Sep 26, 2022
Aug 3, 2022
This is the kind of variety country radio would have in my perfect world.
They aren’t ranked based only on how much I like the songs, but a combination
of how long the singles have been out + how much I like them.
Jul 21, 2022
Jan 18, 2022
Apr 24, 2020
Tupelo, Mississippi Americana band Natchez Trace is riding out the Covid-19 pandemic in a shared rental house and doing just fine, thank you. In fact, they say things are actually more profitable for them during these uncertain times.
“I was worried, I’ll be honest.” said bassist Lee Sturgeon. “No tour dates, no merch sales, and even our Spotify streaming royalties are down from $1.54 to $1.34 for some reason.” Despite the lack of income, the band, who has opened for the likes of Aaron Lee Tasjan and Nikki Lane, is living high on the hog during this challenging era.
“We’ve actually gone 22 straight days without our van breaking down,” said lead singer Vance Upton. “The previous record was 4 hours… so we’re saving a lot of money on vehicle maintenance.” “Also, we haven’t had any gear stolen since last Monday. Usually we’re replacing amps and guitars on a pretty much daily basis.”
Low overhead isn’t the only thing keeping Natchez Trace afloat. “When those stimulus checks hit the bank accounts, we threw a party,” laughed Sturgeon. “$1200 dollars a piece? Man, that’s like six months driving from town to town, playing for 23 people, and sleeping in a rest stop parking lot.” “We’re rich bitch!” yelled Upton in the background.
So what is Natchez Trace doing during this downtime? “Video games, beer, Netflix, repeat.” said drummer Matthew Chandler. “We might do a live stream or something one of these days but we’re usually too hung over.”
At press time, Natchez Trace was drunkly considering continuing to not tour after the pandemic is over.
Feb 5, 2018
Feb 2, 2018
Jan 9, 2018
Jan 2, 2018
Raw and unedited
by Jeremy Harris
20. Ha Ha Tonka “Heart-Shaped Mountain” - I can’t remember how many of these Trailer wanted comments for.... oh well.
19. John Moreland “Big Bad Luv” - From the album cover and name you’d think rap. From the sound of his voice you’d think awesome.
18. Steve Earle & The Dukes “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” - On a scale of 1 to Steve Earle, how do you feel about Trump? Just kidding, Steve steers clear.
17. Otis Gibbs “Mount Renraw” - Every year Otis complains about year end lists and the critics that compose them. I consider myself exempt this year.
16. Left Lane Cruiser “Claw Machine Wizard” - Rock isn’t dead, it’s just hiding on this album.
15. Nikki Lane “Highway Queen” - My daughter’s favorite singer absolutely kills it with this one. Hopefully my daughter doesn’t find her duet with Wheeler Walker Jr.
14. Blitzen Trapper “Wild and Reckless” - Crap! I just found out I only had to add notes to at least 5 of these.
13. The Hooten Hallers “Self Titled” - You won’t find very many small bands than can match this energy. None can match this sound.
12. Bob Wayne “Bad Hombre” - Nobody sings about their life more than Bob. Thankfully he has an interesting life on the road.
11. Chris Stapleton “From A Room: Volume 1” - There’s a magic formula that combines the best of 1 and 2 that makes it a much better album. With this formula 1 tops 2 by a lot.
10. Jason Isbell “The Nashville Sound” - If ‘Vampires’ doesn’t make you cry you may be a zombie.
9. Lukas Nelson “Promise of the Real” - Lukas topped his dad this year. His best release so far.
8. Zac Brown Band “Welcome Home” - There’s a grumpy, single guy in Kentucky that’s gonna give me hell on twitter over this one.
7. Jason Eady “Self Titled” - Eady does it again. Another great album.
6. Turnpike Troubadours “A Long Way From Your Heart” - Find the story behind ‘Pay No Rent’ then listen again.
5. Travis Meadows “First Cigarette” - There’s some real sad stuff on this one. If Isbell makes you feel weird and emotional, Travis Meadows will bring you down even more.
4. Justin Payne “Coal Camp-EP” - There’s a rule that an EP can’t make a year end list. There’s also a rule that an EP shouldn’t be this good. If Just had a couple more songs on here he’s a solid top 3. Not fleecing me on a trade in fantasy football would’ve helped too.
3. Joshua James “My Spirit Sister” - Sons of Anarchy was a good show that featured great music. Joshua James was one of the best featured artist.
2. Hellbound Glory “Pinball” - This may be the best Leroy Virgil or whatever his name is now’s best album yet.
1. Tyler Childers “Purgatory” - I’ve been waiting on this album for 3 years. It was worth the wait but I’m not willing to wait that long for Tyler’s next one.
