Showing posts with label single reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label single reviews. Show all posts

Nov 10, 2022

“Give us a Bottle of Jameson” Quenches a Certain Thirst

By Robert Dean

Most of the time, I'm burned out on the Irish folk stuff. I'm crazy Irish, and I get it. I've heard the songs and jokes and have had enough Guinness to last a lifetime. I also know that you don't ask for an Irish car bomb while at a bar in Ireland. (Fun fact: my great-grandfather was in the original IRA.)

But, on his new song, "Give us a Bottle of Jameson," Murphy's Lawyer won me over. Instead of being overly traditional in fear of upsetting the purists, this is more of a fun bar tune that's still Irish folk. Still, there's a little grim, maybe a showing of the canines of something a little more influenced by some 90's alternative rather than the Clancy Brothers.

"Give us a Bottle of Jameson" dropped just before Halloween on all the platforms, and it's been making some noise for those into the genre, which is good for Murphy's Lawyer as he's a full-time balladeer in the pubs of New York. As mentioned in the press release for the tune, it's a fun little descriptor that offers insight into what the song's about, "Give Us a Bottle of Jameson' began as a rhythmic etude and devolved into complete musical debauchery. Listen as the protagonist Paddy weaves in and out of 6/8, 9/8 and 12/8 as he makes his way from Mary O's in the East Village, to the local liquor store and ultimately to a jailhouse cell in this blistering tongue-in-cheek tale about a man and his destructive love for a certain beverage. Offaly man Jayson Darby of The Wild Goose in Queens, NYC makes a cameo to chime in on his whisky preference."

If you've got a fetish for some good-times, floor-stomping songs you'd hear during a happy hour, complete with some hoots and hollers, along with plenty of spilled shots of Jameson, this will ring your bell. That genre has few surprises because of its adherence to the old school, but this is a nice departure in style and sound. And if Murphy's Lawyer can keep pushing the boundaries of his narrative and how he tells his stories, there's a lot to be excited about as we see his evolution. 


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Mar 15, 2018

3 Up 3 Down: March 2018

3 Up

Luke Bryan - Most People Are Good
What's this? Luke Bryan spoken of in a positive manner? Have you finally lost it, Trailer? Nope - a good song's a good song. This tune is simple, quaint even. It has timely and timeless lyrics. Luke does a fine job with it. On top of that, it's a country song. I know he's still got to pump out the mindless bangers to keep the arenas full, but let's at least hope he's beginning a transition to more mature fare like this winner.

Cole Swindell - Break Up in the End
What's this? Cole Swindell spoken of in a positive manner? etc. 
This one is actually more of a surprise to me, since (and I'm not blustering here) this is the very first Swindell song I have liked even a little. Cole's still no crooner, but his plain-spoken voice lends this heartbreaker some gravity. Some will read the lyrics and say this is a wimpy song, but ultra vulnerable ballads like this are scattered through the careers of greats like George Strait, Vern Gosdin, and Willie Nelson. Not saying Cole should ever be mentioned in the same breath as those folks, but "Break Up in the End" is a step in the right direction.

Ashley McBryde - A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega
A song like this makes you think there's still a chance to turn country radio around. It takes a look back at the missteps that end up making us stronger. Fresh, hopeful, and upbeat with a hint of sadness. And it's country. Ashley's voice is strong and memorable, and with material like this, I can't wait to hear her upcoming debut album. (Side note: my honeymoon was in Dahlonega - beautiful town and surrounding area.)

3 Down

Jordan Davis - Singles You Up
More of this trend of melting pot folk/R&B/pop schlock - think Sam Hunt, but not so much talking. Who says "singles you up" anyway? Lame, boring, trend-chasing, and it's a hit, of course. Nice beard, broseph.

