Eric Church – A Country Music Review

A couple of years ago I bought all five of Eric Church’s albums (see playlists at end).  I had seen him perform a couple of time on one or the other of the Country Music Awards shows and I thought he was head and shoulders above the stuff that was getting played on the radio stations.  When all that Bro Country stuff started up ten years ago it sounded so awful and contrived and just plain stupid that I was glad whenever I found someone who could write meaningful lyrics and talk about something resembling real life.

Church portrays himself as a working-class kid who grew up in a small town filled with work that got his hands dirty and Friday nights filled with booze and girls.  And that’s what he writes about.  But he also sings about some less simplistic goings on.  His first album “Sinners Like Me” has a song called “Lightning” that is the execution day recollection of a man who killed a liquor store clerk while attempting to rob the store.  We get his thoughts seeing the mother of the boy he killed and his own daughter sitting in the viewing area.  It’s a powerful and skillfully done song.  And that album is full of good songs.

In his later albums he starts singing about his life as a grown man and we hear about his wife and kids and what it means to be a wild kid who has to become a grown up.  And to other grown ups this might resonate a lot more than another song about Jack Daniels kicking Eric’s butt on Sunday morning.

On the five albums I’ve got he has about sixty songs and I’d say I only truly dislike three songs.  And one of those is his tribute to pot which I guess is one of his vices.

There are twenty songs that I like a whole lot.  And the rest are regular good, meaning I can listen to them in the rotation without getting tired of them.  I think that’s actually very good.  Church has an interesting voice and I’d describe his music as country rock.

If you want a song writer that can write both the Saturday Night honky-tonk songs and also more thoughtful and realistic stories then Eric Church is worth a listen to see if he clicks with you.  I can say I highly recommend him based on my standards. I’ve bolded the songs I especially like.

Sinners Like Me (2006)

  1. “Before She Does”
  2. “Sinners Like Me”
  3. “How ‘Bout You”
  4. “These Boots”
  5. “What I Almost Was”
  6. “The Hard Way”
  7. “Guys Like Me”
  8. “Lightning”
  9. “Can’t Take It with You”
  10. “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag” (featuring Merle Haggard)
  11. “Two Pink Lines”
  12. “Livin’ Part of Life”

Carolina (2009)

  1. “Ain’t Killed Me Yet”
  2. “Lotta Boot Left to Fill”
  3. “Young and Wild”
  4. “Where She Told Me to Go”
  5. “Longer Gone”
  6. “Love Your Love the Most”
  7. “Smoke a Little Smoke”
  8. “Without You Here”
  9. “You Make It Look So Easy”
  10. “Carolina”
  11. “Hell on the Heart”
  12. “Those I’ve Loved”

Chief (2011)

  1. “Creepin'”
  2. “Drink in My Hand”
  3. “Keep On”
  4. “Like Jesus Does”
  5. “Hungover & Hard Up”
  6. “Homeboy”
  7. “Country Music Jesus”
  8. “Jack Daniels”
  9. “Springsteen”
  10. “I’m Gettin’ Stoned”
  11. “Over When It’s Over”
  12. “Lovin’ Me Anyway”

The Outsiders (2014)

  1. “The Outsiders”
  2. “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young”
  3. “Cold One”
  4. “Roller Coaster Ride”
  5. “Talladega”
  6. “Broke Record”
  7. “Like a Wrecking Ball”
  8. “That’s Damn Rock & Roll”
  9. “Dark Side”
  10. “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)”
  11. “Give Me Back My Hometown”
  12. “The Joint”

Mr. Misunderstood

  1. “Mr. Misunderstood”
  2. “Mistress Named Music”
  3. “Chattanooga Lucy”
  4. “Mixed Drinks about Feelings”
  5. “Knives of New Orleans”
  6. “Round Here Buzz”
  7. “Kill a Word”
  8. “Holdin’ My Own”
  9. “Record Year”
  10. “Three Year Old”

Shut Up and Sing – 2020 Version

Artists are annoying.  I think it’s because they also tend to be locked into the hive.  I guess it’s inevitable that people who exist in a world that is suffused in emotion will end up surrounded by and aligned with emotionally unstable personalities.  I’ve met up with this often when I lived in New York City.  I’d have a friend whom I met in an office job who was also a struggling actor and he would introduce me to his circle of friends and they would be almost without exception at least moderately abnormal.  And that’s putting aside that more than half of them were homosexuals.  That was the just the baseline demographic of their profession I suppose.  But all of them exhibited a whole array of off-putting behaviors.  Some of it might have to do with the large percentage of them that admittedly were on anti-depressants.  And I guess most of them were recreational users of various legal and illegal drugs.

