Album Review – Allison Moorer’s ‘Down To Believing’

Allison Moorer Down To Believing

To say Moorer’s last five years have been rough is an understatement. Over the course of those five years, she got divorced from fellow alt-country artist Steve Earle and found out their son John Henry has autism. There aren’t enough songs in the world to describe the heartache and pain she had to go through with all of this. So it’s not surprising with this new album that she relies heavily on these experiences and feelings for each song. By doing this it makes the album quite personal and deep. I can imagine it’s quite cathartic too to get all of these feelings out she’s been holding in. With that in mind, let’s take a look at Moorer’s new album Down To Believing.

The album kicks off with “Like It Used To Be,” an upbeat, country rock tune. It’s about moving on in life and getting used to the fact that things aren’t always going to be like they used to be. It’s a solid song to begin the album. The next song, “Thunderstorm/Hurricane,” is much darker and grittier. While the first song braced for change, this song seems to symbolize experiencing the change. It isn’t very pleasant either, as it’s compared to thunderstorms and hurricanes. Moorer’s vocals are great and really shine towards the end of the song.

“I Lost My Crystal Ball” is about losing sight of what’s happening around you (losing the crystal ball) and instead destroying everything and making a wreck of yourself (finding a wrecking ball). The lyrics are quite catchy, as well as the instrumentation. The album’s title track is a heartbreak ballad, where you can definitely tell Moorer drew from her feelings she experienced from her separation from Steve Earle. The song’s premise is simple: can both sides of the relationship still believe they have a chance of being together or is it best to just leave each other? This is one of my favorite songs on the album, as Moorer absolutely nails it.

Everything is going to hell in “Tear Me Apart,” as Moorer sings about being in a destructive relationship and wanting to get out of it. She wonders why he wants to tear her apart and how she wants to just scream if he looks her way. The bluesy, rock instrumentation gives this song a perfect feel. It’s upfront, in your face and I love it. The piano eloquently sets the mood from the beginning in “If I Were Stronger.” It’s another song where you could tell Moorer drew from her falling out with Earle, as it’s about the aftermath of a failed relationship. She sings about how she wishes she had more strength to keep the relationship going longer and to keep that love alive, but there just isn’t any love left in her heart. Moorer’s vocals are just as flawless as the great lyrics in this song. This is arguably the best song on Down To Believing.

“Wish I” deals with the conflict of wanting an ex back and wanting to move on. Part of the woman wishes he still loved her, but she knows this just isn’t going to happen. It’s truly a battle between the brain and heart, a situation many of us are familiar with. Moorer sings about the importance of family in “Blood.” As she told Rolling Stone, this song is dedicated to her sister Shelby Lynne, who is also a country singer. You can tell she has a strong bond with Lynne and I think this song is a nice tribute to their relationship.

Moorer gets angry in “Mama Let The Wolf In.” As she told Rolling Stone in another interview, this song is about her son getting diagnosed with autism and how she feels personally responsible for it happening. I highly suggest reading her entire explanation behind the song, but here’s a snippet of it:

It’s about how I feel about my son having autism. As a parent, whatever your children go through I think there’s a certain amount of it that you feel responsible for, even if you know it has nothing to do with you, even if you know that there’s absolutely no way to protect them from the world or what they have to go through, whether it’s being bullied, having a hard time in school, or being an addict. When you can’t protect them from going through something that’s hard, you feel responsible for it.

I love Moorer letting her emotions control this song, giving it a good dose of reality, edge and the feeling of helplessness many parents experience with their sick children.

The next song, “I’m Doing Fine,” revolves around this simple phrase that usually means two things. It can either mean that you’re actually doing fine or you’re far from fine. I think this song means both at times, giving it an interesting dynamic and something for the listener to really decide for themselves. The more upbeat “Back of My Mind,” is about never forgetting about a special someone who was in your life. This person was all you thought about, but as times passes your memory of them fades. But they never fade completely. The mandolin and lighter feeling instrumentation in this song really lets the song breathe and gives the song a hopeful tone.