David Lee Murphy & Kenny Chesney - Everything's Gonna Be Alright
What a disappointment. David Lee Murphy had a nice, albeit brief, run of good tunes in the 90s and he's a solid songwriter. Kenny, while still Kenny, can surprise you every now and then with a great tune. This one's not. It may as well be sung by Devin Davis Jordan Walker Hunt.

Bebe Rexha ft. Florida-Georgia Line - Meant to Be
Yeah well. What'd you expect? This is shit. Some claim it to be a good pop song, but it's grating as hell to me. And who cares anyway? If I come home to a pig in the back yard with my dogs, I wouldn't think "What an impressive pig - I bet it could win some state fairs." No, I think "Why the hell is there a swine in my yard?" It doesn't belong.

Aug 3, 2017

Single Review: Joe Nichols "Never Gets Old"

by Jonny Brick

In a marketplace where there’s a country chappie for everyone, and a new one is introduced every other week, sometimes vintage works too.

This is the title track of Joe’s first album in four years. Elsewhere on the album are covers of "Diamonds Make Babies," written by Chris Stapleton and an album cut by Dierks Bentley, and "Baby Got Back," which answers the question: What happens if Brad Paisley had gone full hip-hop on "Accidental Racist?" It’s surprising there hasn’t been more coverage of the album’s final track, which is a nice bonus after eleven tracks of homegrown ole-fashioned country like this tune.

In the rich key of D-flat with a whisper of accordion, "Never Gets Old" is a gentle love song about a girl’s touch being ‘like sunshine or Amazing Grace.’ Time goes on like a ‘broken record’ but with her around doing some kissing and holding hands, everything’s a-ok.

The lyric isn’t shouted but crooned, and the arrangement pushes the tenderness of the message into the foreground. It’s an adult love song, pitched at people who have been pushing ‘a rock up that big ole hill’ and find comfort in their life partner.


Aug 1, 2017

Single Review: Chris Stapleton "Broken Halos"

by Jonny Brick

What do you say about the man about whom everything has already been said? Chris is, along with Morgane adding gentle harmonic colors, an act who is outstanding in his field; one look at him and you’d think his profession was standing out in a field.
This is the correct choice of song to send to radio. The song can work with any arrangement: more organ, thrashier electric guitar, unaccompanied as if in a church solo. Instead, the drum thwacks on the 2 and the 4, the acoustic is strummed as succinctly as possible and the five bars which introduce a new chord offer brief respite.

The image of ‘wings that used to fly’ will stand out on the radio for sure, where it’s all things carnal and earthy. Jesus gets a namecheck too. More importantly he listener believes Chris has seen his share of people cut down or who have moved on, belonging ‘to the by and by’. He is philosophical in the way Dylan is or Johnny Cash used to be: ‘We’re not meant to know the answers,’ he sings before the final chorus.

Kentucky should be so proud to have given birth to a man who has taken the song of the South – grit and gravel, soul and saviours – into many homes. The figures don’t lie, nor does Trigger, who reckons more of a song and dance should be made about two platinum albums from a man who seems like country’s version of Dave Grohl: niceness with an electric guitar.


Jul 17, 2017

Single Review: Dierks Bentley "What The Hell Did I Say"