But in addition to all these lifestyle influences all of these people shared an ethos.  They were outsiders who to a greater or lesser degree despised the normal world because it forced them to bump up against reality, when what they really wanted to do was live in their imagined world where being a forty something unknown actor, dancer, singer, musician or painter came along with an upper middle-class income and a deluxe Greenwich Village apartment.

And because of this outsider mentality they also embraced all the other groups and ideologies that also despised normalcy.  Back in the sixties and seventies it was communism.  Later on, it was whatever flavor of the month progressive name-tag was trendy.  Feminism, LGBTQ, Immigration Rights, Environmentalism, Animal Rights, whatever.  I have been at a gathering where a strident lesbian told me that once Western culture was deconstructed, women’s rights would flower throughout the much more progressive third world.  When I asked her about widow burning in India (sati) she flipped out and started shrieking obscenities.  I never found out whether she had just never heard of sati and thought I was making it up or whether the cognitive dissonance short circuited her fragile programming and kicked her into the middle-aged cat lady equivalent of the blue screen of death.

But in any case, the “artistic” community is monolithically embedded into the Leftist world.  So much so that even if you yourself didn’t believe in the things that they do, if you wanted to be a musician or other kind of artist you would not be allowed to coexist in their world if you did not mouth the words that they require you to say.  You would not be allowed to use their infrastructure, their platforms, their networks.  You would not get noticed by their critics and would never be invited onto their interview shows.  You wouldn’t exist.

Until recently I thought maybe country music was resistant to this pressure.  As a distant example think back to 2003 when the Dixie Chicks were ejected from the country music scene because of their anti-military rants against George Bush during the Middle East Wars.  That was a sort of unique situation in the entertainment world.

But I have been disabused of that mistaken belief.  Country musicians of various levels of celebrity and of various styles and levels of talent have of late thrown themselves whole heartedly on the woke bandwagon.  The latest example that came to my attention is Tyler Childers song “Long Violent History.”  I enjoyed Childers’s album “Purgatory.”  It had some good songs and his voice is interesting to listen to.  I especially liked a murder ballad he wrote called “Banded Clovis” that updated the tradition to our age.  His next album wasn’t really as good but I was interested to see what his following album would bring.  Recently I read a review announcing that his album had come out as either a vinyl or MP3 edition.  So as a CD guy I shrugged it off and figured I’d wait until the later release.  The announcement said that the album was an instrumental bluegrass collection.  Now that got my attention.  I was definitely in the mood for something like that.  But then one of the lefty sites had the breathless news that the last song was called Long Violent History and was a BLM propaganda song.  And they had a link to a video by Childers explaining why he had written the song.  So, I listened to his “explanation.”  Well, it was all that “what if you were hassled by the police and in danger of being killed at every turn?” blah, blah, blah.  So, there they go again.  If they will permit us to buy their music, we have to listen to the anti-white rant too.  Some great bargain.

Well, I guess I’ll have to forego Mr. Childers’ fiddle album.  I’m sure it’s good and it would be enjoyable but I don’t feel like paying to be preached at by him.  I’ll look around and listen to someone who at least hides his contempt for me and just shuts up and sings.

Colter Wall – Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs – A Country Music Review

Back in 2017 a musician buddy of mine told me he saw a young country singer in Nashville named Colter Wall.  He had a murder ballad called Kate McCannon on his album that once I heard it I really liked.  And once I heard the rest of the album, I thought was exceptional.  So, I’ve been following his music since then.  And he’s getting some good play on a few movie soundtracks and on the TV show Yellowstone.  I was looking forward to his album this year.  But I’ve been so distracted by the political horror show we’ve been living through that I missed the release.  I bought the album last week and finally listened to it today.  And it was a good listen.