Nov 3, 2017
Oct 9, 2017
by Robert Dean
I think about cover tunes a lot. When a band decides to do a cover on a compilation record or add it to their live show, there’s a lot at stake. Is the band going to do the song straight up? Are they going to take some artistic liberties? Is the song the right choice for the band? There’s a lot to consider when playing someone else’s tune.
What got me thinking about this list was imagining if some of my favorite artists covered songs that in my head worked in concert with their existing sound and style. Cuz, let’s face it; there’s many times when a band picks a cover tune, and it’s complete trash. I’m constantly wondering what a band would sound like if they just tried this song, this one jam.
Maybe I’m nuts, but here are my top songs I think artists should be covering right now:
Don’t Mess Around With Jim – Jim Croce, as covered by JD McPherson
There’s a familiar cadence of the groove between this tune and what JD continually pumps out. The breezy verses seem almost too perfect for McPherson’s solid rock and roll swagger. With the head bobbing tempo and slick feel, there’s so much soul and pure filth underneath this song, that JD McPherson could pull it out in spades. Plus, there’s a third verse riff where it’s just vocals and a super in the pocket drum beat that JD would be all over with that big, bright voice.
Remedy – The Black Crowes, as covered by Every Time I Die
Remedy is one of The Black Crowes sleaziest, blues-soaked tunes. There’s a sense of inherent vice and slick danger to this song. It’s full, breathy and is so slinky and over the top. Every Time I Die have recently been more of a metal band with a few mutated classic rock riffs thrown in, but should they ever wanna flex those muscles they were in the Hot Damn! Era, Remedy would be a great vocal fit, but also be a solid sing-along tune in respect to the chaos of their live shows. Because Every Time I Die have the musical chops to pull off a song like this, I feel like their ownership would be astounding.
Breathe – Pink Floyd, as covered by Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
Now, this one might sound weird, but hear me out. Jason Isbell’s guitar playing is silky smooth. The backbone to Pink Floyd’s signature era was David Gilmour’s Stratocaster taking humans to new planets. Isbell is a songwriter, but he’s got some chops, too. Plus, The 400 Unit are quite the band, musically speaking. Coupled with Isbell’s ability to pour himself out and bring out those inner demons, he could harness something akin to the sounds of Dark Side Pink Floyd. When you think about it, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched. If you need further proof, listen to Isbell’s biggest bummer ever, When We Were Vampires – if you don’t hear lament and slow, steady blues, something is off with your ears.
Refugee – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, as covered by Lucero
Lucero has a back catalog of a million songs. Most of which, Ben Nichols can draw up from the well in an instant mentally. But, one in a while, Lucero will break out their cover of Jawbreaker’s Kiss The Bottle. But, as the band gets older and establishes a much more weighted in purist rock and roll sound, Refugee is a tune that fits Nichols swagger, but also works with how the band works as a cohesive unit. That wide open riff matched with the song’s signature call and response works well considering Lucero’s On My Way Downtown isn’t too far off style-wise.
They did cover "American Girl" already: ~Trailer
Magic Man – Heart, as covered by Nikki Lane
There’s something low-key magical about Nikki Lane. She is sultry without putting it on front street. She could deliver on Ann Wilson’s vocal runs. Songs like Highway Queen aren’t too thematically different than the Heart catalog. This one feels like a natural fit.
Mannish Boy – Muddy Waters, as covered by Chris Stapleton
Another odd choice, but it works when you think about it. Chris Stapleton has a gigantic, powerful voice. What’s the most memorable thing about Mannish Boy? It’s the riff and Muddy’s ownership of the room, challenging all comers to step to his vocal prowess. Stapleton could master that song as long as he kept it true to it’s roots and go country.
Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) – The Rolling Stones, as covered by Jack White
If there’s anyone who can handle the instrumentation concerning the original sound and spirit, it’s Jack White. He’s already jammed Loving Cup with The Stones, so seeing him tackle one of their lesser known, but die-hard fan hit songs would be a perfect match. He’s got the gear, the ability to play all of Keith Richards riffs and he’s a complete purist who’d relish trying to offer that same fierce spirit that the original Goats Head Soup warrants.
I Never Loved a Man That Way That I Loved You – Aretha Franklin, as covered by Lady Gaga
Look, Lady Gaga is one of the three best singers in pop music. That’s not even up for debate. It’s her, Beyonce and Adele. Yes, I’m aware there are other badass singers with a serious set of pipes. But, I’d like to see anyone else take the Pepsi Challenge on nailing such a soulful icon track. (If there’s someone you think could wreck shop on this one, shout it out: @Robert_Dean, I wanna know.)
