elements whatsoever to the table.

To me, this seems like the type of album an established artist, with several hit albums, would release as an experimental album or a way to push personal artistic boundaries, like Garth Brooks’ Chris Gaines debacle or Martina McBride’s R&B cover album, Everlasting. Instead, Montevallo is a debut album from a brand new artist who the powers that be are trying to push-off as the next big thing in country music. What we’re given is a choppy mashup of EDM inspired music with bits and pieces of country culture spliced in to justify its mislabel. With all that said, amidst ten vastly overproduced songs and awkward spoken word portions, Hunt shows glimpses of some strong songwriting capabilities and even a few moments where his voice shines as a singer.

Montevallo kicks off with a slower song called “Take Your Time.” This song is about Hunt, more or less, just wanting to interact with this girl at a party. At first it’s just talking, but as the night progresses Hunt is smitten and wants to blow her mind (if you catch his drift), but the song is just about his thoughts and not necessarily him acting on them. The melody is fairly friendly with a noticeable piano and light guitars, and if you can look past Hunt’s spoken word verses, the writing here isn’t half bad; Sam Hunt does a great job describing the dynamic between a guy and girl in this type of situation, and he sings the chorus rather well in my opinion. It’s one of the better songs on the album, which isn’t saying much. Next up is “Leave The Night On.”  This song is so pop radio friendly. The rest of this album makes it look like an actual country song.

“House Party” is about bringing the party to a girl who doesn’t want to leave and go out. This song is upbeat EDM rock with guitars and DJ Beats, and is really about a large, let’s get loud, house party. Following that is “Break Up in a Small Town” which is a terrible song. Spoken word, rapping, and trying to appease to a country audience by setting in a small town make it awful. Sam Hunt has his niche of music and doesn’t really stray too far from his style. However, “Break Up in a Small Town” is one of those times he does stray in order to try to connect with a country audience. The other time he strays is in the next song, “Single for the Summer.” This song may help Florida Georgia Line focus in bro-country as pseudo-rap/pop tunes about being horny dudes. Hunt was dumped, but hey it’s summer! So let’s forget about her because there are girls in bikinis and hot, naïve rich girls around me, and I’m single. In this song, Sam Hunt says the following line, I kid you not: “I’m out creepin’ till the sun comes up.” These country bros finally have some self-awareness!! Also, this damn song tries to sound country with a steel guitar sound popping in the mix. No, Sam Hunt. Just stop trying to be country. Stop.

Next up is “Ex to See.” Get it, “ex to see” sounds like “ecstasy.” Boy, that Sam Hunt is a clever one with those double entendres. No, this electronic drum driven song is all about him feeling like crap because this girl he likes is only using him to piss her ex-boyfriend off. However, Sam Hunt follows this up with “Make You Miss Me.” There’s some piano and string instruments in the mix, and Hunt writes a compelling story about a girl who basically has ADD and gets bored with new toys/songs/boys quickly and dumps them when she’s tired of them. Sam Hunt says he’ll be good enough to make her miss him. The writing on this track is actually pretty good with lines like “Keep a slipknot in the strings you attach.” And the best part is there’s a female backing vocalist on this track who provides some excellent harmonies behind Hunt’s voice. I actually kind of like this one. It’s not a country song, but I think it’s an okay pop song.

After this is Hunt’s take on his big Keith Urban cut, “Cop Car.” Sam Hunt’s version is much more EDM influenced and subdued than Keith’s pop country hit. Personally, I think it’s a well-written song with an interesting story, and I actually liked Keith Urban’s version, so I didn’t really mind this one either. Hunt’s production fit well behind it. Next up is “Raised On It” which is even more summer pop than “Leave The Night On.” This song kind of reminds me of Jake Owen’s “Beachin’” in the fact that they’re both bad summer songs with rapping/spoken word. The last song is “Speakers.” This song is about having sex in the bed of a truck. Though, to Hunt’s credit, this song describes how it looks and feels in the moment rather than just another truck bed party song. But the chorus feels rushed and it’s rapped/spoken, and I wasn’t getting into this one.

Overall, this album just doesn’t do it for me. I hate that this is marketed as country because it’s not country music at all. Each song is way overproduced and takes away from the listening experience. I can’t connect to the story and lyrics with Sam Hunt’s choppy transitions from spoken word to singing in verses without any sort of rhyme or reason. Montevallo is a full-fledged pop/electronic album that doesn’t belong in the same conversations as debut albums from this year like Jon Pardi’s Write You a Song or Eric Paslay. In fact, it doesn’t even belong in a conversation about country music. Sam Hunt has some good lyrics and writes with some substance at times. Quite frankly, there are some moments here where the electronic production works behind the songs.  But overall to call Montevallo a country album is insulting to the genre.

