Album Review – Dori Freeman Proves To Be Special Talent With Her Debut Album

Final Album Cover

When I listen to a new artist, I can usually tell upon first listen if they’re talented. Very rarely do I pick up a debut album, listen to it and realize I’m listening to something special. Upon the very first listen of the debut album of Dori Freeman, I knew I was listening to a special artist. But before I praise this album, you need to know who exactly is Dori Freeman. She’s a 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Galax, Virginia who comes from a family where both her grandfather and father have lived lives with music. Her grandfather is an artist and guitarist, while her father is a music instructor and multi-instrumentalist. Freeman doesn’t consider herself to be under one genre of music, but takes influences from bluegrass, rhythm and blues, and old country. At the heart of it is her Appalachian upbringing, something that country music has decidedly lacked recently. The Appalachian sound is sort of a lost art. But Dori Freeman reminds us all of just how fantastic is can be with her self-titled debut album.

The album begins with Dori Freeman singing the blues for man who was once in her life in “You Say.” Right away Freeman’s voice will absolutely melt your heart and hook you in, leaving you wanting more. It’s vocals like this that will leave you breathless after each time you hear her sing. The beautifully dark “Where I Stood” reflects back on a relationship that has gone down hill. Both know neither of them are the same people who fell in love with each other years ago and that they’re wasting each other’s time. It’s the classic tragedy of love lost and lusting for what once was in your life. Dori Freeman straight up reminds me of Patsy Cline on “Go On Lovin’.” I know this is a huge compliment and I’m comparing a new artist to a country icon. But I immediately felt chills when I heard this song because she sounds like Patsy so much. This heartbreak song couldn’t be more traditional country, from the lingering steel guitar to the carefully placed fiddle play. It reminds you of the golden days of country music when the Appalachian influence was palpable.

One of the more pop-influenced songs on this album is “Tell Me.” It’s really different from everything else you hear on this album and yet arguably could be the best. This song is definitely in the vein of the Nashville sound and at first you might not know how to size it up. But you’ll keep listening to it and find yourself wanting to come back to it again and again. “Fine Fine Fine” has Freeman telling off her no-good cheating man for doing her wrong. Everyone sees him out and about with another woman and this all gets back to her. The cheating man insists they’re just friends. Or as Freeman sings in the best line of this entire album, “You swear it was platonic, do you think I’m that moronic?” The songwriting on this song is superb. The mellow and easy-going “Any Wonder” follows. It’s about a man and woman slowly falling in love with each other. This is another song where you just sit back and marvel at Freeman’s brilliant voice tell a poignant story.

Just when you think you’ve heard everything on this album, “Ain’t Nobody” comes along and knocks you flat on your ass. All this song has is Freeman’s voice and the snapping of fingers. No instruments or production, just Freeman’s voice. I’m not even going to attempt to do it justice, so just take my advice and listen to this song. I think I could listen to an entire album of Freeman’s voice and no instrumentation. Another song where I hear a lot of Patsy Cline in Freeman’s voice is “Lullaby.” Perhaps the sultry-like tone created from the lingering piano in this song reminds me of “Walkin’ After Midnight.” The song itself is about a woman who is up late at night thinking about the man she loves. But she cries tears for him, as she knows he’s with another woman. It’s a love she can never have, a hauntingly beautiful story of a love that can never be shared.

“Song For Paul” is another heartbreak song where Freeman’s voice does such a great job of getting across the pain and suffering of a heartbroken soul. It has a gospel-like tone about it with the harmonized chorus, which brings even more emotion to the song. This beautiful album comes to a close with “Still A Child.” The man Freeman was with may look like a man and do everything he can to convince her that he is one, but in Freeman’s eyes he’s still a child. Freeman feels this way because at the end of the day his actions are still like a child with no clue of what they want in their life. In other words, he can’t commit to one woman. It’s a gripping and cutting song that ends the album with such an appropriately sharp manner.