Moorer covers the classic hit of Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?” next. Now you need to know where I’m coming from when talking about this song, as I have to admit I really love this song. When I heard Moorer was covering it, I got excited. Does it live up to my expectation? Yes it does. It’s fantastic and appropriately fits in with the rest of the album. The album concludes with “Gonna Get It Wrong,” a song about making mistakes in life, but learning that it’s okay to fail and fall down. Despite getting it wrong sometimes though, you know you can always get back up and try again. The song captures the feeling of failure well. Moorer’s vocals, along with the piano and guitar instrumentation, set the mood of the song perfectly. It’s the perfect summation of life and really the entire theme of Down To Believing.

Moorer doesn’t hold anything back throughout the album. She essentially strips her life back and shows exactly what she’s experienced in the last five years. It’s raw, emotional and honest. This is what every great country album should possess. Her vocals are dynamic and flourish in every song. The songwriting is deep and tells a story. It’s an album that everyone can listen to and find a few songs that they can deeply connect to. Down To Believing is the first album from Moorer in five years and hopefully we won’t have to wait that long on the next one because the world needs more music from her. But for now enjoy this fantastic album, as I highly recommend checking it out.

Grade: 9/10 

Country Albums Set To Be Released & Expected in 2015

New year, new music! We saw our fair share of great country music over the course of 2014, but now it’s time to look ahead to what we can expect in 2015. There have already been a number of albums officially announced to be coming out in 2015, along with several other albums expected to be released. So I thought it would be a good idea to compile a list of what we can all expect over the course of the year. Expect all of the albums listed below to be reviewed by Country Perspective. Based on what’s been announced and what’s heavily speculated, we could be in for a fantastic year of country music. (Special Thanks to Rolling Stone and Windmills Country! They provided the majority of this information).

Already Announced

Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses – Release Date: February 10

The southern rock/country band officially announced in November that they will be releasing their first album under new label Rounder Records. It will be called Holding All The Roses and here is track listing for the album:

1. “Let Me Help You (Find the Door)”
2. “Holding All the Roses”
3. “Living in the Song”
4. “Rock and Roll Again”
5. “Woman in the Moon”
6. “Too High”
7. “Wish in One Hand”
8. “Randolph County Farewell”
9. “Payback’s a Bitch”
10. “Lay It All on Me”
11. “No Way Back to Eden”
12. “Fire in the Hole”

Love & Theft – Whiskey on My Breath – Release Date: February 10

Now this was a group I did not expect to get excited about releasing new music. Then I heard the first single from this album (which is also the album name as you can see), “Whiskey on My Breath” and I was blown away. By the way, kudos to Derek for pointing this out to me. The duo never impressed with their bland pop country, so where did this come from? Well the duo left their major label Sony Music Nashville in October 2014, so now you know why they’re making real music now. This could be one of the biggest dark horse albums in country music this year.

The Mavericks – Mono – Release Date: February 17

The Mavericks actually leaked back in June 2014 on a Facebook post that they were releasing a new album on February 17, which Country Perspective aptly pointed out to you. But the post was taken down and they didn’t officially announce it until November. If this album, titled Mono, is as good as their 2013 comeback In Time, there is a great chance this is one of the top albums in country music in 2015. If you haven’t heard lead singer of The Mavericks Raul Malo sing, then you’re missing out.

Allison Moorer – Down To Believing – Release Date: March 17

The former wife of Steve Earle will release her first album since 2010. She talks about the album in length in her great interview with Rolling Stone (linked above), which I highly recommend reading. Another album that could quietly be one of the best of the year.

Alan Jackson – N/A – Release Date: Early 2015

Alan Jackson

The veteran country artist will release a brand new album of music that will coincide with his 25th Anniversary Tour, all of which I broke down back in October. So far no album name and official release date have been announced. It will be his first country album since 2012, as in 2013 he released a bluegrass album (which was fantastic too). Jackson hasn’t been getting a lot of radio time in recent years, but that might change with NASH Icons coming onto the scene.

