Album Review – Paul Cauthen’s ‘My Gospel’

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If you’re a follower of Country Perspective, you’ll notice one of the themes I’ve been harping on lately is distinctiveness. Too many young and new artists suffer from a lack of distinctiveness on their albums. The music just doesn’t do enough to stand out from the rest of the crowd and music that came before it. You’ll see new artist after new artist just recycle a sound we’re all familiar with and you eagerly await someone to come along like Sturgill Simpson in 2013, Karen Jonas in 2014 or Chris Stapleton in 2015 that will deliver something special and completely change the genre. Well I think we’ve found that artist for 2016 and his name is Paul Cauthen. Mark it down folks: this is the next big star in the independent country/Americana scene. The Texan used to front an Americana band called Sons of Fathers, but a few years back realized he was ready to do something else. He’s now struck out on his own to release his debut album My Gospel vis Lightning Rod Records. And it’s probably one of the most refreshing albums I’ve heard this year.

Right away it’s Cauthen’s voice that stands out to me. At times it can be this deep, bellowing voice that engulfs you from the moment you hear it and at other times it has this soaring, soulful sound about it. Cauthen cites country, blues and souls as his influences. It definitely shows in his voice, as it reminds me of a combination of Waylon Jennings, Bill Withers and Neil Young. Cauthen reminds me the most of Waylon on “Let It Burn.” It just sounds like something he would cut on one of his albums, especially when Cauthen’s voice is growling similar to his. But then when Cauthen hits the higher notes it wouldn’t sound out of place on an old soul record. It’s kind of surreal how Cauthen can embody two completely different sounds on one song and sound equally great with both (credit too to producer Beau Bedford). The album’s title track ties the whole album together and serves as Cauthen’s personal creed and anthem. From the lyrics to the emphatic organ and backing choir, it’s an uplifting song that shows him completely in his element. There’s just so much honesty and passion behind every word in this song and this will be reverberated in the listener as they take the song in.

Opening song “Still Drivin’” sounds like something straight out of the outlaw era of country music. It’s one of several moments on the album that has this sort of swagger and coolness about it that you just can’t help getting wrapped up in. It’s probably most evident on “I’ll Be the One.” The spacey steel guitar combined with the percussion really makes for a fun and catchy sound. The song itself is about a guy declaring his love for a woman and vowing to be the one for her. It makes for the most memorable song of the album in my opinion, as you’ll probably be humming this to yourself for the next day after giving it extensive listens. “Hanging out on the Line” sees a man desperate to win over the heart of a woman he deeply loves. Cauthen sounds great on every song, but this might be his best vocal performance on the album as the helplessness and desperation he conveys in his vocals are palpably fantastic.

The themes of love and the super natural meet on “Marfa Lights.” A man likens his love with a woman to the Marfa lights, which runs for miles and miles. Texans like Cauthen are quite familiar with this place, but everyone else probably not so much. Marfa lights refer to lights that have been seen around U.S. Route 67 on Mitchell Flat that’s east of Marfa, Texas. Many people have claimed to witness ghosts and UFOs here, making it a hot spot for people who believe in paranormal activities. Research says though that these lights do not have anything to do with aliens or anything of the sort, but are just lights from cars and campfires. It’s cool to hear about weird local places like this in songs, so kudos to Cauthen for incorporating this interesting place into his music.

Some songs you just want to sit back and bask in their sound as you listen to this album. There’s just such a warm vibrancy and colorfulness about them on songs such as “As Young as You’ll Ever Be” and “Be There Soon.” The twangy pedal steel guitar and the pianos and organs that show up throughout this album all unite to make for a really intriguing sound. Cauthen explores self-realization and discovery on “Once You’re Gone.” He ponders whether him and his partner should head out west and discover new things, but also realizes once they do they can’t go back to the way things were. It’s a realization of how a journey ahead can shape your life into something completely different and new, never to turn back to once was in your life. “Grand Central” and “Saddle” are about the freedom of life on the open road. Specifically “Grand Central” is about a man who is hurting and takes to the open road (well in this case train) to heal his broken heart. It’s one of those songs that won’t immediately grab you, but once it clicks you can really resonate with the lyrics. Meanwhile “Saddle” is one of those songs you put on as you go on a long drive in the night. It just has this naturally adventurous attitude about it, which is something I can say about this entire album.

