The Current Pulse of Americana Music [June 13]

Colvin & Earle

Each week I will take a look at the Americana Music Association’s Americana Airplay chart and grade the top 20 albums on the chart. The grading format I use each week is every album will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top 20 Americana albums, with the highest possible score being a +20 and the lowest possible score being a -20. How do I determine if an album is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Albums rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Albums rated a 5 or 6 receive a 0. Albums rated 4 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of Americana music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top 20…

  1. Colvin & Earle – Colvin & Earle +1 (Up 10)
  2. Mudcrutch – 2 +1 (Up 4)
  3. The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust (Down 2)
  4. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth +1 (Down 1)
  5. Hayes Carll – Lovers And Leavers (Down 3)
  6. Darrell Scott – Couchville Sessions +1 (Up 2)
  7. Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day +1 (Down 2)
  8. Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter +1 (Down 1)
  9. The Lumineers – Cleopatra +1 (Down 5)
  10. Hard Working Americans – Rest in Chaos (Down 1)
  11. The Honeycutters – On The Ropes +1 (Down 1)
  12. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals – Call It What It Is (Up 2)
  13. Avett Brothers – True Sadness (Up 2)
  14. Bonnie Bishop – Ain’t Who I Was +1 (Up 5)
  15. Bonnie Raitt – Dig in Deep +1 (Down 3)
  16. Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger (New to Top 20)
  17. Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis +1 (New to Top 20)
  18. Peter Wolf – A Cure For Loneliness (Down 2)
  19. John Doe – Westerner (Down 6)
  20. Charlie Faye & The Fayettes – Charlie Faye & The Fayettes (New to Top 20)

The Current Pulse of Americana Music: +11

The pulse improved one spot this week.

Albums That Dropped Out of the Top 20 This Week

  • Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By
  • The Record Company – Give It Back To You
  • Loretta Lynn – Full Circle

Albums That Entered The Top 20 This Week

  • Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger
  • Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis
  • Charlie Faye & The Fayettes – Charlie Faye & The Fayettes

Album I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week

  • Mudcrutch – 2

Biggest Gainers This Week

  • Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger – Up 13 from #29 to #16
  • Colvin & Earle – Colvin & Earle – Up 11 from #11 to #1
  • Bonnie Bishop – Ain’t Who I Was – Up 5 from #19 to #14
  • Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis – Up 5 from #22 to #17

Biggest Losers This Week

  • Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By – Out of the Top 20
  • The Record Company – Give It Back To You – Out of the Top 20
  • Loretta Lynn – Full Circle – Out of the Top 20

Country Perspective’s Best Country and Americana Songs of 2016 So Far

As we look back at the best and worst of the first half of 2016, we take today to highlight over the songs that have stood out to us. Great lyrics, passionate vocals, and a good, fitting production all work together to create songs that connect with the listeners for a variety of reasons. Some of these songs were part of albums, others were released as singles with no albums attached, but all are great country and Americana songs.

Remember too that it’s impossible for us to keep up with every single release, and we do our best to cover the most songs possible. So please don’t be that person in the comments section that says something along the lines of: “This list is irrelevant because (insert song) isn’t on it” or “This list sucks.” Agree or disagree all you want, just be respectful about it. Not everyone has the same opinion, so keep this in mind.

YouTube videos available for the top songs are provided, and all songs are compiled into a Spotify playlist at the end of the post.

So without further ado, Country Perspective’s ten best country and Americana songs so far in 2016 (in no particular order).….

(Click on the song name to see the full review)

“Hands of Time” by Margo Price

The opening track to Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a beautiful six-minute trip into Margo’s life growing up on the farm and trying to get her life established as an adult. Price’s higher pitched delivery stands out on top of the heavy bass line.

“Heaven Sent” by Parker Millsap

“Heaven Sent” brilliantly tackles a difficult and rarely seen subject in country or Americana music. Millsap sings from the perspective of a gay son trying to figure out why his preacher father can’t accept him for who he is. The vocals capture the confusion and frustration of the son.

“Goodbye Kiss” by Flatland Cavalry

This new country band from Texas tell a common breakup story a fresh sense of pain from the narrator. Before saying goodbye for good, the couple in the song share one final kiss, which leaves an aching memory for the song’s narrator. Great country production, and the vocals and lyrics work together to paint a picture of pain and regret.

