Country Perspective’s Best of Country & Americana Music – January 2016

January 2016

Welcome to the revamped and improved monthly best of lists from Country Perspective. Last year Derek and myself would each pick the top ten songs of each month and then write something about each of them. By the end of the year I felt like the feature was getting stale. With the addition of Zack this year, I realize putting out three different playlists would be overkill. Not to mention there’s so much good music that can be released each month that it can be hard to choose just ten songs. So I went to the drawing board and came up with some tweaks to make it better. Now each month we will have one post where all three of us share our thoughts on the music that was released and some of our favorites. Below that will be a Spotify playlist of all the songs we enjoyed. If you’re a fan of Spotify and use it, we have good news as we now have a Country Perspective Spotify page. You can check it out and subscribe here. So let’s talk about the month of January!

Josh

There was certainly plenty of music to enjoy this month. Many people think January is a dead month for new music, but I learned last year that this stereotype is wrong. Once again this is proven to be true. One of the most anticipated releases of the month was Randy Rogers Band’s Nothing Shines Like Neon and it certainly lived up to my expectations. I think this group has found their perfect niche and that’s an early 90s, neo-traditional sound along the lines of Strait and Jackson. A softer sound suits them over trying to rock hard like some of their fellows Texas country artists. “Old Moon New” and “Neon Blues” were the songs that really stood out to me on this album. Aubrie Sellers delivered big with her debut album New City Blues. It’s getting near universal praise for its garage country sound that is diverse and engaging. It’s an album you need to hear if you haven’t yet. I find it hard to pick a favorite from it, but if I had to choose one it would be the “Dreaming In The Day” with its spacey production.

Outside of these two big releases, there were some really enjoyable singles put out by both mainstream and independent artists. Jennifer Nettles’ “Unlove You” is very much in the same vein of Cam’s “Burning House.” Mary Fletcher’s “I Called Him Dad” showed how to properly write a memorial song for a deceased loved one. Andrew Pope impressed me with his new single “Stormchaser.” Brothers Osborne put out a decent debut album in Pawn Shop that featured enough solid tunes that keep me optimistic about their future. And The Cactus Blossoms dazzled me with their throwback sound on their new album.

Derek

I’d say that January has been a strong start to country music this year. Nothing Shines Like Neon not only brought Randy Rogers Band back to their truest form, but gave fans some great country songs from the album. From the heartbreak song of “Neon Blues” to reinvigorating love in “Old Moon New,” Randy Rogers Band put a fresh spin on old stories. The Brothers Osborne’s debut album was rather average, but a song like “Heart Shaped Locket” showcased the duo’s full potential as a musical act. Aubrie Sellers’ New City Blues introduced us to an impressive garage country style of music with an album of many great, well written songs. “Losing Ground” was the song that stood out to me the most from New City Blues.

Established artists released some well-written songs detailing their struggles of moving on. Jennifer Nettles’ soaring “Unlove You” and Will Hoge’s subdued, quiet “Through Missing You” took different approaches to heartbreak, but both singers carry the story with confidence. Sierra Hull’s bluegrass album Weighted Mind featured song after song of beautiful vocals and impressive instrumentation, but the heartbreaking “Birthday” finds Hull having difficulty getting over a failed relationship.

Zack

The month of January definitely brought about a fine start to 2016. With new releases from Randy Rogers Band, Brothers Osborne, Aoife O’Donovan, and Aubrie Sellers, I certainly think the bar has been set for this year. Here’s my favorite music from this month.

