Album Review – Terri Clark’s Some Songs

Terri Clark has always been one of the female country acts who’ve broken the mold and empowered girls through her songs. With hit songs in the later half of the 90s like “Better Things To Do” and “Girls Lie Too,” Terri Clark says to the guys, I’m not going to cry over losing you or when you’re a jerk; I’m just going to do my own thing and not give you the pleasure of seeing me hurt. In fact, when the male domination of radio was heavy at the beginning of this year, Terri Clark declared the “bra-country” movement in hopes to bring more females back to the airwaves. It was just one of the many public backlashes against the bro country domination. Needless to say, when the queen of bra-country released her newest album, Some Songs, just nine months after coining the term, I was intrigued to see what she’d deliver. For the most part, this album is vintage Terri Clark: Upbeat country music behind a powerful female voice.

I really didn’t see a bad song worth calling out, so I’ll do a short track-by-track review for Terri Clark. Some Songs opens up with country-rocking “Here Comes Crazy.” This track is peppered with electric riffs with what sounds like a banjo driving the verses. It’s a good song about letting yourself go one night; showing off your crazy side after being a good girl for a little too long. The song sets the mood for the whole album and Terri’s vocals here are strong.

Next up is the title track. “Some Songs” is really about the importance of music and how songs offer “Three and half minutes of magic..so good then it’s gone.” Whether it’s a song of freedom and escape or a song of forgiveness and redemption, songs have meaning and importance. This is followed by “Longer” which is a love song about how she’s found the one, and her only wish is that she found him sooner so she could love him longer. The song has a mid-tempo beat with a catchy chorus.

“Don’t Start” is about Terri Clark warning the person of her affection not to start a relationship if his heart can’t finish it. She doesn’t want a fling or to be toyed with; she wants a relationship. It’s a great song showing female strength, in front of a bluesy country melody. “I Cheated On You” is a great, sassy revenge song. Another strong vocal delivery from Terri Clark where she gives her man a taste of his own, cheating medicine. Another track where she doesn’t put up with men’s shenanigans and proves that girls are capable of doing what guys do.

Perhaps the weakest song of the ten here, and I say that lightly because this album is strong, is “Feelin’ Pretty Good Right Now.” Lyrically and content-wise, this song is the most fitting of the bros. This song leaves some room for interpretation, but it’s really about the lead up to sex: “chillin’ right here with [her] baby” in the moonlight and “buzzin’ on a slow kind of crazy.” He’s got her feeling pretty good and she doesn’t want to stop. This song is followed by “Just Add Water” which isn’t too hard to figure out by the title. It’s a summer song, about how much better the sun and cold beer is next to water. I’ll say this, for a summer song, “Just Add Water” is much better than recent songs like “Beachin’” or “River Bank.” For Some Songs, this is the part of the album where it dips with respect to content, but it doesn’t detract too far to take away from the album that much.

The album slows down a bit for “Wheels Down” and “Bad Car.” The former of the two is a banjo driven, mid-tempo track about a nomadic lifestyle and settling down after years of traveling. “Bad Car” is the slowest song on the album about, you guessed it, a junky and bad car. It’s a nostalgic song about letting go of the car once it finally broke down. Terri sings lines like “It witnessed all those tears nobody ever saw me cry.” It’s another song, along with Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean, about having memories with a vehicle.

The best song on the album is the last one. “Better with My Boots On” is a great, upbeat goodbye song. Terri Clark sings about how wearing her boots give her confidence and strength, and how those feelings will help her get through a break up of a long-term relationship. She sings the song with passion and intensity, and melody is driven by electric and steel guitars. I wish I had given this album a more careful listen back when it was released in September because I would love to adjust my top ten list for last month to include “Better with My Boots On.” This is a great song about putting on a strong face during a breakup.

Overall, Terri Clark delivers some great bra-country amongst the still male dominated country market. This album has some weaker points with Clark putting a female twist on some overdone lyrical tropes, but each song is delivered with the fresh, modern country sounds that have populated her career’s hits. Some Songs is an easy listen with 10 modern country songs. They don’t take risks, and they don’t venture off course to other genres. It’s an enjoyable half hour of music, but most of these tracks don’t really jump out to make a strong, lasting impression. This album’s production is designed to entertain as many country music fans as possible without Terri Clark compromising her sounds and style for modern-day trends, and Some Songs accomplishes that. It’s certainly worth at least one listen.