Zac Brown Band – N/A – Release Date: Spring 2015

Zac Brown told Rolling Stone Country in November they plan to have a brand new album out in the spring of 2015, their first full album since Uncaged in 2012. He said they currently have 18 songs planned for the album, which as you know I’m not a fan of these big albums. He also talked about one song he’s excited about called “Beautiful Drug,” which he thinks will be a crossover hit. I’m anxious to hear what the band has come up with.

Maddie & Tae – N/A – Release Date: Spring 2015

In an interview with Country Weekly, Maddie Marlow said the duo hopes to have their first full length album released by spring 2015. They released a self-titled EP in November, their followup to their polarizing lead single “Girl in A Country Song.” Their first album will certainly be a hot topic upon its release.

Brothers Osborne – N/A – Release Date: Early 2015

After releasing a five song EP in November, the duo announced they would be releasing their first full album in early 2015. I thought their EP was solid, so I expect this album to at least be solid too.

Will Hoge – N/A – Release Date: Early 2015

The first single from the yet untitled album, “Middle of America,” came out in 2014 and I thought it was a solid song. There are very few details, but Rolling Stone put at the end of this post in November that a new album will be coming out in early 2015. We’ll wait and see.

Garth Brooks – N/A – Release Date: Sometime in 2015

542px-Garth_Brooks

The country music icon made a solid, yet unspectacular comeback with Man Against Machine in November. But the album sales and radio performance has been quite disappointing. In fact his entire comeback has really been a letdown full of bad mistakes. What the hell was he thinking with those singles choices? Anyway he announced during his comeback presser that he would have another new album in 2015. We’ll see what the unpredictable Brooks has up his sleeve this year.

Loretta Lynn – N/A – Release Date: Sometime in 2015

The legendary country singer signed a multi-album deal with Sony Legacy last year and announced a new album for 2015. It will be her first album of new material in 11 years. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m definitely intrigued.

Reba – N/A – Release Date: Sometime in 2015

The biggest singing of the NASH Icons project so far, Reba was said to be almost finished with the album in October. The first album in five years from the country legend will be heavily promoted by Scott Borchetta and his NASH Icons teams I can imagine. If this album does great in sales and on radio, it will be a great first step for the new venture. Reba fans I’m sure are anxious to hear new material from her.

Expected, But Not Officially Announced

Hayes Carll – N/A – Release Date: Early 2015

As Saving Country Music reported in May 2014, Carll signed with well-known independent label Thirty Tigers and Carll said he expects to release a new album in early 2015. An album name and release date have yet to be announced.

Jamey Johnson – N/A – Release Date: Sometime in 2015?

After several months of speculation and years of no new music, Jamey Johnson finally came out and announced some big news. As he told Rolling Stone in late November, he has formed his own label Big Gassed Records and will now be releasing all of this music through it. The first music that has been released through the label was his Christmas EP, The Christmas Song. As for future music plans, here’s what he had to say in the interview:

To answer the question that the fans have been asking: “When are we gonna put out new music?” Now. We’re gonna start putting it out now, starting with this Christmas EP. And then you can look for another release from me after the start of the year. And you can look for more releases from me as the year progresses. We don’t have to go through the same waiting process that other artists might have to, stand in line and wait to get their music out. We’ll just kind of fall in line where we fit for retail — and if we don’t fit there, we don’t fit there. It’s not a problem to me.

His possible first single from the album was released for free on his site this past week titled, “Alabama Pines,” which you can expect a review on soon. Nothing has been officially announced regarding an album, but expect this soon.

Sturgill Simpson – N/A – Release Date: N/A

Sturgill Simpson hasn’t announced anything regarding new music in 2015. However, his producer Dave Cobb seemed to hint that we can expect more from Simpson in 2015 in an interview with Rolling Stone back in July 2014. When talking about Sturgill, he concluded with this:

We’re already starting another one — I feel like we could make three records this year.  Maybe he doesn’t release all three, but we should make them. We’re already doing something totally different and it will probably make a lot of people mad.”

