Album Review – Courtney Patton’s ‘So This Is Life’ Shines a Light on Relationship’s Darker Corners

Courtney Patton is still relatively new to the country music scene, but she’s made a quick impact. Her simple, observant writing steeped in descriptive, effective imagery as earned herself a large fan base. Her musical arrangements are simple, yet beautiful; relying on an acoustic guitar, fiddles, and a steel guitar. As Courtney told Ken Morton Jr. Country music to me is simple stories with beautiful words with a simple melody and beautiful arrangement.” Patton’s follow up to her 2013 debut album, Triggering a Flood, comes after a time of life’s changes. Her parents have divorced and remarried others, and Patton herself has gotten married to fellow Texas singer/songwriter Jason Eady. The varying emotions that stem from those events make their way into the songs on Courtney Patton’s new album So This Is Life.

The album starts off with the heartbreaker “Little Black Dress.” The violins are present along with Patton’s acoustic guitar. The song’s subject packs a black dress and prepares for a night on the town, hoping to find some comfort in the arms of a stranger. Maybe she’s hoping to fall in love; maybe she’s hoping not to attach feelings to the one night with him. Regardless, the night ends with her alone, after he leaves, feeling heart-broken. “War of Art” feels a bit more personal. In this song, Patton wrestles with the conflicting desires of being a stay at home mother/wife and fueling her passion for playing music on the road. The steel guitar and accompanying production give the song a feeling of forward movement, giving her internal debates a slight sense of urgency.

“Her Next Move” deals with a woman who vies for attention from her husband. She consistently threatens to leave town and end the relationship, but her constant game of crying wolf no longer worries her husband, as he knows she’ll never act on her words. One night stands are the explored again in “Need for Wanting.” Here a woman is alone in the bar conversing with a man. She knows the man’s intentions, as she says “you look like a lesson I learned long ago.” This country ballad makes it clear that if they do end the night together, it’s nothing more than that night.

Relationships of a husband away from his wife are explored in the next two songs. “Twelve Days” is a song Patton wrote early in her marriage with Eady. The traveling musician is back on the road and the listener hears the wife’s side of their many conversations. From her telling about her local show, to asking if he brought his coat for the cold northern weather. It’s a beautiful song of a wife coping alone while she misses her husband, and both Josh and myself included this on our lists of best songs from June. On the flip side, “Killing Time” deals with a husband who is carted off to jail for stealing money. This is a more upbeat country song where the husband knows he has screwed up, and she’s left waiting for his sentence to end.

Courtney Patton sings of a woman who messed up in the relationship on “Maybe It’s You.” This woman left her man for a little bit and feels guilty about her actions. It could be the actions themselves that cause the feelings, or it could be the comfort at home and forgiveness from her husband. The simple production of the acoustic guitar and slight percussion and violins work wonderfully on this song. Another late night rendezvous is the subject of “Sure Am Glad.” This mid-tempo song finds both the man and the woman sleepless in their own homes. They both are lonely and vulnerable, and while his knock on her door was unexpected, his arrival is welcome.

The title track is a brutally honest exploration of how life can disrupt relationships. Youthful dreams of fairytale marriages are abandoned as a young mother and father work to make ends meet. As time goes on and more children are in the picture, he works long days and she’s left to tend to the home and all the chaos of raising children. It’s not the life either of them planned, and when separately dealing with this life has taken its toll, divorce is the only answer they find. It’s a heartbreaking song, but so vividly told and sung by Courtney Patton. “So This Is Life” is why people refer to country music as three chords and the truth.