“Pink Flamingos” by Erik Dylan

Murder ballads are a common theme in country and Americana, but Erik Dylan’s “Pink Flamingos” flips the trope on its head. It’s a justifiable murder because the victim was a child predator, and Dylan’s vocal delivery is the icing on the cake of a well-written song.

“Rhinestone World” by Breelan Angel

There are protest songs that are good, there are protest songs that are bad, and then there’s Breelan Angel’s protest song. Being released in the aftermath of Keith Hill’s tomato comments and Katie Armiger’s claims against her label, “Rhinestone World” gives a voice for the women who are expected to act differently to get their moment in the spotlight. It’s the only song to get a 10/10 rating on Country Perspective this year.

“Take It Down” by Chris King

Chris King’s Animal is a fantastic concept album detailing a man trying to move past the fall of his relationship. “Take It Down” is the emotional peak of the album, where the narrator deals directly with the hurt from the relationship’s end. It’s a hurt caused by seeing her picture in a bar they once visited together. Great songwriting and vocals from Chris King.

“Call to Arms” by Sturgill Simpson

The final song on Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is a fiercely political song against the news cycle leaders in our culture today. The song features an extended musical solo of horns and guitars, making a blended country and rock melody.

“Ain’t Nobody” by Dori Freeman

One of the most unique songs we’ve heard this year, this song is beautifully sung A-Capella by Freeman accompanied by only her finger snaps. Dori Freeman’s self titled debut is an excellent album, and this song proved to be the standout from the album.

“Grandma’s Garden” by Zac Brown

It’s hard to pick only one song from Southern Family, as the album is full of great songs from some of country and Americana’s best. Zac Brown’s tale of a family matriarch and the family she grew is wonderfully sang from Brown. It touches on one of country music highest values, and shows how great Zac Brown and Dave Cobb work together.

“She Ain’t In It” by Jon Pardi

We haven’t reviewed this song from Pardi’s upcoming California Sunrise, but this song pre-release show’s Pardi’s devotion to keeping country’s tradition alive. “She Ain’t In It” is another well-written heartbreak song, and a features a production that calls back to the 90s country sound.

Honorable Mentions

  • “You Are My Sunshine” by Morgane Stapleton – We didn’t feel right bumping one of the great songs above for a cover song, but “You Are My Sunshine” might be one of the best recordings of the year.
  • “I Cried” by Brandy Clark – A third song on this list featured from Southern Family. “I Cried” is poignant, with great vocals from Clark.
  • “Holdin’ Her” by Chris Janson – A beautiful, personal love song from Janson, featuring great vocals and an excellent country production.
  • “Blue Besides” by The Honeycutters – A great country production on a song dealing with the pains of growing up.
  • “Breaker’s Roar” by Sturgill Simpson – Another great song from Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, where Sturgill Simpson sings to encourage his son during hard times in life.
  • “Record Year” by Eric Church – Released last year, but the song is still on the rising on the charts this year. “Record Year” has great lyrics with Eric Church’s word play with using music to overcome heartbreak.
  • “My Last Song” by Addison Johnson – As Josh said in his review, “the song tackles life so poignantly. It’s not so much dark, but rather looks at life in a simplistic, mature manner that can resonate deeply with anyone who listens.”

Country Perspective’s Best Country & Americana Albums So Far in 2016

We’ve reached the mid-point of 2016, so it’s time to look back at the year so far for country music and Americana. Up first we take a look back at the best country and Americana albums of 2016 so far. There have been a lot of fantastic albums already this year and sonically there’s a lot of variety. It’s quite clear Americana is gaining a bigger influence, while in the Nashville pop scene they’re still completely bastardizing country music to the point of no return making the appearance of major label artists on this list shorter than last year. Another story that has helped define this list is artists experimenting with different sounds in the independent and Americana scenes, straying from their original sound. While some may think this indicates they don’t know what they want, I think it’s just the opposite, as artists clearly are tired of genre lines and being put into boxes.

The first albums listed are considered candidates for Country Perspective’s 2016 Album of the Year. Remember for an album to be considered for Album of the Year, it must receive a 10/10 score. Those won’t be the only ones listed below though, as all the highly rated albums so far will be highlighted. Remember too that it’s impossible for us to keep up with every single release and we do our best to cover the most albums possible. So please don’t be that person in the comments section that says something along the lines of: “This list is irrelevant because (insert album) isn’t on it” or “This list sucks.” Agree or disagree all you want, just be respectful about it. Not everyone has the same opinion, so keep this in mind.