I’ll be surprised if there’s another debuting country or Americana artist in 2016 that shows more promise than Dori Freeman. This debut album from Freeman blew me away upon the very first listen. In fact I had to play it several times over because only hearing it once wasn’t enough. Freeman’s vocals are crisp, pure and undeniably Appalachian. She was born to sing and very few possess her talent. The songwriting is top-notch and I couldn’t pick out a flaw in the instrumentation and production choices. This album excels and thrives in every area. You can pretty much call it flawless. It’s an album that every true country and Americana fan needs to hear. Dori Freeman is a name you need to know. This is one of the best albums I’ve had the privilege to write about on Country Perspective.

Grade: 10/10

Get a free download of “You Say” on Dori’s website here.

The Hodgepodge: How Mainstream Country Music Came To Be a Laughing Stock

The Dixie Chicks
Photo Credit: twice25, Wikimedia Commons, CC Attribution Share-Alike 2.5 license, no changes

If you’ve been following this blog for a while or even just a little bit, you can deduce that I’m not happy with the current state of mainstream country music. How many weeks in row now has the Pulse been in the negatives? I’ve lost track. One discussion I’ve seen pop up from time to time is how mainstream country music got to be such a laughing-stock. For those who would argue otherwise, there are stats that back up my claim that people are hating mainstream country music more and more (kudos to Saving Country Music for bringing this data to light). Traditional country fans have been warning for years that trend chasing would catch up to genre eventually and turn fans against them. I warned against it months ago. Now we’re starting to see some true backlash to the genre’s decision-making.

But before we figure out how mainstream country music will regain people’s trust, I wanted to figure out how it has gotten to the state its in currently. After all you can learn a lot about the future if you look to the past to see what mistakes were made and how to avoid them again. I’ve seen a lot of theories and ideas thrown around as to when mainstream country music began to slip and I’ve thought a lot about each of them. But none of them represent what I feel was the turning point of this genre. Many love to argue that mainstream country music began it’s down turn upon the dawning of the Garth Brooks era. While the pop country of Garth and Shania Twain certainly didn’t help, I’ve found that during their heyday that they were more the exception to the rule instead of the norm. Look throughout the 90s and I think many would agree with me that the quality of country music for the most part was overwhelmingly good. I certainly spent more time listening to country radio than skipping over it like I do now. (This is all subjective of course)

The point where I think mainstream country music started its downward spiral was on March 10, 2003. That was the infamous day where country super group Dixie Chicks denounced the war in Iraq at a concert in London. I’m not going to get into this situation too much because of the political nature and my preference to avoid politics on here. I’ll just leave you with this quote from country icon Merle Haggard:

I don’t even know the Dixie chicks, but I find it an insult for all the men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching. Whether I agree with their comments or not has no bearing.

I believe this is the starting point that set off the events that led to today’s state of country radio. First let me give you an idea of how important and big this was for the Dixie Chicks and country music. Up until 2003, the Dixie Chicks won four Grammy awards, 10 CMA Awards, six Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards and eight ACM Awards. Their 1998 album Wide Open Space Spaces sold over 10 million copies and was certified platinum 12 times. Their 1999 album Fly sold over 8 million copies and was certified platinum 10 times. The only country artists to ever sell this many albums or more are Garth Brooks, Kenny Rogers, Patsy Cline and Shania Twain. So when country music fans, radio stations, award associations and artists ran the Dixie Chicks out of the genre, they ran out the top act in country music. Throughout the course of music history has another genre blackballed their top artist like country music did to the Dixie Chicks.

So all of a sudden there’s a giant void at the top of the genre, since the Dixie Chicks haven’t had a significant presence in the genre since they were blackballed. This brings us to the next point, which is the rise of Toby Keith, who had a public feud with Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines over his single “Courtesy of the Red, White & Blue (The Angry American).” Maines called the single “ignorant” and said it “makes country music sound ignorant.” A couple of months after the incident in London, Maines wore a t-shirt to the ACM Awards with the acronym “F.U.T.K.” While Maines’ manager said it stood for “Friends United in Truth and Kindness,” many believed it stood for “Fuck You Toby Keith.” Keith went on to win Entertainer of the Year over the Dixie Chicks, despite the Dixie Chicks’ latest album outselling Keith’s latest album by a wide margin.