by Jonny Brick

What do these songs have in common: “Every Time I Hear That Song”; “Do I Make You Wanna”; “They Don’t Know”; “What the Hell Did I Say?”
They are all the fourth single released from a major star’s album which this year is getting vast radio play. The fifth single from Ripcord, “The Fighter,” will be number one soon for Keith Urban. Luke Bryan had six number ones from Kill the Lights. This seems too many, but these voices sell cars and whatever other commercials you guys have over there. (I remain English, and thus get my country digitally without adverts.)
Thanks to their relatively quick climbs up the charts, bigger acts like Blake, Billy, Jason and Dierks can cram in more singles per album cycle that they send to radio. After a song which could be called “Drunk on a Boat,” a duet with Elle King, and a ballad about his wife, not to mention a duet with Cole Swindell, Dierks has sent a ploddy song to radio.
Written by Ross Copperman, Josh Kear, and Chris Tompkins before they wrote a better one later in the session, this is typical Dierks. The plot of the song is that poor rich. He drunk-dialled his lady and attracted her greatly with an answerphone message. Did he ‘say we’d go shoppin’ or ‘go to Vegas and get married by Elvis’? The idea is funny, the execution is good but there are problems here.
Dierks wonders whether he (grammatically-incorrectly) sought to ‘Louis Vuitton her’ or ‘Rodeo Drive her, slide a Tiffany diamond on her’? Singing nouns in place of verbs is an irritating trope of contemporary country. It almost makes me Second Amendment someone. As for the product placement, I’ll bank account the writers. It’s almost as if words don’t matter on the radio…
The singalong bit comes when Dierks can’t remember what the hell did he, hell did he, hell did he say. Even Bobby Bones recoils at the blasphemy, asking his audio producer to bleep out the offensive word in a mock-serious segment.
The song continues the current Nashville trend of namechecking a non-country song or act when Dierks mentioned that the folk in the bar are singing along to Free Bird. He could even sing some of it onstage when he plays this one on tour; it must be getting a single release because out on the road it gets a big response. There are worse songs on the radio after all, and some aren’t even by Dylan Scott.
The production is very muddy and overloaded on the track, which can be a pro as well as a con, and in particular the solo in the middle of the track is good. Fun fact: credited on one of the three acoustic guitars in the song is one Charlie Worsham, whose recent album contained songs much better than this. Yet radio will go with this until it hits number one some time around Halloween. 


Jun 28, 2017

Single Review: Jon Pardi "Heartache on the Dancefloor"

by Jonny Brick

There’s a movement in country called, to me, ‘Boy Deserving Success Gets Success’. Aaron Watson, country’s ‘underdog’, has hit the sales top 50 and the airplay top 40 with "Outta Style;" William Michael Morgan has gone "Missing" with a sound that uncorks the bottle of wine labelled ‘1994;’ Jason Isbell has the number one record in country with zero airplay on non-satellite stations; and Jon Pardi is going to score his third number one with his smart new single, "Heartache on the Dancefloor."

It’s about a girl who attracts the protagonist with her moves on the dancefloor but who disappears before she can be found. There are about eight great rhythmic earworms in this song, including the chant-along ‘moving through my mind’ and the post-chorus ‘yes she is, yes she is’, which becomes ‘where you at, where you at’ in the final iteration.

The setting is a bar in a ‘west coast town’, which is smart as Jon is a Western act rather than a country one (the record is California Sunrise). The use of the word ‘wandering/ wondering’ in the chorus is smart: Jon is both walking to find her, and thinking about the girl constantly. ‘That girl is killing me so I put on this song!’ he says of his attempts to catch her in that same bar night after night. So what Jon is doing is describing imaginary heartache, which comes from not even talking to a girl; it’s sort of a psychic (or psychotic) passion for a girl. Maybe he dreamed her…

The image is instantly identifiable to anyone who ever visited a bar and saw a purty lady on the dancefloor. This time, Jon doesn’t even need to mention boots to get a hit.


Jun 19, 2017

Single Review: Luke Combs "When It Rains It Pours"

by Jonny Brick

Great, the title’s a cliché. Here’s what else is country-by-numbers, rather than clichés, about this song, about whose music Trigger at Saving Country Music wrote…well, what he usually writes.

