Album Review — Orville Peck’s ‘Show Pony’ EP

Orville Peck was one of the most buzzed about indie artists in 2019, as his debut album Pony made several best album lists. And like many country-influenced artists who get buzz from the indie scene, I would often hear the phrase around him, “I don’t usually like country, but I like this.” I gave it a listen of course and I came away not really understanding the buzz. While his voice is immediately intriguing, something as a mix between Roy Orbison and Marty Robbins, I found the songwriting to be lacking for the most part. I thought many of the songs relied too heavily on the aesthetics presented and quite frankly expected to hear more country in the sound. While the country influence is there without question, it’s very much not an album I would personally call country.

So with these two criticisms in mind, I gave Peck’s new EP Show Pony a spin. And he actually resolves both of my biggest issues from Pony. This EP is undoubtedly more country and not just because of the superstar collaboration. His duet with Shania Twain on “Legends Never Die” is easily the star moment on the album, followed by (both on the album and in terms of having a moment) his great cover of Bobbie Gentry’s “Fancy.”

I’m surprised Peck and Twain go so well together, as Peck’s bellowing voice and Twain’s polished pop country vocals on paper don’t seem like a great fit. But these two clearly enjoyed working with each other and this fun chemistry really shines through in the song. Peck was also quite brave to pick “Fancy” to cover, as not only is the original by Gentry great, but it’s most famous rendition by Reba is considered amongst the best songs of 90s country. Yet he knocks it out of the park with his more dark and dramatic interpretation. Also if you’re reading this country awards shows, if you’re looking for a cool collaboration performance, it would be great to see Peck and Reba perform this together.

The western-flavored “Summertime” is an enjoyably simmering ballad about lost love snd yearning for it again. Peck really shows off the deepness of his vocals on this track and I think that’s when he shines the best. His voice is better suited for more cinematic songs rather than more subdued tracks like “Kids” and many of the songs on his debut album. This is further proven with “No Glory in the West” and “Drive Me, Crazy.” In each song his vocal performance gives gravitas to the scenes being framed, the old west and driving trucks on the highway respectively. I also enjoy how the latter can double as a tale of the loneliness of the highway and as a love ballad.

While Orville Peck’s style is certainly nothing new in country music, I appreciate that he’s reviving it. With Show Pony he also proves to some critics that he’s more than a dress-up gimmick and that he truly wants to carve his own space in country music. There’s certainly more room for sound he brings, as very few in the genre occupy it at the moment. I hope Peck continues to move in the direction he’s shown with Show Pony, as it suits him quite well.

Grade: 8/10

Raise a Glass of Holiday Cheer or Bah Humbug?: “White Christmas”

This feature is quite simple: I’m going to take a look at and categorize the different versions of a Christmas song into one of two categories. The good category is Raise a Glass of Holiday Cheer, whether that be egg nog, hot chocolate, or whatever other holiday concoction you prefer (just be responsible of course). The bad category is Bah Humbug, named after the famous retort of Ebenezer Scrooge (the Disney version of it is the best, don’t @ me). The main point of this feature is to have some holiday fun! And maybe you’ll find a new version of a holiday classic to stick in your own playlist. Also please throw your own recommendations in the comments!

Today I look at one of the most popular and well known Christmas classics, “White Christmas.” The exact where and when it was written is disputed, but songwriter Irving Berlin upon composing it was quite confident in it’s quality, as he told his secretary that not only was it the best song he’s ever written, but the best song that anybody has ever written. So I guess quite confident is an understatement, eh? I wouldn’t put it as the best song ever written, but it’s certainly got a high spot on the list of greatest songs ever written. The melancholy mixed with hope in reminiscing in about Christmases of the past while having faith they come to fruition again makes for a song that’s instantly connectable for most listeners.