Anyhow, one of the best songs of all time. I’d love to see a killer vocalist take the track on and show off their skills.
I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home – Grand Funk Railroad, as covered by Margo Price
Here’s the wild card. Margo Price is a beast. She’s so talented it’s unreal. If there was anyone who could destroy the all-time jam, it’s Margo Price. Her band is insane and just so tight. When she did those Prairie Home Companion with Jack White we saw a layered, classic Margo Price that could straight murder harmonies and let’s face it. She would wreck shop on this tune. Someone send her people an email. This one would be dope.
Agree or disagree, tweet us or leave a comment. What are your dream covers? We want to know.
Sep 15, 2017
Feb 22, 2017
Listening to somebody defend The Band Perry
Hey, how come Widespread Panic only
sounds badass when you see them live?
Beatles! Stones! Beatles! Stones!
When she buys you front row tickets to Sturgill
for your birthday
for your birthday
How's that new Nikki Lane album sound?
When you're a hater but trying to be polite
Hey! Did you hear Ray Wylie Hubbard
announced a show here?
When they actually play a country song
on the country station
Jan 20, 2017
Jan 13, 2017
By Kevin Broughton
Brent Cobb is an old soul. He’s wise and even-keeled like you’d expect a man twice his 30 years to be. Heck, he sounds old on the phone; his conversational tone matches up with a grizzled roughneck, not the soothing troubadour on Shine On Rainy Day. Critical acclaim poured forth upon the album’s October release, and it finished at a heady No. 4 in the FTM critic’s poll – ahem – no small feat. Our intrepid publisher described perfectly it as “a slow drive down a gravel road on the outskirts of your hometown, with nary a bro in sight.”
And therein lies the irony. Or paradox. Whatever, the bro issue is inescapable in a discussion of Cobb’s musical journey, and it’s evident that the dichotomy puzzles the man himself. Because this guy – who hasn’t needed a day job outside of music for 10 years – has written plenty of songs that bros and their producers have fattened their wallets on. And while Cobb would never say it, the bros and their auto-tuning technicians commit aggravated musical assault on his art, dumbing it down in the pursuit of (a) filthy lucre; and (b) the approval of millions of 80-IQ drones.
Oh, his frustration occasionally bubbles up, but in an understated way in keeping with his gentle temperament. Except that one time two years ago when he went into the studio to vent; that’s when “Yo, Bro” caught the ear of notable outlets like Rolling Stone. (Though, by the way, Cobb sent it to FTM first.) The magazine was one of many platforms to make the obvious comparison of his parody song to the work of one of the reigning bros, who happened to be a friend of Cobb’s. It picked up steam to the point the artist felt compelled to preemptively reach out to the pop star in question. “He asked me,” Cobb said, “whether I was making fun of bros, or if it was something I wanted him to record.”
It’s a stretch to say Cobb has a foot in both camps. It’s indisputable, though, that there’s some overlap because of his personal and professional relationships. It gives him a unique perspective into the critical/commercial contrast, and you won’t find anyone with Cobb’s artistic integrity who has such a realistic window into the tragic dumbing down of country music.
When Jody Rosen coined the term “bro country” three and a half years ago, it cut deep with the thin-skinned millionaires whose songs are confined to beer, trucks and heavy petting with loose women. Jason Aldean – who stares at the orange juice can because it says concentrate – remarked, “It bothers me because I don’t think it’s a compliment.”
“You have no idea,” Cobb says, “how personally they take it. You wouldn’t think it would bother them too bad, since all they have to do is go to the mailbox and pick up a check. I don’t know why it bothers them so much, but it does.”
Brent Cobb may never sleep in piles of money; he’ll also never have to worry about the respect of his peers.
On a Sunday in December, Cobb took a break from singing the Frozen soundtrack with his little girl to talk about songwriting. And the music business. And having a cousin who churns out Grammys for the guys program directors ignore. The “bro” thing may have come up, too.
I’d like to start with a question about tradecraft. For a while you made a living writing songs for other people. Is there a different mindset for writing a song for somebody else? I would imagine you attack it differently, for instance, when the goal is to get a song on mainstream radio.