My favorite album this month was the debut effort from Aubrie Sellers, and honestly it wasn’t even close. The combination of edgy rockers like “Paper Doll” combined with softer tracks such “Like The Rain” fuse to make one hell of a debut effort. You can waste time saying how much she sounds like her mother, but with her “garage country” sound, we have an artist who isn’t afraid to be herself and show the world who she is. Another album that I thoroughly enjoyed was Aoife O’Donovan’s “In The Magic Hour. I still want to review this album, and it may come soon, but for now I’ll tell you that Aoife’s divine, almost ghostly voice fits the melancholy vibe of these tracks like a glove. If you don’t believe me, then just check out “Stanley Park,” “Hornets,” and “The King Of All Birds.” Another album that I thought was seriously underrated was Randy Rogers Band’s “Nothing Shines Like Neon.” The major complaint I saw with this album was that it didn’t go “deep” enough. With tracks such as “Old Moon New”, and “Look Out Yonder” combined with nice mature love songs such as “Rain and The Radio” and “Meet Me Tonight” I thought there was certainly a lot to enjoy here.

The Hodgepodge: Kacey Musgraves and The Country & Western Rhinestone Revue

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Kacey Musgraves at The Diamond Ballroom, Oklahoma City. January 22, 2016.

Last Saturday I was able to get down to the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City to see Kacey Musgraves live in concert. The tickets were a Christmas gift for my wife and I, so we’ve been eagerly awaiting the show for about a month. We arrived at the venue right as doors were supposed to open, but ended up spending about 15 minutes waiting in line out in the cold due to an unknown delay. Kudos to the people at the front of the line who clearly braved the cold for hours, but all worth it for being near the stage in a general admission, standing room only venue!

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Andrew Combs

Opening act Andrew Combs took the stage at 7:30 for his half hour set. Combs is a Nashville based singer-songwriter who grew up in Dallas, Texas. I hadn’t heard Combs’ music before tonight, but right from the first song, I was impressed with his sound and musical stylings. Country combined with rock and some bluesy influence in the melodies, and he’s a soulful singer with a great voice. I definitely recommend looking him up if you haven’t heard him before. As an opening act, however, Combs wasn’t able to captivate most of the audience. I’d bet that most of the attendees also hadn’t heard of him before, so they simply talked and ignored the music while waiting for Kacey’s time to come. Combs’ five song set was also full of slower, ballad songs which seemed to suck the crowd energy out of the room. But with only two albums under his belt, Andrew Combs is still early in his musical career. I imagine he and his band will be great to catch in a smaller, more intimate venue.

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Bring out the stagehands to decorate the stage with Kacey’s LED speckled stars and get the gear in place, including Kacey’s silver bedazzled mic stand. The background was pink streamers which I can only assume is the same background from the Pageant Material album cover. At about 8:40, Kacey’s five-piece backing band took the stage dressed to the nines in matching pink suits with LEDs lining the lapels and the outer seams of the pants. The band jammed for about a minute getting the crowd excited with anticipation. Then, in sticking with the theme of an old-school country and western show, the bass player welcomed the crowd to The Country & Western Rhinestone Revue, and then welcomed the star of the revue, Kacey Musgraves.

IMG_3888You wouldn’t expect Kacey Musgraves to have push back on the radio like she has, because last Saturday at the sold out Diamond Ballroom, Kacey Musgraves was an absolute superstar. She walked onto the stage to deafening cheers and to a crowd that sang along with her during every song of the show. She kicked off her set with “Pageant Material” which transitioned seamlessly into “Biscuits” where she stepped away from the mic and allowed the crowd to sing the song’s bridge back to her. Kacey effortlessly captivated the crowd with her music and crowd banter. I could still hear some disrespectful people talking toward the back during her slower songs, but Kacey had full command of the front half of the crowd for the whole night.

Kacey’s set included most of her radio singles, many album cuts from Pageant Material and Same Trailer, Different Park, and several covers including Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” (a song which Musgraves co-wrote), and a surprising yet impressive country rendition of Gnarls’ Barkley’s “Crazy.” The setlist was stacked nicely with ballads spread out among her more upbeat tunes. Kacey also provided a few background stories to how some of her songs were born. For instance, the phrase “Dime Store Cowgirl” has been with her since she was 11. While getting ready to sing at local country show, young Kacey Musgraves donning a cowboy hat, was told by another singer’s mom, “oh, honey, you’re going to look like a dime store cowgirl wearing that hat.” Clearly, Kacey embraced the notion, proud of her small town roots.

