Album Review – Alison Krauss’ ‘Windy City’

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When discussing some of the best and brightest artists in the history of country music, Alison Krauss is a name that should come up. I feel like she’s one of the most underrated artists of the genre, probably due to being more involved with bluegrass with her band Union Station. But she’s pretty much done it all in both genres. Her 27 Grammys, tied for second most all-time, is shining proof of this. Whether it’s her bluegrass work with Union Station, doing a duet album with Robert Plant or her own great work on her own, she shines and gains widespread attention. Now after over 18 years, Krauss has released a new album of solo material. Together with veteran country producer Buddy Cannon, the two picked out ten classic country songs to cover. And the results are really good.

The waltzing “Losing You” opens up Windy City. Right away it’s obvious Krauss sounds as fantastic as ever on this tragic Brenda Lee heartbreak ballad. Krauss gets more upbeat on “It’s Goodbye and So Long To You.” It’s an instantly catchy track with plenty of horns and steel guitar. Krauss delivers a Dolly-like vocal performance, really giving the song more punch. The album’s title track is a heartbreak song about Chicago capturing the heart of a woman’s man and begging to have him back. She walks the lonely streets of the city wondering if she’ll ever win him back. It’s an adaptation of the Osborne Brothers’ song of the same name. One of my favorites on the album is her cover of Willie Nelson’s “I Never Cared For You.” It’s a clever song about the person saying they never cared for their ex, although admitted to be an outright lie and a coping mechanism in a time of heartbreak. Krauss really nails the emotion of the song. “River In The Rain” is an Roger Miller song that Krauss does more than great justice. Originally this was a duet between Huck Finn and a slave, but Krauss turns this into a touching love song. Anyone can cover a song, but I love it when an artist makes the cover their own and Krauss certainly does this.

Another standout on Windy City is Vern Gosdin’s “Dream of Me.” It’s a song that perfectly suits Krauss’ voice, as she sings of telling her man to dream of her every time he feels down and blue. Laden with plenty of steel guitar to go with these great lyrics, this one was an instant favorite for me. John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind,” made famous of course by Glen Campbell, is another cover on Windy City. It might be my new favorite cover of the song. Of course this is a really enjoyable song in itself. “Poison Love” is a really simple song that you can instantly gravitate to and find yourself singing along with from the first listen. The piano-driven Brenda Lee song “All Alone Am I” is a taste of how great Krauss can be on more vulnerable tracks. But this is best demonstrated on the album’s final track “You Don’t Know Me.” It’s an Eddy Arnold song about letting possible love slipping through your fingers and being left to forever wonder what if. You’ll never truly know them and they’ll truly never know you. It’s regret that’ll never leave you. Krauss is at her absolute best here, as well as the instrumentation. Each perfectly frames the song and delivers a gut-punch to close out the album.

For fans of classic country and Alison Krauss, Windy City is a real joy to listen to from start to finish. I really applaud Krauss and Cannon for picking a great group of songs to cover. There’s plenty of variety, a song for any mood you’re in on this album. Each listen through you’ll have a new favorite. It’s also an educational album for those aren’t as informed about the history of the genre and brings to light some quality old artists worth knowing about. I wouldn’t be surprised if this album sees Krauss add to her staggering Grammys total. Krauss once again delivers really good music with Windy City.

Grade: 8/10

 

Recommend? – Yes

Album Highlights: You Don’t Know Me, I Never Cared For You, It’s Goodbye and So Long To You, Dream of Me, Losing You

Bad Songs: None

Wallpaper: None


The Hodgepodge: A Historical Snapshot of Kris Kristofferson

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From left to right: Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson & Waylon Jennings

“Renaissance Man” may be the perfect way to describe Kris Kristofferson. Kris attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He was a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army. He was an athlete in high school running distance, playing rugby, football, and was a Golden Gloves boxer. After leaving the Army in 1965, Kristofferson was offered a teaching position at West Point. After the offer came through, Kristofferson says, “I was in Nashville for two weeks on leave between assignments. I just fell in love with the music community that was going on there.” With all those accomplishments and a wealth of high-end opportunities on the horizon, Kris decided to take a different path and remain in Nashville. Call him crazy, but he took a job as a janitor at Columbia Records, intent on finding success as a singer and songwriter in country music.