The theme of loveless marriage continues on the next few songs. “Battle These Blues” deals with a husband who drinks too much and stays out too late. A common subject for females in country music, and the woman in the song is left heartbroken, unsure of how to handle this season of life. However, “Where I’ve Been” finds the woman of the marriage being the night owl. Life at home isn’t pretty, and she feels unloved by her husband. In order to fill the hole in heart he can’t, she takes to the nightlife, presumably being unfaithful. Though she’ll be ready to drop this lifestyle when he’s ready to begin again, as long as he doesn’t ask where she’s been. Finally, the album ends with “But I Did,” a song that feels like a Courtney Patton autobiography. It’s song that details the values she’s inherited from her parents while having her own free spirit. She’s always been a dreamer with a love for playing music who follows her dreams with blind faith.

So This Is Life couldn’t have a more appropriate album title. The songs detail relationships of all kinds: happy and sad marriages and temporary flings with strong women and weaker women. It’s a personal album where Courtney Patton has dug into her soul with a few songs that could be direct snapshots from her life. These songs are delivered with eloquent lyrics and vivid images and a vocal delivery that matches each mood beautifully. The musical arrangements, as beautiful as they are, sometimes drag the album. There’s a bit of monotony among some of the songs’ productions. So This Is Life is a songwriters album: the focus is on the stories that Patton has penned. It’s a darker album simply because it tosses a spotlight on real moments that most would want to avoid in songs. However, country music’s legacy wouldn’t be what it is without songs like the ones found here. Courtney Patton’s So This Is Life is real; it’s honest; and it’s as heartbreaking as it is beautiful.

Grade: 8/10

Album Review – Jamie Lin Wilson’s ‘Holidays and Wedding Rings’ is a Solid Debut Album

Jamie Lin Wilson has thrived under the radar in the Texas country music world. She’s been part of two groups: Americana rockers The Gougers, and the all female country quartet The Trishas. Wilson has appeared as a backing singer or duet partner for several Texas country acts like Robert Earl Keen and Turnpike Troubadours, and she’s also co-written with other songwriters like Jason Eady. Outside of all those projects, Wilson has managed to release a solo EP called Dirty Blonde Hair. Now five years later, Jamie Lin Wilson has her first full length solo album release with Holidays and Wedding Rings.

The album opens up with the up-tempo country tune “Just Like Heartache.” The song describes how heartache can hit you hard and keep you down despite how hard you try to move on. Being in the arms of another won’t fix it, but the company is nice until the worst has passed. Wilson’s smooth, unique voice moves nicely through the song and shows why a solo album is necessary. She continues to explore heartache in “She’ll Take Tonight.” Here, our female character searches for a nicer man than she’s used to, but she’ll continue settle for the man of the night until the right one finds her. The mid-tempo instrumentation and mix of various guitars give the old topic a fresh sound.

Jamie Lin Wilson shows some great storytelling chops over the next few songs. “You Left My Chair” was inspired by an old photograph: a rundown house with overgrown weeds in the yard. Co-written with Jason Eady and Adam Hood, the trio pen a story about a woman who returns to the old, abandoned house she built presumably after a divorce to find her favorite chair still there. Wilson sings the ballad wonderfully. Up next is a duet with fellow Texas singer, Wade Bowen. Together the pair wrote “Just Some Things,” a heartbreaking song about two lovers both in an affair. The duo sing the respective parts of the cheaters, who both regret and feel distressed after betraying the ones they love. As hard as they wish things could be different, they know what they did was wrong and can’t be undone. The duo perfectly describe their actions as “running for the edge and thinking you’ll fly, knowing damn well that it’s suicide.” That simile is heart wrenching, and this song is what country music is all about. Both Wilson and Bowen are fantastic on this cheating song.

Photo by Modern Trade

“Moving Along” acts almost as a follow-up to Wilson’s side of the story in “Just Some Things.” The marriage is over in “Moving Along,” and as the song progresses, Wilson sings of how strength and confidence in being alone grows as time moves along. However, she does miss little things like “Holidays and wedding rings” (The album’s name comes from a line in this song). The upbeat production to the song works well to aid the journey aspect of the story. Jamie Lin Wilson tries her hand at a murder ballad in “Roses by the Dozen.” Her man yells at her after she sins badly in their relationship and she retaliated by killing him. His dead body lays underneath a rose-bush. Wives/girlfriends murder their male partners has become quite the cliché for female acts over the years, and the production alongside Wilson’s voice do not do enough to help the song feel fresh.

