Derek’s Top Country Songs – January 2015

We are off to a great start to 2015! There were several great album releases this month, and a few singles that are equally as impressive. To be honest, I could have easily made this a top-20 list, but in sticking with Country Perspective’s tradition, I’ll keep it at the 10 songs I enjoyed the most from this month. Two of my top songs are not currently on Spotify, so I’ve put the YouTube clips of the songs here, but you’ll find the rest of the songs in the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the post.

  1. “Alabama Pines” Jamey Johnson – As Josh said in his review, “It’s beautifully simple and traditional with a feel good message. It will also create a sense of nostalgia in many listeners I think too, something many mainstream country songs tried to do in 2014 and failed at doing so.” “Alabama Pines” is simply great country music; the best song of the month!
  2. “Diners” The Lone Bellow – This Americana trio’s new album, Then Came the Morning, is simply fantastic. My favorite song from the collection, The Lone Bellow sing of broken love and a realization that the love is true. They use an analogy of old diners and jukeboxes to tell the story. They sing with such emotion and passion that sell the story. This song is special.
  3. “Island in the Sky” Ryan Bingham – Without a doubt, this is the standout track from Bingham’s new album Fear and Saturday Night. Bingham sings this song of hope with genuine passion, and the inclusion of the harmonica in the production is a welcome addition.
  4. “The Messenger” Stanford Road – A heartbreaking tune about a woman not wanting to face the truth of her husband, a soldier, dying on the battlefield. This husband-wife duo deliver on this track. Again, as Josh wrote in his review of the song, “ It’s a song filled with emotion that will certainly move most listeners. The lyrics are simple, yet very effective. The instrumentation drives the mood of this song perfectly.
  5. “Snow Falls in June” Ryan Bingham – A love song where Bingham devotes himself to his love. If she’s depressed or feeling down, he’ll always be there for her. It’s a beautiful, well written song.
  6. “Call To War” The Lone Bellow – A driving acoustic production with beautiful vocals. “Call To War” has the feel of a preparation for a new journey.  Great writing with equally great vocals help this song stand out among the crowd of a great album.
  7. “Rock and Roll” Cody Jinks – As Josh wrote in his review of Adobe Sessions, “The lyrics are kept simple to tell a complicated story like someone going through alcohol addiction. It’s a real sentimental song that caps off this album well.” Jinks tells a compelling story and sings with authenticity that draws the listener into the song.
  8. “Broken Heart Tattoos” Ryan Bingham – A third Bingham song on this list. Fear and Saturday Night was an album with several standout tracks, and this is one of them. Written as a letter for his son, Bingham speaks of his youthful innocence and encourages him to let loose if need be.
  9. “All Nighter” Cody Canada & The Departed – Off their new album, HippieLovePunk, a song written about the passing of Mark McCoy of Micky and the Motorcars. Cody Canada recruits the Braun brothers from Reckless Kelly and the aforementioned Motorcars to help sing the tribute song.
  10. “Homegrown” Zac Brown Band – The new single off an upcoming album. The men from Georgia blend modern influences with their own sonic style and tell a story of appreciation for simple life and great friends.

Honorable Mentions

  • “If You Don’t Love Me” The Lone Bellow
  • “Dirt” Cody Jinks
  • “Leave Me Another Day” Judson Cole Band
  • “Take My Love” The Lone Bellow
  • “Farther From Me” Justin Townes Earle

 

Album Review – The Lone Bellow’s Then Came The Morning is Phenomenal

The Lone Bellow

Why didn’t I listen to The Lone Bellow sooner? That was my thought after listening to their new album. For those who don’t know who The Lone Bellow are they are a trio from Brooklyn, New York. It’s comprised of Zach Williams (lead vocalist and guitarist), Kanene Pipkin (vocalist and mandolin player) and Brian Elmquist (vocalist and guitarist). Their music is really hard to describe because they dabble with so many different genres. The best I could describe it is alt-country mixed with blues, rock, roots and pop. Their songs are a melting pot of genres. Normally I save my recommendation thoughts at the end of a review, but I just want to get it out-of-the-way now. Go buy The Lone Bellow’s Then Came The Morning album. It’s simply fantastic and I’m going to do my best to tell you why every song on this album is damn good.