The Dixie Chicks’ spiral downwards allowed Toby Keith’s stature rise to new highs. The blatant patriotism he injected in his songs from the early 2000s onward and still puts into his music to this day, let him be the anti-thesis to Dixie Chicks. The swell of patriotism in the United States after 9/11 caused country artists to inject more references to country pride and freedom into music and led to it becoming one of the most used clichés in country music. Toby Keith was the poster boy for it. Also it’s kind of ironic that an indifference over political ideas and 9/11 that led to more patriotism in country music gave rise to politicians liking country music more. This explains why you see Presidential candidates talking about why they love country music so much and incorporate it into their campaign. Remember this next time you complain about it.

So Keith rises to new heights. From 2003 onward, he won three American Music Awards (one before 2003) and four ACM Awards (three before 2003). He sold more records than ever before and had several badly written singles go to top 15 at country radio, including doozies such as “Get Drunk and Be Somebody,” “High Maintenance Woman,” “Get My Drink On,” “She’s A Hottie,” “American Ride,” “Every Dog Has It’s Day,” “Made In America” and “Red Solo Cup.” That last one is on my list of worst country songs ever. All of these bad songs had lots of success on country radio and in my opinion were apart of the dumbing down of country music throughout the 2000s. Instead of well thought out lyrics with heart and meaning, we get pandering to patriotism, references to getting drunk and classifying women solely by their looks.

What’s significant about all of these singles I cite above is they all precede or happen around the years 2011-2012. Why is this significant? This leads right into the bro country era, the successor to the checklist era of Toby Keith. Checklist country like Keith’s music evolved into bro country. In 2011, Luke Bryan released “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” as a single. It went to #1 and launched Bryan into superstardom. In 2012, Florida Georgia Line burst onto the scene with their mega-hit “Cruise.” Bro country becomes a huge trend and the rest they say is history. Bro country had a good run from 2011-2014 before now being replaced by the R&B, pop stylings of Sam Hunt.

Now I know some of you are wondering why I failed to mention the rise of Taylor Swift happening. Well I believe Swift had no bearing on the most popular trends of the genre. Other acts and labels figured out quickly they could not replicate Swift’s music. And pop country is something that had existed in the genre for years. Swift had nothing to do with checklist country nor bro country, despite her music also bringing the quality of the genre down. She has left country music now and is in the genre where she belongs, which is something I respect her a lot for and wish her the best.

So as you can I see I believe that the blackballing of Dixie Chicks is what led to country music becoming the laughing-stock it is today. Just think for a second if that incident in London doesn’t happen. The Dixie Chicks were really just hitting their stride and showed no signs of slowing down. They could have went on to become one of the biggest acts in country music history. They were so popular that they crossed over into pop and alt-country with their music. The Dixie Chicks were a group that appealed to casual fans and hardcore fans. If the Dixie Chicks stick around they continue to release quality music and in the process dilute the presence of checklist country music at country radio. Toby Keith doesn’t become as big of a deal. Bro country maybe doesn’t become a thing and therefore R&B country doesn’t become a thing. This is all speculation. We will never know how much of an impact Dixie Chicks could have made on country music. But at the end of the day the dismissal of the Dixie Chicks from country music ultimately hurt the genre.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music & Americana Releases

  • The Voice alumnus Jake Worthington will release his self-titled debut EP tomorrow.
  • Chris Janson’s next single being sent to radio is “Power of Positive Drinkin’.”
  • After weeks of speculation, it’s confirmed that Maddie & Tae will be releasing “Shut Up & Fish” as their next single.
  • Stoney LaRue will release an album he calls a “tribute to his fans” tomorrow called Us Time.
  • Carrie Underwood will be releasing her new album Storyteller next Friday.

Great Music Currently at Country Radio

The very best of country radio right here in a nice playlist. In order for a song to be added to the list, it must currently be in the top 60 of the Billboard Country Airplay chart, so this will be updated weekly.