Well, I got lucky, really. I’m with a great publishing company, Carnival Music, that’s always supported people and let them be their own artists and writers. I can’t imagine being anywhere else. There are a lot of places in town, where you go in and it’s a nine-to-five, and you have to try to write hits and that sort of thing. I’ve never had any of that kind of pressure. And for some reason I’ve gotten lucky enough; the songs I’ve written I’ve always done for myself. And I’ve been fortunate that there have been folks to record them.
About six months before the release of Shine on Rainy Day, there was the compilation from your cousin Dave Cobb, Southern Family. Your song on it, “Down Home,” seems like a preview for the album. Was that a song you’d been working on for a while? Put another way, if Dave hadn’t done the compilation, would that have been the eleventh song on Shine On?
I’m sure it would’ve been, man. It’s funny. I had gotten started on that song and had maybe a half a verse or a full verse. When Dave gave me a call [about the compilation] I knew it would be a perfect fit. But it’s definitely a Sunday in the life of my Southern family. And on my album there’s definitely a lot of that, so yeah, no doubt it would’ve been the eleventh track.
It looks like y’all had a lot of fun recording that one.
Oh, yeah. It was definitely good to get back in the studio with Dave; it had been about 10 years since I’d done that with him. So it was a blast. I’ve said this before, but he kinda produces the way I write. There’s a lot of spur-of-the moment stuff, and if he says, “something doesn’t feel right,” he means from his heart, not technically. And that’s the way I’ve always approached writing songs.
You met your cousin Dave, I believe, when you were about 16. He was an established producer then, but not the big name his is now in the industry. He’s kind of a big deal….
That’s what I’m saying!
…How big an asset is it to have a producer who’s not just blood kin, but the hottest hand in Nashville right now?
Ah, that’s gonna be pretty beneficial. It’s definitely helped me out a lot. When we first met I was 17, and he had produced Put the O Back in Country by Shooter [Jennings], which was one of my favorite records at that time and is still one of my favorites.
And it was funny, man. When I moved up here [Nashville]… well, actually, I moved to L.A. for a minute. I lived in the middle of Hollywood for about four months and went back and forth for about a year and a half. Then I moved back to Georgia, then back to Nashville in March of ’08. And I was looking around trying to find a publishing deal and learning about being a staff writer. And the first thing everybody asks is, “Are you a songwriter or an artist?”
So I would always say, “I thought they were one and the same.” And they said, “Well, we’ve gotta get you a producer.” And I told everybody the same thing, for eight years: I’ve got a cousin who’s a producer, and he’s badass. But folks were a little scared to invest money in someone who’s somebody’s cousin who happens to be a producer. And I didn’t have the money and Dave didn’t have the money, so we sorta did what we had to do there for a second. But now a lot of those naysayers are red in the face, I believe. [Laughs.]
Around the time Something More than Free came out, Jason Isbell talked about the collaborative way he and Dave worked in the studio. Your cousin, he said, had a real knack for knowing where to place a bridge, for example, or whether to start a song with a chorus or a verse. Did you experience a similar chemistry in the studio?
Yeah. Well, definitely on my first album, Dave would structurally set up songs. I was 17 at the time. And there’s still a lot of that because he’s just got such a great instinct for… well, I might think a song is incomplete and he might say, “I think it’s done; let’s just put this little melodic thing at the end.” He’s just fantastic, and that’s why everybody loves him, because he thinks like an artist. Well, he is an artist, not just someone who can afford a bunch of equipment and calls himself a producer.
I imagine he’s as valuable – if not more so – than any great session man.
Yeah! And going back to the staff-writing thing, I approach that the same way Dave does: It’s a collaboration that comes down to “What’s best for the song?”
How long had you been working on this batch of songs? Did you do any writing while in the studio?
Some of them longer than others. Like I said, I’ve always written for myself, so I’ve always had a deep pocketful of songs that kinda lent themselves to this album. But some of them I finished up in the studio in the moment; I might have a melody in mind and I’d say, “What do you think about this one, Dave?” So, a little bit of both.
There’s an uplifting air to this album of yours. There’s sort of a demarcation point, I think, between the first seven and last three songs, but for the most part there’s kind of a contentment running through it. Is this a reflection of your personality and general outlook on life?
I think it has to be. I come from a very musical family, a positive family, a loving family. For me, it’s been a long decade professionally in music and I’ve seen some people come behind me and excel and surpass me. But I’m still rockin’, professionally. I’ve been able to make a living from just music for almost a decade. So I’ve gotta be positive.
The other thing I wanted to show, you know…I’m friends with everybody on both sides of the fence; I can’t really pick a side because I’ve got so many friends on both sides of this invisible wall. My thing is, I wanted to do country music in such a way that just because you’re going beyond scratching the surface and doing something a little deeper, it doesn’t have to be depressing. You can write something that feels good and also has a little more meaning to it, a little more depth.
