Album Review — HARDY’s ‘HIXTAPE, Vol. 1’

HARDY (real name Michael Hardy) has been writing a lot of songs for some of the biggest names in mainstream country in the the last few years and now he’s stepping into the spotlight himself with what is essentially his debut album, HIXTAPE, Vol. 1. It features several collaborations from various country artists (17!) and is based off the successful mixtape format popularized by hip-hop. And I have to say I did not expect to review this album at all. Even more surprising: I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did.

Lead song and single “Boy from the South” features Cole Swindell and Dustin Lynch. It’s an okay track about your typical guy from the south. Swindell’s part I enjoy, but not so much Lynch’s part. Other than the John Boy and Billy Big Show shout out and the funny line about writing “We Want Bama” on the windshield (which you shouldn’t write if you’re a fan of a southern team not named Clemson, Georgia or LSU), the lyrics are pretty average for me.

“He Went to Jared” is my favorite song on the album. Featuring Morgan Wallen, the song is about a working man getting dumped by his woman for a rich man. I love the simple storytelling and hooks used and Wallen’s unique voice is the perfect choice for this song. Also am I the only one who gets a chuckle out of the line “I’m just sittin’ here with a beer and my jeans tucked”? It’s such a random ass observation, but it fits so well.

“Redneck Tendencies” is a modern day, redneck version of “Mama Tried” and sees HARDY calling on ’90s country staples Trace Adkins and Joe Diffie. Both are great features on this fun little singalong. “Nothin’ Out Here” features Thomas Rhett and is your standard “don’t overlook small town” songs that doesn’t have anything new to say about the subject nor is it catchy. It’s ironic that the two singles of this album are the ones I skip when listening to this album.

“My Kinda Livin'” is about taking pleasure in country living. HARDY is joined by Hunter Phelps and Jameson Rodgers and I have to say I’m not too familiar with Phelps and Rodgers. But the three sound pretty good together and they fit this easygoing song well. The crickets chirping in the background throughout are a nice touch, as they compliment this tone too. Unlike “Nothin’ Out Here,” “No Place like Hometown” is a small town song I can get behind. The sentiment resonates with me, Keith Urban’s solo vocals sound good and I really enjoy the harmonies of HARDY, Urban and Hillary Lindsey in the latter half of the track.

Mitchell Tenpenny and Jon Langston join in on “Something a Lil’ Stronger” and I have to admit this was the song I was expecting to hate the most because I have not been a fan of Tenpenny up to this point. But I have to give props where it’s due: he sounds great on this song and so does Langston. The both fit this singalong about always wanting to move on to something stronger and better, whether it be a drink or a woman. The simple and catchy observational tone reminds me a lot of another song I like, Jon Pardi’s “What I Can’t Put Down.” This is definitely a highlight of the album and Tenpenny should consider working with HARDY more.

The underrated Tracy Lawrence knocks it out of the park on “What They Make Backroads for.” Jake Owen sounds pretty good too. These are both artists who just know how to approach these simple country songs that aren’t trying to be anything more than fun singalongs. These may seem like shallow observations, but there’s not much more to say when it comes to these type of songs: you listen to them and they either work or they don’t, and this one works. “Turn You Down” is that fun rocker, Friday night anthem that this album needed. It’s another great feature from Morgan Wallen and Zakk Wylde is awesome at delivering the rollicking guitar licks that make you want to bang your head. Also I love the depiction of Wylde on the cover of the album, which is one of the most memorable albums covers I’ve seen this year.

After an album of fun songs, the album closes with a more serious song in “One Beer,” which is nice to see. It’s about how one beer turns into a hook-up, which turns into an unexpected pregnancy, then a unexpected marriage and family. It’s a real story that happens in small towns every day across America, so I praise the storytelling of the lyrics. Devin Dawson and Lauren Alaina are the guest artists, but I really don’t feel their presence like other guest artists on the album. Nevertheless, they all three sound good harmonizing together.

Readers familiar with my reviews might be shocked to see I enjoy HARDY’s HIXTAPE, Vol. 1, but that’s because you’re not listening to this album for what it’s trying to be: a fun album full of catchy, mindless songs that are easy to turn on and immediately get into. And this album does this well. HARDY isn’t trying to make you think, he just wants you to have a good time and I do when listening to his mixtape.

Grade: 7/10

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 [June 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 (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 I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from June 1st, 1991.