Now his 2017 album had a sort of alt-country feel to it.  This album is a straight up western music album.  There are songs about cattle farming and rodeos and cowboying and gunfighters.  You see Colter is from Saskatchewan Canada which is north of Montana and is still like what we think of as the old west.  None of these songs are as emotional or quirky as some of the stories on his 2017 debut and none of them knocked me out of my chair but I thoroughly enjoyed the familiarity and simplicity of the western tunes.  The guitar and fiddle play are pleasing and Colter’s baritone sound is easy to listen to.

If you’re looking for some new music and like old time western music, I think you’ll enjoy this album.  I did.

Here is the song list:

Western Swing & Waltzes

I Ride An Old Paint: Leavin’ Cheyenne

Big Iron

Henry And Sam

Diamond Joe

High & Mighty

Talkin’ Prairie Boy

Cowpoke

Rocky Mountain Rangers

Houlihans At The Holiday Inn

Shatner Does it Again

Not since his triumph singing “Rocketman” has the listening world been electrified by such deeply moving talk-singing.  Be prepared to be shatnered.

I have held off posting the proceedings of the recently held ShatnerKhan II.  I hope my time off this week allows me to chronicle the vitally important results of this scholarly event.

 

Yellowstone – A Television and Country Music Review

Camera Girl is a remarkable human being but she is, foremost, a woman. And any husband worth his salt will tell you that’s not an unalloyed blessing. One of the many things that separate women from rational human beings is their love of soap operas. And this includes that bane of late 20th and early 21st century life, the nighttime soap. Luckily when we were young, we had children so we were too busy in the heyday of nighttime soaps to watch Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, Melrose Place and the rest of that bilge.
But now that we are mostly empty nesters it’s no longer safe. And every once in a while, Camera Girl will reach beyond her annoying predilection for cop shows and look for something truly awful. And so it is that I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the demented saga that is Yellowstone. Kevin Costner and a mostly unknown cast (at least to me) ride horses and shoot guns up in Montana trying to preserve their Ponderosa sized cattle ranch from the real estate speculators, Indian tribes, disloyal cowboys, hedge fund pirates and other assorted lunatics who all seem to need killing. And kill them they do. Their enemies end up shot, stabbed, drowned, blown up, or pushed off cliffs more or less with impunity. And within the family, hatred and dysfunction are on full display. The daughter is a foul-mouthed man-eating lawyer. The lawyer son is her foil that she despises, berates and occasionally assaults. The cowboy brother is the hero, I guess. He’s a decorated war hero and his Indian wife and son have left the reservation and live on the ranch now.
The show truly is a ridiculous nighttime soap with egregious plots and ridiculous dialog. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised when I started hearing some of my favorite country artists on the soundtrack. Colter Wall, Tyler Childers, Chris Stapleton, Ryan Bingham and a bunch of other good to excellent country acts provide at least an interesting aural experience to go along with the annoying goings on at the Dutton family ranch.
One other saving grace that the show possesses are the vistas and landscapes that seem to surround you wherever you look in that magnificent big sky country. The juxtaposition of soaring snowy mountains, cascading rivers, verdant plains and technicolor blue skies can be seen sometimes all in one shot. You often find yourself wanting to yell at the actors to shut up and get out of the camera’s field of view and stop ruining the experience of just seeing and hearing the grandeur on display. But unfortunately, thy will go on yammering about whatever crime or deal they are conniving that week.
So that tells you all you need to know about the show. And honestly there is no way I can say I recommend this train wreck of a television experience. It’s a ghastly offense against story-telling. If you’re an enormous Kevin Costner fan I guess you can justify watching it to see him. He is one of the better parts of the show but even that isn’t saying much. And you can just listen to the soundtrack without watching the show. And I’m sure National Geographic has tons of documentary footage of Montana and Wyoming wilderness to watch anytime you want.
I, on the other hand, have to watch. Camera Girl is a woman and therefore barbarically cruel. I can always hope it will be cancelled soon. Damn you Costner.

Brad Paisley – A Country Music Review

Paisley’s been around since 1998 and has had a long string of hits.  He is a favorite of concert goers.  I like his comical songs best.  Among the best are:

  • I’m Gonna Miss Her
  • Alcohol
  • Ticks
  • I’m Still a Guy
  • Online
  • Crushin’ It
  • Celebrity

And as a husband I think of “I’m Gonna Miss Her” as a masculine anthem.