The album starts off with the upbeat and gospel influenced “Then Came the Morning.” The combination of the harmony interludes along with the hints of horn production give this song an infectious harmony that makes you want to listen to it over and over again. It immediately draws the listener into the album. Needless to say, this is an excellent start to the record. This is followed by the heartbreak song, “Fake Roses.” It’s about a woman who had her heart-broken and as a result has shut herself away from the rest of the world. She tries to get lost in watching television. Williams does a great job establishing the somber attitude of the song in the beginning and then the harmonizing at the end really drives it home.

“Marietta” is a love song where a man tries to win a woman named Marietta’s love back. He pleads to her and says that he’ll let her back into his heart, as he can’t shake his love for her. This is a love song with real emotion and heart that will appeal to a lot of people. And the vocal performance in this song is dynamite. It’s arguably the best song on the album, amongst many great songs. Next is another pleading love song in “Take My Love.” This song is more straightforward and not as emotional. It’s as if it’s a follow-up to “Marietta” after the man has got the woman’s attention and is now just begging for her to take his love. The hook in this song will definitely get stuck in your head and that’s a good thing.

Once again the harmonies shine in “Call To War.” It’s a song about a woman who lost her husband to war and how she won’t rest until he’s found. No matter what though her love will triumph over it all. The best line of the song is “remember when the mountains fell like pennies down a wishing well.” It’s really the punctuation mark of this song. Really though Kanene Pipkin’s vocal performance is what makes this song stand out. “Watch Over Us” is one of the more mellow tracks on the album. The acoustic guitar is the only instrumentation used in the song, so the trio’s vocals are front and center. This is probably the weakest song on the album, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad song. It’s actually good. When this is the worst song on an album, you know you’re listening to something pretty special.

This is followed by another stand out song, “Diners.” The lead vocals on this song are spectacular and really set the emotion. The setting of this song takes place in a diner late at night where a man laments letting love, using comparisons to jukeboxes. And of course the harmonies are stellar again. The Lone Bellow kicks the tempo up on “Heaven Don’t Call Me Home.” This is the kind of song that will get you to stand up and dance. I dare you to try to listen to this song and not move your head as you listen. You can’t because it’s impossible. I can imagine the band had as much fun recording this one, as the fans have listening to it. “If You Don’t Love Me” is a bluesy country rock song about giving an ultimatum to a significant other that they can leave or let you go if they don’t love you. It’s an upbeat song with a “tell it like it is” attitude. It’s one of the less serious tracks on the album.

The quietest track on the album is “Telluride.” The song is about a small mountain town in Colorado named Telluride. The town became well-known during the gold rush in the earlier years of America. Many called it “to hell you ride” and there are two meanings behind this phrase. One because it was dangerous to ride their on horseback (I’m assuming Hickory is referring to a horse possibly in the song) and two because it was infamous for it’s bars and brothels, which miners blew their money on. It’s a really neat story and this song does a great job telling it. This is followed by the shortest track on the album, “To The Woods.” It’s a nice little folksy ditty that can breeze right by if you don’t pay attention. It feels like an epilogue to “Telluride.”

The most rocking and dynamic sounding song on the album is “Cold As It Is.” This is a fantastic fusion of blues, country and rock. Just like “Heaven Don’t Call Me Home,” this song will make you want to move your feet. As for the theme, it’s about not leaving your significant other no matter how cold the relationship can be. I know this is a song I will be playing over and over for a while. It’s so damn good and one of the best on an album full of great songs. The album ends with “I Let You Go,” a heartbreak love song about letting love go in hopes that they would come back to you. It kind of plays on the saying of “if you love something you will let it go.” Your brain is saying letting go is the best thing to do, but your heart wants the opposite. It’s a beautiful harmony that concludes a phenomenal album.

The Lone Bellow’s Then Came The Morning simply blows me away. The year is still new, but this album will hold up as one of the best in country music all year. I don’t think it would be a stretch to call this trio one of the most dynamic in music. If you’re looking for a comparison, I would say the closest is Shovels & Rope, except more bluesy and not quite as dark. So if you love Shovels & Rope, you’ll love this group. Some may say this isn’t a country album, but I don’t care what genre you put it under. This is just great music that everyone should hear. This is without a doubt a strong contender for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

Grade: 10/10