I’ll be shocked if we don’t get new music from Simpson once again in 2015, although I won’t be disappointed because he has delivered two great albums in the last two years. Based on that quote from Cobb I’m excited and nervous about his next album.

Kacey Musgraves – N/A – Release Date: Sometime in 2015

Musgraves made her splashing debut in 2013 with the album Same Trailer, Different Park. Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ve watched her rack up numerous awards from Grammys to CMA awards for this album. Nothing has been confirmed or announced in regards to the new album, but she has been dropping tons of hints on social media like this tweet. It’s just a matter of an official announcement.

 

Carrie Underwood – N/A – Release Date: Sometime in 2015?

Underwood has subtly hinted that she will be releasing a new album in 2015, but other than that she has been quiet about it. With a baby on the way, her main concerns are probably not on music. She just released a greatest hits album in November.

Luke Bryan – N/A – Release Date: N/A

Yeah I’m not looking forward to it either, but you knew he would probably be releasing new material. Think of this as a friendly warning. Bryan has already said he’s in the middle of recording the new album, which would be his first since Crash My Party in 2013. Let’s hope it’s not as terrible as that one. I’m not confident. Also according to Windmills Country and Hits Daily Double, he will come out with a new spring break album on March 10, 2015.

Gary Allan – N/A – Release Date: Sometime in 2015

Gary Allan

Allan hasn’t released a new album since 2013, the critically acclaimed Set You Free. In an interview with MLive.com, Allan said he already has a bunch of new tunes lined up. The always under-the-radar artist will probably knock our socks off again.

Montgomery Gentry – N/A – Release Date: March 24

The music from this veteran duo lately has been terrible, but I once enjoyed their music and as you know I give every artist a chance at redemption. They hinted in a Billboard interview last October that they may release a new album in 2015. According to Windmills Country and Hits Daily Double, the new album will come out on March 24, 2015.

Josh Turner – N/A – Release Date: March 31

After a lengthy hiatus, Turner returned in 2014 with the single “Lay Low,” a pretty solid song. Turner says it’s the first single from his new album, which according to Windmills Country and Hits Daily Double is set to come out on March 31.

Martina McBride – N/A – Release date: Sometime in 2015

Two days before Christmas Martina McBride officially announced on her Twitter page that she was the newest signing to NASH Icons, another big coup for the new Big Machine imprint. She promised new music and more details to come. Last year she released an R&B covers album because she realized that country radio isn’t going to pay attention to her so why not do music she wants to do. This 2015 will most likely be a country album I’m thinking.

Easton Corbin – N/A – Release Date: March 31

Corbin already released the first single from the album, “Baby Be My Love Song.” It wasn’t very good. Hopefully the rest of the album is much better. According to Windmills Country and Hits Daily Double, the album will be released on March 31.

That’s all I could round-up! If you’ve heard any other new country music coming out this year or if you’re excited about a certain album, be sure to sound off in the comments below. 

Album Review – Little Big Town’s Pain Killer Proves Tom Petty Right

LBT

In an August 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, legendary rock musician Tom Petty was asked his thoughts on the state of country music after he told The Beacon it was “bad rock with fiddle.” His response (emphasis mine):

Well, yeah I mean, I hate to generalize on a whole genre of music, but it does seem to be missing that magic element that it used to have. I’m sure there are people playing country that are doing it well, but they’re just not getting the attention that the shittier stuff gets. But that’s the way it always is, isn’t it? But I hope that kind of swings around back to where it should be. But I don’t really see a George Jones or a Buck Owens or any anything that fresh coming up. I’m sure there must be somebody doing it, but most of that music reminds me of rock in the middle Eighties where it became incredibly generic and relied on videos. I don’t want to rail on about country because I don’t really know much about it, but that’s what it seems like to me.