From beginning to end Paul Cauthen blows me away with My Gospel. It’s hands down the best debut album I’ve heard this year and perfectly exemplifies the distinctiveness that every new artist should strive for in their music. Not to mention you can tell this comes straight from the heart and soul of Cauthen, as it shines through on every aspect of the album. This is the type of music the world needs more of today. With My Gospel Cauthen immediately establishes himself as one of the best in the genre. The sky is the limit for him and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Grade: 9/10

 

Recommend ? – YES

Album Highlights: I’ll Be The One, My Gospel, Still Drivin’, Saddle, Grand Central, Let It Burn, Hanging out on the Line

Bad Songs: Nope

Wallpaper: Nope


Stream The Entire Album Below:

Video – Drake White Covers Waylon Jennings’ “Good Hearted Woman”

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The Forever Country Covers Series celebrating past artists and songs, while promoting the upcoming 50th CMA Awards continues on today with Drake White covering the Waylon Jennings’ classic “Good Hearted Woman.” The song won the 1976 CMA Single of the Year and was one of the signature songs of the outlaw legend. It’s interesting that White was chosen to cover Waylon, as I didn’t really picture White covering him. But White does a really good job covering it and making it his own. The whistling towards the end is a nice touch too. It’s great seeing classic songs being celebrated and introduced to modern fans. It’s a time honored tradition for country artists to reflect back on and honor those who paved the way before them. Give it a listen and let me know what you think in the comments below.

The Hodgepodge: If You Were Stranded on an Island & Had to Pick One Country Record…

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After a long holiday weekend here in the United States and the unofficial end of summer, there hasn’t been too much happening in the world of country music. This comes a week after all the hoopla surrounding the 50th CMA Awards and who was in and out in terms of nominations. In addition the much-talked about Sturgill Simpson Facebook rant took place and was a topic that was beaten to death. Needless to say I didn’t feel like rehashing this again. With nothing else to really talk about, I decided to try out something I’ve been wanting to give a shot with The Hodgepodge for a while. That is an Ask The Readers Hodgepodge. It’s quite simple: I pose a question to you the readers and in the comments below we will discuss what our answers would be to the question. Sometimes it will be a yes or no question, but most times it’ll be something a little more detailed like today. The first Ask The Readers Hodgepodge will start with an age-old question involving numerous subjects, but this time country music.

If you were stranded on an island for the rest of your life and you had to pick one country album to bring with you, what would it be?

Some guidelines:

  • It can also be Americana/Folk/Roots Rock because we cover those in addition to country music and I know some only follow the blog for these sub-genres.
  • The album cannot be a greatest hits album, box set, compilation, covers album, live album or soundtrack. Double albums are fair game though, but it must be released at the same time and not separately.
  • You can have the album in any format you please (you get one outlet on the island to plug in your CD player, record player 0r MP3 player, although good luck getting your record not to warp with all of the sunlight)
  • The album you pick doesn’t necessarily have to be what you consider the greatest country album of all-time, although it can be. It’s more your favorite album.
  • There are no wrong answers here! (Except if you pick a Sam Hunt album because I would think being stranded on an island would be a hard enough life without his music)
  • Feel free to throw in your picks for other genres too. This is a topic to have fun with!

 

Now with all of the guidelines out of the way, I will give my answer. I haven’t decided as of this writing what one album I would pick, but rather a list I would highly consider from for my one pick. Those albums would be:

  • Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
  • Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (of course my first two on the list are Country Perspective’s album of the year winners)
  • Chris Stapleton – Traveller
  • George Strait – Strait From The Heart
  • George Strait – Ocean Front Property 
  • Alan Jackson – Don’t Rock The Jukebox
  • Waylon Jennings – Dreaming My Dreams
  • Dwight Yoakam – Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. 