Relationships are explored a little deeper starting with “Seven Year Drought.” The entire song is a metaphor for a marriage in a bad dry spell. Wilson will fight to the end or until it eats her alive. The couple hopes and waits for something better to come their way. However, the relationship in “Yours and Mine” couldn’t be any happier. The bluegrass inspired country tune describes a couple who have pride and joy in the life they’ve built together. It may not be the most glamorous lifestyle, but it’s their life and that’s what makes it beautiful. “Whisper on My Skin” uses great imagery to depict a man who is in a bad spell in his life. She’s been in that lull of life, and she needs her husband in her life now. She describes the little things she finds joy in like a sun shining through the window on their bed, her favorite picture of them, and their intimacy. She does her best to encourage him in this spell of life. The production is excellent in it’s less-is-more approach with a lone guitar strum aiding. The vocals are more on the forefront on this track than any other on the album.

“Nighttime Blues” is a similar song to “She’ll Take Tonight.” The only difference is the character here is a man who’s using one night stands to help get over a broken heart. The production is more upbeat on this song; the country instrumentation is fabulous on “Nighttime Blues.” For my money, “Here Tonight” is the best song on the album. The song tells the story of a woman who is expecting to die by the end of the night. She’s joined by her family: her favorite child, a new granddaughter and her husband. The dying woman reminisces over her life and makes sure she lets her present family know how much she loves them. The song takes a celebratory approach to the end of long life, and how her family is her light. The album ends with another celebratory song called “Old Oldsmobile.” This mid-tempo song tells us of a married couple who just learned a third baby is on the way. To celebrate and feel young again, she yearns for them to breakout the old Oldsmobile for a picnic lunch, reigniting the youthful, lustful spark of their love and life together.

Holidays and Wedding Rings is a solid debut album for Jamie Lin Wilson. She has a haunting, beautiful ring to her voice that helps her stand out among other solo female acts. Her writing is sharp with vivid descriptions making these real life stories stand out. Fans love country music for the honest, everyday songs that are written and sung, and that’s exactly what you’ll find here: a variety of life’s ups and downs, reasons to celebrate and reasons to ache. The musical variety from track to track also help each song find a place on the album. Jamie Lin Wilson is sought after from her peers for a reason. She has the whole package as a country singer-songwriter, and Holidays and Wedding Rings is a great showcase of Wilson’s talent.

Grade: 9/10

Album Review – Chris Stapleton’s ‘Traveller’ Is Fantastic Debut

Chris Stapleton Traveller

For years Chris Stapleton has been penning hits for some of the biggest and brightest names in Nashville. There’s no doubt he’s a talented songwriter, even though there are a couple of projects he’s been a part of that were not so good in my mind. Still the anticipation has been building for years for Stapleton to release his very own album. When he announced earlier this year that it’s finally arrived, I was one of the many excited to hear it. Then I found out Dave Cobb would be producing it and I knew it would be a must listen, as everything Cobb touches is phenomenal (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Jamey Johnson, Lucette, Rival Sons). These two great talents coming together on Traveller set my expectations high without a doubt. So I eagerly jumped into this highly anticipated album. And boy does it deliver big.

The album begins with the lead single and album title track, “Traveller.” Not only is it a great single choice, but also starts the album off quite well. The song is about the rambling man who loves to travel from place to place without a clue where he wants to go next. The bluesy and traditional production makes this song immensely likable and Stapleton’s voice is perfectly suited for the song. The next track, “Fire Away,” is an emotional heartbreak ballad. Stapleton’s voice absolutely blows me away on this song. Not only does he show great range, but great emotion too. The instrumentation arrangement fits the story of the song well, especially the lingering steel guitar in the background.