So that was always in the back of my mind while I was putting this album together. And also – having a two-year-old – I wanted to put something out where if I never did anything else, my daughter could listen to it and say, “Man, that was my daddy’s album!”
|From Brent Cobb's Instagram|
You'd easily fit into the mainstream country neo-traditional revival (artists like Stapleton, William Michael Morgan, Jon Pardi). You've seemingly gone the more straight-Americana/less-commercial route. Was that a business decision, or just staying true to your style and comfort level?
Yeah, it’s just the way I write. If you go the traditional or commercial route, there’s just so many people who have to get involved, and that wouldn’t have been a good representation of what I do. This album is just natural.
And, speaking of the commercial route, let’s talk about an elephant in the room. There are several folks in the “mainstream” camp who’ve recorded your songs. You wrote “Tailgate Blues” and Luke Bryan had a hit with it. (editor’s note: was a popular album cut) It might be hard for folks to reconcile the songs on Shine on Rainy Day with that one. Was that a case of “well, that’s just what the music-listening public wants, so give it to them?”
No, that song was originally written for me. I had a verse or two, and it was originally called “Mossy Blues.” And I would ask people to go and listen to the lyrics of that song * before they made any judgments like, “Oh, he wrote that song for Luke Bryan.” Because – and I don’t really want to be the one to say it – if they listen to it, it’s structurally different. There are some of the same phrasings, but we’re from the same area. But I think you can tell the differences in depth.
And my co-writer, Neil Medley – it was one of the first songs I’d had a co-writer for, and this was about five years ago – he’s the one who said “Let’s call it ‘Tailgate Blues.’”
Well, that was certainly some foresight, right there.
[Laughs]. Isn’t that funny, man? And look, I’m not saying we were the first ones to write about a buzz, or write about a tailgate or crickets and stuff, because we damn sure were not. But during that time period not a lot of people were saying that stuff. And then, about a year or so after that…[laughs].
What’s more likely to happen: Brent Cobb writing another song about a truck, or Luke Bryan covering “Down in the Gulley?”
Luke would do Down in the Gulley.
Yeah, but would you want him to? Wait. You don’t have to answer that.
Of course I would! I want everybody to do whatever they want to do. Wouldn’t it be cool to hear Luke do Down in the Gully? That would probably change everything.
Well, it would help your bottom line, no doubt… So, you apparently dipped your toe into satire and wrote something called “Yo, Bro.”
[Laughs] Aw, I should’ve sent that to you.
I’d love to hear it, but I can’t, since all traces of it have disappeared from the Internet. Can you clear up this mystery?
Ah, well…For about four or five years, I averaged doing about 120 dates a year, and when we found out we were having our baby, I decided I’d leave the road and just focus on songwriting. And during that time, it was at the height, the peak really, of the bro country movement, and I couldn’t get anybody to listen to any of my songs.
So I got kinda pissed off. And what happened…I won’t say any names, but I had a couple folks who are kinda high up – Luke WAS NOT one of them – a couple folks in that camp told me, “Man if you could just write some stuff that leaned that way, you could probably have a lot of success.” And it really bothered me because it ain’t that I can’t do that; I just don’t do that.
I decided to write something that was that style of song, and I wanted to do it better than they can write their own style of song. [Pauses] Against them. As a matter of fact, Neil Medley – the same guy who co-wrote “Tailgate” – that’s who I wrote “Yo, Bro” with. And it worked.** [Laughs] It did a lot of what I thought it would do; I figured it would go over a lot of the bro fans’ heads…
That’s not a very high bar, Brent…
And later they were like, “Wait, I think he’s making fun of us, but it doesn’t matter because it sounds so cool.” What I didn’t expect to happen was that a lot of the more traditional fans – I expected them to get the joke – but it kinda backfired on me and said, “Aw, he’s a bro hatin’ on bros.”
[Howls with laughter]…
Yeah, that’s what happened. So, I pulled it off the Internet. Someday I’ll put it back out there, but I took it off before I put this record out because I didn’t want people to be confused and not get the joke. Luckily we’ve got folks like [Trailer] and ole Trigger (Saving Country Music) who do get the joke. But a lot of folks didn’t, so I just didn’t want to deal with that.
Back to Southern Family for a second: It’s become a cliché, what with the mainstream country bros checking all the boxes (trucks, dirt roads, etc.) to show they’re authentically rural on all their songs. On “Down Home,” you touch all the bases yourself, yet it’s valid on its face. Did you write that song as sort of an ironic wink at the bro template?
