The Endless Music Odyssey, Vol. 4 — Margo Price, Jon Pardi, The Chicks & more!

Margo Price — That’s How Rumors Get Started

I really wanted to enjoy this album and there isn’t a single bad song on it. But yet after multiple listens not a single song sticks with me either. And it bugs the crap out of me how I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that continues to be missing from Price’s albums. I’ve always been a fan of Sturgill Simpson’s production and while I think the direction taken with it suits Price’s style, it doesn’t necessarily work to her best either. I guess if I had to pick reasons of why this album just doesn’t work for me is it’s due to a lack of energy and presence of Price. She has a fantastic voice and yet it feels like she continues to be relegated to middling/softer vocal performances. So if it was up to me, I would like to see her go in a heavier rock direction and fully unleash her voice to see how the result turns out. 5/10

Jon PardiRancho Fiesta Sessions

Take this for what it is and you can find a lot of enjoyment in his small cover album. While the sound engineering isn’t the best and rawness of the recording exposes Pardi’s biggest weakness as a vocalist (sounding too thin at times), you can tell Pardi and his band really enjoyed recording this and this is infectious as a listener. It also further supports why I think Pardi needs to get away from his more traditional direction he’s been taking and get back to the more country rock sound of his first album. He just seems to enjoy himself more and it brings out his best too. Kudos to him having the guts to cover Prince too, as it is not an easy task and he actually does a solid job. 8/10

The ChicksGaslighter

This is one of my most disappointing listens of 2020. I’m still a big fan of the lead single and title track, as it’s energy is infectious. But this album becomes so tedious and monotonous to listen to thereafter. First off it feels less like a project from The Chicks and more of a Natalie Maines solo project. There isn’t enough harmonies. The “boat incident” is rehashed ad nauseam. But perhaps the worst thing about this project is the production. I’m a big fan of Jack Antonoff. Hell, he produced Country Perspective’s 2019 Album of the Year. But his production does not go well with The Chicks at all. It’s just too polished for this trio and pales in comparison to their previous sound. I had high hopes for the return of The Chicks, but this honestly feels like the Garth Brooks return all over again. 6/10

Tenille TownesThe Lemonade Stand

I come away from this album seeing a lot of potential in Tenille Townes. Her voice is distinctive and it sticks with you long after listening. And I think Jay Joyce is the right choice as producer, even though I think he can get a bit heavy handed with the production at times on this album. Townes is only going to get better as a songwriter too as she continues to get more experience. While there are a few too many moments where the songs just feel run of the mill, the moments that do work though are great, such as “Jersey on the Wall” and “Come as You Are.” 6/10

Mark ChesnuttNumbers on the Jukebox EP

The sound on this EP is just not mixed well at all. And I’m forgiving in this department when it comes to independent artists. But it’s just so jarring as the listener and I find it puzzling how live and studio recordings are intermingled. The songwriting is also a big step down from Tradition Lives, which is a great album. I expected a lot more from Chesnutt and this feels like a letdown.

Eric PaslayNice Guy

Man, what happened to this guy? He showed so much promise on his debut album. He’s a great live performer too. Then he released the terrible single “High Class” and it’s been steady down hill ever since. This mediocre batch of pop country only continues his descent. It just baffles me how an artist who seems to only be trending upwards to make such a sudden 180. Only Zac Brown Band and The Band Perry baffle me more when it comes to changing so suddenly.

RaeLynnBaytown EP

I’ve been enjoying the direction RaeLynn has been taking into more goofy, “kitchy” songs. This EP features even more enjoyable songs in this vein. “Judgin’ to Jesus” is really catchy and “Bra Off” makes me laugh at the new twist on a breakup song. “Fake Girl Town” doesn’t land for me as the tone just doesn’t fit RaeLynn nor the other tracks on the album. While the lighter side seems to fit RaeLynn best, “Me About Me” is a nice reminder of when RaeLynn wants to get more serious she can do quite well too. It honestly surprises me she hasn’t had more radio success because she has so many songs with great hooks and her charisma is infectious. But if you’ve been enjoying RaeLynn’s recent direction, this is an EP certainly worth your time. 7/10

Cassadee PopeRise and Shine

“I really want this record to sound like an acoustic Dashboard Confessional — like a country Dashboard record.” That’s what Pope says of this album and well mission accomplished. That’s not a good thing. It only makes me want to repeat again: Pope is not suited for country music. She has a great voice, but it is not suited for country. The pop punk of Hey Monday is where she needs to get back to, but we all know what’s more marketable and that’s what drives the decision making of most artists. It’s a shame.

