Country Perspective’s Best Music Reviewed in June

Luke Bell Self Titled Album

This is the monthly recap post of all the great music we reviewed on the blog in case you missed it or just came across our humble, little blog. So check this music out if you haven’t already.

10/10

Albums:

Luke Bell – Luke Bell

 

9/10

Albums:

Daniel Meade & The Flying Mules – Let Me Off at the Bottom

Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town

Maurice van Hoek – Live Forevermore 

Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis

Songs:

Cody Jinks – “I’m Not the Devil”

 

8/10

Albums:

Jon Pardi – California Sunrise

Mudcrutch – 2

Rachel Allyn – Next Year’s Girl

Album Review – Maurice van Hoek’s Debut Album ‘Live Forevermore’ Proves He’s One to Watch

Maurice van Hoek

You never know where you can find great music in this big world we live in. While there’s plenty of fantastic country and Americana music right here in the United States, there’s a lot outside of our borders too. Places like Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom regularly have artists who release great music that every country and Americana fan should check out. But then sometimes I’ll get something even outside these countries and when curveballs like this show up in my inbox, I pay attention. Coming from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, meet Americana artist Maurice van Hoek. He’s a new, up and coming artist who is inspired by the likes of Ryan Adams, the Eagles and Sturgill Simpson. His band is made up of David Gram, Stan de Kwaadsteniet, Danny van ‘t Hoff and Rafael Schwiddessen. They formed after Hoek traveled to America and explored the country where he found the style of music he loves to make. This resulted in Hoek’s debut album Live Forevermore. And folks this is an album I can’t believe more people haven’t heard.

The grooving “I’ll Be On My Way” kicks the album off. It’s essentially a song about a rambling man, who tells his woman to let him go and be on his way, as that’s what he’s meant to do. Hoek has an effortless way about his vocals and dare I say an even soulful vibe about it. The album’s title track is grounded in some solid harmonica interludes. Hoek sings of letting love go and knowing he’ll be better off being honest with himself and her. On “Whisper To The Moon,” pedal steel guitar rings throughout. It’s about a man wondering if he’ll ever see his love again as he travels the open road. He also wonders if she’s looking up at the same moon as him. It’s a troubadour coming to terms of having fallen in love with someone. “Last Light” sees the man running back to his love, as he can’t stand to be away from her. He has to travel through many lights, but he knows the last light will be hers. It’s a simple little love song that really shows off Hoek’s storytelling chops. Maurice Van Hoek clearly draws on his trip to Texas on “Rain In Austin.” The heartbreak song is well-arranged, with steel guitar and a subtle organ in the background. It really sets the tone of the song well and puts you in the place of the heartbroken person.

A harmonica and pedal steel guitar rings in “Follow You Down.” It’s about a man who knows he in love, but he keeps “twirling around the truth.” He eventually realizes he needs to follow this feeling and show his love for her. The instrumentation shines throughout this album, but if you’re like me and love some great harmonica play, this might be the best track instrumentation wise on the album. The great harmonica play continues into “Life We Had Together.” The song is about a man reflecting on the life he had with his ex and tells her that if she ever wants to have it again, the door is always open to her. He reflects too on what led to them parting and takes some of the blame of why their relationship fell apart, but now is doing what he can to get her back. This song features some of the best songwriting on the album and arguably the best on Live Forevermore.

“Be My Wine” is a song you’ll be singing along with from the first listen. It’s an upbeat love song with some fun instrumentation and catchy lyrics. Many love to stereotype Americana music as slow and boring, but songs like these prove those claims wrong. This is definitely another standout on the album. Up next is “Pursue Your Star.” It’s an inspirational song about refusing to let the world get you down. Even if you feel like everyone around you has given up on you, that shouldn’t prevent you from pursuing what you want. “Union Square Rain” captures a person in a depressed state of mind, someone aching for the sun to come back in their life. The instrumentation in this song gives it an almost dreamy feeling, like you’re floating through life. It’s eery, yet beautiful. Hoek really digs deep with this song and gives us a glimpse of the best he has to offer with his music. Live Forevermore closes out with “Every Hour, Everyday.” Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Hoek sings of a friend, a mentor perhaps, whom he greatly admires. He looks up to him not only for his wise words, but his actions too. Whoever he looks up to, you can tell the words come straight from Hoek’s heart and it’s a fitting way to end a remarkable album.

Maurice van Hoek proves with this album that he is an Americana artist you need to hear. Live Forevermore is full of great songs of heartbreak and love, each well arraigned production and instrumentation wise. A big credit not just to Hoek and the band, but engineer and producer Wannes Salomé. Hoek clearly has a knack for songwriting too and he’s only going to get better with time. There’s not a lot of chatter about this album, but there should be and I couldn’t recommend you check it out enough. I can say this is the first artist, not just country or Americana, I’ve heard from the Netherlands. If there’s more artist like this from there, I would love to hear him. Maurice van Hoek proves to be the real deal with his debut album and the best is only yet to come from him.