Nah, I didn’t really think of it that way. The thing is, I’m friends with some of those guys. There was one time we were sitting around in the writing room writing a song, and I had this really cool idea. Where I grew up my grandpa had a junkyard. He had a hundred acres that my great-grandpa bought for a dollar an acre after World War I, and on one part of it was this junkyard.
So I had this idea about how things rust away in a junkyard, but it can still be beautiful; a really rural song, you know? So this one guy – and man this is one of the top dudes, and again I’m not gonna say any names. He says, “Well, does that pass the Bubba test?” I asked him what the “Bubba test” was. “As in Bubba back home; is he gonna get it?”
It bothered me so much. And I was a young buck, just a low man on the [Nashville] totem pole. I told the guy, “Well, I don’t think we’re gonna be able to write anything together. Ever.” And I just got up and walked out. Who knows; maybe if I hadn’t walked out I could’ve had a bunch of bro hits. [Laughs] But it just bothers me, man. It’s an epidemic, and what I don’t understand is, those guys are from there (the rural South.) They know that things are deeper. I don’t know whose fault it is, whether it’s the fans of that music; I don’t know if it’s the record labels, or the radio, or if it’s just people getting there and selling where they’re from short. I don’t know whose problem it is. But it’s unfortunate, because it’s much richer, where we’re all from.
Yeah. As a lifelong Southerner, it chaps me when in the movies, for example, every Southerner is gonna be a dumb yokel…
…and these guys, they’re reinforcing that stereotype and lining their pockets. And now they’ve added an element of soft-core porn to it, singing about trying to get in some skank’s pants…
…and it’s not healthy.
You know, I hate to name-drop because I know these guys and they’re all heroes of mine. But my wife and I were talking about this the other day. Guys like Kristofferson and Willie, when they talked about a woman, it was so romantic. They did it in a way that was just beautiful, man. You can still do that, dammit. It’s the same way with movies, too. I love the movie Dazed and Confused; it’s funny because it’s real-life, not over the top. What’s happening in all genres of music, not just country, is that it’s over the top and exploitative of whatever the truth is.
Lastly, are you doing any new writing, or is that something that’s perpetual for you? And have you thought about what you might do for your next album?
I have thought about it and I’m really excited about doing the next album. It won’t stray too far from where I am already, though.
Cobb will play a few dates late this month in the U.K., then come home for an extensive tour with Nikki Lane in February. Catch him when you can.
* Seriously, go listen. He’s right, and it’s a great song. When sung by Brent Cobb, of course.
** Oh, man, does it ever work. Since the interview, your humble correspondent received a copy from the artist on the condition of not circulating it. It is brilliant.
Nov 18, 2016
Feb 23, 2016
The Outlaw Country Cruise: Drinking, Singing, and Beards
by Jeremy Harris
by Jeremy Harris
When I first heard about The Outlaw Country Cruise I was beyond excited. The lineup was in its infancy at the time and preorders hadn't started yet, but my wife and I knew we were going. As time passed the lineup grew and even had a substitution at one time. When the time came, we were loaded up and ready to spend 20+ hours in the car heading south. Ok, maybe that last part sucked. Once there though, that would change.
|Black Oak Arkansas|
Once on board it was time for buffet trip number 1 then off to show number 1. While still docked, Sarah Gayle Meech started things off with her honky-tonk stylings. After her set there was a short break then the launch party began. Weeks before the cruise, some people were debating about whether Sixth Man, who runs the cruise, had make a good decision by selecting The Mavericks to play during this time. It didn't take long to figure out not only was this a good decision, but it was the perfect decision. Who couldn't been better to set the standard and provide the energy to leave Miami better than The Mavericks? Nobody, that's who.
After the sail away party things pretty well flowed as numerous shows took place with sometimes five shows going on at once in different areas. The hardest part about this entire vacation was picking where to be and how long you could be there until it was time to head to the next show. With so many different bands playing there was always something I wanted to see.