Grade: 8/10

 

Album Review – Brad Paisley’s Moonshine in the Trunk

Let’s get something straight right out front before I even begin this review: Brad Paisley is no longer one of the “good guys” of mainstream country music. We’ve all kind of known this for a while with his albums getting progressively worse and his single “River Bank” being a huge disappointment. Moonshine in the Trunk cements this fact. He already warned us months ago that this album will feature the adaptation of “the modern technology of EDM and dubstep to the classic country formula.” To add more embarrassment on top of more embarrassment, Paisley has also been engaging in one of the worst marketing ploys I’ve seen an artist engage in a good while. For the last few months he’s been “leaking” songs off the album and pretending to be fighting his record label over this poor stunt. Here’s a taste of what’s been happening on his Twitter feed:

The only country music outlet that has pointed out that this is nothing but a dumb marketing tactic is Trigger at Saving Country Music. Every other country outlet has eaten this up to be legit and real. I better stop now before I get on a real roll. Let’s get to Moonshine in the Trunk

The Best Songs on the Album

Well there aren’t many, but a few nonetheless that are decent on this album. The album’s title track is a fun song about driving around like you have moonshine in the back of the car and dropping references to how NASCAR got their start running moonshine and Uncle Jesse of Dukes of Hazzard is mentioned in the chorus. There’s a lot of electric guitar in this song, which makes “Moonshine in the Trunk” more rock than country. There are several clichés mentioned in this song, but it’s hard to hate it. It’s also one of the better written songs on the album (I’ll explain this more later in the review). This song is then followed by the second good song on the album, “Shattered Glass.” It’s about a man watching his daughter growing up and achieving lots of success in life. The shattered glass is her shattering the glass ceiling, a term used a lot in the business world for women who achieve high ranking positions. This song has a nice, subtle message about feminism and women being able to achieve whatever they want to achieve. Kind of ironic considering Paisley is part of a genre that suppresses female artists and barely give any chance to shine. I think this song would sound better coming from a female artist.

The only other song on the album that I would classify as “good” would be the bonus track “Me and Jesus.” It’s the one spot on the album where you get a glimpse into the old Brad Paisley sound. It’s a pure country song with acoustic instruments and no electronic machines to alter the sound. You actually get to hear Paisley’s voice. Yes, the lyrics are dead simple and not creative. But at least it sounds like it’s coming from the heart and not meant to play in a Walmart commercial. Speaking of commercial songs…

The Worst Songs on the Album 

If I sound repetitive in my criticisms, that’s because I’m only matching the album’s overall repetitiveness. If you repeat a problem over and over, I’m going to keep pointing it out over and over again. The album opens with “Crushin’ It,” a bro country song about crushing beer cans. This is a perfect example of Paisley desperately chasing the popular trend in an attempt to stay relevant. The song isn’t horribly offensive, but rather boring and vanilla. And then of course he drops this line in the song: “But like the great George freaking Strait I’m the king of getting unwound.” Ugh. This song tries to be dumb fun and instead it’s just dumb. I already talked about how bad “River Bank” is and you can see that full review by clicking here. “Perfect Storm” is a classy form of a bro country song (if that is possible). The song compares a woman to a good drink right from the start and then women are compared to a mix tape. Is this the 1980s? Who the hell makes mix tapes still? The lyrics aren’t too immature, but there’s a bro air surrounding them.

Gaining money through no so proud ways is the topic in “High Life.” No, Brad Paisley does not mention prostitution in this song, but he’s might as well had because that’s what he’s doing for Chick fil A in this song. The song is already bad enough with the awkward theme (celebrating getting inheritance after the death of your father doesn’t seem like it’s in good taste), but then there’s the name dropping of Chick fil A after the mother in the song slips in front of one and sues the franchise. Carrie Underwood lends her pipes for the background vocals in this song, which I guess is Paisley’s way of helping a female country artist shatter glass in the genre. Instead of making another emotionally stirring duet like “Remind Me,” they decide to have her do background vocals and then engage in a conversation with Paisley at the end of the song as they discuss how much they love Chick fil A’s waffle fries. Expect this to make a commercial for the restaurant quite soon.