Blackberry Smoke — Live Bandcamp albums

As always this band delivers and they deliver no better than when they’re in a live setting. These lives albums are admittedly not too different from their excellent 2019 live album Homecoming, but if you’re a fan of Blackberry Smoke it’s certainly worth checking out. If anything listen to the songs that aren’t covered on their previous live albums.

Albums from artists I’ve heard and will be covering soon:

  • Daniel Donato
  • Lindsay Ell
  • Duckwrth
  • CeeLo Green

Albums from artists I haven’t heard but on my to listen to list and will likely cover:

  • Caylee Hammack
  • Jacob Collier
  • The Mavericks
  • Tim McGraw
  • Josh Turner
  • Tucker Beathard
  • Taylor Swift
  • The Allman Betts Band

Album Review — Jon Pardi’s ‘Heartache Medication’

On Jon Pardi’s last album California Sunrise, he made traditional country feel accessible and fun at times. On his new album Heartache Medication, he delivers an album that is very country, but leaves me a lot of the time saying to myself, “eh, it’s fine.” Opening track “Old Hat” is a song I’m very familiar with, as I covered it when I reviewed Jeff Hyde’s 2018 album Norman Rockwell World. It’s a great song about hanging onto some of the old traditions of being a gentleman and I love that Pardi kept that clean guitar sound to open the song. But I must admit I prefer the Hyde version of the song because it just fits Hyde’s voice better than Pardi’s, as it feels like Pardi is stretching it at times.

The album’s title track is your classic heartbreak drinking song, turning to the bar to heal a broken heart. It’s a solid song with nice production and a catchy hook. On an album full of these songs, it’s one of the better ones for sure. “Nobody Leaves a Girl Like That” is another well-trodden theme in country music: a man looking back in regret at leaving a woman who he realized was great. This is the first of many moments on the album where I say, “eh it’s fine,” because Pardi does nothing to make the song stand out. I’ve heard this done better so many times in country music and I’m left expecting more. It’s not bad, but it’s not something I find myself clamoring to hear again.

In fact, let’s just get this out of the way now about all the songs on the album that fit this description because I don’t feel like repeating myself paragraph after paragraph. Here’s all the songs on this album that cover an over-covered theme in country music that are fine, but Pardi does nothing to make standout amongst the best versions of these songs: “Ain’t Always the Cowboy,” “Me and Jack,” “Tied One On,” “Oughta Know That,” “Buy That Man a Beer,” “Call Me Country” and “Love Her Like She’s Leaving.” So that’s 8 out of 14 tracks on this album. 14 tracks are already too long for most albums, but when you have nearly 60% of the album of songs that are just fine it feels even longer to get through.

As for the rest of this album: “Don’t Blame It On Whiskey” sees Pardi joined by Lauren Alaina and these two just don’t sound good together. Their voices are like oil and water, as Alaina’s voice pairs better with a deeper male voice and Pardi’s voice would be better suited with someone like Ashley McBryde or Brandi Carlile. “Tequila Little Time” is without a doubt the best moment on this album for me and that’s because this is one of the few moments Pardi puts a fresh taste on an old theme. I love both the horns playing the song in and the play on words in the hook of the song, as it’s both catchy and clever. This is right out of the Midland playbook and why I like their new album. This is what Pardi needs to have more of on his next album.

“Love Her Like She’s Leaving” is another moment that works well on this album because of the production. The fiddle and steel guitar give the song a smooth and pleasing sound, while complimenting the feel of the lyrics too. Closing song “Starlight” is about feeling the presence of higher powers like angels and God. I enjoy this because the lyrics avoid the typical pitfalls of these type of songs and feels like a genuine proclamation from Pardi. The electric guitar and steel guitar also compliment each other well.

Ultimately, Heartache Medication is an album that lacks standout moments and plays it too safe in regards to the themes. The traditional sound is great, but most of the songwriting on this album leaves a lot to desire. It was my biggest issue on his last album too. While this album is by no means bad, I wouldn’t call it good either, as I think Jon Pardi is capable of delivering something better.

