The Endless Music Odyssey, Vol. 2: Sara Evans and Mike & The Moonpies Cover Classics, Plus More!

When an artist covers a song or an album, it’s either feast or famine. It’s often the latter because the artist too often falls into the trap of recording a straight-ahead, exact replica of the original. And this quite frankly is boring. Why would I want to hear a cover of, let’s say Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks”, if you’re just going to do it exactly how they did it? I’ll just listen to the original instead.

No, the best covers are when an artist takes and reinterprets the songs, giving them a fresh coat of paint and reinvigorating them in the minds of the listeners. So while Sara Evans is an artist that I rarely listen to at times, her Copy That album that covers songs from multiple genres across multiple eras intrigued me when I came across it. I say she’s an artist I rarely listen to because of all the boring, vanilla radio singles that a lot of people seem to like. But they put me to sleep and I would much rather listen to her early career material, which better showcases her talent. Not to mention I didn’t forget her great performance on the country tribute album to The Doobie Brothers.

Evans picks the perfect opener in “If I Can’t Have You,” the disco hit made famous by the Bee Gees and Yvonne Elliman. Evans brings a ton of passion and energy to her vocal performance, feeling right at home on this yearning love ballad. “Come On Eileen” is one of those one-hit 80s rock songs that has always got on my nerves due to radio overplay and the cheesy nature of the delivery. But I just can’t get enough of Evans’ interpretation, as the hints of fiddle and Evans’ clearer take on the song makes it a catchy ear worm. I also enjoy how the bridge speeds up and crashes, giving the song an infectious frenetic feel.

Poco’s rock-country hit “Crazy Love” is a gem I didn’t know about and again fits Evans like a glove, as she keeps enough of the original’s feel while making it feel modern. Evans and Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet beautifully harmonize on Kenny Loggins’ “Whenever I Call You “Friend”” and I would say like their version more than the original, has less of a soupy feel about it. Evans’ best vocal performances on this album are arguably her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Monday Morning” and John Mayer’s “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye,” as she absolutely belts it on each track.

Old Crow Medicine Show appropriately joins her on Hank Williams’ “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry” and this is a combination I didn’t think I would enjoy so much, as their discographies are so contrasting. But they surprisingly work well. Finally, Evans once again wins me over on a classic rock song that gets overplayed on radio, The Knacks’ “My Sharona.” The blaring guitars being in front and center with Evans impassioned performance hooks me immediately and I would argue she once again surpasses the original of one of her covers.

If this album slipped through the cracks for you I would suggest checking out, especially if you’re like me and listen to multiple genres of music. It’s just a really fun album that you can tell Evans and her band enjoyed making and this is undoubtedly felt by the listener as they sing along to these familiar tracks.

Sara Evans though wasn’t the only band to recently make a great covers album, as Mike and the Moonpies dropped a surprise album of Gary Stewart songs. But Touch of You: The Lost Songs of Gary Stewart isn’t just Stewart songs, but previously unheard songs from the underrated country star. Being a fan of Stewart and Mike and the Moonpies coming off what I considered the best country album of 2019, I was eager to sink my teeth into this one.

It doesn’t disappoint, as Mike Harmeir and his band certainly do justice to the King of Honkytonks’ tunes. It doesn’t necessarily start off the strongest with “Bottom of the Pile,” as I would consider it one of the lesser songs on the album due to it’s repetitiveness. But second track “Smooth Shot of Whiskey” is an immediate favorite of mine. Harmeir is joined on vocals surprisingly by Midland frontman Mark Wystrach and they sound so good together. I say surprisingly because Texas country music doesn’t exactly like Midland due to their “lack of authenticity” and regularly like to compare the Moonpies and Midland. But if you pay attention on social media these bands have always been chummy with each other and they should because each fall into the same style of country music.