It took a few years, but Kris Kristofferson eventually found success in Nashville with his songwriting. Roger Miller gave him his first break when he recorded one of Kristofferson’s most well-known songs, “Me and Bobby McGee.” The song was written upon request by Monument Records’ Fred Foster who gave Kris the title “Me and Bobby McKee.” (Bobby McKee was a secretary in the building). But Kris misheard Foster and thought he said “McGee.” Kris found inspiration from the film La Strada and composed the lyrics to one of music’s best songs (in this writer’s opinion).

After Miller recorded “Me and Bobby McGee,” it was Johnny Cash’s recording of “Sunday Morning Coming Down” that thrusted Kris Kristofferson into spotlight. “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was awarded song of the year at the 1970 CMAs. Recognition continued for Kris with his second album Silver Tounged Devil and I being released in 1971, along with some more songwriting nominations for “Help me Make It Through The Night”, “Me and Bobby McGee” and “For the Good Times.”

Kris’ more poetic style of writing didn’t fit in with the Nashville Sound and style that was popular in the 1960s and 70s. He was proud of his writing style and story telling and didn’t waver for anyone, an attitude which rightfully positioned him with the Outlaws alongside Waylon and Willie. And along with Cash, those Outlaws formed the supergroup The Highwaymen and recorded Highwayman, an album whose title track remains one of country’s more famous songs.

When it came to writing, Kris says, “I’ve always felt that it was my was my job to tell the truth as I saw it, just the same as Hank Williams did and the way Bob Dylan did. It was important to me and I think I probably antagonised [sic] some audiences.” Kristofferson had stories to tell and love for music. His devotion to that mindset and attitude trumped everything else. “I was so in love with the thing I was doing, I wasn’t conscious of really not being very successful like the rest of my family was.”

Kristofferson exemplified an Outlaw not because he put up an over-masculine facade or sang songs about being a tough bad-ass, but because he blazed his own path to stardom and success. Kris Kirstofferson didn’t go down the Chet Atkins’ trail of corporate regurgitated country music. He did it his own way, and that’s why he was considered a country outlaw. Kris Kristofferson’s influence on country music holds steady even today. Next month, there will be an all-star tribute show in Kris’ honor. Taking place on March 16 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, The Life & Songs of Kris Kristofferson will feature Willie Nelson, Eric Church, Rosanne Cash, Ryan Bingham, Jamey Johnson, and several others performing Kristofferson songs in honor of Kris’ musical achievements and legacy for country music.

There’s much more to Kris Kristofferson’s legacy. He has a rich history and story about the work he put in and the people he met along the way. For instance, Kristofferson famously landed a helicopter on Johnny Cash’s lawn in his early efforts of getting songs recorded. While Cash wasn’t home at the time of the landing, it nonetheless shows the lengths he went to get his music noticed. His resiliency to make his dream come true is inspiring. Kris Kristofferson put his blood, sweat, and tears into his music and took the long road to find success. The work paid off and he will forever stand as one of country music’s most influential trailblazer.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Tomorrow, Waco Brothers’ Going Down in History will be released.
  • Carolina Ghost from Caleb Caudle will be released tomorrow as well.
  • Granger Smith’s album Remington will hit the shelves March 4.
  • An album I am very much looking forward to: Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter will be released on March 26.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Sunday Morning Coming Down” Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson: Both Cash and Kristofferson have recorded the song, but does it get any better than these two singing the song together? Also, you can tell how proud Kristofferson is to sing his own song alongside Johnny Cash.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Janis Joplin. Sticking with the Kris Kristofferson take over, I suggest you all go listen to Janis Joplin, a singer I could endlessly listen to on shuffle. She and Kristofferson dated for a while up until Joplin’s untimely death. Janis Joplin also recorded “Me and Bobby McGee” for her excellent album, Pearl, which was released posthumously. Janis Joplin also recorded “Piece of My Heart” as lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company. That song was later recorded by Faith Hill in 1994.

Tweet of the Week

That’s enticing, but I probably still wouldn’t join Tidal for that either.

A LoCash iTunes Review

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I’ve only heard “I Love This Life” from the radio, but this review tells me everything I need to know about LoCash, and what I know is I don’t want to listen to them if they’re taking notes from Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt.