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Folding a balloon into an animal (second from the left)

During the middle of show, Kacey introduced her backing band during the “talent portion of the pageant” and let the boys show off some of their non-musical talents. The crowd was treated to the juggling guitarist, the balloon animal creating steel guitarist, and a drummer who does an eerily accurate impersonation of a small, high-pitched dog bark. I enjoyed this part of the show simply because it was different and showed a different side of a tight-knit group of musicians, and it didn’t take away from the concert at all.

My favorite part of the whole show was when the backing band took a break leaving Kacey alone on stage. The result was a beautiful, intimate rendition of her debut single, “Merry Go Round.” Again, Kacey stepped away from the microphone while the crowd sang the last chorus while she strummed along on her acoustic guitar. This is one of those great moments with a singer and audience connecting in a way you only can at a concert. Right before singing the song, she also gave a most sincere thank you to the crowd and the fans who have continued to support her from the beginning.

As the show came to an end, the crowd was treated to the sweet, loving “Late to the Party” which was a crowd pleaser for sure. The group rocked the crowd with an extended musical outro in “Die Fun” with heavy bass lines off-setting the steel guitar solos and guitar licks before closing the first set with her biggest single, “Follow Your Arrow.” A short break with constant “Kacey! Kacey!” chants from the crowd before she took the stage again for an encore. It was a quick, but entertaining encore with a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin.'” Kacey worked the stage with a microphone in one hand and a tambourine in the other during the show stopping number.

IMG_3912Overall, The Country & Western Rhinestone Revue was excellent! Kacey Musgraves puts on an awesome show, and the chemistry she has with her band is great. Kacey was also deliberate to remind the crowd several times that she was keeping it country. Not that we needed reminders, with the ever-present ring of the steel guitar in every song, but I can only imagine they were subtle digs at the not so country music made by her mainstream counterparts. There was a curious omission of “Blowin’ Smoke” from the setlist, but that’s only a minor complaint as the setlist was fantastic just as it was. As I said earlier, Kacey Musgraves is a superstar in the eyes of her fans. She may not get the success she deserves on radio, but she certainly has an audience and fan base eager to see her on the road. The Diamond Ballroom is not a small venue, and Kacey performed to a sold out crowd! Go see her in concert if you’re able to. You will not be disappointed. If anything, the concert proved to me that Kacey Musgraves is poised for the long haul, and could very well be the next generation’s own Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn.

Setlist: (I recalled this from memory, so I may have the order mixed up a bit)

  1. Pageant Material
  2. Biscuits
  3. Silver Lining
  4. This Town
  5. Mama’s Broken Heart (Miranda Lambert cover)
  6. Fine
  7. Dime Store Cowgirl
  8. Family Is Family
  9. Crazy (Gnarls Barkley cover)
  10. Spoonful of Sugar (from Mary Poppins)
  11. It Is What It Is
  12. Good Ol’ Boy’s Club
  13. Merry Go Round
  14. High Time
  15. Step Off
  16. Late to the Party
  17. Die Fun
  18. Follow Your Arrow
    -Encore-
  19. These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ (Nancy Sinatra cover)

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Aubrie Sellers will release her debut album New City Blues tomorrow.
  • Bluegrass and Americana artist Sierra Hull will release her new album, Weighted Mind tomorrow also.
  • Cam has officially announced “Mayday” will be her next radio single.
  • Brandy Clark has released her newest single “Girl Next Door.” We will have a review for the song soon.
  • Mark Wills says his upcoming album will be a traditional sounding country album. No word on name details or release information, but Wills has been in the studio and will release the album independently.
  • Chuck Wicks will release his newest album, Turning Point, on February 26.
  • Green River Ordinance has released their newest album, Fifteen.
  • Will Hoge wrote and recorded two songs based on Ed Tarkington’s new novel, Only Love Can Break Your Heart. Both songs, “Through Missing You” and “Some Things You Just Can’t Throw Away,” will be released tomorrow.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Jolene” by Dolly Parton. This song came on the radio one day while driving home from work this past week, and Dolly recently celebrated her birthday, so we celebrate her here with this 1974 hit!