The album’s title track might be my most favorite on the record, as Harmeir stretches his vocal range to great effect. It adds the emotion that is much needed on this heartbreak drinking song, not to mention Harmeir’s higher notes are unforgettably good. It’s slightly disappointing there aren’t more country rockers on this album, as that’s what Stewart is most well-known for in his career. But it’s not surprising either, as these songs mostly come from Stewart’s 80s material, which is decidedly more mellow. But we do get one great rocker with “Dance with Barbara,” a rowdy honky tonker about wanting to hit the dance floor with the woman of everyone’s eye in the bar.

It should be said too for those unfamiliar with Gary Stewart’s work that many of his songs center around debauchery, drinking and the darkness that can accompany it, as these themes were very much part of his life. So in a way it can make listening to this album a bit repetitive to listen to at times. But if you’re in the mood for these type of songs, it has this in spades. “The Gold Barstool” and “Finished Product” are darkly humorous takes on over-drinking. But Stewart wasn’t a one-trick pony either, as “I’m Guilty” is a really enjoyable bluesy, soulful love song. While Harmeir delivers a great vocal performance here, I can’t help but wonder what Stewart would have sounded like on it with his trademark vibrato.

The most heartfelt song on this album is saved for last. “Heart a Home” is a devastating and haunting heartbreak song about a man yearning for an ex that’s unexpectedly walked out on him. I would love to know why Stewart never cut this song, as it’s so damn good. The lyrics painstakingly paint a vivid picture of heartbreak and Harmeir delivers a vocal performance that’s worthy of the lyrics.

Mike and the Moonpies continue to prove why many are quickly considering them one of the best acts in country music right now, as they’ve now released two great, back-to-back surprise releases. Not to mention the respect they pay towards Stewart is classy and a true homage to the late country star. If you’re a country music fan and not familiar with Stewart, I hope this urges you to dig into it because it’s a real joy. Also I recommend checking out my friend Zack’s recent piece on Stewart at The Musical Divide to get even more context on the career and life of Stewart.

While many acts struggle to release a good cover song, Sara Evans and Mike and the Moonpies both manage to release great cover albums. Check them out!

Sara Evans – Copy That – Solid 8/10

Mike and the Moonpies – Touch of You: The Lost Songs of Gary Stewart – Strong 8/10


And more…

  • The Last Bandoleros finally released an album available for listeners in the United States, a live album titled Live from Texas. It’s a solid mix of pop country and Tex Mex. But I still remain puzzled by how this act is marketed and positioned.
  • Another album released weeks ago I want to highlight is Thundercats’ It Is What It Is. This is my favorite release from him yet, mainly due to the fact it’s his most concise and tightest album yet (clocks in at 37 minutes). While I enjoyed his previous album Drunk, it’s admittedly a bit of a taxing listen. As Thundercat always does though, he delivers silky smooth beats and dark humor that elicits chuckles. “Dragonball Durag” in particular always makes me laugh when I hear it (you’ll know the line when you hear it that makes me laugh the hardest). But Thundercat also balances this album out with more sober, melancholy songs too, as he spends multiple songs addressing race issues in America and mourning the loss of his friend/rapper Mac Miller.
  • Grady Smith brought to my attention a surprising remix of Barbara Mandrell’s “Sleeping Single In a Double Bed” and even more surprisingly I really enjoy it. This new dance remix take by Dave Audé makes this classic song dancy, fun and decidedly modern. While it’s understandable that this is annoying and ruffles the feathers of some country listeners, this electronification of country music is only going to continue. And I know this may sound naïve, but I believe that this can help bring in more younger listeners to the genre and entice them to check out older country music. It happened with the country station on Grand Theft Auto V, so why not with this?
  • Cam has dropped yet another enjoyable song in “Redwood Tree.” This song is about reflecting on the passage of time and learning that you don’t truly appreciate things until you lose them. I cannot wait to hear another full album from her, as her debut album showed so much potential.
  • One last thing: I’m taking a break from the blog to spend time with my family and friends. I didn’t get to see or spend a lot of time with them during the quarantine, so now I want to focus on spending time with them. Thanks for understanding!

As always thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below!