So without further ado, the best country and Americana albums so far in 2016….

(Click on the album name to see the full review)

Album of the Year Candidates

Dave Cobb Super Compilation – Southern Family

Dave-Cobb-Southern-Family

After listening to Southern Family, you come away with a better understand and feeling of southern culture and lifestyle. It’s very easy to point out the problems that existed in southern culture in the past and the stigma this caused for the south is something that will remain with the culture for years to come. But it’s important to remember the redeeming qualities of the southern culture: family, friends, love, spirituality, home. All of these things southerners should rightly be proud of and point to as their defining qualities that make them great. This album celebrates southern pride with dignity and genuineness that should make any southerner smile. Cobb bringing together all of these artists who clearly understand southern culture, from both mainstream and independent realms, is not only a unifying moment for southern people, but country music in general. That’s something we can all appreciate.

Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth 

Sturgill Simpson A Sailor's Guide To Earth

There’s nothing else to say except Sturgill Simpson did it again. A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is another masterpiece from Simpson. If you’re looking for another copy of High Top Mountain or Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, don’t bother listening. If you’re a fan of music and you trust Simpson, strap in and listen to this album because you won’t be disappointed. You will however be surprised, as Simpson once again takes a different approach in the sound department. There are multiple outright country songs and every song has country elements in them. But there’s also Memphis soul and the Muscle Shoals sound that deeply influence the album. Not to mention there’s lots of string production and horns in many songs. Is it a country record? Well I can tell you Sturgill Simpson wrote, produced and performed an album of phenomenal music. I can say this is Simpson’s most cohesive and tight-knit album yet. Perhaps the best answer to this comes from the late great Merle Haggard: “Good. If it’s what they’re calling country, you don’t want to go near that shit.” And Simpson did exactly that. Simpson gave us something we never expected and yet exactly what we wanted and that’s art straight from the heart.

Chris King AnimalChris King – Animal

Chris King delivers a storytelling masterpiece with Animal. Looking at each song individually on this album, you have some pretty good songs. Put them all together and they all connect for one long, spectacular journey. It’s the journey of a man exploring love, discovery, overcoming mistakes, the unknown and ultimately what we’re all looking for in this crazy thing we call life. Most albums are just a collection of songs, not really all connecting with each other. Sure you’ll find a lot of albums with similar themes and tones throughout, but very rarely do you come across albums that connect from start to finish like Animal does. It should also be pointed out that production on this album is just as flawless as King’s songwriting. Producer John Ross Silva really nails the tone and sound on this album, as it properly reflects the changes in attitude of the main story told throughout. Everything on this album works together perfectly. Chris King shows us all what a true album sounds like.Animal is one of the best albums you’ll hear all year.

Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter

Margo Price Midwest Farmer's Daughter

Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a callback to country’s honky tonk heydays mixed with some blues and rock n’ roll, creating a dynamic record, with each song grounded in country music. Overall I think Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is an excellent country album. Price’s vocals are great as she captures the solemness of the slower tracks, but has the appropriate bite and attitude on the rowdier songs. Margo Price has played on several of the late shows and performed on SNL on April 9. It’s still too early to tell, but given the recent success of Chris Stapleton, this could be a big album for country music. Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is one of my favorite albums so far this year.

Dori FreemanDori Freeman – Self-Titled

I’ll be surprised if there’s another debuting country or Americana artist in 2016 that shows more promise than Dori Freeman. This debut album from Freeman blew me away upon the very first listen. In fact I had to play it several times over because only hearing it once wasn’t enough. Freeman’s vocals are crisp, pure and undeniably Appalachian. She was born to sing and very few possess her talent. The songwriting is top-notch and I couldn’t pick out a flaw in the instrumentation and production choices. This album excels and thrives in every area. You can pretty much call it flawless. It’s an album that every true country and Americana fan needs to hear. Dori Freeman is a name you need to know. This is one of the best albums I’ve had the privilege to write about on Country Perspective.

