The Endless Music Odyssey, Vol. 2: Sara Evans and Mike & The Moonpies Cover Classics, Plus More!

When an artist covers a song or an album, it’s either feast or famine. It’s often the latter because the artist too often falls into the trap of recording a straight-ahead, exact replica of the original. And this quite frankly is boring. Why would I want to hear a cover of, let’s say Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks”, if you’re just going to do it exactly how they did it? I’ll just listen to the original instead.

No, the best covers are when an artist takes and reinterprets the songs, giving them a fresh coat of paint and reinvigorating them in the minds of the listeners. So while Sara Evans is an artist that I rarely listen to at times, her Copy That album that covers songs from multiple genres across multiple eras intrigued me when I came across it. I say she’s an artist I rarely listen to because of all the boring, vanilla radio singles that a lot of people seem to like. But they put me to sleep and I would much rather listen to her early career material, which better showcases her talent. Not to mention I didn’t forget her great performance on the country tribute album to The Doobie Brothers.

Evans picks the perfect opener in “If I Can’t Have You,” the disco hit made famous by the Bee Gees and Yvonne Elliman. Evans brings a ton of passion and energy to her vocal performance, feeling right at home on this yearning love ballad. “Come On Eileen” is one of those one-hit 80s rock songs that has always got on my nerves due to radio overplay and the cheesy nature of the delivery. But I just can’t get enough of Evans’ interpretation, as the hints of fiddle and Evans’ clearer take on the song makes it a catchy ear worm. I also enjoy how the bridge speeds up and crashes, giving the song an infectious frenetic feel.

Poco’s rock-country hit “Crazy Love” is a gem I didn’t know about and again fits Evans like a glove, as she keeps enough of the original’s feel while making it feel modern. Evans and Little Big Town’s Phillip Sweet beautifully harmonize on Kenny Loggins’ “Whenever I Call You “Friend”” and I would say like their version more than the original, has less of a soupy feel about it. Evans’ best vocal performances on this album are arguably her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Monday Morning” and John Mayer’s “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye,” as she absolutely belts it on each track.

Old Crow Medicine Show appropriately joins her on Hank Williams’ “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry” and this is a combination I didn’t think I would enjoy so much, as their discographies are so contrasting. But they surprisingly work well. Finally, Evans once again wins me over on a classic rock song that gets overplayed on radio, The Knacks’ “My Sharona.” The blaring guitars being in front and center with Evans impassioned performance hooks me immediately and I would argue she once again surpasses the original of one of her covers.

If this album slipped through the cracks for you I would suggest checking out, especially if you’re like me and listen to multiple genres of music. It’s just a really fun album that you can tell Evans and her band enjoyed making and this is undoubtedly felt by the listener as they sing along to these familiar tracks.

Sara Evans though wasn’t the only band to recently make a great covers album, as Mike and the Moonpies dropped a surprise album of Gary Stewart songs. But Touch of You: The Lost Songs of Gary Stewart isn’t just Stewart songs, but previously unheard songs from the underrated country star. Being a fan of Stewart and Mike and the Moonpies coming off what I considered the best country album of 2019, I was eager to sink my teeth into this one.

It doesn’t disappoint, as Mike Harmeir and his band certainly do justice to the King of Honkytonks’ tunes. It doesn’t necessarily start off the strongest with “Bottom of the Pile,” as I would consider it one of the lesser songs on the album due to it’s repetitiveness. But second track “Smooth Shot of Whiskey” is an immediate favorite of mine. Harmeir is joined on vocals surprisingly by Midland frontman Mark Wystrach and they sound so good together. I say surprisingly because Texas country music doesn’t exactly like Midland due to their “lack of authenticity” and regularly like to compare the Moonpies and Midland. But if you pay attention on social media these bands have always been chummy with each other and they should because each fall into the same style of country music.

The album’s title track might be my most favorite on the record, as Harmeir stretches his vocal range to great effect. It adds the emotion that is much needed on this heartbreak drinking song, not to mention Harmeir’s higher notes are unforgettably good. It’s slightly disappointing there aren’t more country rockers on this album, as that’s what Stewart is most well-known for in his career. But it’s not surprising either, as these songs mostly come from Stewart’s 80s material, which is decidedly more mellow. But we do get one great rocker with “Dance with Barbara,” a rowdy honky tonker about wanting to hit the dance floor with the woman of everyone’s eye in the bar.

It should be said too for those unfamiliar with Gary Stewart’s work that many of his songs center around debauchery, drinking and the darkness that can accompany it, as these themes were very much part of his life. So in a way it can make listening to this album a bit repetitive to listen to at times. But if you’re in the mood for these type of songs, it has this in spades. “The Gold Barstool” and “Finished Product” are darkly humorous takes on over-drinking. But Stewart wasn’t a one-trick pony either, as “I’m Guilty” is a really enjoyable bluesy, soulful love song. While Harmeir delivers a great vocal performance here, I can’t help but wonder what Stewart would have sounded like on it with his trademark vibrato.

