Review – Striking Matches’ “Missing You Tonight”

Throughout country music history there has always been a dynamic duo making country music. From Brooks & Dunn to the Civil Wars to Country Perspective’s 2014 Group of the Year First Aid Kit, you’ll certainly find no shortage of talented duos. Well there’s a new duo on the block in country music and their name is Striking Matches. The duo is made up of Sarah Zimmerman (guitar/mandolin/vocals) and Justin Davis (guitar/vocals). They are part of the newly revived I.R.S. Nashville label, which was brought back to life in 2013 by well-known Nashville music executive John Grady. To add even more intrigue to this duo, their upcoming debut album is going to be produced by famous producer T Bone Burnett, who has produced everything from Alison Krauss to Robert Plant to 2014 Country Perspective Album of the Year candidate The Secret Sisters’ album Put Your Needle Down. Today I look at the lead single from their debut album, “Missing You Tonight.”

The song starts off with a mid-tempo electric guitar and a drum beat. It reminds me a lot of late 70s rock music. The tempo and beat pretty much stay the same throughout the song. The bridge has some nice earthy guitar licks too. The instrumentation on this song is certainly interesting. As Striking Matches describes themselves on their site, they’re a combination of country, rock and blues. This song certainly supports this claim and it’s definitely different compared to other songs you hear from mainstream artists. Upon first listen I didn’t really know how to feel about it. After a few more listens the sound has grown on me more. I would like to hear some more country influences, but I also appreciate the bluesy rock feel they’re going for here.

As for the theme of the song, it’s about two lovers who can’t stand to be away from each other because they’re so in love with each other. The first lyrics sang in this song by Zimmerman are:

Don’t hang up/I just wanted to hear your voice/I know we said we would give it some time/I don’t want to start a fire and I don’t want to start a fight/I was just missing you tonight

Basically they’re afraid to be too aggressive in expressing their love to the other, but at the same time are also afraid they aren’t being aggressive enough in showing it. Think along the lines of Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.” I was definitely more impressed with Zimmerman’s vocals in this song and that’s probably what is intended, as Davis is more suited as the second fiddle in this type of song. I thought Zimmerman’s ability to express that desperation in her vocals made up for the lack of storytelling in the lyrics.

Speaking of the lyrics I think they’re just okay and could have been much more. It takes a few listens to not only interpret the sound, but the lyrics in this song. It feels like the line “I was just missing you tonight” is repeated over and over. Needless to say it’s a tad repetitive and I was really waiting for the climax of this song to blow me away. Instead it was kind of whimper. I could say the same of the instrumentation. They simply didn’t reach the full potential of this song and I put a big part of the blame on T Bone Burnett. Sometimes his production choices enhance the songs and in other cases, like “Missing You Tonight,” it hurts the song.

Even though it’s not a great song, I still find it to be decent and I applaud Striking Matches for bringing something different to the table. I definitely think there’s some potential with this duo. Their debut album titled Nothing But The Silence is coming out on March 24 and we’ll definitely be reviewing it here. I want this duo to succeed because they seem quite likable and they’re obviously talented. “Missing You Tonight” is not their best effort and I can’t really recommend it. However I do recommend keeping an eye on this duo because as I said above they have potential.

Grade: 6/10

Country Perspective’s Best Country Albums of 2014

We have reached the end of 2014 and over the course of the year we’ve reviewed a lot of great country music. So in case you just found the site or don’t remember all of the great country albums we’ve reviewed, you’re in luck. Here are the links to every album we rated an 8/10 or higher over the course of the year. These are the albums we give a solid recommendation or more for you to listen to. Keep in mind this site started in May, so we won’t have every single great album. For example we never got around to reviewing Dierks Bentley’s album or Don Williams’ album, two albums that would have definitely made this list. So if there are albums missing that you love, they were most likely not reviewed. Others of course may have not been rated high enough to make it. I’m also including our album of the year candidates in case you missed those too. One more thing: only albums are included, no EPs. So without further ado here are Country Perspective’s most recommended albums of 2014.

10/10 (Album of the Year Candidates)

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music 

Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time 

Karen Jonas – Oklahoma Lottery 

Lucette – Black Is The Color 

Tami Neilson – Dynamite! 

