Album Review – George Strait’s ‘Honky Tonk Time Machine’

George Strait is one of the greatest country artists of all-time and few would dispute his king of country music title. He proved it years ago. But sometimes even a king can miss. With his newest album Honky Tonk Time Machine, it’s a big miss for me. In fact, I find it an absolute chore to get through most of this album. The album starts off well with “Every Little Honky Tonk Bar.” It’s a bar anthem for the working class, everyday men and women looking to tie one off after a long week. Throughout the years he’s consistently knocked these songs out of the park and this one is no different, as it’s his bread and butter to perfectly capture the feeling of this familiar theme.

“Two More Wishes” is an enjoyable tune about Strait likening his bottle of alcohol to a genie in a bottle, using it to make the woman of his dreams appear. I love the casual, easy-going nature of the song, as it works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I enjoy the stripped-down sound of “Some Nights” and the lyrics really capture the feeling of existential dread in the wake of a hard breakup. Just like bar anthems, Strait knocks out heartbreak ballads in his sleep. After this song, the album unfortunately takes a big dive in quality. I can’t stand “God and Country Music” and for two big reasons: 1) The preachy, saccharine and sanctimonious nature of the lyrics. 2) A child singing. I know it was a big deal for Strait to have his grandson on the song, but I just can’t stand the sound of children singing. It’s like nails on a chalk board for me.

“Blue Water” would be a great song about finding a break from the troubles of life in an ocean if it was a minute shorter. That’s because the hook gets annoyingly repetitive after like two minutes. I can only listen to “blueeeeee waterrrr” so many times before I want to rip my ears out. “Sometimes Love” is a song on this album and that’s all I have say about that. “Codigo” is an ad poorly disguised as a song. If Florida Georgia Line or Luke Bryan cut a song about their own brand of liquor, people would be screaming for the death penalty for them. But Strait is apparently immune from being criticized for this. Well I’ll say it: this is corporate, huckster, shilling, horseshit and Strait should be ashamed for cutting such a song.

I want to like “Old Violin” and I respect Strait for addressing mortality and his life. But I’ve heard Willie Nelson release at least five songs in the last few years address this same topic, where the songwriting absolutely runs circles around the lyrics of “Old Violin.” Sorry George, but Willie set the bar and you didn’t meet it with this song. “Take Me Away” is boring and forgettable. “The Weight of the Badge” is predictable and as a result it fails to make an emotional connection with me. I feel like this song spends too much time telling me how hard it is to be a police officer and how admirable they are instead of showing it through strong storytelling and letting me come to this conclusion on my own. It’s like taking a camel to water: don’t drag me to it, lead me to it.

The album’s title track is trying to be an upbeat and raucous bar anthem that makes you want to move your feet, but it fails to do so, and I put this on the weak and at times weird lyrics. These lyrics in particular stand out: “He’s gonna make damn sure the jukebox don’t rock/And the record’s gonna be the only thing that bops/He’s an old-school cold longneck DJ/And look at him now, here comes them old green snakes.” What? I feel like the songwriters just threw a bunch of words together, made sure to sprinkle in a couple common words people will only hear and then hope nobody actually reads the whole lines. This isn’t different from a lot of the ridiculous tripe populating the top of the country charts.

“What Goes Up” is a reminder of why I don’t like most overtly Christian songs: they’re boring. The lyrics sound like they’re directly quoting from the Bible or a church sermon instead of taking a story and then relating it back to spirituality/religion and how it plays a role in the emotions/story. A great example of this is Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High on that Mountain.” The final track on the album, “Sing One with Willie”, is a fun song and it’s great to hear two legends finally do a song together. But after a few listens I’ve had my fill of the song. It’s a shame they couldn’t have collaborated on a song with more substance instead of a novelty track. That’s really the story of this album: I expected more.

I’m sure George Strait will bounce back on the next one, as this is a rare blip on the radar for an all-time great. But still it’s hard for me to label Honky Tonk Time Machine as anything but a big disappointment and a large step down from his previous album Cold Beer Conversation.

Grade: 3/10

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!

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [March 2001]

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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 (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’s chart will be from March 31st, 2001.

