Album Review – Erik Dylan’s ‘Heart of a Flatland Boy’

erik-dylan-heart-of-a-flatland-boy

The fall schedule has seen a lot of country and Americana releases, some very much on the radar and some not so much. Erik Dylan’s new album Heart of a Flatland Boy tends to fall in the latter. He’s a fourth generator farmer from Kansas who packed up all of his stuff and headed to Nashville where he’s been spending his time writing hundreds of songs. Most prominently he’s written multiple songs for Kip Moore, who discovered him and helped him get his big break. In addition he also had a song cut on Justin Moore’s new album released in August. But now Dylan is getting his chance to release his own music under his own name and make a name as not just a songwriter, but artist too. After a promising lead single that brought him to my attention, I was eager to dig into his new album Heart of a Flatland Boy.

The album’s lead single “Pink Flamingos” still sounds as great as when I first heard it and reviewed it. It’s a rock-tinged country song about a woman named Becky dating a man who her neighbors recognize as trouble right away. Everyone else who lives in the trailer park except Becky has noticed the man has been checking out Becky’s daughter in her Sunday school dress, immediately establishing this guy as a major creep. One day when Becky is at work, the man does something to her daughter that’s over the line and I’m glad the song goes no further than this. So the neighbors take this matter into their own hands by shooting the pervert dead and burying him in the yard under the pink flamingos. As far anyone asks, the guy left town and they plead the fifth. So it’s a justified murder-revenge ballad with some dark humor in the hook, “pushing up pink flamingos.” It’s a really cleverly written song with a surprisingly detailed story. I also love the delivery of the line from him when he sings, “Nobody ever liked that son of a bitch.”

While it’s easy to crown “Pink Flamingos” the best song of the album, there’s another song that makes an argument for being better and that’s “Fishing Alone.” The song is about a man’s father passing away and realizing all of the times they never had together. He realizes how later in life he sort of drifted away and that he let a lot of time they could have had just slip away because life got in the way. Now he’s left feeling guilty and sad that he let things happen the way they did. It’s a sorrowful song that makes you want to reflect on your own relationships with family and really pulls at the heartstrings. Dylan reflects on love lost on “Girl That Got Away.” It’s a solid heartbreak song. The album’s final song “Map Dot Town” is another solid song I really enjoy. The song is about how people learn to accept their fate of living and dying in a map dot town, while also being about a man having to watch his wife eventually leave and never getting to see his son. It’s very much along the lines of Zac Brown Band’s “Highway 20 Ride.” It’s this at first bitter and then later accepting realization that life didn’t go the way you planned. But in the end you realize this is where you belong. It’s a sobering song.

“Willie Nelson T-Shirt” is probably the most fun song of the album. The song is about a man going through a breakup and pleading to his ex to give him his 1985 Willie Nelson t-shirt back. If she refuses, he’ll tell everyone around town about how she cheated on him, which led to their breakup. While this blackmailing, threat of slut shaming is not something I approve of, she did cheat on him and all he’s asking for his t-shirt back. It makes for a realistic look at how unreasonable break ups can go down, even over something trivial like a t-shirt, which is what makes this song amusing. One of the more upbeat songs on the album and another fun one is “Astronaut.” A man who works a backbreaking job in the heat everyday with his Copenhagen habit and GED begins to dream of the good life if he ever hit the Powerball jackpot and won the heart of the woman he’s had his eye on for a while. “Astronaut” is able to take this simple theme and succeed because it has instrumentation with fiery energy and it actually has some story behind it.

While this album definitely has some highlights and has a lot of good going for it, I did run into things I didn’t like. On the title track and “It Ain’t Broke” the instrumentation sounds fine, but the songs themselves are a little too generic for my tastes. “The Good Life” exudes how great of a life it is to wake up every day and busts your ass to earn what you have unlike others. It goes on about guys like this go 110% and always makes the grade. The song is a big humble brag that makes it hard to empathize with the people described in this song, which shouldn’t be an issue because being a hard-worker should be an admirable trait.