Grade: 9/10

The Hodgepodge: Could Billboard’s Americana Chart Lead to the Radio Split We’ve Been Waiting For?

Last week Americana music fans and journalists were excited to learn that Billboard would add an Americana chart to their publishing. It’s a chart that’ll give home to many of the country artists we’ve seen ignored in Nashville, as well as root/folk rockers like The Lumineers. The chart debuted this week, along with Country Perspective’s first Americana Pulse feature. The chart gives a spotlight to artists popular in Americana, with Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes, and Loretta Lynn finding their way into the top 15.

Take another look at the top artist on the chart and the 15th artist. You have Chris Stapleton, a modern country artist with a traditional sound and Loretta Lynn, a country music legend on the same chart. This is exactly what NASH Icons was supposed to do, right? NASH Icons was coming out of the woodwork in response to the cry for the country sound to return to radio grew to deafening levels. Unfortunately for NASH Icons, the experiment has been slow-moving, and the artists who’ve signed on so far, haven’t made much noise. Reba‘s NASH Icons album was great, but that’s about it for Icons so far.

But with the addition of an Americana chart to Billboard, perhaps we may see a growth in Americana radio stations. Not that radio is a sustainable medium nowadays, even for the immensely popular mainstream country music, but radio still appears to be important to most labels, managers, and fans. There aren’t many available Americana radio stations as it is, but even a double in the number of stations could be beneficial, even adding a station to more major markets. For instance, the KUSH in Cushing, OK is the station I’m able to listen to…if I drive state highways through small towns away from the OKC metro area and interstate on my drive to and from work. Besides that commute being out of my way for a drive, I still only get the AM signal for about 20-30 minutes.

My interest in Americana radio has grown ever since I’ve found that station which one time included a playlist of Corb Lund, Jason Boland, and Hailey Whitters back-to-back-to-back! My first tweet after learning about the new Billboard chart was wondering if Americana radio would grow in light of the official chart. With mainstream artists like Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton, and Sturgill Simpson appearing on Americana charts (AMAs and Billboard), Americana gives a potential home to quality country artists who are ignored on radio while Dustin Lynch gets his third meaningless number one single while simultaneously citing Sugar Ray as an influential musical style.

More and more, it seems like mainstream artists are embracing genres away from country. Little Big Town is working with Pharrell on a side project, Florida Georgia Line (while passing off an R&B AC song as country) are covering the Backstreet Boys, and Sam Hunt and Old Dominion still think they’re making good music (let alone, country music).

In 2016’s first Hodgepodge, I noted that two things I’d like to see this year is a radio split and more spotlight on Americana and independent country music. With Billboard’s new Americana chart, one of those two has become a reality. Adding a chart for Americana is a great step in the effort to give these artists more of the spotlight they deserve. Maybe now Americana wouldn’t be an afterthought. Maybe the Grammys will embrace it as a major category, maybe the Americana Music Awards can find a TV deal. There’s more spotlight on the music, but now we need more avenues to play the music.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • Dierks Bentley‘s Black will be released on May 27th.
  • Maren Morris‘ debut album, Hero, will be released on June 3rd.
  • A recent release from the Netherlands to checkout is Maurice van Hoek‘s newest album, Live Forevermore. 
  • Brandy Clark‘s Big Day in a Small Town will be released on June 10th.
  • Jon Pardi‘s California Sunrise will be released on June 17th.
  • Mark Chesnutt will release a new album on July 8th called Tradition Lives.

Throwback Thursday Song

Kellie Pickler’s “I Wonder”One of my favorite Kellie Pickler songs. The second single from Pickler’s debut, Small Town Girl, “I Wonder” is written about a girl who wonders what life is like for her estranged parents. While Pickler didn’t write the song, it’s personal to her as her mother left the family when Kellie was just two, and her father was in and out of jail while she grew up.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


Alessia Cara’s Know-It-All. The university I work for is already starting Freshman Orientation, and I’ve been working many of the sessions which include pop music playlists. I’ve grown to like Alessia Cara’s “Here” and don’t mine “Wild Things.” I’ve ventured to explore her debut album from last year, and I enjoyed listening to it. She had a hand in writing all 10 songs on the album, and the production on several of the tracks are well done.

Tweet of the Week

Sometimes, people need to be told where to find the good music. I needed to be told, and sometimes still do. If Simmons’ tweet is true, why did we get so many “Who is Chris Stapleton?” tweets?

Two iTunes Reviews for Blake Shelton

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Both these reviews make the point of how bland and boring Shelton’s vocals are on If I’m Honest. These are not the first two people I’ve heard say this, hence why I’m not going to listen to the album.

And that second review started off so wonderfully, and then crashed at the mention of Luke Bryan.