  1. Diamond Rio – “One More Day” +3
  2. Jessica Andrews – “Who I Am” +2
  3. Toby Keith – “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This” +3
  4. Travis Tritt – “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” +3
  5. Faith Hill – “If My Heart Had Wings” -1 [Worst Song] (Overproduced and cheesy)
  6. Keith Urban – “But For The Grace Of God” +4 [Best Song] (Yes, Urban is rated higher than Strait, Tritt…etc)
  7. Brooks & Dunn – “Ain’t Nothing Bout You” +1 (Cool sound, not so cool lyrics)
  8. Kenny Chesney – “Don’t Happen Twice” +1
  9. Tim Rushlow – “She Misses Him” +4 (I really don’t like his voice, but I can’t deny this is a damn good song)
  10. Dixie Chicks – “If I Fall (You’re Going Down With Me)” +2
  11. Martina McBride – “It’s My Time” +2
  12. Trick Pony – “Pour Me” +2
  13. Tim McGraw – “Grown Men Don’t Cry” +2
  14. Lee Ann Womack – “Ashes By Now” +3 (Those bongos are pretty cool!)
  15. SheDaisy – “Lucky 4 You (Tonight I’m Just Me)” 0 (Yes, they used 4 instead of “for.” Why? I have no idea)
  16. Gary Allan – “Right Where I Need To Be” +3
  17. The Warren Brothers – “Move On” 0
  18. Jamie O’ Neal – “There Is No Arizona” +3
  19. Mark McGuinn – “Mrs. Steven Rudy” -1 (It’s catchy, but oh so creepy)
  20. Jo Dee Messina – “Burn” +1
  21. Phil Vassar – “Rose Bouquet” +3
  22. George Strait – “If You Can Do Anything Else” +3
  23. Pam Tillis – “Please” 0 (In terms of country, 0. In terms of pop I’d give this a solid +2)
  24. Garth Brooks – “Wild Horses” 0 (Not because I dislike the song, but because Garth can’t put the f***ing song on YouTube, or really anywhere for me to hear)
  25. Patty Loveless – “The Last Thing On My Mind” +3
  26. Sara Evans – “I Could Not Ask For More” +1
  27. Alan Jackson – “When Somebody Loves You” +3
  28. Montgomery Gentry – “She Couldn’t Change Me” +4 (This sort of describes me)
  29. Steve Holy – “The Hunger” +2
  30. Aaron Tippin – “People Like Us” 0 (Good sound, but I’m not a fan of the “I’m so country” lyrical template)

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +56

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 Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [March 2008]

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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 March 15th, 2008.

  1. Carrie Underwood – “All American Girl” +1 (Cliché, but the sound and vocals are good)
  2. Rodney Atkins – “Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy)” 0
  3. Alan Jackson – “Small Town Southern Man” +4 (One of his best in my opinion)
  4. Kenny Chesney & George Strait – “Shiftwork” 0
  5. Chuck Wicks – “Stealing Cinderella” +1 (cheesy as all hell, but it’s played with enough sincerity to work for me)
  6. Trace Adkins – “You’re Gonna Miss This” +4
  7. Gary Allan – “Watching Airplanes” +2
  8. George Strait – “I Saw God Today” +4
  9. Chris Cagle – “What Kinda Gone” +2
  10. Jason Aldean – “Laughed Until We Cried” +3 (Yeah, a positive Aldean score. I’m as shocked as you all are)
  11. Brooks & Dunn – “God Must be Busy” +2
  12. James Otto – “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” 0 (Eh…)
  13. Taylor Swift – “Picture To Burn” +1
  14. Phil Vassar – “Love Is A Beautiful Thing” +1 (Cheesy as all hell, but at least it sort of incorporates a story)
  15. Bucky Covington – “It’s Good To Be Us” -1
  16. Lady Antebellum – “Love Don’t Live Here” +3
  17. Kellie Pickler – “Things That Never Cross A Man’s Mind” +1
  18. Joe Nichols – “It Ain’t No Crime” +1
  19. Jewel – “Stronger Woman” -1 [Worst Song] (Man, never heard a song by here before. Don’t care for her voice at all. Plus the song is too preachy for me. Sorry)
  20. Jake Owen – “Somethin’ Bout A Woman” 0
  21. Dierks Bentley – “Trying To Stop Your Leaving” +3
  22. Josh Turner & Trisha Yearwood – “Another Try” +4 [Best Song]
  23. Garth Brooks & Huey Lewis – “Workin’ For A Livin'” +2 (Yes, I’ve heard this Garth song)
  24. Ashton Shepherd – “Takin’ Off This Pain” +2
  25. Jack Ingram – “Maybe She’ll Get Lonely” 0
  26. Rascal Flatts – “Every Day” -1
  27. Brad Paisley – “I’m Still A Guy” +2
  28. Montgomery Gentry – “Back When I Knew It All” +3
  29. Josh Gracin – “We Weren’t Crazy” +2 (Yes, people on country radio used to sing from the perspective of ONCE being young instead of pretending they’re still young…)
  30. The Eagles – “Busy Being Fabulous” 0