The gist of what Petty says is that mainstream country music sounds like generic 80s rock music. This leads me to today’s review of Little Big Town’s new album Pain Killer. The four person group made up of Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet were looking to go with a different style and approach with this album. From what I’ve gathered in interviews and the album cover before even listening to it was they were going for an edgier, “provocative” sound. In other words, they appear to be going to their dark side after years of bubblegum pop country music. Do they get edgy with this album? Well how sharp would you describe a butter knife? That’s how edgy they get. Also please keep that Tom Petty quote in mind while reading this review.

The album starts off with “Quit Breaking Up With Me,” a song about a troubled relationship. It sounds like it was lifted right out of the 80s. Also why does it sound like this is being sung out of a bathroom stall? Maybe it was. Then again Weird Al Yankovic’s first song “My Bologna” was recorded in a bathroom stall and it probably sounded better than this song. There’s way too much background noise and it’s more pop than country. This is followed up with “Day Drinking,” which now sounds pretty weird and sticks out compared to the rest of the album. In my initial review of this song I said this: “It immediately starts off with an annoying whistling sound and some light drum playing, signaling it’s a happy and upbeat song. The song starts off about getting out at five o’clock on a Friday and doing some day drinking after a long, hot day. The song then proceeds to repeat over and over throughout the following line, “Why don’t we do a little day drinking?” Mixed in are some lines about normal clichés that have to do with drinking, work and summer. The annoying whistling sound also reappears throughout the song.” After hearing this song so many times on the radio I wish I had given it an even lower score.

The next song, “Tumble And Fall,” is supposed to be a motivational song I guess? I can’t exactly tell because this song is overproduced so much. This is a pop song with banjos buried in the background. And a “country” song that talks about a trapeze? Not going to fly with this reviewer. The album’s title track is a catchy song about drinking your problems and pain away. It’s a pop country song with reggae undertones, almost a beach song. I have to admit the beat is easy to like, but when it comes down to it this is just another song that glamorizes drinking with repetitive lyrics. I’m sure country radio will eat this right up. “Girl Crush” is one of the more interesting tracks on the album. This song has a mysterious vibe and it took me a few listens to realize the theme of the song. It’s about a woman who has developed a crush on her man’s lover. In other words it’s a lustful jealousy towards the mistress. Karen Fairchild’s smokey vocals are actually quite good on this song. Looking at this song from a pop perspective, it’s a great song. But this is Country Perspective and this song isn’t country. What a shame too because this song actually has a unique theme.

As soon as I started listening to “Faster Gun,” I immediately got a Poison/Journey vibe from it. That’s because this is your generic rock song trying to pass off itself as country. You’re right again Tom Petty! If this song was properly classified as pop or rock, it’s not bad. But again this is a song trying to pass itself off as country. “Good People” is a bland, generic, adult contemporary pop song with rock influences and overproduced instrumentation. I have nothing else to say about this forgettable song. “Stay All Night” is a bland, generic, rock song with pop influences and overproduced instrumentation. I have nothing else to say about this forgettable song. The observant reader will point out that I was being repetitive here and you’re exactly right. Repetitive songs get repetitive criticism.

Let’s move onto the next song, “Save Your Sin.” This song starts out as a decent pop country song and turns into overproduced rock pop by the end of it. The theme of the song is sex I think? Let’s just put it this way: Like every other song on this album, it’s Little Big Town trying to convince us they’re edgier and racier with their material now. Insert eye roll and light chuckling here. “Live Forever” is a love ballad where the group actually seems to have good intentions with the song. It actually has potential to be more than generic pop music. The problem is the tone is too sleepy and doesn’t draw the listener in to feel anything. This song should be romantic and mysterious, but instead I’m just kind of bored and wondering if this is all they have to offer with this song. Compared to the rest of the album this is the best song so far, yet it isn’t a country song either.