“You Shouldn’t Have To” is the most pointless song on the album. The lyrics are so boring and the theme is apparently doing things you shouldn’t have to do. You could put two pigs in a room with a typewriter and they could come up with a more interesting song. “Cover Girl” features boring lyrics again. It’s a song about a girl being worthy of being a cover girl for a magazine. Dear lord. Paisley makes a song that’s perfect for a PSA about how great America is in “American Flag on the Moon.” It even has a children’s choir at the end of the song. It’s the same old shit, different album for Paisley.

Now let’s talk about the worst song on the album, which is “4WP.” Those initials stand for four wheel parked. No joke. The song opens with a lame imitation of the opener for Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher.” You then get to hear that new sound Paisley warned you about, as it’s front and center in this song. Instruments are put through stutter step machines and make for horrible sounds. The song also goes full bro country with it’s lyrics (never do this). Going parking with a girl on a dirt road is mentioned in this song. What an horrendous song!

The Rest of the Album

“Limes” is a song about making margaritas and once again has shallow lyrics. But what saves it from being a bad song is the solid electric guitar and piano play. “Gone Green” is a pure sounding country song complete with acoustic guitars, banjos and some harmonica play. Once again poor lyrics ruin a Paisley song though. It’s about going green, whether that’s buying an electric guitar or powering your house with solar power. The theme is well intentioned, but it sounds too much like a PSA song for one of the major car manufacturers green car commercials. Paisley also takes a veiled shot at coal, which is perplexing considering he comes from West Virginia, a state that heavily relies on the coal industry for it’s economy. Paisley’s friends in LA and Nashville may have gone green, but his friends and family back home still rely on coal for their lively hood. “Country Nation” is a laundry list song that name checks Chevy, Ford, small towns, cranking the radio loud and name dropping several major college football teams. I guarantee it was created for the sole reason to play in bumpers on ESPN during college football season. It isn’t bad, but it’s so commercial.

Overall Thoughts

Three reason why this album is mostly bad: poor lyrics, too commercial and bad instrumentation. I feel like I’ve outgrown this dumbed down form of country music. Most people progress as their career moves forward, but Paisley has slowly regressed with each album. He was once smart and witty with his songs, but now he’s just a big kid with 5th grade lyrics and overrated guitar play. EDM influences flare up throughout as he promised they would, but it’s just the same old Paisley schtick right behind these overproduced sounds. The songwriting on this song irritated me more than the EDM. Paisley had a hand in writing each song except “Gone Green.” Perhaps it’s time he stops writing songs because he appears to be out of fresh and creative ideas. There are plenty of talented songwriters with fantastic songs just sitting on the shelf waiting to be picked up. So Mr. Paisley if you are reading this here is my advice: Go back to your roots. Make classic country again. Get the best songwriters in Nashville to write your music. This album will either be an anomaly in Paisley’s career or mark his downfall. Moonshine in the Trunk is a major disappointment and is easily the worst album Paisley has ever produced.

Grade: 4/10

What Are You Thinking Brad Paisley?

Brad Paisley
Wikimedia Commons

As a country music fan, everyone remembers the artists they grew up listening to that made them fall in love with the genre. Many older fans grew up with big names like Cash, Waylon, Jones, Haggard, Willie, Loretta, etc. But I’m little younger. I grew up with 90s and 2000s country, which many of these traditional fans from previous eras shunned for its pop sound. Nevertheless there was still a lot of great country music being made in this era. There were three artists I could always listen to on the radio and enjoy their music. These three are the reason why I got into country music and became a fan for life. Those three artists were George Strait, Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley.

Strait just retired from touring, but is still making great country music. Jackson is sadly no longer featured on the radio, but he’s still making great country music too. He even made a pretty good bluegrass album recently. These two have stuck to their roots regardless of the current trends plaguing the genre. And then there’s Brad Paisley. I remember last year at this time I was still a fervent defender of Paisley, even though I found Wheelhouse to be sub par compared to his previous albums. There were still a few quality songs on it though and he was still regarded by myself and many others to be one of the few “good ones” left in mainstream country music.