The most heartfelt song on this album is saved for last. “Heart a Home” is a devastating and haunting heartbreak song about a man yearning for an ex that’s unexpectedly walked out on him. I would love to know why Stewart never cut this song, as it’s so damn good. The lyrics painstakingly paint a vivid picture of heartbreak and Harmeir delivers a vocal performance that’s worthy of the lyrics.

Mike and the Moonpies continue to prove why many are quickly considering them one of the best acts in country music right now, as they’ve now released two great, back-to-back surprise releases. Not to mention the respect they pay towards Stewart is classy and a true homage to the late country star. If you’re a country music fan and not familiar with Stewart, I hope this urges you to dig into it because it’s a real joy. Also I recommend checking out my friend Zack’s recent piece on Stewart at The Musical Divide to get even more context on the career and life of Stewart.

While many acts struggle to release a good cover song, Sara Evans and Mike and the Moonpies both manage to release great cover albums. Check them out!

Sara Evans – Copy That – Solid 8/10

Mike and the Moonpies – Touch of You: The Lost Songs of Gary Stewart – Strong 8/10


And more…

  • The Last Bandoleros finally released an album available for listeners in the United States, a live album titled Live from Texas. It’s a solid mix of pop country and Tex Mex. But I still remain puzzled by how this act is marketed and positioned.
  • Another album released weeks ago I want to highlight is Thundercats’ It Is What It Is. This is my favorite release from him yet, mainly due to the fact it’s his most concise and tightest album yet (clocks in at 37 minutes). While I enjoyed his previous album Drunk, it’s admittedly a bit of a taxing listen. As Thundercat always does though, he delivers silky smooth beats and dark humor that elicits chuckles. “Dragonball Durag” in particular always makes me laugh when I hear it (you’ll know the line when you hear it that makes me laugh the hardest). But Thundercat also balances this album out with more sober, melancholy songs too, as he spends multiple songs addressing race issues in America and mourning the loss of his friend/rapper Mac Miller.
  • Grady Smith brought to my attention a surprising remix of Barbara Mandrell’s “Sleeping Single In a Double Bed” and even more surprisingly I really enjoy it. This new dance remix take by Dave Audé makes this classic song dancy, fun and decidedly modern. While it’s understandable that this is annoying and ruffles the feathers of some country listeners, this electronification of country music is only going to continue. And I know this may sound naïve, but I believe that this can help bring in more younger listeners to the genre and entice them to check out older country music. It happened with the country station on Grand Theft Auto V, so why not with this?
  • Cam has dropped yet another enjoyable song in “Redwood Tree.” This song is about reflecting on the passage of time and learning that you don’t truly appreciate things until you lose them. I cannot wait to hear another full album from her, as her debut album showed so much potential.
  • One last thing: I’m taking a break from the blog to spend time with my family and friends. I didn’t get to see or spend a lot of time with them during the quarantine, so now I want to focus on spending time with them. Thanks for understanding!

As always thanks for reading and be sure to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below!

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [March 2001]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week’s chart will be from March 31st, 2001.

  1. Diamond Rio – “One More Day” +3
  2. Jessica Andrews – “Who I Am” +2
  3. Toby Keith – “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This” +3
  4. Travis Tritt – “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” +3
  5. Faith Hill – “If My Heart Had Wings” -1 [Worst Song] (Overproduced and cheesy)
  6. Keith Urban – “But For The Grace Of God” +4 [Best Song] (Yes, Urban is rated higher than Strait, Tritt…etc)
  7. Brooks & Dunn – “Ain’t Nothing Bout You” +1 (Cool sound, not so cool lyrics)
  8. Kenny Chesney – “Don’t Happen Twice” +1
  9. Tim Rushlow – “She Misses Him” +4 (I really don’t like his voice, but I can’t deny this is a damn good song)
  10. Dixie Chicks – “If I Fall (You’re Going Down With Me)” +2
  11. Martina McBride – “It’s My Time” +2
  12. Trick Pony – “Pour Me” +2
  13. Tim McGraw – “Grown Men Don’t Cry” +2
  14. Lee Ann Womack – “Ashes By Now” +3 (Those bongos are pretty cool!)
  15. SheDaisy – “Lucky 4 You (Tonight I’m Just Me)” 0 (Yes, they used 4 instead of “for.” Why? I have no idea)
  16. Gary Allan – “Right Where I Need To Be” +3
  17. The Warren Brothers – “Move On” 0
  18. Jamie O’ Neal – “There Is No Arizona” +3
  19. Mark McGuinn – “Mrs. Steven Rudy” -1 (It’s catchy, but oh so creepy)
  20. Jo Dee Messina – “Burn” +1
  21. Phil Vassar – “Rose Bouquet” +3
  22. George Strait – “If You Can Do Anything Else” +3
  23. Pam Tillis – “Please” 0 (In terms of country, 0. In terms of pop I’d give this a solid +2)
  24. Garth Brooks – “Wild Horses” 0 (Not because I dislike the song, but because Garth can’t put the f***ing song on YouTube, or really anywhere for me to hear)
  25. Patty Loveless – “The Last Thing On My Mind” +3
  26. Sara Evans – “I Could Not Ask For More” +1
  27. Alan Jackson – “When Somebody Loves You” +3
  28. Montgomery Gentry – “She Couldn’t Change Me” +4 (This sort of describes me)
  29. Steve Holy – “The Hunger” +2
  30. Aaron Tippin – “People Like Us” 0 (Good sound, but I’m not a fan of the “I’m so country” lyrical template)