“We Built This City!” “We Built This City!” “We Built This City on rock n’ roll!” That’s what I was hearing in my head as I listened to “Things You Don’t Think About” because this song gives that kind of vibe off. This is another generic rock song on this album. “Turn the Lights On” starts out with just instruments for the first minute and a half, leading me to believe the whole song would just be an instrumental song, but it’s sadly not. Instead it’s just more generic rock music. Man, Tom Petty you’re looking like a genius with your thoughts on country music. Finally we reach the last track on the album, “Silver and Gold.” My initial thoughts when I listened to this song: Hahahaha! First we get Florida Georgia Line using a cheesy pickup line in “Angel” and now Little Big Town is comparing love to silver and gold. If I want to hear a song about silver and gold, I would rather listen to this song. Little Big Town has got nothing on the snowman from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer! The snowman is even using a banjo in his song and not drowning it out with machines, making it more country than Little Big Town’s entire album. And of course this is just another generic rock song. Variety at it’s finest on this album.

So I guess this is the album where Little Big Town goes to their dark side. I would describe it more as the local theatre kids dressing in dark clothes and putting on a performance of The Outsiders, deeming themselves cool bad guys because neon signs and drinking dictates this. By the way I hate that movie even more than this album. Pain Killer labels itself as a country album, except it covers every genre except country. As Derek said in his review of Lady Antebellum’s 747 album, it wouldn’t be bad if the album was labeled pop music. I can say the same of this Little Big Town album. In fact this is pretty good pop music. If Little Big Town went to the pop genre like Taylor Swift I might actually enjoy this album. But this album calls itself country and I will treat it as such. I only recommend this album if you like vanilla, dull rock music. Otherwise stay clear of it.

Grade: 3/10

Review – Josh Turner’s “Lay Low”

The return of Josh Turner to radio is a refreshing one. It’s been two years since we’ve last heard a new single from Turner, but he’s back with a new single now. He also has a new album coming soon, though no release date has been announced. One of his last singles he put out, “Time Is Love,” reached #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Chart. The reason I say his return is refreshing is because Turner always stays true to himself, making traditional sounding country music that still sounds modern in today’s world of country music. Turner reiterated his stance on making the music he wants to make in an interview with Rolling Stone last week:

“The basic standards I’ve always held for my music still apply to this record, but I’ve definitely taken a step back and looked at what today’s environment is and how my music can fit into that,” he reports. “I don’t follow trends and I’ve always followed my heart, whether my music fits in or not, but I want to be a player in the game and continue to evolve as an artist. This record, so far, has great musicianship, great melodies and lyrics that today’s audience can relate to.” 

So does Turner deliver in his return to country music with his new single “Lay Low”? Yes, in fact he does deliver. It’s a love song about a couple getting away from everything. They want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just spend time together alone. As Turner says in his interview with Rolling Stone, it reminded him of a secluded spot him and his wife like to go to in South Carolina to get away from everything. Vocal-wise Turner sounds just as great as ever with his smooth, deep baritone voice. No auto-tune to be found. Although towards the end of the songs the background vocals are little too overproduced. But it doesn’t hurt the overall quality of the song.

Instrumentation wise the song starts off with a mandolin and acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar is the main instrument used throughout the song along with some light drum machine play. I think the song is written well. No bro country tropes or laundry list clichés are present because Turner actually wants to be respected for his music. It’s just a romantic country song that a man is singing to his love. The writers of the song are Ross Copperman, Tony Martin and Mark Nesler. The latter two also helped write “Time Is Love.” Kudos to the three writers for crafting a solid song.

This is a great first single from Turner’s new album. It’s a good sign to see one of the few consistently traditional mainstream country artists to remain true to their roots. Too many older artists (Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw) are trying to remain hip and cool. Turner just makes the music he wants to make and how they perform is how they perform. I think “Lay Low” can do well on radio, but I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ll be interested to see if it can chart in the top 25 on Billboard’s Hot Country songs chart too. Nice to see Turner back with another solid single.