1 There’s a gruffness in his voice that is very Stapleton. This isn’t cliché yet but soon we’ll be complaining it’s as common as the words ‘hey girl, get in my truck’ on the radio.
2 The key is F-sharp, not cliché in itself but a very resonant major key that opposes the message of the lyric..
3 …Which is about hanging out with the guys, drinking beer, going out on the road, playing golf, going fishing and forgetting he’s now single. There are three types of country song: need the girl, got the girl and (as here) lost the girl…
4 …But Luke has a new take on heartbreak, with the guy delighted to be rid of the girl, heading straight to ‘I-65’ down a long freeway.
5 The guitars chug away in a Southern rock style in 4/4 time, and this will sound great cruising down the highway at 65mph.
6 He mentions the radio, ‘the FM dial’, but only because he’s ‘caller number five’ and wins a trip to Panama.
7 Antonyms: birds do it, bees do it, even educated country writers do it! Here, Luke sings ‘What I thought was gonna be the death of me was my saving grace’. It’s a good line.
8 The second chorus has a fun lyric about going out with a Hooters waitress. I wonder how much sponsorship money he’ll get from that…
9 The bridge before the last chorus, delivered appealingly, perhaps says that every cloud has a silver lining: ‘I been on one hell of a redneck road…It all started on the day that she walked out.’
10 The line that may inspire a t-shirt is ‘I ain’t never got to see my ex-future-mother-in-law any more’. Class, like so many other great lyrics in country. A comedy staple is the mother-in-law joke (at least in the UK it is!) so this line is delivered as a punchline to the chorus.

Ol’ Trigger may want more, but this one points to another big hit for Luke Combs.


Jun 15, 2017

Single Review: Lee Brice "Boy"

By Jonny Brick

Two of the finest songs of the last decade are I Don’t Dance and I Drive Your Truck. The former has been played on Spotify alone 67m times, the latter a mere 24m times. The voice of Lee Brice, sort of like Tim McGraw’s (in fact a lot like the voice of Tim McGraw), carries both of those songs.

Much like "My Old Man," the new Zac Brown song which does this without programmed drums and synths, this song is another to be found in the sub-genre of Dad/Son-country. It could also be a message to young writers seduced by the headlights of modern country; head to the trunk, where’s there is gold to be found in mining the human condition.

We have a while to wait for the album, self-titled (like Tim McGraw’s first album) and out in November. Tim is on tour this year, still plugging Damn Country Music, which contains "Humble & Kind," a song written by a mum to her kids but sung by Tim, a dad of three.

Musically there are two magical moments in Boy: Lee’s little chuckle in the second verse after the word ‘stubborn,’ and the slide guitar sound before the sombre final chorus which ends on the line ‘run like he’s bulletproof and total a car, too.’ Country must realise that, above other genres, it puts family first, rather than the act of making babies.

"Boy" is thus one of those ‘advice’ songs country music offers (some star or other has just put one out called "Speak to a Girl"). It’s a song from a dad to his son, who will ‘always be my boy’ even if he is genetically programmed to repeat the mistakes of his dad. The middle eight is tender, as the dad feels sorry that his son is off – on his gap year? To NYU? To fight for his country?

Lee is a father-of-two, soon to be a father-of-three, and he must have seized on this song when it was sent to him for consideration. "Boy" was written by Nicolle Galyon (Automatic, It Ain’t Pretty) and Jon Nite (Strip It Down, We Were Us, Think a Little Less). It’s a winner, and an example of what contemporary songwriters in Nashville can do when they step off the tailgate.

After five years of drinking beer, cruising and eating a catfish dinner, country music is hopefully waking up to what Chris Young would call a Sober Saturday Night. If it lasts a few years, so much the better for top quality songs about real things coming out of Music Row and given the confidence to make headway into the charts and people’s playlists.


Jun 13, 2017

Single Review: Dustin Lynch "Small Town Boy"

by Jonny Brick

Bear in mind that I think Dustin is great. His smile is wide, he does lots of work for charity and he has a clothing range called Stay Country [Editor's note: Oh the irony]. He has a very serviceable voice which is better than, say, Michael Ray or Tyler Hubbard or Chase Rice or Brantley Gilbert. He’s the least rotten of the rotten apples this site loves to chuck on the freeway.

Here’s the problem. I hate "Small Town Boy" so much last week that I submitted a thousand-word rant to Farce the Music. It was deemed too bilious to post!