The first public performance of the song was on Christmas day 1941 by Bing Crosby on his radio show. What’s interesting is this song didn’t get the instant hit response Berlin expected. Crosby called it nothing special and when first released as part of the soundtrack for the movie Holiday Inn, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” became the instant hit instead (raise your hand if you know this song, but now put it down because you’re a liar). Eventually it did catch on though, a little over a year later, a large part in due to the backdrop of WWII happening, giving listeners a strong emotional connection to it. The song spent three separate times atop the United States charts and went on to be the name for the excellent Bing Crosby-starring 1954 movie White Christmas. Crosby would go on to be forever connected to this song as much as the writer Berlin, even though he downplayed his role in the success saying anyone could have sang it.

Raise a Glass of Holiday Cheer

  • Bing Crosby

Obviously the Crosby version of this song gets a big cheer from me. Despite his humility towards the success of this song, he is a big part of what made this song so big because it fits him perfectly. The reverence and respect in his voice as he delivers the performance of this song brings the words of Berlin to life. Now I can’t say it’s my favorite because well I admit this is one of my favorite Christmas songs of all-time and there are several performances of this song I really enjoy. But Crosby should always be the starting point for this song.

This R&B/doo-wop group completely re-vamped this classic song and manage to make a unique version that in my opinion strongly challenges Crosby’s version (as of this writing it actually has over twice as many views as Crosby’s version). The mix of different range of voices and doo-wopping make for a decidedly more upbeat version of the song, yet it still feels quite respectful. The falsetto in the middle of the song is fantastic. Thank you Home Alone for letting me know this version of the song exists.

So here’s one that might shock you to see it’s inclusion on this side of the list. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: CeeLo’s Magic Moment is one of the best Christmas albums released in the past decade. It’s a great listen and his version of “White Christmas” makes the bold choice of adding horns, quite the contrast from Crosby. But it actually works as a swelling Christmas anthem that crescendos in the bridge quite well. I imagine this might be a divisive pick, but I stand by it.

You can never go wrong with Otis Redding! And this take on “White Christmas” is no different. If you want all the soul in your songs, listen to this one right now (and the Soul Christmas album).

Behind Bing Crosby, Andy Williams has the next best traditional take on this Yuletide staple. It’s hazy, dream-like feeling definitely puts you in mind of waltzing through a snow-covered woods, making for a great Christmas performance.

Bah Humbug!

My biggest issue with ‘Ol Blue Eyes performance of this song is it’s wait too serious. Sinatra’s voice sounds too solemn and quiet. Also his change from children to kiddies in the lyrics is annoying and unnecessary. The chorus in the bridge is weak too. This was a big miss from Sinatra.

Irving Berlin hated Elvis and did everything he could to get Elvis’ Christmas Album canceled because he found his interpretations of Christmas songs, particularly his own song “White Christmas,” to be disrespectful. While I generally enjoy Elvis’ Christmas Album, I’m in agreement with Berlin when it comes to this song. This is just awful, with the “soulful” affectations of Elvis’ voice sounding quite plastic in comparison to the likes of The Drifters and Otis Redding.

So Michael Bublé makes the bold choice of doing his version of the song in the same style as The Drifters. What a bad decision, as Bublé does not have the soulful voice to pull this off (the only artist I’ve ever heard successfully pull of a Drifters-style take on this song is Aaron Neville). Then he doubles down on the bad decision making and turns it into a duet with Shania Twain, whose voice does not go with his at all. Also this is not a duet song. It’s like the musical version of watching someone slowly fall down the stairs.

Johnny Mathis looked at Sinatra’s version of the song and decided to make it even more serious and duller sounding. I did not think it was possible to take such a great song and make it the excitement equivalent of paint drying. But yet this isn’t the worst…

How to completely bastardize a song 101! The production is stripped down to the point where it sounds like Perry is singing from the bottom of a well, yet she also adds in the annoying Aguilera ad libs that never add anything meaningful to a song. Oh and her vocal performance sounds off key. Listen to this if you dare, but then make sure to wash it down with one of the great versions of this songs I recommend above.


This is the final edition of this feature in 2019 (it will return next year!), so thank you for reading this and all of the other posts on Country Perspective this year. I hope you all have a safe and great holidays!

