Tobey Keith – A Country Music Review

Since nothing new has caught my attention in Country lately I’ve decided to do retrospectives on some of my favorite artists.  I’ll start with Tobey Keith.  I consider Tobey one of the most successful Country Music singers.  He has quite a number of songs that are truly excellent.  These are songs that you can play over any number of times without wearing them out.  And Keith has a variety of song types.  He has serious patriotic ones, comic ones and ones that sing about the vicissitudes of modern life.  He has a strong pleasant voice and he uses both country and western melodies with occasional rock and other music types.

Another aspect of Tobey Keith is his unashamed patriotism and his well-known support for the military.  Keith performed in Iraq during the war and embraced charities that helped the wounded soldiers and penned the song American Soldier as a tribute to the fighting men.

So, Tobey writes his own songs, has produced twenty-five albums, won numerous awards and is worth over five hundred million dollars.  Not bad for a country boy from Oklahoma.  But all that is beside the point.  He has a boatload of good country music and if you go through his greatest hits, you’re bound to find several that you’ll enjoy.  Well, at least, I think you will.

Here are a number of songs that I especially enjoy in the categories I’ve grouped them in.

Americana

Courtesy of The Red, White & Blue (The Angry American)

Made in America

American Soldier

Beer for My Horses

Should’ve Been A Cowboy

 

Modern Life

How Do You Like Me Now?

Whiskey Girl

Get Drunk and Be Somebody

Clancy’s Tavern

Stays in Mexico

 

Comic

Big Blue Note

As Good as I Once Was

Red Solo Cup

Get Out of My Car

Sturgill Simpson – A Country Music Artist Review

When I played Sturgill Simpson’s “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” a while ago, I was struck by the fact that he could write an excellent and very genuine country song like Panbowl but didn’t really seem to belong to the genre on a consistent basis.  Later I listened to “High Top Mountain” and noted that this was an album that followed the country music conventions but breathed an original and idiosyncratic life into them.

Recently I bought Simpson’s “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” and “Sound & Fury” albums.  I can officially declare that Sturgill Simpson’s days as a country musician have ended.  A Sailor’s Guide is an album of personal songs, some to his young child, that might be characterized as some kind of combination of folk/pop and a smattering of everything else.  Sound and Fury is what a musician I know described as techno-metal.

Whatever they are, they ain’t country.  It seems that musicians wander into country via folk music origins, probably because it’s commercially viable and then can’t maintain the interest.  I think many of them feel too constrained or long to add other sounds to the mix.

So unless someone tells me that Sturgill Simpson has become possessed by the spirit of Hank Williams Senior I won’t be checking out his subsequent releases.

Tyler Childers – Country Squire – A Country Music Review

I’m a fan of Tyler Childers’ music.  He’s a singer songwriter with an interesting voice and talent for producing lively melodies.  And he tells stories about modern Appalachia.  Stories about country people and stories about himself.  One of my favorites of his songs is a murder ballad on his Purgatory album called Banded Clovis.  His lyrics paint an engaging picture of the murderer at the moment when greed and desperation over comes camaraderie and decency.

Childers’ new album Country Squire is in the same cast as Purgatory.  It has songs that describe the life of every day folks in Appalachia and also has more autobiographical songs about his life on the road as a musician.  For me these personal songs are not as compelling because that lifestyle doesn’t resonate with how I live.  But the other songs are more interesting to me.  So, unsurprisingly the three songs I like best on the album are of this type; Creeker, Peace of Mind and Matthew.  They’re just stories of everyday people living everyday lives.  But Childers is able to generate good country songs with it.  The other six songs have a number of what I called above autobiographical songs and here it’s more hit or miss.  “Country Squire” and “Bus Route” are pretty good.  But “Ever Lovin’ Hand” I’ll take a pass on.  The musicality is fine but the story is too odd for me.

So if you’re a Tyler Childers fan you’ll like Country Squire.  If you’re a country music fan give it a try but I would start with his Purgatory album first.  I think it’s a better introduction to his range of songs.