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


Hinds Leave Me Alone – Hinds is a female indie garage rock/pop quartet hailing from Spain. Leave Me Alone is a unique album with layered vocals, abrupt tempo changes, and some great instrumentation. I’ve recently started exploring more punk and garage rock music, so I’ve found this album to be enjoyable.

Tweet of the Week

One of life’s great mysteries…

This WEEK in Country Music History

Instead of a day, I have a few noteworthy accomplishments in Country Music history from the past week, just to change it up.

January 26, 1947 Hank Williams writes his hit gospel tune “I Saw The Light.”

January 27, 1967 Waylon Jennings appears on the Grand Ole Opry for the first time.

January 28, 1995 – Alan Jackson has the number one song on Billboard’s country charts with “Gone Country.”

Country Perspective’s 40 Most Essential Country & Americana Albums of 2015

Country Perspective's 2015 Most Essential Albums

We’ve reached the end of 2015 and as you’ve seen over this last month there have numerous best of and worst of lists and everything in between. The “listpocalypse” as many dub it is finally ending and we can start focusing on new music really soon. But before we look forward to the new music of 2016, we want to look back one last time on the music of country and Americana in 2015. These are the albums we consider the absolute must listen albums of 2015 if you’re a fan of country and Americana. We should point out that this year’s essential albums list is different in that last year’s list was all albums that we ranked 8/10 or better. This year’s essential list only contains albums (and a few EPs) ranked 9/10 or better.

Originally we wanted to just have it narrowed down to 25 albums, but then it grew to 30 and then 35 before eventually 40. We wanted to make sure we go all of the great music on the list! Keep in mind if we didn’t put an album on this list it’s not because we’re haters or we’re attacking your favorite artist. Do not turn the comments section into “Well you didn’t put (insert name) on the list and you didn’t put this on the list, so I hate it.” Instead put together your own list in the comments if you want, as this is more constructive and creates more interesting conversation.

Now that I’ve gotten all of the ground rules out of the way, let’s get to the music. These are what we consider the 36 most essential country and Americana albums of 2015.

The Best of the Best

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

Whitey Morgan – Sonic Ranch

Chris Stapleton – Traveller 

The Awesome Ones

Don Henley – Cass County 

Tami Neilson – Don’t Be Afraid

Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight 

Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers – Hold My Beer, Vol. 1

Turnpike Troubadours – Turnpike Troubadours

Sam Outlaw – Angeleno 

Jonathan Tyler – Holy Smokes

Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses

Pretty Damn Great

Whitney Rose – Heartbreaker of the Year

Maddie & Tae – Start Here

Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions

Eric Church – Mr. Misunderstood

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material

Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds

Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter

The Malpass Brothers – The Malpass Brothers

Rick Elliot – West of the Rockies EP

The Lone Bellow – Then Came The Morning

“I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair”

Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart 

George Strait – Cold Beer Conversation

Alan Jackson – Angels & Alcohol

James McMurtry – Complicated Game

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django & Jimmie

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind

A Little Bit of Everything

John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat

The Mavericks – Mono

Banditos – Banditos

Corb Lund – Things That Can’t Be Undone

Lindi Ortega – Faded Gloryville 

Will Hoge – Small Town Dreams

Jon Pardi – The B-Sides, 2011-2014 EP

Jamie Lin Wilson – Holidays & Wedding Rings

Justin Townes Earle – Absent Fathers 

Tony Furtado – The Bell

Allison Moorer – Down To Believing 

Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet

The Black Lillies – Hard To Please 

Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year Nominees

A great song is a complete package. Poetic, thoughtful lyrics that evoke emotion and reaction from the listener, a fitting production that amplifies the emotions, and a vocal delivery that drives the feelings straight to the heart of the listener. Happy, sad, positive, negative, it doesn’t matter. Songs are great because the reactions they draw from the listener and not because they sold so many copies or charted for a certain number of weeks. The nominees for Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year all touched Josh or myself in some fashion. These are the songs that we connected with over the course of the year; the songs that most impacted us.