P.S. I will be making my end of the year 2019 posts and looking ahead to 2020 posts in the next couple weeks.

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [August 1996]

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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 August 17th, 1996. As some of you may remember, a couple of weeks ago I asked if there were any charts you’d like to see me feature here. Last week’s chart was dedicated to Scotty J, and this week goes out to commenter Amanda! (It’s not exactly the date you said but it’s the closest I could get!)

  1. George Strait – “Carried Away” +3
  2. Wade Hayes – “On A Good Night” +3 (Pretty fun song)
  3. Brooks & Dunn – “I Am That Man” +1
  4. Neal McCoy – “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” +2
  5. Clay Walker – “Only Days That End In “Y”” +3 (Corny sure, but that’s what made the 90’s so great!)
  6. Tim McGraw – “She Never Lets It Go To Her Heart” +3
  7. James Bonamy – “I Don’t Think I Will” 0 [Least Good Song] (More because I just really couldn’t get into this guy’s voice)
  8. Garth Brooks – “It’s Midnight Cinderella” +1 (See Clay Walker)
  9. Mindy McCready – “Guys Do It All The Time” +3
  10. Diamond Rio – “That’s What I Get For Lovin’ You” +1
  11. Ricochet – “Daddy’s Money” 0 (Fun, but creepy lyrically)
  12. Lee Roy Parnell – “Givin’ Water To A Drownin’ Man” +4
  13. Bryan White – “So Much For Pretending” 0 (See James Bonamy)
  14. Rhett Akins – “Don’t Get Me Started (On Why My Son Would Ever Record That Dumb “Vacation” Song)” +2
  15. Lonestar – “Runnin’ Away With My Heart” +3
  16. Rick Trevino – “Learning As You Go” +3
  17. Ty Herndon – “Living In A Moment” +4
  18. Shania Twain – “No One Needs To Know” +3
  19. Billy Dean – “That Girl’s Been Spyin’ On Me” +1 (Props for some hard hitting production but it’s a little creepy lyrically…)
  20. Blackhawk – “Big Guitar” +3 (See Clay Walker)
  21. Pam Tillis – “It’s Lonely Out There” +3
  22. Faith Hill – “You Can’t Lose Me” +2 (A little sappy but easy to enjoy)
  23. Tracy Byrd – “4 To 1 In Atlanta” +3
  24. Randy Travis – “Are We In Trouble Now” +4 [Best Song] (Probably his most underrated single)
  25. Mark Wills – “Jacob’s Ladder” +3
  26. Vince Gill – “Worlds Apart” +3
  27. Trisha Yearwood – “Believe Me Baby (I Lied)” +3
  28. Jo Dee Messina – “You’re Not In Kansas Anymore” +3 (Again, I like the production here)
  29. Collin Raye – “Love Remains” +2
  30. Toby Keith – “A Woman’s Touch” +3

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +72

Well it appears we have another good chart this week! I have to admit, there’s a lot of corny songs but hey, it was the 90’s. They all were delivered with heartfelt sincerity that made them easy to enjoy. I’m not quite sure there was a song here that really blew me out of the water except for Randy, but still we have a good chart here.

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 [December 1999]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Every 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. Each song on the chart will receive either a +1, 0, or -1. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the top 30 songs with the highest score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. Songs rated between a 7 and 10 will receive a +1. Songs rated either 5 or 6 will receive a 0. Songs rated 4 or lower will receive a -1.

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 4, 1999.