Throwback Thursday Song

Eddie Rabbitt – “Drivin’ My Life Away” – Now here’s a classic song many forget about. Some might consider this song “too pop,” but I don’t care. I enjoy it and it’s the perfect traveling song.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Father John Misty – “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment” – I’m pretty sure Derek recommended this in The Hodgepodge before, but I’m going to do it again. You need to check out Father John Misty’s album I Love You Honeybear. It is my favorite album of the year across all genres. Above is my favorite song from it and he just released this video for it. A little warning: his videos can get weird and NSFW, so proceed at your own volition.

Tweet (s) of the Week

Another reason to like Kacey!

iTunes Review That Rocks

You Suck, Toby Keith

I promise I didn’t write this (my username on there is CountryPerspective). But when I saw it I knew it would go perfectly with this Hodgepodge. Beating a dead horse is a good summation of the last decade or so of Keith’s career.

Thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in below! 

The Hodgepodge: The Mainstream Country Music Bubble is About to Burst

Waylon warned you, country music.
Waylon warned you, country music.

Lord it’s the same old tune…

This past weekend the 50th ACM Awards took place and the reviews for it haven’t been pretty. From Trigger at Saving Country Music to Grady Smith at The Guardian to the consensus on Twitter, they all found the show to be pretty bad. I myself found it to be weird and boring. Many of you weighed in on that post and whole heartedly agreed. The show was plagued with production errors and enough medleys to set a person insane. It wasn’t easy to sit through. Really this whole year in mainstream country music hasn’t been easy to stomach. When it looked like we were going to get more traditional country songs on the radio, the hope for that quickly evaporated. Instead we’ve gotten a heavy dose of Sam Hunt’s pop music, bro country rehashes, trend chasing, female artists continuing to get ignored and Thomas Rhett trying to be Bruno Mars. It’s the same old stuff country music has been doing for years now.

Where do we take it from here?

It was clear as day to anyone who watched the 2015 ACM Awards that country music has two big problems. The first problem is that country music has no idea what it is anymore. There’s a clear identity crisis taking place. This show featured performances from George Strait, Sam Hunt, Christina Aguilera and Nick Jonas. Do you see hip-hop awards shows with such a melting pot of performers? Do you rock awards shows with so many different sounds? No because they know who they are. This variety of sounds was touted during the ACM Awards, like this is a great thing. It’s clearly not because you’re sending mixed signals to viewers. They have no idea what the hell country music is because you’re throwing so many different sounds at them. The second problem is country music has zero direction on where to go. They’re chasing the R&B sound. They’re chasing the EDM sound. They’re rehashing bro country stuff. Country music is like a 12-headed monster and each head is going a different way. There’s no cohesion and no identity.

It’s been the same way for years/We need to change

Country music clearly needs to change and quickly. I think that’s obvious to a lot of people. But nobody wants to make the first move. Everyone is too afraid to make a move or say something. Some people will say, “Well what about Sturgill Simpson? He can save country music!” To them I repeat what I’ve said before and what Sturgill himself has said: he’s no savior. One artist can’t save the genre. I find Sturgill to be a trailblazer and a shining example to other independent country artists on how to do it your own way. Regardless of what happens in mainstream country music, Sturgill Simpson will be safe and continue to do his own thing. Atlantic Records will wisely keep him out of that racket and market him more like an indie rock artist rather than a mainstream country artist.

Another thing people will bring up is splitting country music, something that looked very possible last year. The top 40 country artists could go do their thing and the traditional, older country artists could go do their music. It would establish a clear line and everyone could be happy. I’ve advocated for this. But that convenient dream isn’t going to happen. It’s pretty much dead right now. You’re better off dismissing this fantasy as unrealistic. There are other ideas I’ve seen floated out there that could “save” mainstream country music and bring it change, but they’re not even worth addressing because I only see one change on the horizon for mainstream country music happening. It’s a change that they’re in the midst of doing right now and they’re not even aware it’s about to happen.

The mainstream country music bubble is about to pop. No splitting. No country music civil war is going to happen. It’s simply going to break into pieces, something I forewarned of months ago if country music didn’t start to get its act together. It reminds me a lot of how rock music shattered into pieces, became irrelevant as a mainstream genre and disappeared completely off radio. Rock reached its peak in popularity in the 80s with hair metal, which bro country is often compared to. At the beginning of the 90s, Nirvana became huge and grunge became the popular style in rock. The arrival of this group was a godsend for the genre because hair metal along with some other terrible rock sub-genres had made the public bored with rock music. Nirvana brought something fresh and new to the genre. Then Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, tragically shot himself. Some people say this was the day rock music died too. Rock music lost its icon and symbol of hope.