Grade: 8.5/10

https://soundcloud.com/umgnashville/josh-turner-lay-low/s-Igf4H

Review – Jake Owen’s “What We Ain’t Got”

The last time I discussed Jake Owen on Country Perspective, I reviewed/ranted about his popular and shallow hit single “Beachin’.” In fact here’s a couple of lines I left you with at the end of the review:

There are zero redeeming qualities about Jake Owen’s “Beachin’.” Owen is a likable guy, but that isn’t even enough to earn any goodwill for this song from me. I think Owen is capable of good music, but this is the furthest thing from it.

When I heard he had a new single out that was more serious, I was pretty skeptical. After hearing songs like “Beachin'” and “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” you don’t expect much. This is a sentiment that Owen seems to share too, as he told Rolling Stone in a recent interview: “A lot of folks think I’m just the ‘Beachin” guy, I’m the fucking beach bum.”  He then went on to say this regarding his bro image he’s been portraying in his latest singles (thank you Windmills Country for bringing this interview to my attention):

“I’m not downplaying that. I’ve made a good living and a good career out of doing songs like ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night,'” says the country star, who nonetheless hopes to refocus on songs that amplify his artistic integrity. “I take a lot of pride in being a pretty good singer, and songs like ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night’ and ‘Beachin’,’ where I’m kind of just talking, don’t showcase that. For the first time in my career, I feel like it’s imperative for me to put out a song that offers some validity.”

Owen is starting to realize he needs to put out deeper material if he wants to be taken seriously, which is quite refreshing to hear from him. By the way I recommend checking out the entire interview because it deals with many interesting topics, including Owen and Keith Urban’s appreciation of Sturgill Simpson’s music. Now onto Owen’s new single “What We Ain’t Got.” Owen talks the talk, but does he walk the walk with this new single?

Yes, indeed he does. It’s a song about how a lot of people think about how the grass is greener on the other side, but Owen sings about what he once had. What he had once was a special woman in his life that he lost and wishes he could get back. Owen’s vocals are the best I’ve heard them in this song, as he not only shows good range, but the right amount of emotion in a song about heartbreak. The song is also well written with lyrics that perfectly set the scene in the listener’s head. Give credit to Travis Meadows and Travis Jerome Goff for the great songwriting.

There aren’t any drum machines, EDM, rap remixing or Owen’s horrible ability to do spoken word in a song. Instead there’s just a piano and Owen’s voice. It’s amazing what happens when you take away all of the machines and background noise, isn’t it mainstream country? You actually get an artist and some soul in a song. I always say that overproduction kills too many mainstream country songs and this just validates my claim. Before this song I thought Owen wasn’t that impressive of a singer, but this proved Owen is capable of so much more than bro country schtick.

This song only lends credence to the ongoing trend in country music that is happening: bro country artists are actually slowly putting out quality country music and showing that they can actually be music artists. Florida Georgia Line showed it with “Dirt,” Blake Shelton showed more substance with his new single “Neon Light” and even Chase Rice managed to put out one good song in “Jack Daniels and Jesus.” If all of these artists are capable of making good music, why can’t they just put this music out all of the time? Well it’s pretty simple that its money being the reason, but they aren’t guaranteed to chart well either. Keep in mind “Dirt” is an exception to the rule. “What We Ain’t Got” was released as a single on August 11 and has only peaked at #40 on the Billboard Hot Country songs chart.

Regardless of the poor charting, I hope Owen continues to pursue making more serious and more country material like this single. If Owen put out an album of songs with soul and emotions like “What We Ain’t Got,” I would become a pretty big fan. My advice to him is to take the route his friend Dierks Bentley takes with his albums. Bentley always has a few radio hits on his albums to satisfy the suits on the label, but the rest is usually pretty good. His new album Riser demonstrates this and is nominated for CMA Album of the Year. Nevertheless, “What We Ain’t Got” is a pleasant surprise from Owen and highly recommend giving it a listen yourself.

Grade: 9/10