Like… Blackberry Smoke playing an acoustic set with special guests of every act knowing the words to Snake Farm. I'm convinced Ray Wylie Hubbard is very similar to Beetlejuice but instead of having to say his name three times to get him to appear, you say it once then hit the first two chords of Snake Farm. Boom, Ray appears! I heard him at least 5 times doing the song with numerous bands and I wish it would've happened 50 more times. Ray wasn't the only one making special appearances. Hell he wasn't the only one coming up for Snake Farm. He joined Paul Thorn and Waymore's Outlaws (with Shooter Jennings) during one of the best shows of the trip. Roger Alan Wade jumped up and performed a heart-felt version of the Waylon classic "You Asked Me To" and Jesse Dayton also joined in on this show. My god, what a talent. Not only a great song writer, but it'd be hard to find a better guitar player and when he sings George Jones. Damn! Some artists who weren't even booked on the cruise popped in for performances. Jonathan Tyler joining The Band of Heathens was a great surprise.
|Ray Wylie Hubbard with Band of Heathens|
Several weeks before the cruise, Sixth Man had sign ups for many on cruise activities with limited area available. These included Battle Shots, best beard contest, and listener's lounge interviews with SiriusXM hosts among other great events. The main reason I'm highlighting these events is because these are the ones I participated in. Battle Shots was a no-brainer. A modified version of Battleship where every hit you received results in you taking a shot. The game was played tournament style and on a boat where drinks are very expensive, free drinks are a bonus. Teams were comprised of five players so my wife, my brother in law and myself teamed up with two of London's finest players, Ben and Lucy. Not only did we get about 20 free shots each during gameplay, we won that son of a bitch. What's the reward for winning you ask? A free margarita poured and placed in you hand at that exact moment you think you can't drink another drop, a 'golden' cup, and a $30 gift certificate per player for the artist merch store. Not a bad deal. Shortly after Battle Shots was the best beard contest. I had been asked earlier to enter but I'm not one of those guys that has a beard to be cool. I'm just lazy and don't like shaving. For some reason while drinking numerous shots and getting three invites from Sixth Man staffers during this time it seemed like a great idea.
Best beard was judged by Sarah Gayle Meech, Rosie Flores and Elizabeth Cook. When each contestant went on stage they were asked for their name and where they were from. I've been on cruises before and I know what reaction Ohio people get. Always one idiot who yells out "O-H" and many other idiots who finish it. Not gonna happen this time. "Hi, I'm Jeremy from southern Ohio and Ohio State fucking sucks!" Guess what.... Rosie Flores is an Ohio State fan. I received her lowest score to that point. I was the 12th person up and she wasn't helping. Sarah and Elizabeth came through for me with respective scores of 9 & 10 for a total score of 27 out of 33. Elizabeth described me as a "party in the front and a party in the back, which led to a drunken turn around.
|Shooter Jennings with Waymore's Outlaws|
In the two listener's lounge events my wife and I attended, we were treated to great happenings. In one show we saw Mojo Nixon interview Jim Dandy from Black Oak Arkansas. These were supposed to be interviews with some acoustic performances. Jim Dandy was so long winded that Mojo barely could speak and only got three questions in during the hour. It was funny watching Mojo squirm trying to get a word in. The other we attended featured Steve Earle interviewing and backing up vocally for Lucinda Williams. What a rare treat to witness this and to hear acoustic versions of songs from her latest album.
You can watch some of the videos Jeremy took here: https://www.youtube.com/user/ohbuffalo38/videos?view=0&shelf_id=1&sort=dd
Dec 30, 2014
There will be commentary included with the top 20. These are all excellent. Trust me.
23. Jim Lauderdale - I'm a Song
24. Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun
28. Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis - Our Year
29. Wade Bowen - s/t
30. First Aid Kit - Stay Gold
31. Beck - Morning Phase
33. Big K.R.I.T. - Cadillactica
38. John Fullbright - Songs
39. Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else
40. Lake Street Dive - Bad Self Portraits
41. Shakey Graves - And the War Came
42. Old Crow Medicine Show - Remedy
43. Ryan Adams - s/t
46. Ty Segall - Manipulator
47. Jack White - Lazaretto
Dec 29, 2014
You'll find a Spotify playlist containing all of these songs at the bottom of this post.
1. Old Crow Medicine Show - Sweet Amarillo
While not as timeless as its spiritual forebear "Wagon Wheel," it's nearly as catchy and just as likely to get your foot tapping. Here's hoping Dylan and OCMS do a whole album together someday. Ought to be a hit on mainstream radio, but yeah, well...
2. Pallbearer - Ghost I Used to Be
An outlier to be sure, this doom metal tune is an instant classic of the genre. Sweeping, majestic, epic - the usual descriptors for the more slow-paced brother of heavy metal - but in this case, they more than fit.
3. Don Williams - I'll Be Here in the Morning
"I'll Be Here in the Morning" is something so steady and perfect, you could hear it on a Williams' greatest hits collection and never question its inclusion. Don's voice is still as comforting and just damn manly as ever and he performs this Townes Van Zandt beauty to perfection.