Slowly but surely rock music devolved into multiple sub-genres, as several groups failed to duplicate the sound and success of Nirvana. The genre lost direction and popularity. Hip-hop made its rise into mainstream prominence at this time and essentially bumped rock off radio, taking its place. Now look at rock music. You don’t hear any new rock music on the radio. All there’s left of rock music on the radio is a local classic rock station playing hits from rock’s heyday. I see country music going down the exact same path minus the Nirvana part. There’s won’t be a Nirvana because country music doesn’t want a Nirvana walking through the door. Country music would rather continue down the same path it’s on and fall flat on its face. It’s afraid of trying something new, fresh and different. Taking risks isn’t considered business sound, even though business is stagnant and terrible right now.

Somebody told me when I came to Nashville
Son you finally got it made
Old Hank made it here, we’re all sure that you will
But I don’t think Hank done it this way, no
I don’t think Hank done it this way, okay

Now this gloom and doom prediction I’ve just thrown out at you is a real bummer. But ultimately I think country music would become better as a result. A new genre will rise out of the ashes. There would no longer be a mainstream or radio presence by country music. This would mean only the best country artists would get noticed. People would take to the Internet to find country music, just like independent country fans do now. It’s what rock fans do too. The B-list artists that are only known because of manufactured radio pushes by major labels would fall off the radar. This would be anyone who isn’t at a Carrie Underwood/Blake Shelton type level. So you would say goodbye to the Michael Rays and Kelsea Ballerinis of country music. The fluff would be out the door. I wouldn’t have to review terrible music being passed off as country anymore. Come to think of it, this sounds like an ideal scenario.

Heed the words of Waylon and make proactive change, country music. Or a crashing change will eat you alive.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Zac Brown Band will release their new album Jekyll + Hyde next Tuesday. I have no idea what to expect in terms of sound with this album, which makes me even more excited to give it a listen. If you haven’t read it yet, check out the album’s track listing. Also Aircheck confirmed the rumor that the group’s next single will be “Loving You Easy” and will impact radio on the first week of May.
  • Tyler Farr’s new album Suffer in Peace will also come out next Tuesday. The track listing for it suggests a mixed bag. I expect a few good songs and a few terrible songs. Speaking of terrible, I found out via Windmills on the song “C.O.U.N.T.R.Y.” Farr sings about his love of truck nuts. I’ll let you imagine what that song is like.
  • For those who missed it, Jason Isbell announced his new album will be released on July 17 and will be called Something More Than Free. That’s the same day Alan Jackson’s new album comes out too. This is also a significant day because it’s the first week where major releases start coming out on Fridays rather than Tuesdays.
  • Sammy Kershaw just announced recently that he will be releasing his first full-original album in five years on June 9. It will be called I Won’t Back Down. He signed a deal with Cleopatra Records to release the album. This is a great surprise and I’m definitely looking forward to this one.
  • Also for those that aren’t on Twitter: I saw Gary Allen live in concert last Friday and it was a fantastic show. From what I’ve gathered from the show, his new album should be classic Gary. He mentioned that “Hangover Tonight” was the last song written onto the album, which leads me to believe he threw it in to appease his label. Allen played two new songs from the album and they sounded like great country songs. The one was called “Mess Me Up” and I think it has great potential to be a single.

Throwback Thursday Song

Randy Travis – “Forever and Even, Amen” – It was so great to see Lee Brice give a shout out to Randy Travis at the ACM Awards. It was also classy of him to play a couple of lines acoustically from Travis’ classic song “Forever and Ever, Amen.” So I thought it was only appropriate this iconic song would be this week’s throwback song.