  1. Diamond Rio – “Meet In The Middle” +3
  2. Doug Stone – “In A Different Light” +3
  3. George Strait – “If I Know Me” +4
  4. Paul Overstreet – “Heroes” +3 (The production is a little much for me, otherwise this would be +4)
  5. Mark Chesnutt – “Blame It On Texas” +3
  6. Dwight Yoakam – “You’re The One” +4 (Holy mandolin!)
  7. Joe Diffie – “If The Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets) +3
  8. Garth Brooks – “The Thunder Rolls” +4
  9. The Oak Ridge Boys – “Lucky Moon” +3
  10. Clint Black – “One More Payment” +3 (Holy Western Swing!)
  11. Lorrie Morgan – “We Both Walk” +3
  12. Tanya Tucker – “Oh What It Did To Me” +4
  13. Ronnie Milsap – “Are You Lovin’ Me (Like I’m Lovin’ You)” +3
  14. Randy Travis – “Point Of Light” +3
  15. The Judds – “One Hundred and Two” +2
  16. Alan Jackson – “Don’t Rock The Jukebox” +3
  17. Pirates Of The Mississippi – “Feed Jake” +4
  18. Alabama – “Down Home” +3
  19. Dolly Parton & Ricky Van Shelton – “Rockin’ Years” +4
  20. Ricky Van Shelton – “I Am A Simple Man” +3
  21. Highway 101 – “Bing Bang Boom” +2
  22. Pam Tillis – “One Of Those Things” +2
  23. Mike Reid – “‘Till You Were Gone” +4
  24. Travis Tritt – “Drift Off To Dream” +3
  25. Kathy Mattea – “Time Passes By” +4
  26. Terry McBride – “Can I Count On You” +3
  27. Mark O’ Connor – “Restless” +2
  28. Clinton Gregory – “(If It Weren’t For Country Music) I’d Go Crazy” +4 [Best Song] (wouldn’t we all though?)
  29. Billy Dean – “Somewhere In My Broken Heart” +3
  30. Carlene Carter – “The Sweetest Thing” +2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +94

Wow! Quite the reversal from last week! Indeed, this is one of the best charts we’ve ever had. Sure, not every song on here is perfect, but the overall quality is simply stunning. I felt no need to award a “worst song” award this week since it wouldn’t have really made sense. The worst here is still good.

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 [February 2002]

Hello everyone! You didn’t read that headline wrong. The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music is indeed back! I am not a full-time writer at Country Perspective but I have come back to do this piece every week. I missed it and I know people were disappointed to see it go again. With the recent revamping of the current pulse, it’s a fitting time to come back. Thanks to Josh for letting me come back!

Anyway, this is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Every week, I will 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 will 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 I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from February 9th, 2002.

  1. Steve Holy – “Good Morning Beautiful” 0
  2. George Strait – “Run” +3
  3. Brad Paisley – “Wrapped Around” +2
  4. Alan Jackson – “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” +4
  5. Brooks & Dunn – “The Long Goodbye” +2 
  6. Jo Dee Messina & Tim McGraw – “Bring On The Rain” +2
  7. Tim McGraw – “The Cowboy In Me” +2
  8. Garth Brooks – “Wrapped Up In You” -2
  9. Aaron Tippin – “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly” +2
  10. Martina McBride – “Blessed” -1
  11. The Dixie Chicks – “Some Days You Gotta Dance” +2
  12. Tracy Byrd – “Just Let Me Be In Love” +1
  13. Joe Diffie – “In Another World” +2
  14. Toby Keith – “I Wanna Talk About Me” -5 [Worst Song]
  15. Rascal Flatts – “I’m Movin’ On” +4
  16. Sara Evans – “Saints and Angels” +2
  17. Chris Cagle – “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out” +3
  18. Kenny Chesney – “Young” 0
  19. Trace Adkins – “I’m Tryin'” +3
  20. Phil Vassar – “That’s When I Love You” +1
  21. Blake Shelton – “All Over Me” +1
  22. Tommy Shane Steiner – “What If She’s An Angel” +1
  23. Toby Keith – “My List” +3
  24. Cyndi Thomson – “I Always Liked That Best” +1
  25. Lee Ann Womack – “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger” +4 [Best Song]
  26. Emerson Drive – “I Should Be Sleeping” +1
  27. Steve Azar – “I Don’t Have To Be Me (‘Til Monday)” +2
  28. Carolyn Dawn Johnson – “I Don’t Want You To Go” +2
  29. Kevin Denney – “That’s Just Jessie” +3
  30. Travis Tritt – “Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde” +4

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +48

So as you can see, the music in mainstream country from the past definitely defeats the charts of today. It’s interesting to see how trends can affect certain songs in mainstream country music though. There was definitely an influx of pop sounds in country during this time, only back then they didn’t hit you over the head with it.  The country was actually more prominent than the pop sound! Unbelievable, I know.

Anyway, the more pop leaning production on some tracks is what really holds them back from higher scores. Either way however, there’s only one outright terrible song here with Toby Keith’s “I Wanna Talk About Me.” You thought “Dirt Road Anthem” introduced rap into country? Think again. The only other bad songs here come from Garth Brooks and Martina McBride. The former is annoying as all heck and the latter is just too overproduced for my tastes. Still, not terrible.