There’s only one song on this album that I outright don’t like and that’s “Your Way Down.” It doesn’t get off to the best of starts when it’s introduction sounds very similar to the introduction of Hoobastank’s “The Reason,” a song I have a deep burning hate for and I don’t like to have any reminders of being a song that exists. Once you move past this you have a song that is very cynical in nature, as a guy can’t stop thinking about an ex that dumped him and left their small town for another guy. The guy can’t seem to get over it and tells her to “look me up on your way down.” It doesn’t paint him in a flattering light, making him look like a whiny douche. It’s hard to sympathize with a whiny douche. If you’re doing so well, why are you even caring about her? It’s just a bad song and something I hope Dylan tries to stay away from in the future.

Overall I think Erik Dylan delivers a solid album in Heart of a Flatland Boy. It does a lot of things right and shows he has a lot of potential. His style and approach reminds me a lot of his discoverer Kip Moore and another artist who’s sound is based around a heartland rock type vibe, Eric Church. And it’s funny because not only does the good on this album remind me of Church at his best, but also the worst reminds me of Church at his worst. This album is along the lines of Church’s early albums where you can hear the talent plain as day, but there’s a few songs that try way too hard to get it’s theme across or come off immature. Despite some of the problems I have with this album though, I think Heart of a Flatland Boy does a lot of things right and if Dylan continues to build off the good, he has all the makings of having a long career in country music.

Grade: 7/10 

 

Recommend? – For fans of Kip Moore/Eric Church/rock-influenced country, Yes

Album Highlights: Fishing Alone, Pink Flamingos, Map Dot Town, Astronaut, Willie Nelson T-Shirt

Bad Songs: Your Way Down

Wallpaper: Flatland Boy & It Ain’t Broke


The Hodgepodge: Country Radio’s 15 Minutes of Fame Strategy

This week’s opening will be short. I just started a new job this week so I haven’t had a ton of time to thoroughly think through this topic, but it’s something I want to dive into and would love to see readers’ thoughts on this.

Mainstream country labels seems to aim more and more for just one hit single. For all the radio hype Chris Lane got for “Fix,” his album sales tell a different story. Girl Problems hasn’t sold well out of the gate, debuting at #8 on Billboard last week and falling off the charts this week. Outselling Lane last week was Texas Country star Cody Johnson, who still remains on the charts this week. And Cody Jinks, who debuted at #4 this week with I’m Not the Devil sold more than Girl Problems did.

It’s not really breaking news that independent country stars have strong album sales, as we saw last year with Aaron Watson, Jason Isbell, Blackberry Smoke, and Turnpike Troubadours all reaching number one on the album charts. A main reason for this could be the fact that independent fan bases seem more willing to purchase an album to support their favorite artist. But being able to sell an album well, especially at the heels of a hit radio song, could signify the longevity for an artist. Yes, Cody Johnson and Cody Jinks have established careers and released multiple albums prior to Gotta Be Me and I’m Not the Devil, but strong album sales only cement their place with their fans and in the music industry.

However, with Chris Lane selling poorly after “Fix” hit number one just screams one-hit wonder. So many times, we see artists, particularly trend-chasing B/C-level artists, only perform well at radio with a song or two. Most albums seem to get delayed, or they simply just sell like crap. How do Chris Lane or Big Loud Records expect to see any follow-up success? Not that I want to hear another full-fledged pop song from Lane, but why wasn’t Girl Problems given the same type of promotion as “Fix”? I just don’t understand why they chose to play the short game for 15 minutes of fame. Chris Lane isn’t the first, and he won’t be the last. This is just one of many, many problems with mainstream country radio.

Country radio is in the pits, and these hot, one-hit wonder type songs is a short-sighted attempt to gain listeners and revenue. Labels and radio execs aren’t thinking of the long game to improve and crawl out of its self-dug hole. I don’t claim to be a programming expert, but this type of strategy screams short-term thinking. It’s treading on water without looking for a boat to help stay afloat. And as long as radio continues this thought process, we’ll be continually treated to trendy singles followed by poor albums. Artists and labels who think solely about the one single and not the album are not building a sustainable music career.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • Jack Ingram‘s Midnight Motel will be released tomorrow.
  • Whiskey Myers’ newest album, Mud will be released September 9.
  • Also coming out on the 9th is St. Paul & The Broken Bones‘ Sea of Noise.
  • Amanda Shires will release her new album My Piece of Land on September 16.
  • Erik Dylan‘s Heart of a Flatland Boy will be released on October 21.
  • Mack McKenzie is releasing his sophomore album A Million Miles on October 22.