With some perspective, I hate the song less this week. But holding it up against other songs on the radio – "Missing," "My Old Man," "The Way I Talk," "Somethin’ I’m Good At," "Heartache on the Dance Floor," "Makin’ Me Look Good Again," "It Ain’t My Fault" (my point is made…), it’s dreck.

"Small Town Boy," which will be a number one song on country radio like DL’s other songs, is formulaic, committee-driven, and, if you listen closely to the off-beat, you can practically hear the cash register go KA-CHING.

The song is about how Dustin’s lady is attracted a ‘small town boy like me.’ I have no idea what the words ‘I can stick it up, I guess that’s why she can’t get enough’ are doing in the second verse. Maybe she’s so lonely she’ll even take Dustin Lynch.

Dustin boasts how ‘she ma cool, she ma crazy, my lay back in the front seat.’ He’s just using images as nouns, which isn’t how English works. I hope people stop using adjectives as nouns. Dustin is my execrable, my torturous, my inane.

The music video was released during CMA Fest weekend where Dustin tore it up, entertaining drunken folks who had nowhere better to be. Anyhow, the video has got Dustin canoodling on the sand, sometimes with his hat on, other times with his hat off. Even though it’s a very hot day, the girl is wearing clothes suitable for about ten degrees cooler (maybe she’s dressed for the beach breeze when the sun goes down).

I ain’t saying she a golddigger, but gosh darn, Lynchie, maybe it’s because your record company realises you have a commodifiable voice, a stubble-strewn face that looks good in a hat and big pearly teeth. Maybe it’s because you can sell undeveloped ideas like "Seein’ Red" and this one, which are a real regression from "Hell of a Night," "Where It’s At" and "Mind Reader," all massive hits. Shame on Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip, who did so well with "Mind Reader," but who have turned up a dud with Kyle Fishman here but who will nonetheless earn some corn.

It’s not sexist, thank goodness, to boast about being with a girl. In the video, the lady looks like she’s having fun, even if she’s asleep (post-coitally?) at one point. She gets into her beachwear for some frolicking, nicks Dustin’s hat and looks into the eye of the camera like she’s being paid to do. But it seems like a fantasy…unless that’s the point of the song, in which case the Peach Pickers have been too smart.

Grady Smith, the writer who currently has a Youtube channel where he gives hot takes on the hottest piles of takes coming out of Music Row, would call this bewilderingly unspecific. Why is he a fistfight, if he’s got such a charming smile? What’s written on DL’s t-shirt that makes her love it so, and what kind of boots is he wearing?

If it’s Lucchese, it can rhyme with ‘you wasted an opportunity to put out a great single.’ Must do better, or people will turn off before the commercials hit.


May 22, 2017

Single Review: Brad Paisley " Last Time for Everything"

by Jonny Brick

He’s just the best at his job. Brad’s album Love and War is full of reliable tunes, at least four of which are potential Songs of the Year. This isn’t one of them, but it is his current single at radio. After Today (which is one of them), he takes the theme ‘what can’t we do anymore?’ and wraps a lovely melody around it. Notable in the arrangement is the sound of the snare drum, which thwacks away on beats 2 and 4, and the way the fellow male voices wrap around Brad’s.

The chorus goes ‘Last call, last chance/ Last song, last dance’, which is pretty anthemic. Of the ‘everythings’ Brad laments the last time of doing is cutting off a mullet, hearing Little Jimmy Dickens at the Opry and Prince singing Purple Rai-iiiin, using a fake ID, introducing your ‘fiancee’ rather than your wife (or ex-fiancee if the wedding doesn’t take place…There’s a song in that, Brad) and eating ‘biscuits and gravy at your momma’s house’.

Like Brad’s best tunes it’s about time, moments and life. Brad and his mates in the writer’s room have a knack of melding the familiar and the abstract. There really has been nobody better (and I include the likes of Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark here) at boiling down the human condition in a country tune that you can hum and boogie to.