Then in the spring of 2014, Paisley announced he was releasing a new album and released the first single from it titled “River Bank.” I was hoping for the best. Then I listened to the single and became disgusted and enraged. My first thought was he sold out to the latest trend in country music. It prompted to me to write what I believe to be my first ever negative review of Paisley. But I then convinced myself to hold out hope that “River Bank” was the anomaly of his new album and that the rest of it would be much better. That hope was squashed when I read this in an interview he had with Billboard:

Produced with longtime collaborator Luke Wooten (Dierks Bentley, “Nashville”), “Moonshine” sees Paisley adapting the modern technology of EDM and dubstep to the classic country formula. “When you hear a banjo through stutter edit, it’s the coolest thing you ever heard,” Paisley said. “I have a song that’s a basic love song, it’s got a great groove, and I cut this guitar part that gets distorted when I turn the nob up. I would say to Luke, ‘Oh, that should’ve been done 20 years ago, but they couldn’t.’ The rulebook’s gone, or was there ever one? They try, but I don’t play by it.”

EDM and dubstep? Are you kidding me? What the hell are you smoking? I had a bad feeling that after his previous album Wheelhouse didn’t perform great on radio or the charts that he could sell out (or the insane thought he could go back to this roots). And it looks to me he’s desperate to remain relevant in mainstream country. While I shun him for his desperation, I do understand the other side of the coin. As I said in my Ronnie Dunn post, it’s hard for artists to accept they’re no longer one of the most popular names in their genre. But they fail to realize that there are a lot of fans that still support them. Many of them have been supporting them for years. I still recall Paisley’s earliest material, songs such as “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” and “We Danced.” Paisley sang with two all-time country greats George Jones and Bill Anderson on “Too Country.” Remember this Paisley?

 

That collaboration happened 13 years ago. Now who’s he collaborating with? The latest monstrosity for him to release (actually leaked by Bobby Bones) is a rap remix of “River Bank” with Colt Ford. Yes, ladies and gentlemen this is not a joke. Paisley has now teamed up with Colt Ford of all people on a “country” song. He went from singing with the likes of country royalty to the bottom of the barrel in his desperate attempt to remain relevant. I’m not going to put the video of that remix in this article because unlike Paisley I appreciate my readers. If you insist on hearing it, just click the link above.

I know critics of my sentiments will counter with statements such as: “He’s evolving country music. Nobody listens to old country anymore.” “The music he’s making now is appealing to the fans.” “Have an open mind.” I’ll address each one of these statements. First, he isn’t evolving country music. EDM and rap collaborations are not evolving the genre, but rather mainstream country’s desperate attempt at popularity. Country may be the most popular genre right now, but it’s only temporary. It’s a passing fad. The bubble is going to burst eventually, so this is really hurting country long-term. You know who’s evolving country music? Sturgill Simpson on his latest album. His music on Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is steeped in the roots and traditions of country music, yet have a modern sound too. Zac Brown Band collaborated with Dave Grohl on their latest EP. The single from that EP, “All Alright,” is doing good on radio. The marriage of Brown’s sound and Grohl’s sound make great music that feels fresh, yet still country. And Old Crow Medicine Show is proof you don’t even have to evolve your sound to make great country music.

The music he’s making now is not appealing to the actual country music fans. What fans is he appealing to with his latest single and album? The fad fans. These are the fans that simply hop from one fad to the next. Five years ago these people never even bothered with country music. They’re only interested now because it’s the most popular music to listen to right now. They listen to this music for the social status (or they want to f*ck the artist singing the song), not because they truly love it. How else do you explain the popularity of such shitty music? These are the types of people who couldn’t name you one George Jones song, but could recite every song on the latest Luke Bryan album. In a few years these people won’t give a shit about country music and yet these are the people Paisley is appealing to with his latest music. I’ll still be listening to country music though. And as far as having an open mind? Look at Country Perspective’s Top Songs of 2014 so far. There’s plenty of variety. I assure you my mind is open to all forms of country music.

