Derek’s Top Country Songs – January 2015

We are off to a great start to 2015! There were several great album releases this month, and a few singles that are equally as impressive. To be honest, I could have easily made this a top-20 list, but in sticking with Country Perspective’s tradition, I’ll keep it at the 10 songs I enjoyed the most from this month. Two of my top songs are not currently on Spotify, so I’ve put the YouTube clips of the songs here, but you’ll find the rest of the songs in the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the post.

  1. “Alabama Pines” Jamey Johnson – As Josh said in his review, “It’s beautifully simple and traditional with a feel good message. It will also create a sense of nostalgia in many listeners I think too, something many mainstream country songs tried to do in 2014 and failed at doing so.” “Alabama Pines” is simply great country music; the best song of the month!
  2. “Diners” The Lone Bellow – This Americana trio’s new album, Then Came the Morning, is simply fantastic. My favorite song from the collection, The Lone Bellow sing of broken love and a realization that the love is true. They use an analogy of old diners and jukeboxes to tell the story. They sing with such emotion and passion that sell the story. This song is special.
  3. “Island in the Sky” Ryan Bingham – Without a doubt, this is the standout track from Bingham’s new album Fear and Saturday Night. Bingham sings this song of hope with genuine passion, and the inclusion of the harmonica in the production is a welcome addition.
  4. “The Messenger” Stanford Road – A heartbreaking tune about a woman not wanting to face the truth of her husband, a soldier, dying on the battlefield. This husband-wife duo deliver on this track. Again, as Josh wrote in his review of the song, “ It’s a song filled with emotion that will certainly move most listeners. The lyrics are simple, yet very effective. The instrumentation drives the mood of this song perfectly.
  5. “Snow Falls in June” Ryan Bingham – A love song where Bingham devotes himself to his love. If she’s depressed or feeling down, he’ll always be there for her. It’s a beautiful, well written song.
  6. “Call To War” The Lone Bellow – A driving acoustic production with beautiful vocals. “Call To War” has the feel of a preparation for a new journey.  Great writing with equally great vocals help this song stand out among the crowd of a great album.
  7. “Rock and Roll” Cody Jinks – As Josh wrote in his review of Adobe Sessions, “The lyrics are kept simple to tell a complicated story like someone going through alcohol addiction. It’s a real sentimental song that caps off this album well.” Jinks tells a compelling story and sings with authenticity that draws the listener into the song.
  8. “Broken Heart Tattoos” Ryan Bingham – A third Bingham song on this list. Fear and Saturday Night was an album with several standout tracks, and this is one of them. Written as a letter for his son, Bingham speaks of his youthful innocence and encourages him to let loose if need be.
  9. “All Nighter” Cody Canada & The Departed – Off their new album, HippieLovePunk, a song written about the passing of Mark McCoy of Micky and the Motorcars. Cody Canada recruits the Braun brothers from Reckless Kelly and the aforementioned Motorcars to help sing the tribute song.
  10. “Homegrown” Zac Brown Band – The new single off an upcoming album. The men from Georgia blend modern influences with their own sonic style and tell a story of appreciation for simple life and great friends.

Honorable Mentions

  • “If You Don’t Love Me” The Lone Bellow
  • “Dirt” Cody Jinks
  • “Leave Me Another Day” Judson Cole Band
  • “Take My Love” The Lone Bellow
  • “Farther From Me” Justin Townes Earle

 

Album Review – Cody Canada and the Departed’s HippieLovePunk

Cody Canada became a household name in the Red Dirt/Texas scene with his former band Cross Canadian Ragweed, releasing four straight top ten albums. Most bands would stick together and keep making top ten albums. Instead they parted ways and now a few years after the breakup Canada makes a return to the sound of his Cross Canadian Ragweed days with his new band The Departed. They’ve also re-added Canada’s name to the front of their name after just being called The Departed last year. This is also the return of Canada to being the sole main vocalist of his band since Seth James, who had been sharing vocal duties with Canada in The Departed, left the group. With Jeremy Plato on bass guitar, Steve Littleton on keyboards and Chris Doege on drums, does Cody Canada and the Departed deliver with their new album HippieLovePunk? Yes they do.

The album begins with “Comin To Me.” It starts with some slick electric guitar play that sets a fast pace. It’s definitely classic Canada with his brand of rock country. This is a song you can move your feet to with its infectious rhythm and pace. The piano play with the electric guitar in the bridge is phenomenal. This is followed up with “Inbetweener,” another song with a very likable southern rock sound. The song has a swagger attitude about it, giving it a nice edge. The album then slows down with “Easy.” It’s about how everyone strives to make their lives easier, whether it’s avoiding the crap on television or finding a good woman to love. Once again I like the combination of the guitar and the piano.