It’s your turn now! Be sure to weigh in below.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Whiskey Myers will be releasing their new album MUD tomorrow. My review of it will also be out soon
  • St. Paul & The Broken Bones will be releasing their sophomore album tomorrow, titled Sea of Noise.
  • Next week Amanda Shires’ new album My Piece of Land will be released.
  • Australian country artist Kasey Chambers just released a new EP Ain’t No Little Girl and her new album Dragonfly will be released on January 20, 2017 (shout out to reader Melanie for giving me a heads up!)
  • It was just announced this week Jim Lauderdale will be releasing a new album titled This Changes Everything on September 30
  • A promising up and coming artist named Paul Cauthen will be releasing his debut solo record My Gospel on October 14. He’s the former frontman of Americana band Sons of Fathers.

Throwback Thursday Song

Willie Nelson – “I’d Have To Be Crazy” – This is one of my all-time favorite Willie Nelson songs and one of my favorite country love songs. For the eagle-eyed, yes Sturgill Simpson covered the very same song on his debut album High Top Mountain. It is also great and does Willie justice.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Carly Rae Jepsen – “Cry” – Yes, it’s the same artist that sang “Call Me Maybe.” But she’s moved on to much better music! Her last album Emotion was pop music at it’s best and recently she released the B-Sides EP for it. I recommend both if you listen to pop music, but this song in particular is fantastic off the EP. It reminds me of the best of 80s pop and would undoubtedly be a hit in that decade of music (think Heart or Pat Benatar).

Tweet of the Week

Laughing at Blake Shelton’s current terrible single is always appropriate, but especially when it’s struggling on the chart.

Some Thoughts on Kelsea Ballerini’s Album

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I’m not sure why you bought the album either, Danyelle. And it does sound pop, Victoria.

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [April 1987]

No single cover for "Rose In Paradise" since Waylon is too badass for that.
No single cover for “Rose In Paradise” since Waylon is too badass for that.

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’m going to go all the way back to the eighties. Since I can only find the top 25 for anything pre-1990, the highest and lowest scores will be +125 and -125, respectively. This week I will take a look at the top 30 songs of the Billboard Hot Country Songs from April 25th, 1987.

  1. Waylon Jennings – “Rose In Paradise” +4 [Best Song] (Waylon’s final number one will be thirty years old next year. Hard to believe)
  2. T. Graham Brown – “Don’t Go To Strangers” +3
  3. Michael Johnson – “The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder” +3
  4. Michael Martin Murphey & Holly Dunn – “A Face In The Crowd” +3
  5. The Trio – Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris – “To Know Him Is To Love Him” +4 (three females on one song?!? Damn, we can barely get three women on the charts these days!)
  6. The O’ Kanes – “Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You” +2 (Props for the accordion in the chorus)
  7. Kathy Mattea – “You’re The Power” +2
  8. The Oak Ridge Boys – “It Takes A Little Rain”  +2 (Before they liked “doing it” to country songs)
  9. Don Williams – “Senorita” +2
  10. Reba McEntire – “Let The Music Lift You Up” +2
  11. Steve Earle – “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left” +3 (80’s Steve was SOOOO good)
  12. Conway Twitty – “Julia” +3
  13. Judy Rodman – “Girls Ride Horses Too” +2
  14. The Bellamy Brothers – “Kids Of The Baby Boom” +4
  15. John Conlee – “Domestic Life” +3
  16. Dan Seals – “I Will Be There” +1 [Least Good Song]
  17. Billy Joe Royal – “Old Bridges Burn Slow” +2
  18. Gary Morris – “Plain Brown Wrapper” +2
  19. The Forester Sisters – “Too Many Rivers” +2
  20. Lyle Lovett – “God Will” +3
  21. Moe Bandy – “‘Till I’m Too Old To Die Young” +3
  22. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band – “Baby’s Got A Hold On Me” +2
  23. Highway 101 – “The Bed You Made For Me” +3
  24. Keith Whitley  “Hard Livin'” +3
  25. T.G. Sheppard – “You’re My First Lady” +3

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +66

Once again, it’s nice to see a positive score on this thing. Not as good as last week, mostly because there’s a lot of cheesy love songs with sleepy production. Still, nothing inherently bad here. When you have songs by Waylon, Keith Whitley, and Don Williams, how can you really complain?