Throwback Thursday Song

Merle Haggard’s “My Favorite Memory” This single from Haggard was released on this day in 1981, and would go on to become Merle’s 25th number one single.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Frank Ocean Blonde In an act of defiance against the major labels and streaming, Frank Ocean left his label and self-released his highly anticipated sophomore album exclusively through Apple. With labels/streaming services/artists all at odds, this kind of move is big and could lead to more artists acting in the same fashion.

Tweet of the Week

It’s been a big week for Erik Dylan, who performed at this Guy Clark tribute with the likes of Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, and others. Dylan’s upcoming album was also made available for pre-order.

iTunes Review for Florida Georgia Line

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This was left under Florida Georgia Line’s Dig Your Roots, which is due out tomorrow. I’ve only heard “H.O.L.Y.” and “God, Your Mama, and Me,” but I haven’t been crazy about either song. This review says it all!

Country Perspective’s Best Country and Americana Songs of 2016 So Far

As we look back at the best and worst of the first half of 2016, we take today to highlight over the songs that have stood out to us. Great lyrics, passionate vocals, and a good, fitting production all work together to create songs that connect with the listeners for a variety of reasons. Some of these songs were part of albums, others were released as singles with no albums attached, but all are great country and Americana songs.

Remember too that it’s impossible for us to keep up with every single release, and we do our best to cover the most songs possible. So please don’t be that person in the comments section that says something along the lines of: “This list is irrelevant because (insert song) isn’t on it” or “This list sucks.” Agree or disagree all you want, just be respectful about it. Not everyone has the same opinion, so keep this in mind.

YouTube videos available for the top songs are provided, and all songs are compiled into a Spotify playlist at the end of the post.

So without further ado, Country Perspective’s ten best country and Americana songs so far in 2016 (in no particular order).….

(Click on the song name to see the full review)

“Hands of Time” by Margo Price

The opening track to Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a beautiful six-minute trip into Margo’s life growing up on the farm and trying to get her life established as an adult. Price’s higher pitched delivery stands out on top of the heavy bass line.

“Heaven Sent” by Parker Millsap

“Heaven Sent” brilliantly tackles a difficult and rarely seen subject in country or Americana music. Millsap sings from the perspective of a gay son trying to figure out why his preacher father can’t accept him for who he is. The vocals capture the confusion and frustration of the son.

“Goodbye Kiss” by Flatland Cavalry

This new country band from Texas tell a common breakup story a fresh sense of pain from the narrator. Before saying goodbye for good, the couple in the song share one final kiss, which leaves an aching memory for the song’s narrator. Great country production, and the vocals and lyrics work together to paint a picture of pain and regret.

“Pink Flamingos” by Erik Dylan

Murder ballads are a common theme in country and Americana, but Erik Dylan’s “Pink Flamingos” flips the trope on its head. It’s a justifiable murder because the victim was a child predator, and Dylan’s vocal delivery is the icing on the cake of a well-written song.

“Rhinestone World” by Breelan Angel

There are protest songs that are good, there are protest songs that are bad, and then there’s Breelan Angel’s protest song. Being released in the aftermath of Keith Hill’s tomato comments and Katie Armiger’s claims against her label, “Rhinestone World” gives a voice for the women who are expected to act differently to get their moment in the spotlight. It’s the only song to get a 10/10 rating on Country Perspective this year.

“Take It Down” by Chris King

Chris King’s Animal is a fantastic concept album detailing a man trying to move past the fall of his relationship. “Take It Down” is the emotional peak of the album, where the narrator deals directly with the hurt from the relationship’s end. It’s a hurt caused by seeing her picture in a bar they once visited together. Great songwriting and vocals from Chris King.

“Call to Arms” by Sturgill Simpson

The final song on Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a fiercely political song against the news cycle leaders in our culture today. The song features an extended musical solo of horns and guitars, making a blended country and rock melody.

“Ain’t Nobody” by Dori Freeman

One of the most unique songs we’ve heard this year, this song is beautifully sung A-Capella by Freeman accompanied by only her finger snaps. Dori Freeman’s self titled debut is an excellent album, and this song proved to be the standout from the album.

“Grandma’s Garden” by Zac Brown

It’s hard to pick only one song from Southern Family, as the album is full of great songs from some of country and Americana’s best. Zac Brown’s tale of a family matriarch and the family she grew is wonderfully sang from Brown. It touches on one of country music highest values, and shows how great Zac Brown and Dave Cobb work together.