Stapleton slows it down with “Tennessee Whiskey,” a smooth love ballad. One of the greatest artists of all-time, George Jones recorded this song originally and I think The Possum is smiling down on Stapleton’s cover. It tells the story of man who had an alcohol problem until the love of his life came along and saved him. He compares her to the sweetness of strawberry wine and the warmth of brandy. Stapleton has a ton of charisma to pull off a sultry, slow song like this one. “Parachute” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Stapleton combines country and rock to produce a catchy song that makes you want to move your feet. The songwriting is good too, as it describes how a man will always be there for his woman, her parachute as he says. This song is simple, but it works brilliantly.

You should recognize the next song, “Whiskey and You,” as Tim McGraw originally recorded it on his Let It Go album in the early 2000s. Jason Eady also recorded this song on his 2014 album Daylight & Dark. I can say with confidence out of the three, Stapleton’s recording is the best. It’s not just because he wrote the song too. It’s the fact that Stapleton delivers the emotion of this song so much better than those two. He does this by stripping this song down completely and only using an acoustic guitar for instrumentation, allowing his voice to tell the story of the song. It’s raw and grips your attention from start to finish. Stapleton absolutely nails this song. The more up beat “Nobody To Blame” follows. It’s about a man who just broke up with his woman and she’s angry as hell at him. So she’s proceeded to destroy all of his stuff, which the man takes full responsibility for because he admits it was his fault. How refreshing is it to hear this in a song? It’s quite the opposite of a song like “Redneck Crazy.” Again I’m impressed by Stapleton’s vocals and the harmonica interludes throughout the song give it an extra edge to make it stand out.

The mandolin plays in (and throughout) “More of You,” a sweet love song that I’m sure will be popular in country dance halls and wedding receptions. Stapleton sings with his wife Morgane Stapleton, who has a beautiful voice of her own. To me it adds another layer of sentimentality to a song that’s already a fantastic love song. Everything about this song works together so damn well. “When The Stars Come Out” is a dreamy tune about heading out west to Los Angeles to chase dreams. It’s about how you look up at the stars and wonder if you’ll ever reach your goals. The songwriting is a little lighter on this than the rest of the album, but the pedal steel guitar and piano lurking throughout more than make up for it.

Just like “Whiskey and You,” “Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore” is a stripped down and emotional song. It’s about a man realizing his dad no longer prays anymore and paints the picture that his dad has given up hope. Halfway through the song when he’s not getting along with his dad, when he lays down at night he hears his dad praying for him. He realizes his dad does care, but by the end of the song his dad has died and realizes he’s finally walking with the Lord. I don’t think I can properly explain how great this song is and I suggest you listen for yourself. Tell me again why it took so long for an album from Stapleton? The rollicking “Might As Well Get Stoned” shifts the mood to uncaring resignation. The man in the song is alone and is out of whiskey, so he says screw it and gets stoned. The heavy steel guitar licks and Stapleton’s passionate cry in the bridge is the climax of the song and really grabs the listener’s attention. The majority of songs about getting stoned are dumb and completely pointless, but this is an exception. I like to think of this as a drinking song with the drinks being replaced with weed. And the man in the song is clearly smoking out of being despair, not joy. Stapleton put a fresh spin on a theme that is overwrought with clichés.

“Was It 26” feels like a perfect follow-up to “Might As Well Get Stoned.” The Charlie Daniels Band originally recorded the song and this is only one of two songs on the album that Stapleton didn’t help write. It’s about a man reflecting back on his wild year when he was 25 or 26. He can’t decide which year because they blend together in his mind. He doesn’t seem to regret it, but he would also like another crack at that age (whatever which one it is). It comes off as a warning to younger listeners and perhaps relatable for older listeners. Regardless it tells a great story. Oh and Stapleton’s voice is amazing once again. Stapleton sings about the crushing reality of being a musician traveling on the road all of the time in “The Devil Named Music.” He’s sometime drunk, stoned and most of all he feels alone. He misses his daughter and wife dearly, but he knows the devil that is music has his life. That’s one of the things we never think about as fans when listening to our favorite music. The amount of blood, sweat and tears that goes into making such great music is huge.