Sunny Sweeney – Provoked 

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold 

Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy 

The Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down 

9.5/10

Angaleena Presley – American Middle Class 

Micky & The Motorcars – Hearts From Above 

Stoney LaRue – Aviator 

9/10

Wade Bowen – Wade Bowen 

Matt Woods – With Love From Brushy Mountain 

Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’ 

BlackHawk – Brothers of the Southland 

The Roys – The View 

Jason Eady – Daylight & Dark 

Mack McKenzie – One Last, One More 

Bonnie Montgomery – Bonnie Montgomery 

8.5/10

Jon Pardi – Write You A Song 

Ray Scott – Ray Scott 

Mary Sarah – Bridges 

The Buffalo Ruckus – The Buffalo Ruckus 

Rich O’Toole – Jaded 

Corb Lund – Counterfeit Blues 

8/10

Eric Paslay – Eric Paslay 

Phillip Fox Band – Heartland 

Terri Clark – Some Songs 

Country Perspective’s Best Country Group of 2014 Nominees

Country Perspective has many year-end awards: Best Album, Worst Album, Best Male Artist, Best Female Artist, Best Song, Worst Song and this award Best Group. Each are challenging in their own right, but this award is arguably the toughest to determine. Four of the five nominees albums are up for Country Perspective’s Best Country Album of the Year. That’s insane! These groups are all fantastic regardless of what group ultimately wins and you should check out all of their music.

Derek and myself will ultimately determine who wins, but you the readers will also have a big say on who wins too. Your feedback and opinions in the comments below can and probably will sway who wins. So be sure to sound off on who you think deserves to win. Let’s take a look at the nominees for Country Perspective’s Best Country Group of 2014.

First Aid Kit – These Swedish sisters sing music that is wise beyond their years. Johanna and Klara Söderberg thrill with their haunting album Stay Gold. The album also makes you laugh, cry and reflect. It’s an emotional roller coaster that flows perfectly together. They also did a fantastic job covering Paul Simon’s “America.” Speaking of America, more people in this country need to hear this duo. First Aid Kit is also up for Country Perspective’s Best Country Album of 2014 and Best Country Song of 2014 (“Cedar Lane”).

 

Old Crow Medicine Show – If there’s one group you can consistently rely on to produce great music, this is the group. Old Crow Medicine Show hasn’t missed a beat since Willie Watson left the group to pursue a solo career and their album was great enough to be nominated for Country Perspective’s Best Country Album of 2014. Their emotional song “Dearly Departed Friend” was also nominated for Country Perspective’s Best Country Song of 2014. You know what else is great about this group? You can tell how much they enjoy making music.

 

Shovels & Rope – I’ll be honest with you: I never heard of this duo before this year. I heard a lot of praise for their new album Swimmin’ Time from people I respect in country music, so I gave it a listen. I’m sorry I wasn’t aware of this dynamic duo sooner. Husband and wife Michael Trent and Carry Ann Hearst combine for some of the best harmonies I’ve ever heard. Their chemistry and attention to detail make for one of the best albums of the year. They’re also up for Country Perspective’s Best Country Song of 2014 with “Coping Mechanism.”

 

The Secret Sisters – They quietly released one of the best country albums of 2014 with their album Put Your Needle Down. Really I was surprised by how little talk there was of this great album. Under the guidance of T Bone Burnett the duo delivered a deeply harmonic album. Derek did a great job reviewing this album and this snippet at the end of it I think sums up this group and their 2014 best:

This album is a musical time machine, taking it right into the center of each era of great music and The Secret Sisters flawlessly execute every song, delivering a quality that could stand up with each genre’s best. This is no sophomore slump. Laura and Lydia prove their songwriting prowess and establish themselves a strong base on which to build a strong, promising musical future.

 

Zac Brown Band – The best group in mainstream country music didn’t even release a new album this year and yet they did enough to be nominated for group of the year. What qualified them in our minds to be nominated for this award? Well first they released a great EP in The Grohl Sessions Vol. 1, which produced the great single “All Alright.” They also collaborated with several artists (Allman Brothers, Elton John, Foo Fighters, Doobie Brothers) to make great music and admirably cover classic hits. Another thing that made me respect this group even more was Brown picking Sturgill Simpson to open for him on select tour dates. This group simply respects country music and it shows through their music and actions.

 

Who should win Country Perspective’s Best Group of 2014 award? Let us know in the comments below.