Ultimately, Josh and I will determine the song of the year from this list of finalists. However, we will take reader opinion and feedback into consideration when it comes time to determine the winner. So I encourage you to comment below and share your thoughts. If we left your favorite song off this list, that doesn’t necessarily mean we hated the song. There’s a ton of music released every year, and we had to cap the final list at some point.

For your listening convenience, I’ve complied all the songs into one Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Song of the Year Nominees (in alphabetical order)

  • “The Bird Hunters” by Turnpike Troubadours“The song tells an intriguing love story that I’m sure many could connect with. And not only are the lyrics good, but also the fiddles are loud and proud too.” The way in which the story is told is not an easy achievement; “The Bird Hunters” is a well structured story with an excellent country production.
  • “Burning House” by Cam –  The lone acoustic melody on the introduction combined with the opening line of “I had a dream about a burning house” sets the mood perfectly for the sadness to come. The phrase “less is more” couldn’t be more relevant to “Burning House.” The simplicity of the three instruments allows the listener room to breathe and focus on the story.
  • “Clean Up on Aisle Five” by Mo Pitney – The steel guitar and fiddle return, as their featured prominently throughout the song. While the traditional approach is great, it’s really Pitney’s voice that leads the song. The instrumentation is great, but it’s kept quieter allowing his voice to shine…The lyrics really do an excellent job of conveying the feelings of the situation. It’s a real gut punch to anyone who’s experienced this, as it’s easy to connect with.
  • “David” by Cody Jinks – The man talks about all of the memories and how they grew up into different people, but still as things change, the more they stay the same. Up until the halfway point of this song, the listener will think this is just a nostalgia tune. But instead it takes a tragic turn; something the listener will feel when it happens. Jinks’ storytelling chops in this song are fantastic.
  • “Diners” by The Lone Bellow – 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.
  • “El Dorado” by Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – ““El Dorado” is a cowboy ballad that puts you in a Western state of mind. From the instrumentation arrangement to the vocals of Bowen and Rogers to the lyrics, the song does a great job of creating a Western feeling in the listener.” From the instrumentation to the lyrics and vocals, “El Dorado” is the whole package.
  • “Guitar or a Gun”  by Will Hoge – “Guitar or a Gun” tells “the story of a teenager deciding between buying a guitar or a gun unresolved. The comparisons drawn between the two and the pictures painted about the life that would come from them are excellent.”
  • “Jubilee” by Gretchen Peters – Told from the point of view of a person on their death-bed, this song focuses on final thoughts and gearing up to go to heaven. This is a beautiful, gospel like song, with a piano driving the song and excellent vocals from Peters.
  • “Just Like Them Horses” by Reba McEntire – This is the song that Reba sang at her fathers funeral. What a beautiful song…lyrically and vocally. I can’t imagine how a live performance of this song would affect other’s emotions because hearing this song gives me goosebumps. It’s well-written and Reba’s voice makes this song so emotive and heart wrenching.
  • “Just Some Things” by Jamie Lin Wilson (feat. Wade Bowen) – A heartbreaking song about two lovers both in an affair. The duo sing the respective parts of the cheaters, who both regret and feel distressed after betraying the ones they love. As hard as they wish things could be different, they know what they did was wrong and can’t be undone. 
  • “One More Hell” by Hailey Whitters – A song written in the wake of her brother’s death, the song details how she wishes to raise one more hell with him before going to heaven. The lyrics are painfully honest with the first verse essentially ripped out of her personal diary. I applaud the brutal honesty in the lyrics because that’s what makes the story connect.
  • “Record Year” by Eric Church – “Record Year” is about a man who has just broken up with his girlfriend and turns to his vinyl collection to heal his heart. While he plays these records he slowly heals and not only gets over his heartbreak, but also rediscovers himself and some great music along the way. More than anything it’s a song about finding your way in life when things are at your darkest. When Church releases this as a single (it has to be a single), I predict it will be the biggest hit of his career and will go down as one of his signature songs. This is a special song that hits a home run in every department.
  • “Roses By The Dozen” by Jamie Lin Wilson – As Josh praised in his top ten post: “Roses By The Dozen” is a chilling murder ballad that gave me goosebumps on the first listen. It’s not completely obvious the wife in the song murdered her husband until midway through the song, but when that obvious moment emerges it blows the listeners’ minds.
  • “So This is Life” by Courtney Patton – Youthful dreams of fairytale marriages are abandoned as a young mother and father work to make ends meet. As time goes on and more children are in the picture, he works long days and she’s left to tend to the home and all the chaos of raising children. It’s not the life either of them planned, and when separately dealing with this life has taken its toll, divorce is the only answer they find. It’s a heartbreaking song, but so vividly told and sung by Courtney Patton.
  • “Something More Than Free” by Jason Isbell – The album’s title track to me is the crown jewel of the record. From Isbell’s soaring vocals to the poetic lyrics to the instrument arrangement, this song has everything I want in a country song. Isbell sings of being thankful for the work and how he strives to get something more than free. It’s a beautiful song.
  • “Standards” by Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen – It’s rightly being praised too, as it’s a brilliant country music protest song…..What makes this one so great though is the fact that it’s not in your face, but rather has a matter of fact, cool attitude. A country label big wig tries to get Bowen and Rogers to record a song about a dirt road, but they refuse at his every attempt because it’s just not for them. As they say, “I don’t have hits, I’ve got standards,” a statement that means so much.
  • “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” by Whitey Morgan – Everything in this song works so well together that I liken it to a well-oiled machine. You couldn’t make it any better. The punctuating moment of this song is when Whitey croons out, “Well I’m still drunk, still blue, I’m still all fucked up over you/I’m still stoned, I’m still alone.” It really helps paint the picture of a heartbroken man drinking himself silly. It may seem like a simple song, but the emotions and instrumentation really make this song special.
  • “When I Stop Dreaming” by Don Henley (feat. Dolly Parton) – “Both bring out the absolute best in each other. Dolly’s vocals are goose-bump inducing and this isn’t hyperbole. This is one you just need to sit down and hear for yourself because I can’t do it justice.” A duet that sends goosebumps down your spine.
  • “Whiskey & You” by Chris Stapleton – Stapleton’s recording is the best. It’s not just because he wrote the song too. It’s the fact that Stapleton delivers the emotion of this song so much better than those two. He does this by stripping this song down completely and only using an acoustic guitar for instrumentation, allowing his voice to tell the story of the song. It’s raw and grips your attention from start to finish. Stapleton absolutely nails this song.