 

Hell or High Water Soundtrack – A Country Music Review

So this is the companion to my review of the movie “Hell or High Water” movie.  The film brings up to the present day the Texas outlaw genre.  The music is a mixture of evocative movie background instrumental and then songs from various artists that speak to the theme.   The artists, Townes Van Zandt, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Waylon Jennings, Colter Wall,  Scott H. Biram and Chris Stapleton are far from uniform in their styles or even genre.  I believe Van Zandt is considered a folk music singer/songwriter but the songs fit the theme and even the instrumental pieces provided by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis fit together well and qualify as actual music and not just sound effects.  I’ve listed the non-instrumental songs below.  All in all, an enjoyable album of music.  Recommended for when you’re feeling like an outlaw which for me lately is most of the time.

Dollar Bill Blues
by Townes Van Zandt

Dust of the Chase
by Ray Wylie Hubbard

You Ask Me To
by Waylon Jennings

Sleeping On The Blacktop
by Colter Wall

Blood, Sweat and Murder
by Scott H. Biram

Outlaw State Of Mind
by Chris Stapleton

Cash – American IV: The Man Comes Around – A Country Music Review

Strictly speaking this isn’t purely a country music album.  Johnny Cash does covers of popular music from from sources varying from modern musicians like Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode to Simon and Garfunkle to the Beatles.  But Johnny Cash is a country singer and I liked some of the songs very much so…

I’m not an enormous Johnny Cash fan.  I have several of his albums and like a number of his songs but I don’t love everything he’s done.  This album was done in the last year of his life and his voice is frayed by his age and illness.  But it is distinctively Johnny Cash and he is able to use the broken quality of his voice to great advantage on several of the more soulful songs.  It is an interesting experience hearing a man who knows he’s dying singing songs that he has selected to sing before he’s gone.

The first cut and the subtitle for the album is “The Man Comes Around.”  It’s a song Cash wrote and it’s about Judgement Day.  Revelations is quoted at the beginning and end of the song and I find it extremely stirring.  I’d say it’s the high point of the album.

I’ll confess I don’t particularly care for his interpretation of most of the recent songs he covered.  “Hurt,” “Personal Jesus” and “First Time Ever I saw Your Face.”  None of these renditions particularly appealed to me.  Possibly because the songs themselves don’t particularly appeal to me.  “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “In My Life” were better but neither was extraordinary.

I enjoyed much more his take on the western songs, “I Hung My Head,” ”Sam Hall,” “Desperado,” and especially “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “Streets Of Laredo.”

And the last song on the album is very interesting.  It’s “We’ll Meet Again.”  Older folks may remember it was a 1939 song and a 1943 movie linked to war-time Britain and the longing that the soldiers and loved ones left behind felt for each other.  Johnny Cash is clearly talking about the afterlife and meeting up with loved ones (especially his departed wife).  That song is quite effective.

I guess I would recommend this album to Johnny Cash fans and for fans of country and western music.  And I think the song “When the Man Comes Around,” will resonate with anyone on the right, living in these apocalyptic times.

That Lonesome Song by Jamey Johnson – A Country Music Review

I only first heard of Jamey Johnson when he had his most commercial song on the Billboards back in 2008, “In Color.”  I enjoyed that song and because at the time all my music was coming off the top 40 country radio stations I never heard anything else by him.  By 2010 I was starting to look for better stuff than the radio provided so I bought his album “That Lonesome Song” (and a couple of his other albums) to see what he was all about.  What I found out is he is a very good song writer and has an interesting singing voice.

Most of his songs are about the darker side of life and love.  His characters are men suffering through loneliness, disfunction, addiction and loss.  Even the couple of comical songs are about broken relationships.  “In Color” is the exception.  Although the song chronicles the fearful existence through the Great Depression and WW II it ends on a very high note.  But there are several songs on the album that even though full of sadness and regret are undoubtedly very good.  I’m sure in a group of songs this varied, there will be one or two that don’t click for every listener and that list will vary due to the variety in listeners.  But my opinion is that this is an excellent country album.  My favorites are

  1. “High Cost of Living”
  2. “Place Out on the Ocean
  3. “In Color”
  4. “The Last Cowboy”
  5. “Dreaming My Dreams”
  6. “Between Jennings and Jones”

I will also qualify my recommendation of this album by saying that if someone doesn’t like sad songs then this album won’t be for him.  Not every song is sad but this is definitely an album from the less sunny side of the street.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYGwxf1gCC4

Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plains – A Country Music Review

Last November I reviewed Colter Wall’s self-titled album.  To say I liked it would be a gross understatement.  It had such stand outs as Kate McCannon, Bald Butte and Fraulein.  But the whole album was worthy.  Colter has a new album and I got my copy yesterday.