Aubrie Sellers – New City BluesAubrie Sellers New City Blues

The debut album New City Blues from Aubrie Sellers proves that she is a very talented artist who is poised to make a lot of great music for years to come. Never before have I heard a debut album from an artist take so many creative risks. Sellers mixes country, bluegrass, Americana and rock like she’s been doing this for decades. There’s nothing safe about this album, from the lyrics to the production. While Sellers may sound just like her mother Lee Ann Womack, she proves to have her own style and more than enough talent to step out of this shadow and make her own name. New City Blues can feel like a bit of a slog to get through at 14 songs and many songs will take multiple listens to fully grasp. But I assure you it’s well worth your time to sit down and listen to this album over and over.

More Highly Recommended Albums

Flatland Cavalry – Humble Folks

Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day

Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis

Darrell Scott – Couchville Sessions

The Honeycutters – On The Ropes 

Randy Rogers Band – Nothing Shines Like Neon 

Loretta Lynn – Full Circle 

Carter Sampson – Wilder Side 

Sierra Hull – Weighted Mind 

Caleb Caudle – Carolina Ghost 

Addison Johnson – I’m Just A Song

The Cactus Blossoms – You’re Dreaming

William Michael Morgan – William Michael Morgan EP

Wheeler Walker Jr. – Redneck Shit 

Ryan Beaver – Rx 

The Lumineers – Cleopatra

Sunny Ozell – Take It With Me 

Robbie Fulks – Upland Stories 

Speedbuggy USA – South of Bakersfield 

Harvest Thieves – Rival 

Waco Brothers – Going Down in History 

The Current Pulse of Americana Music [June 6]

The Jayhawks Paging Mr. Proust

Each week I will take a look at the Americana Music Association’s Americana Airplay chart and grade the top 20 albums on the chart. The grading format I use each week is every album will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top 20 Americana albums, with the highest possible score being a +20 and the lowest possible score being a -20. How do I determine if an album is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Albums rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Albums rated a 5 or 6 receive a 0. Albums rated 4 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of Americana music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top 20…

  1. The Jayhawks – Paging Mr. Proust (Up 1)
  2. Hayes Carll – Lovers And Leavers (Down 1)
  3. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth +1 (Up 2)
  4. The Lumineers – Cleopatra +1 (Down 1)
  5. Parker Millsap – The Very Last Day +1 (Down 1)
  6. Mudcrutch – 2 +1 (Up 4)
  7. Margo Price – Midwest Farmer’s Daughter +1 (Down 1)
  8. Darrell Scott – Couchville Sessions +1
  9. Hard Working Americans – Rest in Chaos (Down 2)
  10. The Honeycutters – On The Ropes +1 (Up 6)
  11. Colvin & Earle – Colvin & Earle (New to Top 20)
  12. Bonnie Raitt – Dig in Deep +1 (Down 3)
  13. John Doe – Westerner (Down 1)
  14. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals – Call It What It Is (Down 3)
  15. Avett Brothers – True Sadness (Up 3)
  16. Peter Wolf – A Cure For Loneliness (Down 3)
  17. Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By (Down 3)
  18. The Record Company – Let Me Get By (Down 1)
  19. Bonnie Bishop – Ain’t Who I Was +1 (Up 2)
  20. Loretta Lynn – Full Circle +1 (Down 5)

The Current Pulse of Americana Music: +10

The pulse is starting anew this week with the Americana Airplay Top 20.

Albums That Dropped Out of the Top 20 This Week

  • N/A

Albums That Entered The Top 20 This Week

  • Colvin & Earle – Colvin & Earle

Album I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week

  • Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth

Biggest Gainers This Week

  • Colvin & Earle – Colvin & Earle – Up 16 from #27 to #11
  • The Honeycutters – On The Ropes – Up 6 from #16 to #10
  • Mudcrutch – 2 – Up 4 from #10 to #6

Biggest Losers This Week

  • N/A

Country Perspective’s Best Music Reviewed in May

The Honeycutters On The Ropes

This is the monthly recap post of all the great music we reviewed on the blog in case you missed it or just came across our humble, little blog. So check this music out if you haven’t already.

10/10

None

 

9/10

Albums:

Darrell Scott – Couchville Sessions

The Honeycutters – On The Ropes

Carter Sampson – Wilder Side

Singles:

Chris Janson – “Holdin’ Her”

Erik Dylan – “Pink Flamingos”

 

8/10

Albums:

Ryan Beaver – Rx

The Lumineers – Cleopatra