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 Hodgepodge: It’s Impossible to Choose One Defining Song for a Genre

I stumbled upon a New York Times article this week that made a big claim about rock music. The author basically says that when our grandchildren’s grandchildren look at rock music, the only name that’ll matter is Chuck Berry. Not Springsteen, Zeppelin, the Stones, or The Beatles, but Chuck Berry. I’m not saying he’s wrong about Berry being a figurehead and representative of rock music, but rock’s different styles don’t warrant such a narrow-minded claim. Yes, “Johnny B. Goode” is an excellent song and Chuck Berry fathered rock music like Hank fathered country. The author says Berry made simple, direct, rhythm based music, which best exemplifies rock music. He’s not wrong, but I think it’s wrong to pigeon-hole the genre into one song.

The big part of his claim comes from the fact that when NASA sent Voyager I into space, they included a mix record which included “Johnny B. Goode” on the track list – the only rock song on the list. So this got me thinking, is it possible to narrow down country music into one song that best represents the genre over the 70+ years of artists and songs who’ve done so much? I’ll argue that you need a Mount Rushmore of songs, not just one, because even country’s best songs and artists had different styles that are all country music.

Take “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” arguably the best country song of all time. Listening to the song with its grand crescendo and a faint steel guitar, it’s vastly different from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” a song electric guitars and simple percussion beat, also argued to be the best country song. Both songs sound way different, yet they’re both country music, and they’re both great representations of the genre. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings couldn’t be more different in their sounds, yet both artists not only exemplified the Outlaw movement, but country music as a whole. Waylon’s rock sound is more in line with Cash’s style, but even then, the two artists are distinctly different.

The Bakersfield Sound has its own unique flair different from the aforementioned artists, yet Merle Haggard and Buck Owens are just as influential to country music. Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette don’t exactly sound like Kitty Wells, but all of their music is a big part of country’s history. Many of these styles stem from Hank Williams, and all these styles are equally important to country’s roots. These are the styles that have influenced many of today’s Americana and Country stars. The early generation brought out singers like George Strait, Reba, and Alan Jackson, who have gone on to influence the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Cody Jinks, and pretty much everyone we’ve reviewed here.

The point is I think it’s impossible to simply try to find one song or artist to represent a music genre rich with history and talent. Country, Rock, Rap, and every other genre has their top-tier of artists who’ve gone onto to influence the genre. At the end of the day, one can always trace the history back to the root of the genre, which is never a bad option to choose as a genre head. But dismissing Waylon or Merle as a defining artist of country music because their sound was not Hank’s country sound is blasphemous, as is dismissing rock’s eclectic history because it’s not as simple and rhythmic as Chuck Berry.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • On July 8, Mark Chesnutt’s new album, Tradition Lives will be released.
  • David Nail’s Fighter will be released the following week on the 15th.
  • At the end of the month on July 29, Lori McKenna’s The Bird & The Rifle will be released.
  • Shovels and Rope recently released a new single called “I Know.” Their new album Little Seeds will be out October 7.
  • Southern rockers/Texas Country band Whiskey Myers are working with producer Dave Cobb on their new album, Mud. The first single from the album is “Lightning Bugs and Rain.”

Throwback Thursday Song

“False Accuser’s Lament” by Jason Boland and the Stragglers. I’ve been listening to a lot of Boland lately, and this song has jumped up my list of favorites from him. “False Accuser’s Lament” can be found on Rancho Alto, one of Boland’s best albums in my opinion.

Non-Country Suggestion

Velvet Portraits by Terrace Martin – an album mixed with Jazz, Hip Hop, and R&B, Velvet Portraits is a diverse album. It’s a fun listen though, with the relaxing Jazz instrumentals and hip hop lyrical deliveries on the others. It’s different, but worth the listen.

Tweet of the Week

Wheeler Walker, Jr. is a great follow on twitter if you don’t mind some profanity on your timeline. As streaming continues to rise, labels getting songs on “featured playlists” on Spotify or Apple Music will be the new way of getting on the charts.

A Chase Rice iTunes Review

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Chase Rice’s new single, “Everybody We Knows Does,” is the same generic BS from every other generic bro before him. After his letter apologizing for “Whisper,” I expected at least something that shows a little effort in a follow-up single, but I was mistaken.