The best songs here are pretty easy to pick out as well. I know it’s been polarizing for some but I always was moved by Alan Jackson’s song. The always excellent Travis Tritt and Lee Ann Womack of course delivered quality songs as well. Hell, even Rascal Flatts had a great song with “I’m Movin’ On,” and it’s surprisingly one of the most outright country ones here.

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 [December 1999]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Every 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. Each song on the chart will receive either a +1, 0, or -1. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the top 30 songs with the highest score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. Songs rated between a 7 and 10 will receive a +1. Songs rated either 5 or 6 will receive a 0. Songs rated 4 or lower will receive a -1.

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 I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from December 4, 1999.

  1. Clint Black – “When I Said I Do (w/ Lisa Hartman Black)” 0
  2. John Michael Montgomery – “Home To You” +1
  3. Martina McBride – “I Love You” -1 [Worst Song]
  4. Brad Paisley – “He Didn’t Have To Be” +1
  5. Faith Hill – “Breathe” +1
  6. Shania Twain – “Come On Over” -1
  7. Tim McGraw – “Something Like That” +1
  8. Yankee Grey – “All Things Considered” +1
  9. George Strait – “What Do You Say To That” +1
  10. Reba – “What Do You Say” +1
  11. Alan Jackson – “Pop A Top” +1
  12. LeAnn Rimes – “Big Deal” 0
  13. Dixie Chicks – “Cowboy Take Me Away” +1
  14. Andy Griggs – “I’ll Go Crazy” +1
  15. Tim McGraw – “My Best Friend” +1
  16. Steve Wariner – “I’m Already Taken” +1
  17. Kenny Chesney – “She Thinks My Tractors Sexy” -1
  18. Randy Travis – “A Man Ain’t Made Of Stone” +1
  19. Lonestar – “Amazed” 0
  20. Clay Walker – “Live, Laugh, Love” 0
  21. Jo Dee Messina – “Lesson In Leavin’” +1
  22. Lonestar – “Smile” 0
  23. Ty Herndon – “Steam” 0
  24. Tracy Byrd – “Put Your Hand In Mine” +1
  25. Gary Allan – “Smoke Rings In The Dark” +1 [Best Song]
  26. Joe Diffie – “The Quittin’ Kind” +1
  27. Brooks & Dunn – “Beer Thirty” 0
  28. Keith Urban – “It’s A Love Thing” -1
  29. Trace Adkins – “Don’t Lie” +1
  30. SHeDAISY – “This Woman Needs” +1

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +15

Wow, a double-digit positive score, and one that’s halfway to a perfect score! Sure beats 2010 from last week. As you all remember, 2010 didn’t even have a Pulse! As a child of the 2000s, I have to admit I was very unfamiliar with a few of these songs and artists prior to conducting this pulse. That’s why doing this particular Past Pulse was especially fun. I get to discover some great new songs! First of all, I never had once heard of Yankee Gray. “All Things Considered” isn’t exactly something anyone would call “deep”, but it’s fun enough with the catchy melody and bouncy fiddles. This was their only top 10 hit. Elsewhere, while I am familiar with artists such as Clint Black, John Michael Montgomery, Steve Wariner, and Tracy Byrd, I can’t say that I had ever heard any of their respective singles on this chart. I’ve also never heard a single SHeDAISY song despite hearing of them multiple times. “This Woman Needs” is a pretty enjoyable country-pop tune.

However, I’m not totally out of tune with what was going on in 1999. Alan Jackson’s “Pop A Top” was (and still is) a damn catchy tune that hardly feels like a cover song at all. And of course there’s the monster hit by the Dixie Chicks with “Cowboy Take Me Away.” I can understand why they are a very polarizing band to many, but when you look at them from a pure musical standpoint, they were a very talented group who made some fine country music. With Gary Allan, they share the honor of being tied for the best song on this chart. I’ve always loved “Smoke Rings In The Dark” for its dark, ominous atmosphere and sharp lyrics combined with Gary’s vocal delivery. In fact, it’s probably my favorite Gary song ever. Oh, can we also talk about how awesome Trace Adkins is when he’s trying to be a serious country singer? The man has always had a set of pipes, and when he’s not doing the whole “Swing” or “Honkytonk Badonkadonk” crap, he’s excellent.

But of course, at any given moment there’s always some type of bad in country music, even in 1999. Hell, I’m sure at one point somebody somewhere declared Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” the worst country song in history. Nowadays it wouldn’t come anywhere close. Elsewhere, we had Martina McBride’s annoying “I Love You” which easily is the worst song here. To put it bluntly, this song sounds extremely immature and annoying. And then of course we have “Come On Over.” Now, I actually like Shania Twain for the most part, but this song is just terrible and definitely didn’t belong on country radio, especially not in 1999. Keith Urban’s first song also wasn’t great either. But that’s it folks. FOUR negative scores on the pulse. Nowadays that’s about as many positive scores you’ll find on the pulse. Evolution my ass.

If you have any questions as to why I gave a certain song the score I did, or perhaps just want to make your own Pulse, sound off in the comments!