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +56

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [October 2004]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from October 30th, 2004 (I asked last week if there were any charts you wanted to see, so this week is dedicated to reader and commenter Scotty J. Thanks for reading Scotty!)

  1. George Strait – “I Hate Everything” +4 (Yep, I’ve been there…)
  2. Sara Evans – “Suds In The Bucket” +3
  3. Phil Vassar – “In A Real Love” +2
  4. Brooks & Dunn – “That’s What It’s All About” +2 (Was sad to find out this wasn’t about the hokey-pokey…)
  5. Toby Keith – “Stays In Mexico” -2 (what the hell?)
  6. Gary Allan – “Nothing On But The Radio” 0
  7. Keith Urban – “Days Go By” +2
  8. Lonestar – “Mr. Mom” -2
  9. Kenny Chesney – “The Woman With You” +3
  10. Joe Nichols – “If Nobody Believed In You” +4 [Best Song] (Remember when Joe actually cared about the music?)
  11. Rascal Flatts – “Feels Like Today” +1
  12. Gretchen Wilson – “Here For The Party” -2
  13. Dierks Bentley – “How Am I Doin'” +3 (a little arrogant in its delivery but eh, it works for me)
  14. Tim McGraw – “Back When” +3
  15. Trace Adkins – “Rough & Ready” -1 (Holding back from any more demerits since I feel like this is intended to be viewed as stupid. I don’t really know about the grade for this…)
  16. Blake Shelton – “Some Beach” +3
  17. Shania Twain & Mark Currington – “Party For Two” -3 [Worst Song] (Doesn’t matter who she does this song with. It still isn’t good)
  18. Darryl Worley – “Awful, Beautiful Life” +3
  19. SheDaisy – “Come Home Soon” +3 (A little boring but still pretty good)
  20. Lee Ann Rimes – “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense” +2 (By no means a LAR fan, but this isn’t bad)
  21. Alan Jackson – “Too Much Of A Good Thing” +1 (Just average really)
  22. Montgomery Gentry – “You Do Your Thing” -1 (I actually really like the darker atmosphere of this one. The lyrics and melody not so much.)
  23. Reba McEntire – “Het Gets That From Me” +3
  24. Jimmy Buffett & Martina McBride – “Trip Around The Sun” +2
  25. Brad Paisley – “Mud On The Tires” +2 (Back before bro-country made songs like this damn near insufferable)
  26. Travis Tritt & John Mellencamp – “What Say You” +2
  27. Big & Rich – “Holy Water” +4
  28. Josh Gracin – “Nothin’ To Lose” +2
  29. Alan Jackson – “Monday Morning Church” +4
  30. Pat Green – “Don’t Break My Heart Again” +2 (I’d probably like this more if his voice didn’t annoy me somewhat)

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +49

Again, another good chart this week. I have to tell you, I had a tough time awarding the best song this week. Joe, Big & Rich, and Alan all were extremely close. I was familiar with a lot of the songs on this chart so it was even a trip down memory lane for me!

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [Dec. 2005]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from December 24th, 2005.

