The Endless Music Odyssey, Vol. 4 — Margo Price, Jon Pardi, The Chicks & more!

Margo Price — That’s How Rumors Get Started

I really wanted to enjoy this album and there isn’t a single bad song on it. But yet after multiple listens not a single song sticks with me either. And it bugs the crap out of me how I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that continues to be missing from Price’s albums. I’ve always been a fan of Sturgill Simpson’s production and while I think the direction taken with it suits Price’s style, it doesn’t necessarily work to her best either. I guess if I had to pick reasons of why this album just doesn’t work for me is it’s due to a lack of energy and presence of Price. She has a fantastic voice and yet it feels like she continues to be relegated to middling/softer vocal performances. So if it was up to me, I would like to see her go in a heavier rock direction and fully unleash her voice to see how the result turns out. 5/10

Jon PardiRancho Fiesta Sessions

Take this for what it is and you can find a lot of enjoyment in his small cover album. While the sound engineering isn’t the best and rawness of the recording exposes Pardi’s biggest weakness as a vocalist (sounding too thin at times), you can tell Pardi and his band really enjoyed recording this and this is infectious as a listener. It also further supports why I think Pardi needs to get away from his more traditional direction he’s been taking and get back to the more country rock sound of his first album. He just seems to enjoy himself more and it brings out his best too. Kudos to him having the guts to cover Prince too, as it is not an easy task and he actually does a solid job. 8/10

The ChicksGaslighter

This is one of my most disappointing listens of 2020. I’m still a big fan of the lead single and title track, as it’s energy is infectious. But this album becomes so tedious and monotonous to listen to thereafter. First off it feels less like a project from The Chicks and more of a Natalie Maines solo project. There isn’t enough harmonies. The “boat incident” is rehashed ad nauseam. But perhaps the worst thing about this project is the production. I’m a big fan of Jack Antonoff. Hell, he produced Country Perspective’s 2019 Album of the Year. But his production does not go well with The Chicks at all. It’s just too polished for this trio and pales in comparison to their previous sound. I had high hopes for the return of The Chicks, but this honestly feels like the Garth Brooks return all over again. 6/10

Tenille TownesThe Lemonade Stand

I come away from this album seeing a lot of potential in Tenille Townes. Her voice is distinctive and it sticks with you long after listening. And I think Jay Joyce is the right choice as producer, even though I think he can get a bit heavy handed with the production at times on this album. Townes is only going to get better as a songwriter too as she continues to get more experience. While there are a few too many moments where the songs just feel run of the mill, the moments that do work though are great, such as “Jersey on the Wall” and “Come as You Are.” 6/10

Mark ChesnuttNumbers on the Jukebox EP

The sound on this EP is just not mixed well at all. And I’m forgiving in this department when it comes to independent artists. But it’s just so jarring as the listener and I find it puzzling how live and studio recordings are intermingled. The songwriting is also a big step down from Tradition Lives, which is a great album. I expected a lot more from Chesnutt and this feels like a letdown.

Eric PaslayNice Guy

Man, what happened to this guy? He showed so much promise on his debut album. He’s a great live performer too. Then he released the terrible single “High Class” and it’s been steady down hill ever since. This mediocre batch of pop country only continues his descent. It just baffles me how an artist who seems to only be trending upwards to make such a sudden 180. Only Zac Brown Band and The Band Perry baffle me more when it comes to changing so suddenly.

RaeLynnBaytown EP

I’ve been enjoying the direction RaeLynn has been taking into more goofy, “kitchy” songs. This EP features even more enjoyable songs in this vein. “Judgin’ to Jesus” is really catchy and “Bra Off” makes me laugh at the new twist on a breakup song. “Fake Girl Town” doesn’t land for me as the tone just doesn’t fit RaeLynn nor the other tracks on the album. While the lighter side seems to fit RaeLynn best, “Me About Me” is a nice reminder of when RaeLynn wants to get more serious she can do quite well too. It honestly surprises me she hasn’t had more radio success because she has so many songs with great hooks and her charisma is infectious. But if you’ve been enjoying RaeLynn’s recent direction, this is an EP certainly worth your time. 7/10

Cassadee PopeRise and Shine

“I really want this record to sound like an acoustic Dashboard Confessional — like a country Dashboard record.” That’s what Pope says of this album and well mission accomplished. That’s not a good thing. It only makes me want to repeat again: Pope is not suited for country music. She has a great voice, but it is not suited for country. The pop punk of Hey Monday is where she needs to get back to, but we all know what’s more marketable and that’s what drives the decision making of most artists. It’s a shame.

Blackberry Smoke — Live Bandcamp albums

As always this band delivers and they deliver no better than when they’re in a live setting. These lives albums are admittedly not too different from their excellent 2019 live album Homecoming, but if you’re a fan of Blackberry Smoke it’s certainly worth checking out. If anything listen to the songs that aren’t covered on their previous live albums.