Top Country Road Trip Songs [Playlist]

Top Road Trip Songs

With everyone going on vacations and taking road trips right now, I thought I would put together a playlist of some of the great country road trip songs for you to play on those long drives. Of course these songs will be great for a road trip during anytime of the year. You’ll find there’s a good mix of older and newer country music. I’m not trying to exclude or include any certain songs, so please don’t take offense if you don’t see a song you feel is deserving of making the list. Be glad I didn’t put this list into a stupid slide show. I hate those kind of lists. Anyway here’s Country Perspective’s Top 20 Country Road Trip Songs (no particular order).

 

If there are any songs you would add to your own list that didn’t make Country Perspective’s list, let me know in the comments section below.

Album Review – Dean Miller’s “‘Til You Stop Getting Up”

When you’re born into a musical family, it’s inevitable that you’re going to at least try to get into the family business yourself too. Hank Williams Jr. followed his father, Hank Williams. Both Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard have multiple children involved in the music industry. And Dean Miller followed his father Roger Miller. Dean’s father was part of the “Golden Age” of country music and was well-known for his novelty songs, the most recognizable being “King of the Road.” Dean himself has been involved with country music industry for sometime, with his first album coming out in 1997. His biggest hit so far has been “Nowhere, USA,” which peaked at #54 on the country chart in 1997. He’s also a writer who has had several of his songs recorded by notable artists such as George Jones, Jamey Johnson, Terri Clark, Hank Williams III and many others. Miller has been there and done that, as the saying goes. And he’s now came out with his third album, ‘Til You Stop Getting Up, his first album since 2005.

The Best Songs on the Album

The album’s title track, “‘Til You Stop Getting Up,” is a song about an older man and a younger man at a bar. The younger man has just went through a breakup and the older man gives him advice on how to handle failure and never give up when life deals you a difficult hand. It’s very well written and paints a picture in the listeners’ heads. The music video is worth checking out too, as the older man is played by Kris Kristofferson.

Miller’s writing shines again on “River Across My Heart.” It’s a heartbreak song that describes a man’s feelings after the end of a failed relationship quite well. The lyric that stands out to me is when he sings about the ring he was wanting to give the woman being so cold in his jacket pocket, yet it burns through him. Really makes the listener feel what the man is experiencing. “Begging For a Bullet” is about being stuck in a messy relationship and begging for someone to just end it for him. It’s an agonizing relationship that he hates so much, yet can’t leave. Miller shows his tender side in “An Angel Believes in Me,” and is a very relatable song for men who have just fallen in love.

The Worst Songs on the Album

None of the songs on the album came off as bad to me, however there was one song that felt a little boring and dry. “This Is Where It All Goes Right” felt like your typical pop country love song. Nothing really stands out about it.

The Rest of the Album

I found the remaining songs to be quite solid. The entire album is pretty spot on with the instrumentation on each song, but “Stay” was the best in terms of the instrumentation used. It’s a bright and upbeat love song that utilizes its acoustic instruments well and has some hints of jazz influences with the inclusions of horns. “My Heart is In Your Hands” is a contemporary love song about man expressing his love. The mellow tone gives the song a relaxed feeling. “Kill My Love” is about a guy looking for a rebound girl after the end of a relationship and “San Francisco” tells the tale of a summer relationship that went wrong. The latter song had a really impressive lyric that stood out to me that described the mood of the song: “The coldest winter that I’ve ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” That’s just great songwriting. The album concludes with “I’m A Leaver,” which is about two completely opposite people wanting something completely different out of a relationship.

Overall Thoughts

Miller’s songwriting experience shows in this album. All of the songs were written well and flowed together nicely. The instrumentation complemented the lyrics well, although I was hoping to hear at least one fast tempo song out of Miller. A majority of the songs were mellow or slowed down, which isn’t a problem. But I wanted a little more variety. Considering this is his first album in nine years, I think it’s a great effort. The choice of only having ten songs is good too because it allows the listener to digest this album quite easily (you know my thoughts on long albums). ‘Til You Stop Getting Up is an album that will appeal mostly to men, especially younger males experiencing love or heartbreak. The overall sound is a blend of contemporary and traditional, making this aspect appealing to all listeners. I hope to hear more out of Miller and I think he’s capable of making even better music. Nevertheless, ‘Til You Stop Getting Up is solid all the way through and recommend giving it a listen.

Grade: 7/10