  1. Dierks Bentley – “Come A Little Closer” +2
  2. Kenny Chesney – “Who You’d Be Today” +3
  3. Joe Nichols – “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” -1 (sorry, this is way too corny for me)
  4. Garth Brooks – “Good Ride Cowboy” +3 (I don’t think Chris LeDoux would want to see the current pulse of mainstream country music…)
  5. Billy Currington – “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” 0 (more boring than anything else)
  6. Toby Keith – “Big Blue Note” -2
  7. George Strait – “She Let Herself Go” +3
  8. Carrie Underwood – “Jesus, Take The Wheel” +2
  9.  Faith Hill – “Like We Never Loved At All” +2
  10. Trace Adkins – “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” -4 [Worst Song]
  11. Little Big Town – “Boondocks” +3
  12. Keith Urban – “Better Life” +2
  13. Chris Cagle – “Miss Me Baby” +3
  14. Gary Allan – “Best I Ever Had” +4
  15. Tim McGraw – “My Old Friend” +4
  16. Brad Paisley & Dolly Parton – “When I Get Where I’m Going” +5 [Best Song]
  17. Sugarland – “Just Might (Make Me Believe) +3
  18. Josh Turner – “Your Man” 0
  19. Montgomery Gentry – “She Don’t Tell Me To” 0
  20. Keith Urban – “Tonight I Wanna Cry” +3
  21. Brooks & Dunn – “Believe” +4
  22. Gretchen Wilson – “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today” +3
  23. Big & Rich – “Comin’ To Your City” -3 (props for the Buffalo reference, but that’s it)
  24. Sara Evans – “Cheatin'”+3
  25. Miranda  Lambert – “Kerosene” +3
  26. Martina McBride – “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden” +2 (Wasn’t sure what to grade this one. I think the original Lynn Anderson version is overall better but Martina does good vocally here).
  27. Jamey Johnson – “The Dollar” +4
  28. Blake Shelton – “Nobody But Me” +3
  29. Terri Clark – “She Didn’t Have Time” +3
  30. Van Zant – “Nobody Gona Tell Me What To Do” +1

The Past Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: +58

Pretty good chart this week! Sure, there’s a couple awful songs here but overall, there’s some pretty good stuff here. The middle of the chart in particular features some truly excellent songs. Of course, that’s only my take on it. What do you guys think?

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [April 2014]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here.

While I hate to do another recent chart after having just done 2011 last week, my schedule this week is admittedly pretty busy. Therefore, I wanted to showcase another chart of songs that I am familiar with. I picked April 19th, 2014 since that’s approximately a month before Country Perspective even came into existence, and I thought it would be fun to showcase what the charts were like just before Josh stepped onto the scene.

  1. Blake Shelton – “Doin’ What She Likes” -2
  2. Randy Houser – “Goodnight Kiss” -2
  3. Jerrod Niemann – “Drink To That All Night” -5
  4. Brantley Gilbert – “Bottoms Up” -5
  5. Eric Church – “Give Me Back My Hometown” +1
  6. Rascal Flatts – “Rewind” -2
  7. Thomas Rhett – “Get Me Some Of That” -5
  8. Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan – “This Is How We Roll” -5
  9. Brett Eldredge – “Beat Of The Music” 0
  10. Miranda Lambert – “Automatic” +3 [Best Song]
  11. Dan + Shay – “19 You + Me” -2
  12. Keith Urban – “Cop Car” -2 (I’m sorry, I don’t get the appeal in this song at all)
  13. Luke Bryan – “Play It Again” -3
  14. Justin Moore – “Lettin’ The Night Roll” -1
  15. Tim McGraw – “Lookin’ For That Girl” -5 [Worst Song]
  16. Craig Morgan – “Wake Up Lovin’ You” +2
  17. Sara Evans – “Slow Me Down” 0
  18. Tyler Farr – “Whiskey In My Water” -1
  19. Craig Campbell – “Keep Them Kisses Comin'” +1
  20. The Band Perry – “Chainsaw” -2
  21. Hunter Hayes – “Invisible” -2
  22. Billy Currington – “We Are Tonight” +1
  23. Jake Owen – “Beachin'” -4
  24. Chris Young – “Who I Am With You” +1
  25. Joe Nichols – “Yeah” -2
  26. Sheryl Crow – “Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely” +1
  27. Eric Paslay – “Song About A Girl” -1
  28. Eli Young Band – “Dust” +2
  29. Brad Paisley – “River Bank” -1
  30. Lee Brice – “I Don’t Dance” +2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: -38

Wow, this is an absolutely terrible chart across the board. How many -5’s was that again?!? It’s hard to believe that a chart from the future could actually look better than this. Yikes.

Alright, so let’s start off with the few good songs here. Miranda Lambert is the only person with a song worthy of an 8/10 (IMO), so she runs away with best song for “Automatic”. The only other good songs come courtesy of Craig Morgan, Lee Brice, and Eli Young Band and I’m sure that even you guys will have something to say about one or more of those songs.

The terrible is easy to digest. It’s quite surreal looking back and seeing just how much bro-country really did plague the genre. There are five songs here that could compete for country music’s worst songs, and to pick the worst of all of them was tough. In the end, I picked Tim since not only does that song absolutely blow, Tim McGraw simply knows better dammit! Trust me folks, I really did consider just tying all five of these songs for worst song. I felt like Negan from the Walking Dead trying to pick a victim. Aside from that…yeah, things aren’t much better outside of those five. Just a sad chart to see.

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!