This is a theme album that can best be described as a country western celebration of the Great Plains.  Colter is from the Canadian Plains and he concentrates on Canada but he does include a ballad to Wild Bill Hickock.  I’ll list the tracks followed by a short comment or two.

In addition, I’ll summarize that as a whole the album is a good traditional country western collection.  And it suits me.  Hopefully I’ll provide enough information for the reader to make up his mind.

The full track list to Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plains:

  1. “Plain to See Plainsman” (written by Colter Wall)

Straightforward acoustic guitar and harmonica western.  An ode to home on the great plains.

  1. “Saskatchewan In 1881” (written by Colter Wall)

Upbeat Canadian folk song with a touch of humor.  Where else could you find a rhyme like, “Don’t pick no fights with Mennonites?”

  1. “John Beyers (Camaro Song)” (written by Colter Wall)

This is a short little revenge song.  Very catchy and fun.

  1. “Wild Dogs” (written by Billy Don Burns)

This is a song by Billy Don Burns and it’s literally a song narrated by a wild dog about his life.  The music has some good spots but it’s not something I care for.

  1. “Calgary Round-Up” (written by Wilf Carter)

A western about a roundup jamboree.  You could easily imagine the Sons of the Pioneers singing this song.  It even has yodeling.

  1. “Night Herding Song” (Cowboy Traditional)

It sounds like a spiritual mixed with a lullaby for the cows.  Most of it is acapella.  I like it.

  1. “Wild Bill Hickok” (written by Colter Wall)

Western ballad chronicling Wild Bill’s life.  Well done.

  1. “The Trains are Gone” (written by Colter Wall)

A dirge to the changing world of the old west.  Kinda downbeat.

  1. “Thinkin’ on a Woman” (written by Colter Wall)

A song a bout a trucker brooding over a lost love.  Amusing enough.

  1. “Manitoba Man” (written by Colter Wall)

A cokehead bemoaning his fate and thinking about his next score.  Not my thing.

  1. “Tying Knots in the Devil’s Tail” (Cowboy Traditional)

This is an upbeat western about two drunk cowboys tying, branding and knotting the devil’s tail.

Tyler Childers – Live on Red Barn Radio I & II – A Country Music Review

Regular readers know I’m a fan of Tyler Childers.  He’s a country singer-songwriter from Eastern Kentucky and he combines interesting vocals, his acoustic guitar playing, an excellent mix of country instrumental accompanists with his very creative lyrics.  I especially enjoy his ballads, a stand out being “Banded Clovis” on his “Purgatory” album.

The present review is of a live album from 2013.  The eight songs include two that were on other albums, namely “Whitehouse Road” from Purgatory and “Bottles and Bibles” from the album of the same name.  Listening to some of the other songs I would say you can tell that they come from an earlier period of his song-writing career.  They are simpler and less ambitious in terms of imagery and effect.  But they’re good and I take them as an excellent addition to my collection.  Interestingly two of the songs were written by other artists, “Rock Salt and Nails” by Bruce Utah Phillips and “Coming Down” by John R. Miller.  Now I guess I’ll be forced to look up their stuff.  How I suffer for my art.

Anyway, if you like Tyler Childers’ other stuff you’ll almost definitely like this live album.  Highly recommended.

Panbowl – Sturgill Simpson – A Short Country Music Review

Yesterday I put up a post about Sturgill Simpson’s album Big Top Mountain.  I related how I had not loved his two other albums, “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” and “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” but that on the former album I thought that the song Panbowl was extremely good.  This post is to expand on that comment.  One of the things that country music can do is tell a story.  In fact, I think that possibly the best country songs are the ones that do that best.  Panbowl seems to be an autobiographical remembrance of youth and family.  It feels to me like a completely heartfelt expression of anguish at the loss of the simple joys of being a child in a family.  He paints a vivid picture of an extended family that provided love and belonging and what it means to lose this.

Admittedly I am attracted to strong sentiment so that might be the reason I rate this song so highly, but I think many country music fans will think this is an excellent song.  In any case I consider it the best song of his I’ve heard and this is because it seems honest and describes something I think is admirable, love of family.  Check it out and see if you agree.