Country Perspective’s 2014 Album of the Year Nominees

Over the course of 2014 we have seen all kinds of great country music. We’ve had debut albums that have surprised everyone and comeback albums that reminded everyone they still got it. This was not only the case across the entire country music world, but in Country Perspective’s nominees for 2014 Album of the Year. The amount of diversity in terms of sound, artist, nationalities, and concepts gives everyone something they can like. Some might say 2014 was a “down” year for country music compared to 2013, but I saw plenty of great music to refute this notion. And today I will highlight what we at Country Perspective to believe the best of the best.

Derek and myself will both ultimately decide which album will win Country Perspective’s top award. But we’re not the only ones deciding. We encourage feedback from you the readers! Your comments and suggestions will most certainly influence who wins not only this award, but all the year-end awards here at Country Perspective.

One more thing: In order for an album to be eligible for Album of the Year, it must have received a perfect 10/10 rating in its review. No other albums are considered. Only the best of the best get a shot. I just wanted to point this out so everyone knows why a certain album did not get nominated. So without further ado: the nominees! (listed in alphabetical order)

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Swedish sisters Johanna and Anna Söderberg delivered one of the most underrated albums of 2014. Their blending of folk, country and pop elements made for a pretty dynamic album. They not only show off their stunning harmonies, but their ability to put the right amount of emotion behind each lyric. To me Stay Gold was the coming out party for this duo and I only hope more people in America take notice of their talent.

Every once in a while when listening to music, you’ll get blindsided from something out of left field. This is music that is so good or bad that it just takes your breath away when it hits your ears. Today’s album is so damn good I couldn’t help but smile the entire time I listened to it. There is no use in beating around the bush. First Aid Kit’s new album Stay Gold is absolutely phenomenal. The Swedish sister duo of Johanna and Klara Söderberg are like a fresh breath of air when hearing them harmonize together. It’s so pure and raw. Throw in spot-on instrumentation and you got one hell of an album. Click here for the full review.

Karen Jonas – Oklahoma Lottery

Once again in 2014 female country artists put out better music than male country artists. One of the many great female artists to emerge in 2014 is Virginia country artist Karen Jonas. Her debut album Oklahoma Lottery is one of the best debut albums I have ever heard from an artist. Her songwriting is wise beyond her years. Her raw and honest style on the album is refreshing and let’s the music do the talking.

When it comes to Oklahoma Lottery though, I just can’t find anything wrong. I mean if you’re really nitpicking you could say it’s too raw at times, but I think the rawness adds another layer to the album. Really it enhances it and makes the more emotional songs stand out. I find it very hard for anyone who likes traditional country music to not like this album. Karen Jonas is truly breaking out with this album and I am very eager to hear her next album. You can’t do much better for a debut album. Expect to see Jonas’ name a lot in Country Perspective’s year-end awards list of nominees. Oklahoma Lottery comes with my highest recommendation. Click here for the full review.

Lucette – Black Is The Color

Everything artist Dave Cobb touches turns to gold. The young Canadian country artist tapping Cobb to be her producer on her first album was a great choice. Ditching the Nashville scene and going independent to make the music she wants to make was an even better choice. If you like dark and gothic country music, this is for you.

You don’t come across too many artists that have fantastic debut album. Many are still finding themselves and the kind of music they want to make, but Lucette seems to already know what she wants. With her talent and vision the sky is the limit in terms of the success she can have in her career. This is an artist that every true country fan needs to keep an eye on and her album Black Is The Color is something everyone should listen to. It’s right on par with Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and will definitely have an excellent chance of being Country Perspective’s Best Country Album of 2014. Click here for the full review.

Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy

When Willie Watson left the group, many people said this band wasn’t the same and Remedy was one of their worst albums ever. To them I say bullshit. Even people who gave this album a good chance sort of dismissed this as a typical O.C.M.S album. You should never dismiss great music like this. While there are several songs showing off the fun side of the band, it’s their deeper and more somber songs that impress me like “The Warden” and “Dearly Departed Friend.”

Remedy has everything you want in an album. There’s a song everyone can listen to and connect with. Or just listen to and have a good time. Without a doubt, this is one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s Album of the Year. Click here for the full review.

Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time

Swimmin’ Time is one of the frontrunners to win Album of the Year and for good reason. This is damn fine music. Along with Lucette’s album I mentioned above, this is the other darkest country album in 2014. Just listen to “Ohio” and “Evil.” You’ll get the point. If you’re looking for a new duo to fill the void of the Civil Wars, I can’t think of a better choice than Shovels & Rope.

My only regret with Shovels & Rope is that I didn’t listen to their music sooner. This is a pair of musicians that simply understand what country music is all about. It’s not about partying and drinking beers on a tailgates nor driving on a dirt road. It’s about telling a story that the everyday person can relate to and feel as they listen. This is a group that has so many influences from other genres that you honesty can’t even place a label on them. Click here for the full review.

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

You may have heard about this guy and his new album. He’s only been making the rounds on late night talk show circuits and touring with the Zac Brown Band. If you had to pick one artist that has been the critical darling of country music critics, you would have to pick Sturgill Simpson. His 2013 debut album High Top Mountain was great. His follow up album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is even better.

I never even heard of Sturgill Simpson at this time last year and now he’s up there on the charts with the likes of Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. I guess people still love traditional country music after all. This album has set the bar for all country albums in 2014. If you love traditional country music or just great music in general, go buy this album right now. Click here for the full review.

Sunny Sweeney – Provoked

Sweeney absolutely nails it with Provoked. The songwriting is well done and the instrumentation is flawless. She went back to her Red Dirt Texas roots, but also gave it a modern flavor. It’s traditional country music for sure. Many country artists after losing major record deals or mainstream relevance try too hard to win their old appeal back from Music Row or the mainstream country audience instead of just being themselves and trying to produce the best country music possible. Whoever decided to cut Sweeney loose from her major label deal is looking like a real idiot after hearing this album from Sweeney. Women are struggling to make it onto country music radio and Sweeney is a prime candidate to fill this gaping void. Sunny Sweeney’s Provoked is one of the best country albums of 2014 and is a front-runner for Country Perspective’s Album of the Year. If you haven’t listened to this album yet and you love real country music, go check this out now. Click here for the full review.

Tami Neilson – Dynamite!

Tami Neilson Album Cover

The New Zealand country artist takes listeners on a trip back to the old days of country music. It’s certainly an older style, but Neilson makes it feel fresh and new. She may just have the best vocals among female artists in country music. You may think this is a little extreme, but think about it. Tell me I’m wrong. You can’t.

I’m glad I was able to review Tami Neilson’s Dynamite! before the posting of nominees for year-end awards here at Country Perspective because she will certainly be considered in a number of categories. It would have been criminal not to include her among the best of country music in 2014. This album is simply phenomenal and I will reiterate this again: go buy and listen to this album. Click here for the full review.

The Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down

While Sweden is home to the sister duo of First Aid Kit, America boasts it’s own dynamic country sister duo in Laura and Lydia Rogers of The Secret Sisters. As Derek said in his review of the album:

Fitting The Secret Sisters into one genre of music is an impossible task. Their musical influences are vast, coming from an array of artists and decades. You may be quick to box them in as traditional country; after all, many of the songs on their debut record four years ago are covers of country greats like George Jones, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe and Buck Owens. However, their sophomore effort, Put Your Needle Down, shatters that little glass box and shows the sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, playing rock music, a little blues, Motown, 1950s style ballads alongside their country roots. The sisters also focused their efforts for this album on their original material, co-writing 9 of the 12 tracks, with writers such as Dan Wilson, Gordie Sampson, Brandi Carlile and they finished an incomplete song from Bob Dylan. Under producer T Bone Burnett, The Secret Sisters deliver a brilliant album to their fans. Click here for the full review.

Be sure to sound off in the comments below! What album should win Country Perspective’s 2014 Album of the Year?

A Letter to Fanboys and Fangirls of Pop-Country

To the Fanboys and Fangirls of mainstream pop-country,

What you all call “country music” is nothing more than a mislabeled pop/hip hop/rock hybrid of music, or also called a mono-genre. To start, I’m going to give everyone the dictionary definition of “country music”:

“A style and genre of largely string-accompanied American popular music having roots in the folk music of the Southeast and cowboy music of the West, usually vocalized, generally simple in form and harmony, and typified by romantic or melancholy ballads accompanied by acoustic or electric guitar, banjo, violin, and harmonica.”