Non-Country Album Recommendation 

Rap music’s great year continues, as another fantastic rap album just came out. It’s Yelawolf’s Love Story and it has one of the most different sounds I’ve ever heard on a rap album. Probably because it’s a rap album with heavy country and southern rock influences. What? Yes, you read that correctly. The wording is key: it’s a rap album with country influences and not the other way around. It’s in the right genre too. I always thought though you couldn’t mix these two genres period, but Yelawolf, a southern hip-hop artist from Alabama, proves me wrong. What separates Yelawolf from hick-hop artists like Colt Ford is Yelawolf’s got bars. He understands the craft of rap. The album is a whopping 18 songs long and complex, but it’s well worth listening to from start to finish. Ironically it has even more country moments than many mainstream country albums. Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight” can be heard in the opening song! Rap music is now sounding more country than country music. What world am I living in?

Tweet of the Week

So many great candidates for tweet of the week, thanks to the ACM Awards. But this one took the cake. It’s the perfect analogy.

An iTunes Review That Will Make You Face Palm

Hunt Fans Being Hunt Fans

This was under Sam Hunt’s Montevallo. I…just…I got nothing. What can I say to this?

That’s it for the Hodgepodge this week! Be sure to sound off in the comments! 

Album Review – Brandi Carlile’s ‘The Firewatcher’s Daughter’

Brandi Carlile

When it comes to Brandi Carlile’s music, it’s impossible to put a genre label on it. You’ll hear influences from almost every genre, from country to rock to folk to blues. Carlile once said this about genres to CMT:

“I mean, I couldn’t be less interested in becoming genre-specific in any way,” she says with a sense of conviction that suggests she’s pondered this at length. “If I could be anything to the music industry, it would just be sort of a human eraser of lines between genres, just because it’s so damaging — ‘they’re on that team, I’m on this team.’ ‘I don’t like country.’ ‘I don’t like rap.’

So going into her new album The Firewatcher’s Daughter I prepared myself for anything. Yet I still wasn’t prepared for all the different influences she incorporated into it. She has cited Patsy Cline and Elton John as two of her biggest inspirations, something I can definitely hear her in music. The producers for this album are twin brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth, who also join her on vocals on the track “The Eye.” They’re a very tight-knit group and with them all starting families right as they were making this album, it made for a unique environment. It definitely influences several songs on this album, giving it more heart. So with all of that said does this album impress? Yes, it absolutely does!

The album starts with “Wherever Is Your Heart,” a fairly fast paced song about home being where the heart is. Carlile shows a lot of great passion throughout the song, especially in the bridge to give it a real punch. The acoustic guitar gives the song a good flow and makes it easy to like. Carlile’s powerful voice punctuates through on “The Eye.” Her powerful voice combined with the backing vocals of the twins, it makes for great harmony. It’s a song that compares heartache and being in the eye of a hurricane. The song is really well written and intriguing to the ear.

The folk-influenced song “The Things I Reject” is about how when you wear your heart on your sleeve and it gets broke, you’ll end up remembering everything you want to forget. It’s a heartbreak song that brilliantly captures the feelings we all feel when going through the end of a relationship and how you just can’t shake the bad memories. “Mainstream Kid” is loud and in your face. This rock country song is full of attitude and will capture your attention right upon first listen. While I feel Carlile gets a little shout-y at times, it does get the attitude of this song across well to listeners. The instrumentation is phenomenal, especially in the latter half of the song.

I found it easy to get lost in “Beginning To Feel The Years.” By lost I mean get wrapped up in the song and that’s a good thing. It pulls you in quite easily, with the softness of the instrumentation and Carlile’s voice. The song is about forgetting about the past and appreciating the love you have now. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Carlile’s voice soars again in “Wilder (We’re Chained).” It’s a song about love and life, with the song appropriately beginning with the birth of a baby. I love the incorporation of sound effects in the song to set the mood, from the sound of trickling water at the beginning to the sounds of birds chirping in other parts.