The Hodgepodge: It’s Impossible to Choose One Defining Song for a Genre

I stumbled upon a New York Times article this week that made a big claim about rock music. The author basically says that when our grandchildren’s grandchildren look at rock music, the only name that’ll matter is Chuck Berry. Not Springsteen, Zeppelin, the Stones, or The Beatles, but Chuck Berry. I’m not saying he’s wrong about Berry being a figurehead and representative of rock music, but rock’s different styles don’t warrant such a narrow-minded claim. Yes, “Johnny B. Goode” is an excellent song and Chuck Berry fathered rock music like Hank fathered country. The author says Berry made simple, direct, rhythm based music, which best exemplifies rock music. He’s not wrong, but I think it’s wrong to pigeon-hole the genre into one song.

The big part of his claim comes from the fact that when NASA sent Voyager I into space, they included a mix record which included “Johnny B. Goode” on the track list – the only rock song on the list. So this got me thinking, is it possible to narrow down country music into one song that best represents the genre over the 70+ years of artists and songs who’ve done so much? I’ll argue that you need a Mount Rushmore of songs, not just one, because even country’s best songs and artists had different styles that are all country music.

Take “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” arguably the best country song of all time. Listening to the song with its grand crescendo and a faint steel guitar, it’s vastly different from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” a song electric guitars and simple percussion beat, also argued to be the best country song. Both songs sound way different, yet they’re both country music, and they’re both great representations of the genre. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings couldn’t be more different in their sounds, yet both artists not only exemplified the Outlaw movement, but country music as a whole. Waylon’s rock sound is more in line with Cash’s style, but even then, the two artists are distinctly different.

The Bakersfield Sound has its own unique flair different from the aforementioned artists, yet Merle Haggard and Buck Owens are just as influential to country music. Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette don’t exactly sound like Kitty Wells, but all of their music is a big part of country’s history. Many of these styles stem from Hank Williams, and all these styles are equally important to country’s roots. These are the styles that have influenced many of today’s Americana and Country stars. The early generation brought out singers like George Strait, Reba, and Alan Jackson, who have gone on to influence the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Cody Jinks, and pretty much everyone we’ve reviewed here.

The point is I think it’s impossible to simply try to find one song or artist to represent a music genre rich with history and talent. Country, Rock, Rap, and every other genre has their top-tier of artists who’ve gone onto to influence the genre. At the end of the day, one can always trace the history back to the root of the genre, which is never a bad option to choose as a genre head. But dismissing Waylon or Merle as a defining artist of country music because their sound was not Hank’s country sound is blasphemous, as is dismissing rock’s eclectic history because it’s not as simple and rhythmic as Chuck Berry.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • On July 8, Mark Chesnutt’s new album, Tradition Lives will be released.
  • David Nail’s Fighter will be released the following week on the 15th.
  • At the end of the month on July 29, Lori McKenna’s The Bird & The Rifle will be released.
  • Shovels and Rope recently released a new single called “I Know.” Their new album Little Seeds will be out October 7.
  • Southern rockers/Texas Country band Whiskey Myers are working with producer Dave Cobb on their new album, Mud. The first single from the album is “Lightning Bugs and Rain.”

Throwback Thursday Song

“False Accuser’s Lament” by Jason Boland and the Stragglers. I’ve been listening to a lot of Boland lately, and this song has jumped up my list of favorites from him. “False Accuser’s Lament” can be found on Rancho Alto, one of Boland’s best albums in my opinion.

Non-Country Suggestion

Velvet Portraits by Terrace Martin – an album mixed with Jazz, Hip Hop, and R&B, Velvet Portraits is a diverse album. It’s a fun listen though, with the relaxing Jazz instrumentals and hip hop lyrical deliveries on the others. It’s different, but worth the listen.

Tweet of the Week

Wheeler Walker, Jr. is a great follow on twitter if you don’t mind some profanity on your timeline. As streaming continues to rise, labels getting songs on “featured playlists” on Spotify or Apple Music will be the new way of getting on the charts.

A Chase Rice iTunes Review

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Chase Rice’s new single, “Everybody We Knows Does,” is the same generic BS from every other generic bro before him. After his letter apologizing for “Whisper,” I expected at least something that shows a little effort in a follow-up single, but I was mistaken.