 

But Brad has other types of songs.  He can write a love song or a serious or a sad song and some of them are pretty good like:

  • This Is Country Music
  • A Man Don’t Have to Die
  • Toothbrush
  • Waitin’ On a Woman

All in all he’ got a lot of good music.  Of late I think he’s had a falling off.  But his earlier hits are solid and I still enjoy them, especially the comical ones.

And, of course, he gets extra points for his relationship with Bill Shatner.

Johnny Cash – American IV – The Man Comes Around

At the end of his life Johnny Cash recorded a multi-album project.  Listening to this album it’s unmistakable that we’re listening to a man at the end of his life.  His voice is in tatters but for some of these songs it’s actually quite effective.  The songs were a very divergent group that crossed over popular styles that spanned generations.  There’s everything from modern songs like Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” to old standards like “Danny Boy” and “We’ll Meet Again.”  And he included pop songs from the 1960s and 1970s like the Beatles’ “In My Life,” the Eagles’ “Desperado” and Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”  He also includes several country western standards like “Sam Hall” and “Streets of Laredo.”  But the highlight of the album is the title song “The Man Comes Around.”  It’s a dark vision of the Judgement Day.  Cash claims that some of the lines came to him in a strange dream.  I listen to this song when I’m feeling particularly pessimistic about the future.

Not all the songs work for me.  And I’ll guess that not everyone will agree with my picks but here they are:

  • The Man Comes Around
  • I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry
  • Streets of Laredo
  • Sam Hall

For older die-hard fans of Cash this will be a bitter-sweet experience because of the circumstances of this music.  But I think the title song is a very stirring song that’s worth a listen by country music fans.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? – A Country Music Review

Back in 2000 I went to see the Coen Brothers movie of the same name and even though George Clooney was just as much of a progressive jerk back then as now I enjoyed the movie immensely.  So, I bought the movie soundtrack sometime in early 2001 and listened to it from time to time.  Then 9/11 happened and I found myself listening to that album over and over.  One song especially, “Angel Band,” seemed soothing and fit my mood.  About the same time, I was driving home from work, listening to the local classic rock station and it struck me that I had heard the same six songs on the way home for the last six months and just couldn’t stand to hear them again.  So, I tried a few of the other rock stations and realized they were playing exactly the same songs.  In desperation I clicked around to see what else was playing.  Eventually I stumbled on a country music station and by some weird coincidence they were playing Angel Band!  I took it as a divine intervention and from then on, I switched to country music.

So that may explain why I have an exaggerated regard for “O Brother Where Art Though.”  But undoubtedly it is a very good album.  Even the songs that are not strictly country fit the mood of the collection.  My favorite songs in the collection are:

  • Down to the River to Pray (Alison Krauss)
  • I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow (Dick Burnett)
  • Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby (Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch)
  • Indian War Whoop (John Hartford)
  • Angel Band (The Stanley Brothers)

I’ll review the movie separately but I don’t think it’s necessary to watch the movie to enjoy the music but it does add an extra dimension to the experience which I recommend.

Traveller by Chris Stapleton – A Country Music Review

Chris Stapleton is a big country music star.  His 2015 debut solo album Traveller was double platinum and went to number 1 on Billboard.  But I only heard of him when I looked up a song that was on the soundtrack of the movie Hell or High Water that I watched last year.  That was the song “Outlaw State of Mind.”  So, I figured I’d buy the album it was released on and that was “Traveller.”  Chris Stapleton is a very successful songwriter with his songs being sung by country artists such as Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley.  And when you listen to this album you realize he is a fantastic lyricist.  It is filled with great music.  There are all kinds of different songs, songs about love, heartache, addiction, music, God and working-class alienation.  There’s plenty of good stuff on it but being the romantic that I am my favorite song on the album is a love song called “More of You.”  It’ a mandolin accompaniment to a husband describing his undying love for his wife.  As a man married for almost a lifetime to a woman as stubborn and aggravating as Camera Girl no one is more aware of the homicidal impulses that can awaken in a husband’s tortured mind when such a woman really tries to twist the knife.  But I also know the flipside, which is that a good marriage is the best thing that can happen to a man.  This song captures that good side.  It is simple, tender and beautiful.

Traveller is a good country album.  Give it a try.