The Hodgepodge: Going Country and Respecting the Roots

Don Henley

“Going Country” is a phrase that’s been around for a while. Rock music and country music have similar roots, with the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and even Dwight Yoakam treading the lines of country and rock all while keeping the same sound for the most part. Hank Williams had some influence on rock music too. Not only was Hank’s “Move It On Over” a big influence for rock’s first big hit single “Rock Around The Clock”, but George Thorogood recorded the song and popularized it for rock radio. Embarrassing admission: I didn’t know Thorogood’s “Move It On Over” was a Hank Williams cover, no less a cover song, until I really started listening to Hank almost 2 years ago. Even some of rock’s biggest acts have blurred the lines of rock and country with some of their hits. “Honky Tonk Woman” was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and covered by many rock and country artists including Waylon, Hank Jr., Tesla and Def Leppard.

Those examples are just a few of music history’s country and rock crossovers. Rock versions of the songs more or less had a rock feel and inspiration to them. Country versions had a country feel to them. They were blended and no one really batted an eye because the roots were there. The problem with so many rock acts “going country” these days is because mainstream country has lost its roots. There aren’t many today who care or respect the roots of country music, and yet those are the bands and act that claim to make country music. This is why we can get washed up 90s pop rock acts joining forces to give us “B.Y.H.B.” or Bret Michael’s train wreck of a “country” song. No one cares to make an actual country song because these types of trashy pop anthems get played on radio all the time by the likes of Florida Georgia Line. Instead of making a song with any artistic value, they make sellout anthems for 15 minutes of fame.