Albums from artists I’ve heard and will be covering soon:

  • Daniel Donato
  • Lindsay Ell
  • Duckwrth
  • CeeLo Green

Albums from artists I haven’t heard but on my to listen to list and will likely cover:

  • Caylee Hammack
  • Jacob Collier
  • The Mavericks
  • Tim McGraw
  • Josh Turner
  • Tucker Beathard
  • Taylor Swift
  • The Allman Betts Band

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [April 2014]

220px-doinwhatshelikes

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.

While I hate to do another recent chart after having just done 2011 last week, my schedule this week is admittedly pretty busy. Therefore, I wanted to showcase another chart of songs that I am familiar with. I picked April 19th, 2014 since that’s approximately a month before Country Perspective even came into existence, and I thought it would be fun to showcase what the charts were like just before Josh stepped onto the scene.

  1. Blake Shelton – “Doin’ What She Likes” -2
  2. Randy Houser – “Goodnight Kiss” -2
  3. Jerrod Niemann – “Drink To That All Night” -5
  4. Brantley Gilbert – “Bottoms Up” -5
  5. Eric Church – “Give Me Back My Hometown” +1
  6. Rascal Flatts – “Rewind” -2
  7. Thomas Rhett – “Get Me Some Of That” -5
  8. Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan – “This Is How We Roll” -5
  9. Brett Eldredge – “Beat Of The Music” 0
  10. Miranda Lambert – “Automatic” +3 [Best Song]
  11. Dan + Shay – “19 You + Me” -2
  12. Keith Urban – “Cop Car” -2 (I’m sorry, I don’t get the appeal in this song at all)
  13. Luke Bryan – “Play It Again” -3
  14. Justin Moore – “Lettin’ The Night Roll” -1
  15. Tim McGraw – “Lookin’ For That Girl” -5 [Worst Song]
  16. Craig Morgan – “Wake Up Lovin’ You” +2
  17. Sara Evans – “Slow Me Down” 0
  18. Tyler Farr – “Whiskey In My Water” -1
  19. Craig Campbell – “Keep Them Kisses Comin'” +1
  20. The Band Perry – “Chainsaw” -2
  21. Hunter Hayes – “Invisible” -2
  22. Billy Currington – “We Are Tonight” +1
  23. Jake Owen – “Beachin'” -4
  24. Chris Young – “Who I Am With You” +1
  25. Joe Nichols – “Yeah” -2
  26. Sheryl Crow – “Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely” +1
  27. Eric Paslay – “Song About A Girl” -1
  28. Eli Young Band – “Dust” +2
  29. Brad Paisley – “River Bank” -1
  30. Lee Brice – “I Don’t Dance” +2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: -38

Wow, this is an absolutely terrible chart across the board. How many -5’s was that again?!? It’s hard to believe that a chart from the future could actually look better than this. Yikes.

Alright, so let’s start off with the few good songs here. Miranda Lambert is the only person with a song worthy of an 8/10 (IMO), so she runs away with best song for “Automatic”. The only other good songs come courtesy of Craig Morgan, Lee Brice, and Eli Young Band and I’m sure that even you guys will have something to say about one or more of those songs.

The terrible is easy to digest. It’s quite surreal looking back and seeing just how much bro-country really did plague the genre. There are five songs here that could compete for country music’s worst songs, and to pick the worst of all of them was tough. In the end, I picked Tim since not only does that song absolutely blow, Tim McGraw simply knows better dammit! Trust me folks, I really did consider just tying all five of these songs for worst song. I felt like Negan from the Walking Dead trying to pick a victim. Aside from that…yeah, things aren’t much better outside of those five. Just a sad chart to see.

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!

Predictions for the 2016 ACM Awards

51st ACM Awards

The 2016 ACM Awards will air live this Sunday at 8 PM ET on ABC. The 51st edition of the show will be hosted by Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley, the latter’s first time as a host for the show. Some will tune in to see how they do as hosts. Some will tune in for the performances set throughout the night. But most will tune in to see who takes home the awards. Country music loves to go all out for these shows and the results are usually somewhere in the middle. You definitely will be taking some bad with the good and vice versa. When it comes to predicting these awards shows, I rely heavily on the artists’ past performance at awards shows and the history of the award show at hand. Of course the artist’s success over the last year and the push their camps have made to win will weigh into my predictions too. Along with my predictions, I give you who I would pick myself too. Be sure to make your own predictions in the comments below. So without further ado my predictions for the 2016 ACM Awards:

Entertainer of the Year

Who I Would Pick: Eric Church – I hear nothing but rave reviews about his live shows and he’s near the top of my bucket list for artists to see live. Not to mention he put out the best record of his career last November in the form of Mr. Misunderstood and has release two great singles from it.

Who I Think Will Win: Luke Bryan – Because he always gets chosen for this award. This will continue to be the case until country music gets the shake up it deserves.

Male Vocalist of the Year

Who I Would Pick: Chris Stapleton – Since I would pick Church for Entertainer of the Year, I would go with Stapleton here. Pretty self-explanatory.

Who I Think Will Win: Chris Stapleton – Do you really think the ACM Awards are going to miss out on StapletonMania? Picking someone outside of Stapleton or Church here will make the ACM look worse in comparison to the CMA. Plus unlike country radio, the country awards shows have been doing a fairly good job of keeping up with the trends and taking quality into consideration.