“Outlaw State of Mind” puts you in a…well outlaw state of mind. From the bellow of the guitar to the vocals it frames the theme of the song well. The harmonica solo in the bridge is fantastic too. Really this was song to show off the instrumentation that graces the album throughout, something I can certainly appreciate. The final song on Traveller is “Sometimes I Cry,” a song I could easily imagine being played in a smoky barroom in New Orleans. It’s a heartbreak song where Stapleton just lets it all hang out. He sings his ass off and the guitar play is equally impressive. Oh and this was recorded live in front of an audience. I mean what else can I say? This is another great track amongst many throughout this album.

The hype was high heading into Chris Stapleton’s album. Not only did he meet the hype, he surpassed it with Traveller. I don’t think I could ask anymore from a country album than what I hear on this album. It has everything a country music fan should want in their music. What impressed me the most out of all is Stapleton’s voice. Holy shit I did not expect him to blow me away so much vocally. He’s easily one of the best in country music today. The songwriting is top-notch, but we knew that already. The instrumentation and production is spotless, as once again Dave Cobb is in top form. I have no complaints with this album, as Stapleton is a visionary. Traveller is a must-own and is easily one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

Grade: 10/10

 

Country Perspective’s Best Country Albums of 2014

We have reached the end of 2014 and over the course of the year we’ve reviewed a lot of great country music. So in case you just found the site or don’t remember all of the great country albums we’ve reviewed, you’re in luck. Here are the links to every album we rated an 8/10 or higher over the course of the year. These are the albums we give a solid recommendation or more for you to listen to. Keep in mind this site started in May, so we won’t have every single great album. For example we never got around to reviewing Dierks Bentley’s album or Don Williams’ album, two albums that would have definitely made this list. So if there are albums missing that you love, they were most likely not reviewed. Others of course may have not been rated high enough to make it. I’m also including our album of the year candidates in case you missed those too. One more thing: only albums are included, no EPs. So without further ado here are Country Perspective’s most recommended albums of 2014.

10/10 (Album of the Year Candidates)

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music 

Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time 

Karen Jonas – Oklahoma Lottery 

Lucette – Black Is The Color 

Tami Neilson – Dynamite! 

Sunny Sweeney – Provoked 

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold 

Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy 

The Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down 

9.5/10

Angaleena Presley – American Middle Class 

Micky & The Motorcars – Hearts From Above 

Stoney LaRue – Aviator 

9/10

Wade Bowen – Wade Bowen 

Matt Woods – With Love From Brushy Mountain 

Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’ 

BlackHawk – Brothers of the Southland 

The Roys – The View 

Jason Eady – Daylight & Dark 

Mack McKenzie – One Last, One More 

Bonnie Montgomery – Bonnie Montgomery 

8.5/10

Jon Pardi – Write You A Song 

Ray Scott – Ray Scott 

Mary Sarah – Bridges 

The Buffalo Ruckus – The Buffalo Ruckus 

Rich O’Toole – Jaded 

Corb Lund – Counterfeit Blues 

8/10

Eric Paslay – Eric Paslay 

Phillip Fox Band – Heartland 

Terri Clark – Some Songs 

Country Perspective’s Best Male Country Artist of 2014 Nominees

Over the course of 2014 we saw many talented male country artists put out fantastic albums. Most of them came from the independent and Red Dirt Texas scenes. Determining who was the best male country artist of 2014 will be no easy feat. The main guidelines for determining who should win are the following: the quality of music they’ve released in 2014, the impact they have made on the genre over the course of the year and the amount of growth they made as an individual artist.