Uncle Ezra Ray and Bret Michaels represent the worst of the gone country acts. The singers and band who make sellout music for the sake of trying to earn a quick buck. They don’t care what the song actually sounds like as long as the sound makes money. Another kind of “going country” act are the middle of the road bands. These are the acts that make country music that is somewhat rooted in country, but still dangle their feet in a populous area because money is still the first priority. Darius Rucker is the best example of this. For the most part, Rucker’s turn to country has resulted in some decent to good pop country songs. Learn to Live isn’t that bad of an album and showed serious commitment to Rucker’s turn to country. Since then, his quality as slowly declined with each subsequent album, but Rucker still keeps his sound country despite some terrible lyrics. Even Bon Jovi’s short turn to country with their album Lost Highway showed some country influence within their pop rock sound. The album yielded a beautiful duet with LeAnn Rimes, but mostly the album was still mostly generic pop rock. We’ll just try to forget that awful collaboration with Big & Rich.

Then we have the serious country moves: the artists who say they’re going country and then make real, honest country music. Don Henley of the Eagles is the best current example of this. The Eagles are a classic rock mainstay, yet they’ve always had some country influence to them. But Don Henley’s Cass County is nothing but country music. Henley brings in the likes of Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard for collaborations and features many classic country sounds through and through. When artists and bands announce that they are “going country” this is the expectation and standard that should be met.

If any artist jumps genres for an album or an entire career move, that artist should approach that move with respect for the roots and history of that genre. Merle Haggard would never take “Mama Tried” the way it is and try to convince Jay Z that it’s the next big rap song. In the same way, a “talk-sing” R&B groove shouldn’t be called country. A pop rock bro anthem shouldn’t be called country. Country music has lost its gatekeepers and most people who make a move to country know that and take advantage of it. Instead we need more crossovers into country where the artists make real country music that shows respect and appreciation for the history and roots of the genre. We need more Don Henley and less Bret Michaels.

Upcoming/Recent Country Music Releases

  • Jason Boland & The Stragglers will release their next album, Squelch, on October 7.
  • Corb Lunds newest album, Things That Can’t Be Undone, will come out on October 9.
  • After a delay, Toby Keith’s 35 MPH Town will be released on October 9.
  • Eric Church has announced his newest single will be “Roller Coaster Ride.”
  • Jana Kramer will release her newest album, Thirty One, on October 9.

Today in Country Music History

  • In 1969, Loretta Lynn records three songs at Bradley’s Barn in Mr. Juliet, Tennessee. Among the three recordings is Lynn’s well-known hit “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”
  • Garth Brooks’ debut album goes platinum in 1990.
  • In 2005, Dierks Bentley is inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.

Today’s Country Music history facts come courtesy of RolandNote.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Highway’s Home” by Will Hoge. This song closed out Will’s 2007 album Draw the Curtains. In my opinion, Draw the Curtains is Hoge’s most country album of his collection and it’s worth a listen if you haven’t heard it yet. The steel guitar on this track is excellent and the vocals are great. When Will sings this one at his concerts he moves into a short segment of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” to conclude the performance.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter” – Since I talked about “Honky Tonk Woman” earlier, I’ll suggest the Stones for my non-country listen of the week. Primarily, I suggest “Gimme Shelter” because this is one of my all time favorite songs.

Tweet of the Week

Everyone is calling their music country so I’m going to call all my favorite music acts country so I can simplify my favorites into one genre. Led Zeppelin, Springsteen, John Williams’ Star Wars Score…all country.

iTunes Review That Makes Me Happy

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This was left on Don Henley’s Cass County. Bringing today’s column full circle with a review that I agree with 100%. I also find it funny that it’s a rock star who brings us one of the many great, real country albums this year.

(Note from Josh: You’ll see my review of Don Henley’s Cass County tomorrow)