  1. Clint Black – “When I Said I Do (w/ Lisa Hartman Black)” 0
  2. John Michael Montgomery – “Home To You” +1
  3. Martina McBride – “I Love You” -1 [Worst Song]
  4. Brad Paisley – “He Didn’t Have To Be” +1
  5. Faith Hill – “Breathe” +1
  6. Shania Twain – “Come On Over” -1
  7. Tim McGraw – “Something Like That” +1
  8. Yankee Grey – “All Things Considered” +1
  9. George Strait – “What Do You Say To That” +1
  10. Reba – “What Do You Say” +1
  11. Alan Jackson – “Pop A Top” +1
  12. LeAnn Rimes – “Big Deal” 0
  13. Dixie Chicks – “Cowboy Take Me Away” +1
  14. Andy Griggs – “I’ll Go Crazy” +1
  15. Tim McGraw – “My Best Friend” +1
  16. Steve Wariner – “I’m Already Taken” +1
  17. Kenny Chesney – “She Thinks My Tractors Sexy” -1
  18. Randy Travis – “A Man Ain’t Made Of Stone” +1
  19. Lonestar – “Amazed” 0
  20. Clay Walker – “Live, Laugh, Love” 0
  21. Jo Dee Messina – “Lesson In Leavin’” +1
  22. Lonestar – “Smile” 0
  23. Ty Herndon – “Steam” 0
  24. Tracy Byrd – “Put Your Hand In Mine” +1
  25. Gary Allan – “Smoke Rings In The Dark” +1 [Best Song]
  26. Joe Diffie – “The Quittin’ Kind” +1
  27. Brooks & Dunn – “Beer Thirty” 0
  28. Keith Urban – “It’s A Love Thing” -1
  29. Trace Adkins – “Don’t Lie” +1
  30. SHeDAISY – “This Woman Needs” +1

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +15

Wow, a double-digit positive score, and one that’s halfway to a perfect score! Sure beats 2010 from last week. As you all remember, 2010 didn’t even have a Pulse! As a child of the 2000s, I have to admit I was very unfamiliar with a few of these songs and artists prior to conducting this pulse. That’s why doing this particular Past Pulse was especially fun. I get to discover some great new songs! First of all, I never had once heard of Yankee Gray. “All Things Considered” isn’t exactly something anyone would call “deep”, but it’s fun enough with the catchy melody and bouncy fiddles. This was their only top 10 hit. Elsewhere, while I am familiar with artists such as Clint Black, John Michael Montgomery, Steve Wariner, and Tracy Byrd, I can’t say that I had ever heard any of their respective singles on this chart. I’ve also never heard a single SHeDAISY song despite hearing of them multiple times. “This Woman Needs” is a pretty enjoyable country-pop tune.

However, I’m not totally out of tune with what was going on in 1999. Alan Jackson’s “Pop A Top” was (and still is) a damn catchy tune that hardly feels like a cover song at all. And of course there’s the monster hit by the Dixie Chicks with “Cowboy Take Me Away.” I can understand why they are a very polarizing band to many, but when you look at them from a pure musical standpoint, they were a very talented group who made some fine country music. With Gary Allan, they share the honor of being tied for the best song on this chart. I’ve always loved “Smoke Rings In The Dark” for its dark, ominous atmosphere and sharp lyrics combined with Gary’s vocal delivery. In fact, it’s probably my favorite Gary song ever. Oh, can we also talk about how awesome Trace Adkins is when he’s trying to be a serious country singer? The man has always had a set of pipes, and when he’s not doing the whole “Swing” or “Honkytonk Badonkadonk” crap, he’s excellent.

But of course, at any given moment there’s always some type of bad in country music, even in 1999. Hell, I’m sure at one point somebody somewhere declared Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” the worst country song in history. Nowadays it wouldn’t come anywhere close. Elsewhere, we had Martina McBride’s annoying “I Love You” which easily is the worst song here. To put it bluntly, this song sounds extremely immature and annoying. And then of course we have “Come On Over.” Now, I actually like Shania Twain for the most part, but this song is just terrible and definitely didn’t belong on country radio, especially not in 1999. Keith Urban’s first song also wasn’t great either. But that’s it folks. FOUR negative scores on the pulse. Nowadays that’s about as many positive scores you’ll find on the pulse. Evolution my ass.

If you have any questions as to why I gave a certain song the score I did, or perhaps just want to make your own Pulse, sound off in the comments!