Album Review – Luke Bell’s Self-Titled Album is a Traditional Gem

Luke Bell Self Titled Album

Once upon a time country music was never questioned to be country music. It was authentically traditional through and through. Every song had some combination of a steel guitar, fiddles, harmonica and piano. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a time machine back to the golden days of country music? Well you can. Meet Luke Bell. Born in Lexington, Kentucky and raised in Cody, Wyoming, this country troubadour keeps it traditional with his music. He landed on a lot of people’s radars a few years ago when he released the album Don’t Mind If I Do. This led to him inking a deal with William Morris Endeavor and opening for the likes of Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr. and Dwight Yoakam. Now Bell is back with a new self-titled album, in which he described in an interview with Saving Country Music (recommended read) as “very much in the grounds of the traditional country songwriting format.” Well after listening to this album many times over I can confidently say that you probably won’t find a more excellent, traditional country sound this year.

Channeling his inner Hank, Bell sings of heartbreak on “Sometimes.” And when I say channel his inner Hank, everything about this song and really album take you back to country music in its purest form. There are steel guitars and fiddles throughout. Traditional country fans will instantly be in nirvana. “All Blue” is about a rambling man who’s always on the run and leaving behind his lovers as he goes. He’s all blue all the time, but knows he has to keep going and can never stay. There’s lots of harmonica throughout this one. It’s the perfect traveling song. The easy to sing along with “Where Ya Been” follows. Steel guitar and fiddle drive this easy-going, drinking song that you’ll find yourself getting stuck in your head real quick. There aren’t any frills about this song, but Luke Bell and real country music doesn’t need frills to be great.

The two stepping “Hold Me” will have you tapping your feet along with the rhythm. It’s about a heartbroken man dancing with another woman on the dance floor as he sees the woman who left him and he still loves holding the arms of another man. Part of him hopes it makes her jealous and another knows he needs someone to hold at the moment. For those who missed good old country songs you can dance to, this is your song. Next is the waltzing “Loretta,” in which a man sees his woman slowly drifting away from him. They shared a lot of great times and she used to look at him with love in her eyes. But now she’s off chasing fame while he’s left heartbroken and alone. The instrumentation throughout this entire album is excellent, but it just really stands out to me on this song. The fiddles, steel guitar and piano come together perfectly. This is how country music is meant to be heard.

Bell shows off his yodeling skills on “Workin’ Man’s Dream.” Yes, you read that right he can yodel and he’s pretty damn good at it too. You don’t hear much yodeling in country today despite it being very much a part of the history and soul of the genre as the likes of Hank, Bob Willis, Roy Rogers, Ernest Tubb and Bill Monroe yodeled in many of their songs. It’s a lost art that Bell revives with this song and it’s refreshing to hear. “Glory and The Grace” reminds of you the days when it was called country & western because there’s very much an influence from the latter in this song. As you listen to this song, it puts you in mind of a dusty old saloon with a bunch of cowboys sitting around in the old western days.

One of the standouts to me on this album is “Bullfighter.” In this song Bell sings about being the greatest bullfighter to live and how his fight will never die, even in old age. One of the reasons I enjoy this song so much is that when I hear Bell sing I hear a lot of the late, great Merle Haggard. It’s the deep, rich voice that sounds like Bell has been doing this for multiple decades. I don’t throw this comparison around lightly either. Bell is the real deal and this song is proof. Bell keeps the western influence going on “Ragtime Troubles.” The song is about a man who enjoys drinking, smoking and playing poker. Instead of feeling bad about his choices though, he enjoys them. He isn’t letting the bad times get him down and instead lets the good times roll. It’s just a fun song where you can forget your own troubles and enjoy the great music you’re hearing.

Bell closes the album out with “The Great Pretender.” This slow waltz is about a man who regularly has women fall in love with him, but he knows they’re going to be hurting after realizing he’s the great pretender who disappears after spending a night together. By the end of the song though he comes across a woman he falls in love with and she turns the table on him, as he finds a note from her after a night of love to say that she’s the great pretender herself. You spend the entire song kind of thinking this guy is a jerk, but in the end he gets a taste of his own medicine and all is right. It’s a strong song to end the album and really leaves you wanting to hear more from Bell.