Grade: 1/10

 

Album Review – Tim McGraw’s Sundown Heaven Town

Tim-McGraw-Album-Cover

I don’t like the trend of country music loading albums with a large number of songs. I understand that album sales aren’t as lucrative and sustaining as they used to be. I understand that artists see the most money from ticket sales. And I know that it’s easier to pile songs onto an album than to release radio singles over the course of a couple of years while on a long tour, but I don’t like it. Filler songs take away from the album’s overall impact. Say what you will about Blake Shelton, but at least that guy cuts 11 or 12 songs for his records to make them cohesive. The deluxe edition of Tim McGraw’s new album, Sundown Heaven Town, is way too long, coming in at a whopping 18 songs. The problem with this is that the extra five songs don’t really add anything to this album, and actually take away from the overall quality of Sundown Heaven Town. However, deluxe edition or not, Tim McGraw still has a number of quality tracks here. We can breathe easy because it appears McGraw’s trend chasing days may be over.

The Best Songs on The Album

“Meanwhile Back At Mama’s” still stands as a great song and is, without a doubt, one of the better songs here. The other big standout song here is “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools.” McGraw sings this song with his cousin, Catherine Dunn, providing background vocals and harmonies. Dunn has a beautiful voice here and this may jump-start her into a record deal. Back to the song, this is a great country love song with steel guitars and simple instrumentation about recognizing how temporary and unfulfilling a life of booze is compared to longevity of marriage and love. “Sick of Me” is a song about a couple after a break-up. She is doing well and he is drunk/hungover, feeling sorry and missing her. He’s tired of who he is and wants to change to get her back. There’s a quiet steel guitar behind the drums and electric guitars here; this song does a good job of blending traditional country sounds with a modern rock country sound.  Finally, “Portland, Maine” is a great acoustic heartbreak song. In this song about a long-distance relationship ending McGraw, in a time zone far from the East coast, pulls the plug because it’s not working. He knows she won’t be coming back home and they know he won’t leave that town. It’s sad, it’s heartbreaking and Tim has a great, stripped back vocal performance here.

The Worst Songs on The Album

If we’re just looking at the normal album, “Lookin’ for that Girl” is the only one worth calling out for its terrible auto-tuned, electronic crap trying to pass as a country song. Considering the deluxe edition, you can add “I’m Feelin’ You” to that list for pretty much the same reasons. Auto-tune does not belong in country, plain and simple.

The Rest of The Album

Tim McGraw has some solid modern country songs like “Overrated.” This song has a nice banjo beat and builds to a rocking chorus in a song about love being the only thing that matters in life. It’s a great track to kick off this album. McGraw’s next single, “Shotgun Rider,” is undeniably country in sound. Lyrically, a little trendy with a girl in the truck, but this song stands out because this song could be about his wife, finance or a girl he intends to propose to. The point of this song is that this is the “shotgun rider” Tim McGraw wants for the rest of his life. Songs like “Words are Medicine”, “Dust” and “Keep on Truckin’” are a little cliché in their respective content areas about lifestyles and overcoming hardships, but they’re a pretty typical country-rock blend and don’t sound out of place here. “Last Turn Home” and “Still On the Line” have much more pop sounds in the music. However, both these song offers some depth about love and heartbreak respectively, so in my mind they’re not terrible.

The deluxe edition offers a lot of mediocre songs behind a fairly solid album. “Lincoln Continentals and Cadillacs” is a pop-country song that McGraw sings as a duet with Kid Rock. This is the type of song you’d expect from Kid Rock and to be honest Tim isn’t terrible here. It’s about reminiscing to the old days when they were cool guys with cool cars getting girls. In today’s mainstream radio, the song may be viewed with a bro-country eye. But while the song isn’t as deep as the better tracks on this album, it has a fun nostalgic feel to it. Also, since this is a deluxe edition song it leads me to believe this is intended to be an album novelty (and maybe for award show performances) more so than a potential single.

Overall Thoughts

The rest of the deluxe edition, “Kids Today”, “The View”, and “Black Jacket” aren’t all that strong and certainly filler songs. In fact, just due to the fact that Kid Rock is featured, “Lincoln Continentals and Cadillacs” is the only bonus track that has some purpose or marketability. The deluxe version bogs the whole album down. The 13 songs of the normal version of Sundown Heaven Town carry some good weight for mainstream country. For the most part, you get a sense that Tim McGraw and his team realize that there’s a want for more traditional sounding country music back in the mainstream circle. There are songs that toe the line between modern musical trends and traditional sounds, but many songs here feature good lyrical content and depth. With the exception of “Lookin’ for That Girl,” the regular version of the album is the type of album McGraw has built his career on and the type of album he should release. Tim McGraw still has relevancy with his music; he’s one capable of bringing mainstream back to more of its roots and several songs here prove that. Overall, fans of Tim McGraw and traditional country music overall can breathe a little easier now, especially listening to the first half of Sundown Heaven Town.

Grade: 7.5/10 (Deluxe Edition: 6/10)