Grade: 6/10

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [March 6]

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. 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 current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or 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 current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (Up 1)
  2. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 (Up 3)
  3. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 
  4. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 
  5. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Down 4)
  6. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 1)
  7. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Up 2)
  8. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 [Best Song]
  9. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 1)
  10. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Down 4) 
  11. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 
  12. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 
  13. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl”
  14. Sam Hunt – “Body Like a Back Road” -5 (Up 1) [Worst Song]
  15. Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” -3 (Down 1)
  16. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”
  17. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Up 1)
  18. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 (Down 1)
  19. Luke Combs – “Hurricane” -1
  20. Dan + Shay – “How Not To” +1 (Up 2)
  21. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Down 1)
  22. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 (Down 1)
  23. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” 
  24. Lady Antebellum – “You Look Good” -4 (Up 2)
  25. Rascal Flatts – “Yours If You Want It” -2 (Down 1)
  26. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 (Down 1)
  27. Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter” -5 (Up 1)
  28. Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” -2 (Re-Enters Top 30)
  29. Zac Brown Band – “My Old Man” +4 (Up 1)
  30. Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends” +2 (Down 3)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -24

The pulse drops five spots this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Runaway June – “Lipstick” +3

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” – Up 3 from #5 to #2
  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” – Up 3 from #31 to #28

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Runaway June – “Lipstick” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Little Big Town – “Better Man” – Down 4 from #1 to #5
  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” – Down 4 from #6 to #10

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” (Radio and Blake just can’t bear the thought of one week in the top 30 without a single from him, so chart jacking!)
  • Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” (This one appears to be out of gas now. We’ll see if EMI fights to keep it alive)
  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (The Fritos song finally appears done. No one will remember it)
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine” (54 weeks. I bet it’ll reach the top 10 in another 25 weeks)
  • Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  • Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends” (You can start panicking and worrying, Miranda fans. I’m being generous putting it here and not above because this is surrounded by radio darlings. Not good.)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Backstreet Boys) – “God, Your Mama, and Me”
  • Cole Swindell – “Flatliner”
  • Blake Shelton – “Every Time I Hear That Song”
  • Brothers Osborne – “It Ain’t My Fault”

 

As always be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments below. 

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [February 27]

little-big-town-better-man

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. 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 current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or 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 current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 
  2. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 
  3. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 
  4. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 
  5. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 
  6. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Up 1) 
  7. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 2)
  8. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 [Best Song]
  9. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 (Up 2)
  10. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” 
  11. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 2)
  12. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 
  13. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” (Up 2)
  14. Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” -3 
  15. Sam Hunt – “Body Like a Back Road” -5 (Up 3) [Worst Song]
  16. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”
  17. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 (Up 2)
  18. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Down 1)
  19. Luke Combs – “Hurricane” -1 (Up 1)
  20. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 (Up 2)
  21. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 
  22. Dan + Shay – “How Not To” +1 (Up 1)
  23. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” (Up 1)
  24. Rascal Flatts – “Yours If You Want It” -2 (Up 1)
  25. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 (Up 1)
  26. Lady Antebellum – “You Look Good” -4 (Up 1)
  27. Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends” +2 (Up 1)
  28. Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter” -5 (New to Top 30)
  29. Runaway June – “Lipstick” +3 (Up 1)
  30. Zac Brown Band – “My Old Man” +4 (Re-Enters Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -19

The pulse improves six spots this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5
  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” -2

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter”
  • Zac Brown Band – “My Old Man”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter” – Up 5 from #33 to #28
  • Sam Hunt – “Body Like A Back Road” – Up 3 from #18 to #15

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” – Out of the Top 30 (#31)

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl”
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine”
  • Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”
  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  • Runaway June – “Lipstick”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend”
  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know”
  • Cole Swindell – “Flatliner”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Backstreet Boys) – “God, Your Mama, and Me”
  • Blake Shelton – “Every Time I Hear That Song”

 

Call me crazy, but is this gerrymandering really helping anyone? What is the point of all this blatant chart jacking?

 

As always be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments below. 