Luke Bell’s new self-titled album is a traditional gem that shines from start to finish. It’s an album that couldn’t be more country if it tried. Bell is such a naturally gifted vocalist who makes it sound so easy when he sings. It can be easy to call Luke Bell a throwback, but really this is just how country music is supposed to sound. Bell is just someone who gets it. This is clear when you hear all of the steel guitar and fiddle throughout each song. It’s clear with the quality songwriting that draws from relatable and simple themes that the common man can connect with and understand through their own experiences. Bell could very well be the next big name to come from the independent country scene. He’s every bit as talented as the biggest names to come from the scene in recent years like Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton. Bell is an artist that every music fan should hear and can’t recommend this album enough.

Grade: 10/10

The Hodgepodge: Dear Music Row, Call a Spade a Spade and Start Labeling Your Music Pop

This is probably a recycled thought/topic for this feature, but non-country “country” music has been on my mind all week. It all started with Maren Morris’ HERO. Another recent pop release wrapped up in the label of country music include Keith Urban’s RipcordLittle Big Town is stepping into true pop music with their upcoming project with Pharrell, Wanderlust. This is the direction mainstream country music appears to be taking if last night’s CMT awards are any indication. Little Big Town and Pharrell performed a pop song from Wanderlust. Cam performed with pop group Fifth Harmony, and Cassadee Pope sang backup to Pitbull. Over the years, we’ve seen pop acts like Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, Meghan Trainor, Nick Jonas, and Katy Perry all make appearances at “country music” award shows. And for good measure, country music sites like Taste of Country still haven’t let go of Taylor Swift, who officially moved to pop almost two years ago.

I’m not going to sit here and rehash complaints about how Nashville is killing country’s tradition. It’s dead, and I’ve accepted it. The Murder on Music Row has become a full-fledged massacre, despite Chris Stapleton’s best efforts. My plea today is for Music Row to stop calling this music country. Sam Hunt still isn’t country. Ripcord and HERO are not country albums by any stretch of the imagination. With all of their experiment’s with pop music, they’re starting to get it to sound good. Maren Morris and producer busbee have a good pop album on their hands with HERO. She delivers the songs well, with confidence and authenticity from Morris as a singer. And I’ll admit that I enjoy “80’s Mercedes” as a song. It’s a catchy, fun pop song. But let’s stop pretending this is country music; it’s not.

For the last few years, the only reason they defended it as country was due to the fact that the songs sucked, and wouldn’t stand a chance on pop radio. But if future albums follow HERO and turn out to be well-produced pop albums with good pop songs, then call it pop! There’d me no more shame! Everyone, including Thomas Rhett, knows “Vacation” is a joke and wouldn’t stand a chance on any respectable pop radio station, but country radio will play it because that’s where the spotlight hits the bottom of the barrel. Music Row has done everything it could to make country music a joke and piss on the graves of Hank, Cash, Waylon, and now Merle. But now it looks like they’re ready to put forth effort on the pop front. Maybe.

We’re still being treated to half-assed adult contemporary albums like Black, I’m Coming Over, If I’m Honest, and whatever Florida Georgia Line will do. “H.O.L.Y.” certainly paints a picture of an A/C album coming from the duo. I’d call that music closer to pop than country, but it certainly isn’t good. These are albums where no one included seems to care about the music being released. But it seems like their albums are serving as a stepping stone toward moving more in the pop direction.

So, Music Row, start moving your pop music away from the country music landscape so artists like Maddie & Tae, Jon Pardi, Chris Stapleton, and Kacey Musgraves can clean up the mess you’ve made. You’re way past the point of no return, and no one will take any of your b and c level pop singers (aka top “country” singers) seriously if they turn back to country. You’ve completely alienated many of the fans you’ve had at the cost of chasing after a different demographic – a demographic only interested in the hot trend and not the history of a beautiful genre of music. Stop giving this genre a bad name. By putting this music on national TV and calling it country, you’re letting these faces and songs represent the entire genre. Meanwhile, there are several artists like Whitey Morgan, Turnpike Troubadours, Margo Price, and Michaela Anne, to name a few, who are carrying the rich tradition of country music in their music. Let artists like that represent the name “country music” while you and your singers continue to do your pop music under a different name.