4. Sturgill Simpson - Turtles All the Way Down
"Weird" is the least likely term you'd ever use to describe a song this classic-sounding, but there it is. "Turtles" is the faith-questioning/love-championing anthem nearly everybody could get behind this year. Never mind that it denies the importance of religion (all of them) and the veracity of its teachings; even Conservatives loved this bastard child of Waylon and a particularly vivid acid trip.
5. Adam Faucett - Opossum
"Don't you ask me when you don't wanna know" it warns in the opening line. It's a dark, melodic look back at how better past days contrast with the struggles of the now in the lives of former lovers. Or at least that's what I think it's about; this one's a little hard to decipher, but it sounds damn great.
6. Wade Bowen - West Texas Rain
Co-written with my MVP songwriter of 2014, Travis Meadows, "West Texas Rain" is certainly a highlight of Wade Bowen's career thus far. It brings to mind Restless Heart with its soft tones and strong melodies. Another song that ought to be a big hit - in fact, it probably would have been a no-doubter in the 80s or 90s.
7. Caleb Caudle - Drag
A sad-bastard tune warning a potential love of the likelihood of a disastrous outcome, "Drag" is thoughtful, soulful and gloriously depressing.
8. Old 97's - Nashville
A joyously profane return to what made Old 97s one of my favorite bands during my early forays into alt-country. It's vulgar, self-deprecating and hilariously confident despite the subject matter. The guys haven't sounded happier to be rocking together in years.
9. Nikki Lane - Love's On Fire
This duet with Joshua Headley sways like the trees on a spring Sunday afternoon. It's all harmony and good times and fiddle and organ and a damn fun tune that you'll never get out of your head. Modern country rock at its best.
10. Fire Mountain - Traces
A hard-hitting ballad with a sweeping chorus that wouldn't be out of place soundtracking a somber breakup scene in some teen soap. That's not to say it's generic and schmaltzy… okay, it's a little schmaltzy, but it's so damn well-written and just unfair on an emotional level. I would have straight up wept into my cheap beer if this had come out during my college days.
Next 10 (in no particular order):
Marty Stuart And His Fabulous Superlatives – Boogie Woogie Down the Jericho Road
Tami Neilson – Cry Over You
Run The Jewels – Blockbuster Night Part 1
Lydia Loveless – Wine Lips
Matt Woods – Tiny Anchors
Josh Grider – Pontiac
Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition – Hurtin' Songs
Drive-By Truckers – Grand Canyon
The War On Drugs – Eyes To The Wind
Kelsey Waldon – High in Heels
Other Favorites (in no particular order):
Shooter Jennings – The Door
Cory Branan – All I Got and Gone
Lee Bains III and The Glory Fires – The Kudzu and the Concrete
Karen Jonas – Suicide Sal
Beck – Country Down
Parker Millsap – When I Leave
Jack White – That Black Bat Licorice
Stoney LaRue – Still Runnin’
Willie Nelson – The Wall
Bob Wayne – 20 Miles to Juarez (feat. Elizabeth Cook)
Red Eye Gravy – Take Me Back
Rival Sons – Open My Eyes
Cloud Nothings – I'm Not Part of Me
Mastodon – The Motherload
YG – Who Do You Love?
Robert Ellis - Chemical Plant
Schoolboy Q – Collard Greens
Hard Working Americans – Down to the Well
Rodney Crowell – God I'm Missing You
Cody Johnson – Holes
Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings – Retreat!
Jimbo Mathus – Medicine
Eric Church - Talladega
Eric Church - Talladega
First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
David Nail – Brand New Day
Sundy Best – Smoking Gun
Lee Ann Womack – Tomorrow Night In Baltimore
The Hold Steady – The Ambassador
Mat D. and The Profane Saints – Holyoke
Jason Eady – One Two...Many
John Fullbright – Never Cry Again
Centro-matic – Salty Disciple
Matthew Ryan – Then She Threw Me Like a Hand Grenade
Curtis Harding – Keep On Shining
Lake Street Dive – Seventeen
St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Broken Bones & Pocket Change
Miranda Lambert – All That's Left - [feat. The Time Jumpers]
Spoon – Knock Knock Knock
Dierks Bentley - Riser
Dierks Bentley - Riser
Rosanne Cash – A Feather's Not A Bird
Jeff Whitehead – Pardon Me
Hiss Golden Messenger – Drum
Cahalen Morrison – I've Won Every Battle, But I've Lost Every War
Sunny Sweeney – Find Me
Whiskey Myers – Colloquy