May means nearly summer, and you know what that means. Country music puts on its flip-flops and cutoffs and gets into recycling (themes and sounds). And let me level with you: I'm finding it harder and harder to trifle with this bullsh*t month after month. I hope you appreciate the depths of despair, tedium and annoyance I go through to bring this review to you semi-monthly. The more I do it, the further I feel my mind slipping into some black pit of insanity. No "A's" and no "F's" this go round, just a lot of mediocrity. Here we go! (click the song titles to listen)
Steve Azar - Hard Road
Steve continues on his laid back bluesy path, banking on the success of the similar sounding "Sunshine" for this to be his new groove. I love the fact that he's gone with a more organic sound that compliments his true upbringing. It's not your everyday Clearchannel material and for that, Steve deserves kudos. All that said, this is not overly engaging, and the nonsensical "ahhooof" sounds he makes repeatedly on this track border on water torture.
Walker Hayes - Why Wait for Summer?
I know, right? Why wait for Summer to start pissing me off with summer songs? Listen: Being a gainfully employed 36 year old living in the deep south, I hate summer. It's hot as Rosie O'Donnell's armpit so I sweat a lot and my car wants to overheat every day and I don't get off work, I have to mow weekly and gas prices rise, and …well, you get the point. I'll stop ranting. This song is about having fun, despite it not actually being summer. They plan to fool the general country-music-buying-public into singing along from May through July because it has the word "summer" in it. Who knows if it will work? I'm not the target demographic. All I know is I don't want to hear this anymore.
Martina McBride - Teenage Daughters
…in which she admits drinking and being old. Not old, necessarily, but older than either Reba or her boobs would ever confess being. This is a catchy pop-country tune that tackles the difficulties of parenthood and sentimentalism towards the teen years in one heartfelt swoop. Pretty good tune.
Frankie Ballard - A Buncha Girls
Take last year's summer misfires, throw in a few different key words, please the female demographic and here's your result. Blah.
Ashley Gearing - Five More Minutes
Carrie Underwood redux. In fact, I thought it was her at first. Good voice, but she needs to find her own personality. The vocals, the theme, the pop-country arrangement…down to the letter, this is Carrie 2.
Gloriana - Wanna Take You Home
Sunny, easy-rolling country-pop. There's an obvious concerted attempt to sound more country for the guy-girl group this time out… fiddle, acoustics, even some steel, but the song itself is lacking. There's very little substance, nor is there much of a lyrical hook. Their harmonies are supposed to pull up the slack, but it's not happening.
Greg Templeton - I Could Be the One
I could be the one to fall asleep listening to this. His voice is reminiscent of Dierks Bentley's, but this tune is reminiscent of every other potboiler I've ever heard on one of these comps. Dull as a butter knife.
Bradley Gaskin - Mr. Bartender
Travis Tritt reincarnated. What? Oh. I just haven't seen him around. Well, uh… he sounds a lot like Travis. Decent neo-traditional song. It's probably too drink-centric to be a big hit though.
The Janedear Girls - Shotgun Girls
Another summer song. Surprised? I guess it's catchy. Lovely harmonies... or whatever. Willie and Merle just got mentioned. Somebody put a steel toe boot into my backside. There are two songs that mention "dashboard drumming" on this compilation. Just FYI. Make it stop.
Heidi Newfield - Stay Up Late
Here's the latest track from former Trick Pony lead singer, Heidi Newfield. She doesn't want to go out on the town, she just wants to stay home and listen to Darius Rucker's "Alright" and drink wine and eat spaghetti and do it all night. You know? This is honestly better than most of the rest of stuff on this promo. It's got a Bonnie Raitt feel to it. The hook is nice (go to bed early and stay up late). What the heck…
River Road - Good Things
Surprise, surprise… another decent song. It's a story song about a couple who marries early, births early and yada yada. Another decent hook (sometimes good things come to those who can't wait). It's got a laid back 90s feel to it. Nothing new, but it stands above most of this drivel.
Little Big Town - The Reason Why
I'd like to know the reason why I keep downloading these things. I actually don't hate Little Big Town, but this sounds like Gloriana, who I do hate. High school vocal choir schlock. Of course the vocals and harmonies are spot on, but that's eye shadow on a goat (lipstick on a pig was too easy).
Kenny Chesney - Live a Little
Kenny's got enough goodwill built up among fans and radio to throw out a true clunker now and then. Here it is, in its "perfect for mom to roll down the windows and sing along to while taking kids to baseball and ballet" glory (?). (s)Hit-bound for sure. (Update - It's already hit #1... so why's it on the May comp???)
Tim McGraw & Gwyneth Paltrow - Me and Tennessee
I use up way too many derogatory terms and put-downs in these Promo Only reviews. They're bound and determined to run me out of snark, one month at a time. Gwyn's voice isn't that bad really. This song's pretty freakin' annoying though. The refrain of "together we're singing, forever we're singing" is nails on a chalkboard bad. I'll just go back to an old favorite retort: This sucks.
Kip Moore - Mary Was the Marrying Kind
Billy Ray Cyrus reincar…. never mind. He sounds a lot like the king of mullets for sure though. I think some of my blogging compadres dig this. Not sure I do. MOR country rock. Background music.
Eden's Edge - Amen
Snap judgment before it starts, based on their name: girl/guy vocal choral group. Ooh, nice vocals. A little twang even. Not much soul once the chorus hits. Note to singers: if you ask for an "amen," you gotta have a little grit in your voice like you just ate collard greens. A lot of potential in this group and the song… but sadly unrealized. I was wrong with my pre-judgment, it's a girl group… and lead vocalist girl needs to hit a few blues dives before singing her next song with gospel overtones. Too honky for this honky.
Due West - When the Smoke Clears
Solemn opening. Wow, there's actually some melody in the chorus. It's pretty moving to the part of my soul that hasn't grown dark yet. They remind me of Emerson Drive a little. Strings now. This is the part where tears are supposed to well up in the corners of my hazel blue eyes. Nope, didn't happen. Not a bad song overall. Pop country with a little more heart than I'm used to from that sub-genre.
Johnny Patton - Phone in Heaven
Bringing up the rear…good morning Jesus, can I talk to mama? This guy sounds a little like The Possum. The arrangement even sounds like 80's Jones with a little more slickness. Stone country for the Taylor Swift generation. He doesn't have the chops of George (who does?), but if he did, and he cut loose a little more on the chorus, this might garner a higher grade than…