So call a spade a spade and, Music Row, start calling your music pop.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow, Brandy Clark‘s Big Day in a Small Town will be released.
  • Frankie Ballard‘s El Rio will also be released tomorrow.
  • Jon Pardi‘s California Sunrise will be released next week on June 17th.
  • Luke Bell‘s self-titled album will be released on the 17th.
  • Scott Low‘s The New Vintage will also be released on the 17th.
  • Hey everybody! Josh here with some album news I wanted to pass along to you. I saw Brandi Carlile a couple of nights back (excellent show by the way) and she revealed that they’re going to do a re-release of her most well-known album The Story next year, marking the 10th anniversary of the album. All of the proceeds for the album will be going to the Looking Out Foundation, which helps children who’s lives have been torn apart by wars. Carlile said she and the band won’t be performing the songs on the re-release, but rather a list of guests and friends. She also mentioned one of her idols will be performing the title track.

Throwback Thursday Song

“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams. You can never go wrong with Hank Williams. Despite what Music Row sells, there will always be someone out there respecting the music Hank made.

Non-Country Suggestion

“Hurricane Love” L.A. Woman. How many of you have heard of Cymbal? It’s a music social media app where you simply share a song with your followers, and you can play samples of the songs that are posted directly through the app. It’s a cool concept for an app, but I think it’s still rather new and used mostly on the indie circuit. This is a song I discovered through Cymbal.

Tweets of the Week: CMT Awards Edition

There was no reason to watch the CMT Awards after Chris Stapleton performed “Parachute.” And there was no reason to watch before Chris Stapleton performed “Parachute.”

iTunes Review

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This was left under Jon Pardi’s newest album. California Sunrise has the potential to be the best mainstream album released this year, and if the few songs pre-released are indication, then it could be in a conversation with this year’s best.

Note: The Hodgepodge will return in two weeks, as we will be featuring our mid-year best and worst posts next week.

Album Review – Darrell Scott’s ‘Couchville Sessions’

Darrell Scott Couchville Sessions

One of the reasons why I love Americana and great country music is the brilliant songwriting. The stories that the songs tell and the amount of emotions it brings out of the viewer is something you can’t put a price on. Derek pretty much hit the nail on the head in his piece last week on why songwriting is so important to him. Excellent songwriters don’t just spring out of thin air, so when I come across one I cherish their music. Darrell Scott is one of those few excellent songwriters. Scott of course is most well-known for penning such hits as “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” (a personal favorite of mine, most famously recorded by Brad Paisley), Travis Tritt’s “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” and the Dixie Chicks’ hit “Long Time Gone.”

Scott is not one of flash and fame, but one of the most well-respected and revered songwriters in country and Americana circles. It’s been four years since he’s released an album of new material and he now returns with new music that really isn’t new in age. In fact they’re over a decade old. According to Garden and Gun, in the early 2000s Scott “recorded 45 songs in the living room of his house on Nashville’s Couchville Pike.” After sitting for around 15 years in a vault, Scott picked 14 of the songs (nine written by him and five covers of who he considers his heroes) out for his brand new album Couchville Sessions. And thank goodness Scott never forgot about them because this album is a master class in songwriting.

The opening track, “Down to the River”, really sets the tone for the whole album. The folksy, down to earth tone combined with sharp lyrics like when Scott sings, “and we won’t give a damn if it’s rock, folk, country or blues” really makes it easy to get into. From the first listen it drew me in and you’ll undoubtedly be singing along with it. At the end of the song, Scott’s friend and fellow singer-songwriter Guy Clark tells an anecdote about finding a crow’s nest made out of barbed wire. It’s really surreal to hear the recently passed icon tell the story and makes for one of the coolest moments I’ve heard in a song this year. The soulful “Waiting for the Clothes to Get Clean” really shows off Scott’s smooth as silk voice. He just makes it sound so flawless. The song itself is about a troubled relationship, in the most part because the guy in it is an asshole. The bluesy guitars cut through the lyrics like a hot knife through butter.