Derek and myself will ultimately determine which artist will win, but we also want to hear from you the readers who is deserving of the award. Your comments will be highly considered for determining who wins and you could possibly sway who should be the winner. So be sure to sound off in the comments! Without further ado the nominees for Country Perspective’s Best Male Country Artist of 2014 (in alphabetical order):

Corb Lund – The true underdog in the fight for Country Perspective’s Best Male Country Artist of 2014. Many may not be familiar with the Canadian country artist, but you absolutely should. Corb Lund is an artist everyone should listen to because you can tell he really pays attention to all of the little details in his music. He’s a true artist who cares about his craft. His ability to seamlessly blend Americana, country and blues into truly unique sounding music is something all true country music fans should appreciate. Can Lund pull off the ultimate upset?

 

 

Eric Paslay – The only mainstream artist to make this list. Paslay’s debut album was a solid debut after spending years writing songs in Nashville. While his two biggest radio singles were the weakest on his album, the rest is pretty fine music. His third single “She Don’t Love You” is a candidate for Country Perspective’s Best Country Song of 2014. Paslay has a slim chance at winning here, but him just earning the nomination with his debut album is impressive enough to this critic.

 

Jason Eady – The first time I heard Jason Eady was when I heard his popular song “A.M. Country Heaven.” His raw and deep voice immediately captured my attention. His 2014 album Daylight & Dark is considered by some to be the best album of 2014. Before Sturgill’s album was released this was the album that was the toast of independent country. While I wasn’t as impressed as others, I still find the album to be a great step forward for Eady and I really think he’s capable of producing even better music. Regardless the artistry he displayed in his album makes him a strong contender.

 

Matt Woods – The East Nashville artist really broke out with his album With Love From Brushy Mountain. Fans got a taste of how great this album is last year when he released “Deadman’s Blues,” one of the best country songs of 2013. His 2014 album had plenty of songs in the same vein and this is really just the beginning for Woods. Don’t be surprised if you hear his name pop up in future Country Perspective year-end awards list because I don’t think he is even close to his best yet. He still has a great shot though at pulling the ‘upset’ this year.

 

Stoney LaRue – LaRue is going the opposite direction of fellow Red Dirt artist Bowen. After impressing people on the Texas/independent scene for years, LaRue was signed to a major label and released his first album with them this year. While a few didn’t like the approach of the album, the majority was impressed. I think Derek says it best in his review of Aviator:

Overall, this album is loaded with great instrumentation and vocals within every track. Aviator is a musical definition for “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” There may be songs or instances within songs that can nit-picked for doing or not doing something. But this album is meant to be enjoyed by pushing play at “One and Only” and letting it spin from there. This is an album in the true sense of the word.

 

Sturgill Simpson – In the independent country realm, he’s been the most talked about male artist of 2014. He was a relative unknown at the start of the year, but with his album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music he captured country music fans’ hearts everywhere. He’s played on late night talk shows like Conan, Letterman and The Tonight Show. Simpson has even caught the attention of mainstream artists like Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley. Zac Brown Band liked his music so much he picked him to open for him on some tour dates. I would be lying if I said Sturgill isn’t the front-runner to win this award.

 

Wade Bowen – After signing with a major label and earning his first ever top ten album, Bowen realized he had to break away to make the music he really wants to make. I guess you could say his self-titled 2014 album was his ‘comeback.’ Whatever you want to call it the Red Dirt Texas artist holds your attention from beginning to end with one of the best albums of his career. As I said in my review of his album:

There really isn’t one bad song on this album, although there are a couple of songs that don’t shine as bright as the other songs on the album. Nevertheless I really have no complaints about this album. Bowen is pretty much all-around solid on almost every song. The instrumentation is good and the songwriting tells stories and evokes emotions in listeners.

 

Who should win? Be sure to make your case in the comments below.