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +45

So yeah this kind of a weird week. On one hand, there’s a plethora of great songs. Even compared to some charts in the 90’s I’d say there’s more good songs here. In other words, quantity versus quality. In fact, picking the best song was absolutely brutal.

The problem is that there’s also a lot of mediocrity here. Nothing inherently terrible or anything, but there are too many songs that play it safe here and don’t really stand out that much. Still this is a damn good week. I’m happy with the results.

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 Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [May 2013]

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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 (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. Admittedly my week was pretty hectic, therefore I’m taking a break from my review backlog this week. It will resume next week, but for now I picked 2013 since I already knew my thoughts on all thirty songs. This week’s chart will be from May 11th, 2013.

  1. Thompson Square – “If I Didn’t Have You” +1
  2. Florida Georgia Line – “Get Your Shine On” -3 (Admittedly this song REALLY annoys me, but it’s more of a personal thing. Therefore I decided to be fair.)
  3. Miranda Lambert – “Mama’s Broken Heart” 0
  4. Lady Antebellum – “Downtown” 0
  5. Kenny Chesney – “Pirate Flag” -3
  6. Darius Rucker – “Wagon Wheel” +1 (I don’t think the song is all that special but eh…it was the most country thing to hit the top in quite a while so whatever)
  7. Tim McGraw & Taylor Swift & Keith Urban – “Highway Don’t Care” -2
  8. George Strait – “Give It All We Got Tonight” 0
  9. Chris Young – “I Can Take It From There” +1
  10. Brad Paisley – “Beat This Summer” +3 [Best Song]
  11. Eric Church – “Like Jesus Does” +1
  12. Blake Shelton  & The Pistol Annies – “Boys ‘Round Here” -5 [Worst Song…..Ever]
  13. Brantley Gilbert – “More Than Miles” +1
  14. The Band Perry – “DONE” -1 (And now they really are!)
  15. Jason Aldean – “1994” -5 [Worst Song…..oh shit I already handed this out? Ugh….]
  16. Jake Owen – “Anywhere With You” 0
  17. Zac Brown Band – “Jump Right In” +1
  18. Luke Bryan – “Crash My Party” -1
  19. Gloriana – “Can’t Shake You” +2
  20. The Henningsens – “American Beautiful” 0
  21. Kip Moore – “Hey Pretty Girl” +2
  22. Easton Corbin – “All Over The Road” -1
  23. Hunter Hayes – “I Want Crazy” -2
  24. Carrie Underwood – “See You Again” +1
  25. Gary Allan – “Pieces” +1
  26. Brett Eldredge – “Don’t Ya” -1 (Almost a 0 but that opening line is just way too cringe worthy)
  27. Kelly Clarkson & Vince Gill – “Don’t Rush” +1
  28. Justin Moore – “Point At You” -1
  29. Billy Currington – “Hey Girl” -3
  30. Randy Houser – “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” -2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: -14

So yeah this week was definitely a bust. From the looks at the bottom half of the chart, it looks like we were just about to be inundated with bro-country. Elsewhere, Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton run away with the “honor” of having two of the absolute worst songs to ever descend upon the country genre. Even looking beyond that there’s just not a whole lot here. The best song for me is Brad Paisley’s experimental “Beat This Summer” but only that is great as opposed to outright excellent. Honestly there’s just a whole lot of mediocrity here.

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!