Female Vocalist of the Year

Who I Would Pick: Kacey Musgraves – The more I listen to Pageant Material, the more I enjoy it. This album was easily one of the most underrated of 2015 and I’m disappointed how many have brushed Kacey aside.

Who I Think Will Win: Carrie Underwood – Here’s my bold prediction for you. It shouldn’t be that bold, but it is when this award has basically went to Miranda Lambert by default in recent years and Carrie being shunned by country award shows every year. Kramer and Musgraves have no shot at winning. Ballerini can’t buy this award like her label buys her airplay. I say Carrie winning should be a slam dunk, but I wouldn’t bat an eye if Lambert won again because reasons.

Vocal Group of the Year

Who I Would Pick: Turnpike Troubadours – None of the nominees deserve to win. I would write-in the Turnpike Troubadours, who didn’t get enough love for their new album last year.

Who I Think Will Win: Little Big Town – They’re not quite done yet dominating awards show based off the success of “Girl Crush.” Once it ends though they will go back to where they were before it. In fact just look at Lady Antebellum’s career post-success of “Need You Now” and you get a pretty good idea of what’s ahead for Little Big Town. I give Zac Brown Band an outside shot since they now have the backing of Borchetta and Big Machine.

Vocal Duo of the Year

Who I Would Pick: Maddie & Tae – Country radio doesn’t appreciate them. Close-minded bros don’t appreciate them. But I appreciate them.

Who I Think Will Win: Florida Georgia Line – They’re still winning this category by default. Their next album will determine if this continues because their relevance and stature has slipped recently.

Album of the Year

Who I Would Pick: Chris Stapleton – Traveller or Eric Church – Mr. Misunderstood – These are the only logical choices.

Who I Think Will Win: Chris Stapleton – Traveller – My reasoning for this is the same as picking Stapleton for Male Vocalist of the Year. Church and Hunt are other possible winners here, but I think Stapleton is the overwhelming favorite. You know what I want to talk about though? Chris Young and Thomas Rhett’s albums being nominees. They have no business whatsoever here. Young’s I’m Comin’ Over is one of the most boring albums I’ve ever heard and Rhett’s Tangled Up is just straight garbage that rips off multiple artists from Bruno Mars to Ed Sheeran. It’s an absolute joke these albums are even nominees.

Single Record of the Year (award goes to artist, producers & label)

Who I Would Pick: Cam’s “Burning House” – A pretty easy pick for me, as this song was one of the big surprise hits of 2015 and dominated sales.

Who I Think Will Win: Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” – This is by far the hardest category to predict. All of these songs had great sales in 2015 and spent their fair share of time atop the charts. But in the end I think Hunt wins because they don’t want him walking away empty-handed and I have to think Hunt’s label is tired of him not winning enough awards. Young is the only one I see not winning for sure, while the rest I could see pulling it off.

Song of the Year (award goes to songwriters, publishers & artist)

Who I Would Pick: Chris Stapleton’s “Nobody To Blame”

Who I Think Will Win: Chris Stapleton’s “Nobody To Blame” – All of the candidates here are good/decent, so I wouldn’t be angry if any of these won. I get a laugh though when I see Eric Paslay’s “She Don’t L0ve You” as a nominee. The country music industry has pretty much ignored this great song up to this point and just now getting around to it after Paslay sold out with “High Class.”

Vocal Event of the Year

Who I Would Pick: Sturgill Simpson & Jason Isbell – “Amarillo Highway” 

Who I Think Will Win: Luke Bryan & Karen Fairchild – “Home Alone Tonight”

Video of the Year

Who I Would Pick: Eric Church – “Mr. Misunderstood”

Who I Think Will Win: Eric Church – “Mr. Misunderstood”

The Best Music Currently at Country Radio [March 16]

The best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly. Here’s where all the songs currently stand on the chart:

10. Maren Morris – “My Church”

11. Chris Stapleton – “Nobody To Blame”

16. Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”

21. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots”

23. Maddie & Tae – “Shut Up and Fish” 

24. Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With A Beer”

27. Eric Church – “Record Year”

29. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink”

31. Kip Moore – “Running For You”

32. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl”

34. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately”

37. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” 

44. Cam – “Mayday”

49. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”

50. Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”

54. Charles Kelley (feat. Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay) – “The Driver”

58. Toby Keith – “Beautiful Stranger”

 

The Best Music Currently at Country Radio [March 9]

The best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly. Here’s where all the songs currently stand on the chart:

12. Chris Stapleton – “Nobody To Blame”

13. Maren Morris – “My Church”

18. Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind”

20. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots”

24. Maddie & Tae – “Shut Up and Fish” 

27. Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With A Beer”

28. Eric Church – “Record Year”

30. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink”

32. Kip Moore – “Running For You”

34. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl”

36. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately”

39. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” 

43. Cam – “Mayday” 

44. Charles Kelley (feat. Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay) – “The Driver”

45. Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”

49. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”

55. Toby Keith – “Beautiful Stranger”