What’s the point of this long rant? Paisley cares more about the almighty dollar and fame than he does his loyal fans and making quality music. Once he saw his stature slipping he ran towards the open arms of Nashville executives and their dirty trends. Why does he even wear a cowboy hat still? He should just throw those in the garbage and borrow some of Luke Bryan’s ball caps. Then put it on backwards, get some dark sunglasses and start shaking his moneymaker at all of his concerts. He clearly doesn’t care about his legacy or reputation anymore. I’m not even that angry at Paisley. I’m just disappointed. He once made great country music and now he’s lowering himself to everyone else’s standards. Enjoy your temporary fans, Brad. This longtime fan is turning your music off.

Review – Brad Paisley’s “River Bank”

What happened to you, Brad? Are you going through a mid-life crisis? Are you running low on cash? Did you get hit in the back of the head? The reason I ask you these questions is because this sounds nothing like the Brad Paisley I grew up listening to on the radio. Last summer when I was going through a country music rut, there were two artists I still listened to in mainstream country: The Zac Brown Band and Brad Paisley. These were two artists I could always count on delivering good country songs. Even though Paisley’s most recent albums were no where near his best, I still listened and defended him. “Beat This Summer” was more pop country than country, but it was like a breath of fresh air when it came on the radio.

“Beat This Summer” and the rest of the songs on his album Wheelhouse didn’t fair as well as Paisley and his camp had hoped. All of the sudden Paisley wasn’t at the top of the world anymore and was being replaced with Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and Brantley Gilbert. The controversy around the polarizing song “Accidental Racist” he collaborated with LL Cool J on didn’t help his image either. But even then I defended this song for being well intentioned despite the song not being very good at all. So after all of this I hoped Paisley saw this as a sign that he needs to get back to his original sound on his first few albums that produced gems like “We Danced”, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” and “She’s Everything.” That’s the only direction I thought he could turn towards. I thought there was no way he was going to go “bro country.”

And then “River Bank” was released on April 4. I listened to the preview on iTunes just once and I nearly threw my computer out the window. He went bro country on all of us. I was sickened to my stomach that he would go with the popular flavor in mainstream country music. I didn’t want to review this, but it needs to be talked about.

The song starts with Paisley’s always phenomenal guitar rifts and sounds like what you hear in most Paisley songs. He then begins to sing about scratching off lottery tickets and buying a six pack. So where’s the best place to drink “the good stuff,” according to the bros of bro country? Down by the river bank of course! But instead of the song being about drinking on the back of a tailgate down by the river, it’s a song about drinking on a boat on the river. Riveting idea, huh? The song then references several bro cliches throughout the rest of the song and Paisley intervenes with some guitar play towards the end. Also Paisley is clearly using some sort of auto-tune machine to distort his voice at points in the song because that’s what all of the popular artists are doing. Why use your own great voice when you can put it through a machine to “improve” it? I died a little inside after listening to this song in full.

Lyrically and sonically, this is the worst Brad Paisley song ever. For crying out loud he uses the word “dingy” in the song. The sound can be described as a cross between pop country, bro country and generic rock. Apparently he thinks this is evolving the sound of country music when it’s really just devolving it even further.

I had a glimmer of hope that this song would be the outlier on his next album and that the rest would sound just like classic Paisley. But that glimmer of hope was stomped on after reading this interview on Billboard. He revealed that the name of his next album is Moonshine in the Trunk. This immediately sounded off the bro country alarm in my head. And then the sound of his new album is revealed in the next paragraph:

Produced with longtime collaborator Luke Wooten (Dierks Bentley, “Nashville”), “Moonshine” sees Paisley adapting the modern technology of EDM and dubstep to the classic country formula. “When you hear a banjo through stutter edit, it’s the coolest thing you ever heard,” Paisley said. “I have a song that’s a basic love song, it’s got a great groove, and I cut this guitar part that gets distorted when I turn the nob up. I would say to Luke, ‘Oh, that should’ve been done 20 years ago, but they couldn’t.’ The rulebook’s gone, or was there ever one? They try, but I don’t play by it.”

Are you kidding me? EDM and dubstep in a country song? This is not going to get the attention of the bro country crowd. All this is going to do is drive away your loyal fans who expect better from you, including me.

I have nothing else to say. “River Bank” is a bad song and Moonshine in the Trunk looks like it’s going to be a horrible album.

Grade: 3/10