“It’s Time to Go Away” is about a relationship coming to an end and the man realizing he’s leaving for all of the right reasons. It’s really hard to describe how great of a songwriter Darrell Scott is and this song is a perfect example. The story is simple, yet told so vividly you can picture the song in your head instantly. It’s just something you have to hear. Scott covers Johnny Cash’s “Big River” next. The song is about a man following his woman down the Mississippi River, as she seems to care more about living life down throughout the river than be with him. Scott definitely does the Man in Black justice with the cover. One of my favorites on Couchville Sessions is “Love Is The Reason.” The soaring instrumentation and Scott’s voice just mesh so well on this song about love.

Another cover on the album is Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ Man.” Darrell Scott’s version is slower and more melancholy. Or to put it more bluntly, it’s pretty damn sad. It’s the kind of song you play after a brutal breakup and play while you sit in the dark and drink. That’s probably the way Hank would have preferred it too. Only the truly patient will want to sit and listen all the way through this nearly seven-minute song, but it is worth it. “It’s About Time” is perhaps the darkest song on the album. Scott deals with his own mortality and the legacy you leave behind when you die. As he explains on the song, he’s lived it all and when death comes he will be ready. But it shouldn’t be sad because from a fallen tree new sprouts will emerge. It’s the circle of life. The Celtic folk sound really jives well with the lyrics on this song. It’s yet another example of why Darrell Scott is so respected by fellow writers and artists.

This is followed by Scott’s cover of Peter Rowan’s “Moonlight Midnight.” Rowan himself joins Scott on the song and they sound great together. It’s the most rock-influenced track on the album and features some stellar electric guitar play. Scott pokes fun at radio DJs on “Morning Man.” This is evident by the lines about getting a fat man to laugh at his jokes and signing autographs at the mall. It shows Scott has a humorous side too and helps break up some of the more serious songs on the album. I know I got some good laughs. The icing on the cake to me is how Scott makes the song sound exactly like old morning radio shows bumpers; really light, catchy and even a call name. The romantic “Come Into This Room” follows and I just have to say it’s refreshing to hear a song striving to be romantic is actually romantic. After hearing so many hackneyed attempts at this by popular country artists, my ears almost forgot what a romantic love song should sound like. So I extend a thank you to Scott for redeeming my faith that these songs can still exist.

“Loretta” is the third cover song on the album and it’s by the legendary Townes Van Zandt. Scott really hits a home run with the cover songs he chooses and of course you never go wrong with a Townes song. When it comes to Van Zandt songs, you just need to hear them for yourself. The final cover song on the album is James Taylor’s “Another Grey Morning.” The song is about waking up and living out the same things each day. The woman in the song is so exasperated with the monotony that she thinks she would maybe rather have death over another grey morning. It’s a little extreme, but for anyone who has felt depressed, they could relate to the feeling. Couchville Sessions closes out with “Free (This Is The Love Song).” It’s what it says it is, as Scott sings a love song he probably should have sung sooner to a woman he loves. It comes from a man who has experienced life and realizes he’s made mistakes along the way and this is one he’s trying to amend. It’s another nugget of wisdom Scott imparts upon the listener.

Upon the very first listen of Couchville Sessions, I instantly connected with it and loved it. It’s like a long-lost friend you knew you never had and found again. If you’re not familiar with the work of Darrell Scott, just listen to this once and you’ll be blown away. The songwriting is fantastic and the instrumentation is pretty damn good too. The only thing I would say I don’t like about the album is it runs a tad too long at 14 songs, even though every single song is good. It’s hard to believe these songs have just been sitting around for 15 years. We can only hope we hear the rest of the 45 songs recorded in that same session. In the meantime I can’t recommend Couchville Sessions enough. You aren’t going to get too much better than this.

Grade: 9/10