“Blood Muscle Skin & Bone” has a similar vibe to “Mainstream Kid” with it’s upbeat, rock country sound. It’s a simple love song that’s catchy and easy to sing along with. The instrumentation really stands out on this song more so than the vocals, which is an anomaly on this album because of Carlile’s dynamic voice. “I Belong To You” is another song that deals with love and throughout it the woman struggles to show how she feels for her love. By the end she realizes she belongs to her love and the song takes a more upbeat tempo to indicate the mood of the song going from confused to happy. It’s a song that really relies on the tempo and mood throughout rather than the instrumentation and lyrics. The next song, “Alibi,” is one of the more country songs on the album, but of course it borrows influences from other genres too. This is a song about a woman begging for someone to be her alibi so she doesn’t take a fall for all she has done. It’s not serious though, as it’s more of a fun outlaw theme, rather than a serious outlaw theme.

The best song on the entire album is hands-down “The Stranger At My Door.” It’s a dark song that blends folk, rock and country to create a cool sound. Carlile actually wrote this song while staring into a bonfire, which probably explains why it’s so fiery, yet enthralling. The end of this song crashes into a rock and roll frenzy that will leave the listener remembering this song for a while.  This is followed by a song with the exact opposite vibe in “Heroes And Songs,” which is smooth and easy-going. While Carlile’s voice is smooth and impressive, this song just feels like a transition between “Stranger At My Door” and the final song on the album.

Speaking of the final song, Carlile covers the Avett Brothers’ “Murder In The City.” Carlile adapts it to her own life, referencing her wife and daughter. She makes it her own, adjusting the lyrics to make it a self-reflection song. The song itself is about a person insisting their loved ones to not avenge their death if they were to be murdered, but instead to remember the love they shared. The gospel influence gives this song an almost haunting air about it, which is a nice touch. Carlile’s voice is perfect and really caps the album off in a great way.

The Firewatcher’s Daughter is an album you’ll need to hear multiple times to fully grasp, but trust me it’s well worth it. Carlile’s dynamic voice and the cornucopia of genres mixed together make for one hell of an album. While Music Row continues to push cookie cutter female artists who produce music that panders to the latest fad, there are talented female artists outside that bubble like Carlile making innovative music. Some people will call this album a rock album. Others will say it’s alternative or a country album. Does it really matter though? This is just great music that any music fan can appreciate. I highly recommend checking out The Firewatcher’s Daughter. Brandi Carlile absolutely delivers.

Grade: 9.5/10

Review – Josey Milner Covers Patsy Cline Classic “Walkin’ After Midnight”

Josey Milner - Walkin' After Midnight

A day after reviewing Ruthie Collins’ new take on a Hank Williams classic, I look at another up and coming artist covering a classic song. Josey Milner just released a cover of the Patsy Cline classic “Walkin’ After Midnight.” Milner is a 19-year-old artist who just began her music career two years ago. Her debut single “Not Pretty Enough” garnered lots of attention and launched her anti-bullying campaign with Angels and Doves. She was also recently named a Top 20 artist by and her second single “Cowgirls” reached #1 on New Music Weekly.

Milner chose to cover this song because she considers Patsy Cline one of her all-time favorites. She not only wanted to pay homage to the icon, but also bring her own twist to “Walkin’ After Midnight.” It’s certainly a tall task to cover such a popular song. These younger country artists are certainly showing no fear tackling songs from legends. So does Milner do the song justice?

Well she certainly gives her own unique twist on it. While the original version by Cline was slower and more subdued, Milner’s cover is more upbeat and rocking. The instrumentation choice is certainly interesting. I wouldn’t have sped it up so much because one of the appeals of this song is how it has an almost seductive vibe to it. By speeding it up so much it kind of takes this aspect away. However I will say this cover does make the song more dance-able, therefore more appealing to younger listeners. And hey if makes people check out Patsy Cline that’s a great thing. Milner’s voice is good enough and think she has just enough twang in her voice for it to not be annoying. It’s important to keep in mind she’s still young, so it will only get better with age.

This is a good cover of a song that is hard to cover. It’s really difficult to cover these type of songs because the originals are so good. Milner though did a good job not messing with the integrity of the song like Collins did with “Ramblin’ Man.” At the same time she also gave it her own twist and made it unique compared to the original. I’m sure this is just a one time thing for Milner and her next single will be an original song, but I advise to young artists to tread lightly when covering classic songs. More times than not it’s best just to leave the originals be and not cover them. Milner shows good promise though and she pays homage to Patsy in a respectable manner.

Grade: 7/10