Spinning All The Records — April/May 2020

Hey all! So I wanted to give a quick update on the plans for the site moving forward and what’s been happening. First I wanted to address the abrupt stop in posts. The reason for this was due to a privacy issue that I would chalk more up to trolling than a legitimate concern. But at the time I wanted to be safe and closed the blog down temporarily. It’s now back of course, but I wanted to give you all an explanation, as I hated leaving you hanging without a reason. 

During this downtime I started to rethink of how I want to approach posting on the blog. And to be quite frank I was starting to fall into an old bad habit of mine of listening to post reviews, instead of listening and then posting a review when I’m ready. It’s so easy nowadays to fall into the trap of wanting to constantly keep up with every release and I find personally this ruins my own listening experience. So I realized I need to get away from my usual style and do something that fits me better. 

My first thought was a podcast and I even got to the point of test recording and a first episode written out. But unfortunately I’ve realized I simply just don’t have the proper amount of time to do one. As someone who has done a podcast before and felt I did it the right way, it takes A LOT of work and time to pull off, at least in the way I would want to do it. Just the recording and editing alone is arduous. So for now I’ve decided not to do a podcast. I’ve not ruled out doing one at another time, but for now it’s something that will be on the back burner. 

However, the tinkering with the podcast and the realization of the need to adapt my approach did lead me to an idea of how I want to approach writing moving forward. I look at the way reviews are approached nowadays, specifically by larger publications, and I see something that just isn’t natural in this constant rush to post reviews. Most people don’t listen to an album and form such an immediate judgement. And even after the initial judgement, that opinion can then shift even more with time. But reviews don’t reflect this; there’s a finiteness about them. You post the review, the grade and then the reviewer is put into a box of defending this take for…well forever it seems like. So I hope this new style and approach will be a better reflection of the way an average listener approaches music. Stay tuned!

For now I wanted to post all of the stuff I had written below for Spinning All The Records for April 2020. And thank you for reading!

Conway the Machine & The Alchemist – LULU

This is a really tight, short and cohesive album from start to finish. As always The Alchemist brings some really smooth beats, which fit the rapid fire delivery of Conway well. Not to mention the sampling used is great too, especially on “The Contract.” ScHoolboy Q delivers a solid feature on “Shoot Sideways,” but I especially enjoy Cormega’s feature on “They Got Sunny.” The veteran rapper spits absolute fire on his verses. If you enjoy coke bar rap and the work of the Griselda Records group (which I sang their praises of last year when I put Benny the Butcher on my album of the year list), you don’t want to miss this album. 8/10

Niall Horan – Heartbreak Weather

This is an enjoyable and solid album of soft rock meets pop love songs. Although I will say it’s not all straight-ahead love songs, as Horan weaves in themes throughout the album of insecurity, doubt and details of the hard road one can experience in finding love. The album has an overall sound of being bouncy, fun and upbeat, while Horan demonstrates himself to be a charismatic vocalist with range. And while there’s many fun moments like on “Everywhere,” there’s also some more serious and introspective moments that give this album a softness to balance it out (“Put a Little Love on Me” and “Still”). 7/10

Sam Hunt – SOUTHSIDE

I’m sure some of you wanted me to do a full review takedown of this album, but it’s just not worth it (and I don’t do rants anymore). The good of this album: opening track “2016” is by far the best song Hunt has ever done. It’s melodic, it has meaning and it has heart. While the Webb Pierce sample is just necessary, putting it aside, “Hard to Forget” is undeniably catchy. So is “Body Like a Backroad” (even though it feels completely shoehorned in the album). I still enjoy “Downtown’s Dead” as much as when I originally praised it on Fusion Country. And I appreciate the attempt at a bluegrass-influenced sound on “Let It Down.” I wish he would have explored this sound more.

Now to the bad and let’s just state the biggest issue. The ordering of the songs and overall theme of the story is a complete and disjointed mess. The overall flow of the album is like a zig zag, with no logical order whatsoever. “2016” should have been the closing song. “Kinfolks” is boring as hell and forgettable. “Young Once” is just absolutely stupid with it’s premise that dumb mistakes can be completely dismissed due to youth. “That Ain’t Beautiful” would be best described as having just a gross feel about it and features the worst side of Hunt and that is him wishing he was the Drake of country music.