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio [February 21]

little-big-town-better-man

Each week we take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. 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 current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or 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 current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Little Big Town – “Better Man” +2 (Up 1)
  2. Chris Young (feat. Vince Gill) – “Sober Saturday Night” +1 (Up 1)
  3. Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” -5 (Up 4)
  4. Brad Paisley – “Today” +2 (Up 2)
  5. Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” +1 (Up 3)
  6. Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” -5 (Down 5)
  7. Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” -1 (Down 2) 
  8. Eric Church (feat. Rhiannon Giddens) – “Kill A Word” +4 (Up 1) [Best Song]
  9. Luke Bryan – “Fast” -1 (Up 1)
  10. Jason Aldean – “Any Ol’ Barstool” (Up 2)
  11. Lauren Alaina – “Road Less Traveled” -2 
  12. Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend” -5 (Up 1)
  13. Kelsea Ballerini – “Yeah Boy” -5 (Up 1)
  14. Kenny Chesney – “Bar at the End of the World” -3 (Up 3)
  15. Josh Turner – “Hometown Girl” (Up 1)
  16. Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Down 1)
  17. High Valley – “Make You Mine” -2 (Up 1)
  18. Sam Hunt – “Body Like a Back Road” -5 (Up 3) [Worst Song]
  19. Dierks Bentley – “Black” -2 
  20. Luke Combs – “Hurricane” -1 (Up 4)
  21. Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl” +1 (Down 1)
  22. Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her” +4 
  23. Dan + Shay – “How Not To” +1
  24. Darius Rucker – “If I Told You” (Up 1)
  25. Rascal Flatts – “Yours If You Want It” -2 (Up 2)
  26. Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven” +3 
  27. Lady Antebellum – “You Look Good” -4 (Up 2)
  28. Miranda Lambert – “We Should Be Friends” +2
  29. Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know” -2 (New to Top 30)
  30. Runaway June – “Lipstick” +3

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Radio: -25

The pulse improves one spot this week.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” -3

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Brett Young – “In Case You Didn’t Know”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Michael Ray – “Douchey Pickup Song” – Up 4 from #7 to #3
  • Luke Combs – “Hurricane” – Up 4 from #24 to #20
  • Jon Pardi – “Dirt on My Boots” – Up 3 from #8 to #5

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Thomas Rhett – “Star of the Show” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red” – Down 5 from #1 to #6
  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl” – Down 2 from #5 to #7

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Dustin Lynch – “Seein’ Red”
  • Blake Shelton – “A Guy With A Girl”
  • Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”
  • High Valley – “Make You Mine” (Fun fact: The music video for this song was released on January 29, 2015)
  • Runaway June – “Lipstick”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Garth Brooks – “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance” (Appears to finally be losing momentum. But I still want to see it somehow reach top ten)
  • Trent Harmon – “There’s A Girl”
  • Craig Campbell – “Outskirts of Heaven”
  • Darius Rucker – “If I Told You”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Zac Brown Band – “My Old Man”
  • Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter”
  • Cole Swindell – “Flatliner”
  • Florida Georgia Line (feat. Backstreet Boys) – “God, Your Mama, and Me”

 

Notes: RaeLynn’s “Love Triangle” has went recurrent and is done. Parmalee’s “Roots” and Jake Owen’s “If He Ain’t Gonna Love You” both appear to be finished. Chris Lane’s “For Her” appears destined to be stuck in the mid 30s muck (but this is a good thing). LoCash’s “Ring on Every Finger” is struggling to build momentum like its previous singles. I bring all of this up because these are most of the songs directly behind the next four songs I see entering the top 30. Essentially there’s a vacuum there ready for someone to take advantage and it’ll be interesting to see who fills it. Blake Shelton’s “Every Time I Hear That Song” will of course be a hit. But then you have Justin Moore’s “Somebody Else Will” and Dylan Scott’s “My Girl.” They’re the closet in airplay, but radio doesn’t seem that keen on either. Scott has yet to have a hit and Moore’s last single took forever to climb the charts (never forget it went recurrent one week after going #1). Brothers Osborne’s “It Ain’t My Fault” is off to a good start, much better than their last single. They should reach the top 30 no problem. Billy Currington’s “Do I Make You Wanna” could make it by sheer process of elimination. Easton Corbin’s “A Girl Like You” seems like the next logical choice and something radio would get behind. Finally you have Drake White’s “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” quietly marching up the chart and looking like a possible sleeper hit.

 

As always be sure to weigh-in with your thoughts in the comments below.