This is followed with “Revolution,” which has more of a punk rock feel to it, especially since the theme of it is starting a revolution to make the world a better place. It’s a rock country anthem that is pretty much guaranteed to get your head moving as your listening to it. It’s edgy, in your face and I love it. Canada and the Departed slow it down again with “Back Closer.” The song seems to be a reflective song about the band touring on the road and singing their songs; the song deals with how every night varies, where some are good and others are bad. It’s an honest and revealing look into life on the road for a band.

“Got It” is a song that doesn’t do much for me. It’s kind of boring, as the pace of the song feels uneven and there’s really nothing to sink your teeth into. The lyrics are a little puzzling and don’t do a good job of explaining what this song is about. This is definitely the weak link on the album. The band goes back to what they’re best at with “Great Big Nothin” though. It’s a fast paced foot-stomper. The song questions the integrity of society and wonders if everything is “just a lie.” Just like “Revolution” earlier in the album, this song has a punk rock attitude. The electric guitar is loud and proud in this song.

The band trades electric guitars for acoustic guitars in “Maker.” The song is about waiting on the “maker man” and how the drive for this makes you want to keep living. I’m really not sure where they’re going with the theme on this song. It’s kind of confusing. The lyrics could definitely be better. The instrumentation and Canada’s vocals are great though. “Stay” is a mid-tempo heartbreak song where the man deals with the falling out of a relationship. He never meant to bring her down and walk away, but he wonders why should they stay. Upon first listen this song may not seem like much, but I think it grows on you the more you listen to it. The instrumentation is once again flawless and works really well with the lyrics.

Without a doubt the highlight of this entire album is “Boss of Me,” a song about a man telling his woman that she isn’t the boss of him. Despite his pleas, she sounds very much to be the boss of him. The attitude is edgy, rough and aggressive. Everything in this song works brilliantly, from the lyrics to the instrumentation to the tone. It does a good job of creating the right feel for the what man is coming from in this song. The lyrics avoid painting the man to be condescending and bossy; instead it paints the picture of a man who isn’t in control, even though he likes to think he is. What else can I say: this song flat-out rocks!

The album concludes with “All Nighter,” a very sobering song about life. The song deals with how life is short and how you should live every day to the fullest. It’s quite somber, but it also offers some light too. It should be noted Canada is joined on vocals by all four Braun brothers, Willy and Cody of Reckless Kelly, along with Micky and Gary of Micky & The Motorcars. The song is dedicated to Mark McCoy, a former bassist for the Motorcars who drowned to death in Idaho a few years ago. It’s a pretty cool tribute with a nice story behind it. From an interview with Texas Monthly, Canada explains the story and meaning behind “All Nighter”:

“There was a loss in our music family that hurt pretty badly, and I wanted that person to know that we thought of him every day,” Canada explains of the collaboration. “Micky Braun passed on writing the song to me. I think it was a little too close to the chest for him. So on New Year’s Eve of 2013, I finished it. I played it a month later for [their father] Muzzy Braun up in Idaho by his wood burning stove. I noticed the stove had ‘All Nighter’ etched on the front. I had no idea. It was meant to be.”

Canada wrote the song for Mark “Gus” McCoy, the Micky and the Motorcars bassist who drowned in 2012, and says that he was inspired to write it after his wife had a conversation with Braun family patriarch, Muzzy, about how he and his wife raised their sons. “He told us to raise good kids you have to keep them close by your side,” Canada recalls. “I took that in and finished the song with a Braun in mind for each verse.” 

Right after “All Nighter” a nameless, hidden bonus track plays where it’s just Canada singing while playing an acoustic guitar. It deals with the same themes as “All Nighter” and proves Canada is just as good with slowed down, acoustic songs as he is with his normal rock country songs. I recommend hearing this song for yourself.

Cody Canada and the Departed’s HippieLovePunk is a pretty solid album for the most part. The instrumentation on this album is pretty close to perfect. The Departed should be quite proud of this. I can say the same of the vocals, with the best performance in this aspect coming on the final song “All Nighter” where Canada and the Braun brothers exceptionally express the right emotion behind their performance. Other than the final two songs, there weren’t any other “big” moments that stood out on this album to me and I was hoping for a couple more of these type of songs. Nevertheless there are very few weak moments on this album and while there weren’t a lot of big songs as I mentioned, it’s pretty damn good in all aspects. HippieLovePunk is definitely an album worth checking out, especially if you love rock country music.

Grade: 8.5/10