“Breaking Up Was Easy in the 90s” has an annoying “I was born in le wrong generation” vibe. “Sinning With You” is the ultimate display of immaturity and also features nauseatingly cliche religious imagery that comes across so fake and insincere. “Drinkin’ Too Much” is best summed up as an abomination in every way, from his Drake impression to the lyrical content being disgusting and hypocritical. If Hunt ever indulged in his best tendencies, he could deliver a good album. But this is not it. 3/10

Western Centuries – Call the Captain

This band showed a lot of potential in their debut album. Their sophomore album was completely forgettable. And this album is very much along the same lines. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but it just doesn’t stand out in any way for me.

Jessi Alexander – Decatur County Red

I can essentially repeat the same for this album. That’s the double-edged sword of independent country, well at least from my perspective. On one hand, I’m much more inclined to listen to country music from the independent realm because I know how to find it. But that also means I listen to more of it and that kind of makes the bar higher too. It’s a brutally competitive space, so standing out is key. This is a decent album and Alexander has a nice voice, but after a few listens I just don’t feel like coming back to it.

Knxwledge – 1988

This is mostly an instrumental album, not surprising as Knxwledge is mostly known as a producer, most notably his collaboration with Anderson .Paak as NxWorries. So I only recommend this album if you’re a music nerd like me who can listen to a half-hour of random beats and sounds. And if you do listen you can get a great fill of pop, R&B, hip hop and even some gospel sounds. It’s quite a relaxing, chill listen I might add too. Knxwledge cements himself further as a standout producer on 1988. 8/10

Logan Ledger – Logan Ledger

All of this build up and an intriguing voice only for this to be another new act that leans hard on a nostalgic style and adds nothing fresh to it. So it just comes off as boring. I couldn’t even make it through one listen.

Maddie & Tae – The Way It Feels

I did not expect to be sticking this album here. But then again I didn’t expect this to be a giant disappointment and I didn’t feel like re-writing the Caitlyn Smith review. Just like Smith, Maddie & Tae throw away everything on this album that made their debut album great: warm melodies, sharp songwriting and harmonies that melt the ears. In their place is schlocky pop country, copy and paste songwriting, and little to no harmonies. I literally yawned several times going through this album because it’s so predictable in it’s approach. And there’s so many boring moments that the few standouts like “Die From A Broken Heart” just get lost in this mundane and drab collection of songs. It’s just another album in a sea of albums. What a damn shame for a promising duo. 5/10

Ruthie Collins – Cold Comfort

Honestly I just couldn’t engage with this album and I think a big reason why is the image and presentation is such a 180 from her “Ramblin’ Man” days that this just comes off as too calculated and insincere for me. Maybe I’ll be able to revisit this later, but for now this comes off as “dress up” to me.


Any other releases in late April and any in May will likely be covered in some way coming soon! But please feel free to engage in the comments and ask me as always about anything that isn’t covered or for further clarification on any comments I’ve made above! 

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 CMT.com 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

Review – Ruthie Collins’ “Ramblin’ Man”

Ruthie Collins

When listening to any kind of music, I can pretty much tell you after a few listens what I think of the song or album. It’s kind of important as a reviewer of music. For example, the first time I listened to The Mavericks’ “Come Unto Me” I knew this was a good song. Just like the first time I heard Florida Georgia Line’s “Sun Daze” I knew it was terrible. While it can be described in words, feeling is a big part of the listener experience. Very rarely do I listen to a song and not have any idea how to feel about it. Well one of those rare moments arose when I listened to newcomer Ruthie Collins’ new single “Ramblin’ Man.” And the reason I have this feeling of confusion is there’s so much going on with this song.

For those who don’t recognize it, this song was originally done by Hank Williams. Yes, on her debut single Collins chose to cover the legendary Hank Williams. Talk about ballsy! Oh but that’s not it. She samples the icon’s voice in the song. Okay, but there’s even more. She incorporates drum loops into the song, aka inserts EDM influences into it. So to recap: this is Ruthie Collins debut single, it’s a Hank song, an icon is sampled and EDM is mixed with country music. See what I meant when I said this song has a lot going on? It’s a lot to take in.