Alan Jackson Public Domain

You’ll notice nowhere in that description does it mention computer generated beats and grooves. You know, the sound of the “music” in Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down” or pretty much everything on Sam Hunt’s debut album. And don’t give me any of the BS about how “country music must evolve.” No, that’s just your bogus, political excuse to make you feel better about the bad music your precious artists’ record. George Strait and Alan Jackson were more than happy, they were damn proud to record country music along the lines established by Cash, Jones, and Haggard. Did we forget what Sam Phillips told Johnny Cash in Walk The Line?  

“If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing *one* song. Huh? One song that people would remember before you’re dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin’ me that’s the song you’d sing?… Or… would you sing somethin’ different. Somethin’ real. Somethin’ *you* felt. Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain’t got nothin to do with believin’ in God, Mr. Cash. It has to do with believin’ in yourself.”

Whether or not that’s an authentic quote, it absolutely sums up music, regardless of genre.  Anyways…

Florida Georgia Line’s recent album release, Anything Goes, has been heavily criticized. Trigger at Saving Country Music declared it the worst album ever; it received the first ever “0” rating for an album here on Country Perspective, and FGL fans lashed out. The go-to argument for many of these fans was “if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it.” Here’s the problem with that argument, though. We can’t help but listen to it; it’s on country radio. I listen to country because I don’t like pop or hip hop music. When I’m driving to work, I don’t want to listen to One Direction, Nicki Minaj, or Imagine Dragons. I want to listen to country music. You know, real country music like Alan Jackson, George Strait, Wade Bowen, Will Hoge, most of Dierks Bentley, early Zac Brown Band, Kellie Pickler, Sunny Sweeney, Holly Williams, and the list goes on.

However, when I play “country” music stations today, I hear the same regurgitated pop/hip hop/rock hybrid songs that are grossly mislabeled as country music. With the exception of “Dirt”, tell me what aspects of Anything Goes qualify it as country. The only thing “country” about “Sun Daze” is the mention of Haggard in the first verse. It’s not country music. None of the rest of the songs come close to that definition above. And how can you honestly defend Cole Swindell, Chase Rice and Sam Hunt as “country” when they don’t bring anything remotely country to the table?

 

Now if you like Florida Georgia Line, fine. I won’t judge you, I have no problems with people’s taste in music; you like what you like. I don’t care if you are one who likes “Burnin’ It Down” or “Leave the Night On.” Music is meant to be enjoyed, and who am I to tell you how to have a good time. But let’s not call it country when there’s nothing country about it. That’s why country music blogs like Saving Country Music and Country Perspective listen to these albums and review them; we care about country music. When we turn on the radio or look at the charts, we want to hear and see actual country music. I’ll give credit to Taylor Swift, she’s declared herself pop because the music she’s making is pop music. “Out of the Woods” has more country elements than “Burnin’ It Down”, yet we don’t listen to it or review it because she’s properly labeled it as pop. Lady Antebellum have always had a glimmer of country elements in their music. But their recent album, 747, is from start to finish adult contemporary pop music. Since it’s labeled as “country” music, we look at that album from the lens of country music. From that lens, the album is terrible because it’s not country music; it’s pop music. Now if the album was classified as a pop album, and I reviewed 747 as Lady A’s first official pop album, I guarantee you that I’d have given that album a favorable review. But the producers are trying to pass off the music as country when there’s nothing about the songs to earn that classification.

Yes, we are hating on Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Chase Rice, and everyone else who tries to say their hybrid music is country. We hate because their generic, mislabeled pop music is taking attention and potential airplay away from talented, pure, soulful country music that truly deserves to be heard. Look at the artists Josh and I have given high praise to on this site: Sturgill Simpson, The Secret Sisters, Sunny Sweeney, Lucette, Old Crow Medicine Show, Angaleena Presley, and Jason Eady to just name a few. These artists play country music, or a true “evolved” form of the simplistic blues of Hank Williams. If Florida Georgia Line want to avoid all the backlash, then stop pretending to be country. Call yourself a pop duo and move on. Your fans can rest easy, and country music purists can rest easy. If this NASH Icons project takes flight and finds a national audience for artists who wish to play the traditional styles of country music, then this debate will die. But until such a time, we will not rest easy, and we will not stop hating on your precious pop music. These guys have no respect for the genre and it’s history, and neither do many of their fans. To reiterate Waylon, “I don’t think Hank done it this way.”

Sincerely,

Derek

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