“She Ain’t In It” by Jon Pardi

We haven’t reviewed this song from Pardi’s upcoming California Sunrise, but this song pre-release show’s Pardi’s devotion to keeping country’s tradition alive. “She Ain’t In It” is another well-written heartbreak song, and a features a production that calls back to the 90s country sound.

Honorable Mentions

  • “You Are My Sunshine” by Morgane Stapleton – We didn’t feel right bumping one of the great songs above for a cover song, but “You Are My Sunshine” might be one of the best recordings of the year.
  • “I Cried” by Brandy Clark – A third song on this list featured from Southern Family. “I Cried” is poignant, with great vocals from Clark.
  • “Holdin’ Her” by Chris Janson – A beautiful, personal love song from Janson, featuring great vocals and an excellent country production.
  • “Blue Besides” by The Honeycutters – A great country production on a song dealing with the pains of growing up.
  • “Breaker’s Roar” by Sturgill Simpson – Another great song from Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, where Sturgill Simpson sings to encourage his son during hard times in life.
  • “Record Year” by Eric Church – Released last year, but the song is still on the rising on the charts this year. “Record Year” has great lyrics with Eric Church’s word play with using music to overcome heartbreak.
  • “My Last Song” by Addison Johnson – As Josh said in his review, “the song tackles life so poignantly. It’s not so much dark, but rather looks at life in a simplistic, mature manner that can resonate deeply with anyone who listens.”

Country Perspective’s Best Music Reviewed in May

The Honeycutters On The Ropes

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

None

 

9/10

Albums:

Darrell Scott – Couchville Sessions

The Honeycutters – On The Ropes

Carter Sampson – Wilder Side

Singles:

Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”

Erik Dylan – “Pink Flamingos”

 

8/10

Albums:

Ryan Beaver – Rx

The Lumineers – Cleopatra 

Review – Erik Dylan’s “Pink Flamingos”

Erik Dylan Pink Flamingos

When you see and listen to your favorite artists, it’s easy to take for granted the amount of blood, sweat and tears that went into getting where they’re at in their career. Being a musician for a living isn’t easy at all and there’s no guarantees. Every gig can be make or break. Many pack up all of their stuff and head to Nashville to pursue their dreams. This is what Erik Dylan did, as the fourth generation farmer from Kansas decided years ago to head to Music City and make a career in music. After taking odd jobs and playing as many gigs as he could, one night he was discovered by Kip Moore. The country rocker introduced him to writers Brett and Dylan James, which lead to Dylan getting a publishing deal with Brett James and Warner Chappell. Dylan has went on to write over 400 songs, including helping write Moore’s “Comeback Kid” on Moore’s latest album Wild Ones. Paying his dues, Dylan is now set to release his own music, as he’s just released new single “Pink Flamingos.” It’s the first single off a new album coming later this year and if it’s an indication what’s to come on it, color me intrigued.

“Pink Flamingos” is rock-tinged country song about a woman named Becky dating a man who her neighbors recognize as trouble right away. Everyone else who lives in the trailer park except Becky has noticed the man has been checking out Becky’s daughter in her Sunday school dress, immediately establishing this guy as a major creep. One day when Becky is at work, the man does something to her daughter that’s over the line and I’m glad the song goes no further than this. So the neighbors take this matter into their own hands by shooting the pervert dead and burying him in the yard under the pink flamingos. As far anyone asks, the guy left town and they plead the fifth. So it’s a justified murder-revenge ballad with some dark humor in the hook, “pushing up pink flamingos.” It’s a really cleverly written song with a surprisingly detailed story. Dylan is one of those vocalists that when you hear him you know he was meant for country music. I also love the delivery of the line from him when he sings, “Nobody ever liked that son of a bitch.”

Overall “Pink Flamingos” is a fantastic song that fits Dylan like a glove and makes me want to hear more from him. It’s pretty appropriate that Kip Moore is the one who discovered Dylan, considering both Dylan and Moore both fall somewhere between rock and country in their sound. The instrumentation is underrated on “Pink Flamingos,” as it’s kept simple with guitars and light drums, allowing the song to tell its story. For those who enjoy well-written murder ballads like myself, you’ll really enjoy this song. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for his new album Heart of a Flatland Boy expected this fall. Erik Dylan proves with “Pink Flamingos” he’s one to watch in 2016.

Grade: 9/10