The instrumentation in the song used outside of the drum loops and dance beats are bluegrass instruments. Collins voice for the most part is unaltered and is actually quite good. You can’t say she doesn’t have a great voice. The song itself of course is about a rambling man who has a thirst for the open road. Collins though flips the song and sings it from the female perspective, so it’s about how she watches her man continue to leave her for the open road. By the end of the song, the rambling man’s lifestyle catches up with him. As Collins sings, God called home the rambling man.

After giving the song several listens, I wanted to see if Collins had any further information about the making of this song. Luckily, there’s a video on her YouTube page that explains who she is and the making of this song. You can see the video below. The part though that caught my interest is when she talks about “Ramblin’ Man.” She starts to talk about it at the 2:40 mark, although I recommend watching the whole thing because she’s actually quite a charming person and is very candid about the country industry.

Right after talking about how producers push her to a more “poppy” sound, despite her saying that her voice isn’t meant for that, here’s what she says regarding “Ramblin’ Man”:

“But I wanted to be modern sounding at the same time. So the way that we kind of brought that element in is through these really interesting like drum programming. So you really get that cool modern energy, but you’re still basing the sound around these really, organic old-fashioned instruments.

“Ramblin’ Man” was sort of an idea that came out of a writing session. I was like, ‘Man has anyone sampled an old country song?’ And instantly I was like, ‘I know how to do this! We have to do this now.’ You know this is such a cool idea. I just Googled the lyrics on my iPhone and started singing and the melody just came out of nowhere. I don’t know where it came from, but I sang it down the first time and we have never changed the melody since. It was really one of those just…okay it was really meant to happen. We just started working on the track and I took it into Curb and everybody flipped out and it just kind of changed everything for me lately.

To me this was just such a cool thing to bring these old elements of this beautiful, classic country song, but give it a modern twist and bring it to 2014.”

Before I tell you what my ultimate thoughts are on this song, I have to put into context where I’m coming from as a listener because I found myself re-examining my experience of listening to country music. Before I became a “born-again country music fan,” I tried my hardest to accept “the evolution of country music.”, aka the Florida Georgia Line type songs. I tried to reason that rap country and bro-country were reasonable music. In the end I realized I was lying to myself and that this was garbage of course. My heart was never truly into this music, only my brain trying to make the hurdles so to speak. But the one thing I kept from this brief moment of time as a music listener was an open mind. That’s something I still try to keep with me until this day because there’s always an opportunity to introduce a new sound, while still keeping the integrity of the genre.

With all of this being said, I think “Ramblin’ Man” is a song that is completely unnecessary. I applaud the tenacity and attempted creativity by Collins to try to reinvent an old song with her own twist. Ultimately though this isn’t really creative at all. An artist shouldn’t have to rely on a past song to make their own creative song. They should be able to create something of their own, completely by themselves. A Hank Williams song should never be reinvented, let alone have EDM introduced with it. Not to mention that isn’t a long-lasting, sustainable sound. As coined by Trigger at Saving Country Music, this “metro-politan” music in country right now is just a fad (by the way if you haven’t read that piece by Trigger, go do this). It will not be remembered decades from now.

A true form of art comes from the heart, not a drum machine. A true artist catches people’s ears with their storytelling and songwriting. Ruthie Collins has the talent and skills to capture people’s attention with her dynamic voice and storytelling. Relying on a drum machine to do this is quite frankly beneath her and as much as she seems to be behind the idea, I don’t buy it. Those producers who push her to sound more “poppy” sound like the culprits behind it more than anything. As notable country critic Grady Smith has said though, this will be a smash hit on radio. It will also be one of the most polarizing country songs of the year. If you like this song, I don’t blame you. It’s quite catchy and easy to dance to. It’s not a offensively bad song, but it would be wrong to call it good too. I judge “Ramblin’ Man” based on what it’s labeled. It’s labeled country when it clearly is not, therefore on principal I dismiss it. This is a fad and fads are what is killing mainstream country music.

Grade: 4/10