8 out of 10

May 19, 2017

Single Review: Carly Pearce "Every Little Thing"

by Jonny Brick

Off on the latest round of Bobby Bones's Funny and Alone tour, Carly is the latest new hot 'girl singer' or, as they are now called, Anyone But Carrie.

It is quite horrific that Carly has entered the charts with this song and, excluding boy-girl duets (Craving You, Speak to a Girl, The Fighter) sits alongside only THREE (tres) other women singing on their own: Kelsea, Maren, RaeLynn. Carly made this point on social media. It'll change, but maybe not in Willie Nelson's lifetime.

At least Carly, on Big Machine, has bucks and Borchetta (that’s a songtitle…) behind her. The big marketing push must centre on her experience singing at Dollywood, but there’s less Dolly in here and more Crystal Gayle, a pretty and pure voice that will certainly leap out on the radio among our friends [insert least favourite act].

There are so few great female voices from the post-Shania era: Taylor obviously but she’s a writer first and a singer second, Karen and Kimberly, Hilary, Maren, Miranda (more attitude than beauty, and that IS just the voice), Angaleena and Ashley, the other Pistol Annies...Then Carrie obviously, Kelsea who is fun [editor's note: NOPE], RaeLynn who has The Voice, and now Carly. Being uncharitable, I could say Cam is on the line and wants her burning house back.

I love, as I am sure you will, the twang of the dobro (I think it’s a dobro). The song opens with a sense impression: ‘the scent that you left on the pillow, the sound of your heartbeat’. In fact, Carly remembers everything, ‘the shine, the stain’, but she has now turned her back on the guy. Then, as often happens, the last verse flips the narrative: ‘I’d die to not remember every little thing’. What a super song.

Every Little Thing fits the template of Maren Country (can I coin that?): confident, tender, beautiful (the song AND the act), traditional with lots of contemporary edge. Sounds like a hit.

7.5 out of 10

May 18, 2017

Single Review: Eric Church - Round Here Buzz

by Jonny Brick

Eric Church is like Keith Urban with a 20-a-day habit and a stick of gum on the go all the time.

The Chief returns with another single from 2015’s Mr Misunderstood. I remember seeing him for the first time at the Greenwich Arena in London, where he had the flu. Eric with the flu is better than [Insert Least Favorite Act] without flu, and he tore through his greatest hits and latest jams.

Kill A Word, Record Year and the title track have all done very well, so if this is the final single it’s a good choice. Written with Jeff Hyde and Luke Dick, the team that brought you Kill a Word, it’s an Eric Church song where Eric is thinking and drinking ‘till my down goes up’.

Poor Eric, ‘a parking lot down-and-outer’, has lost his girl. Her mum taught him but ‘her dad was hellbent on saving me’. From what? Is she a no-goodnik? Anyhow, the girl is long gone and he’s still ‘never been east of Dallas’, stuck in his quotidian life at Scottie’s, where he can drink two beers for the price of one. I love the lyric ‘no gas in his neon light’, painting great pictures.

The arrangement of the song follows the tone heard on Record Year: a steady start in the verses with echo on the vocal, before an electric guitar comes in for the chorus, which sticks mainly on the D and G chords. The solo, full of treble, is a perfect soundtrack to others in bars like Scottie’s drinking till 2am. The harmonies in the final choruses are excellent.

Eric turned forty this month (belated greetings, Chief!), making him a contemporary of Luke Bryan, Jason Isbell and Brad Paisley. Time will tell which of those four will have made the most pivotal contribution to the genre, but Eric is well on his way to becoming one of the top Modern Outlaws along with Isbell, Sturgill and Stapleton, who between them are leading the fight for the 'East Nashville' sound.

7 out of 10

Editor's note: I don't do much editing because I'm lazy anyway, but like Robert Dean, I'm mostly gonna let ol' Jonny rip. He's got his own loopy way of saying things… and there's also the "language gap" since he's from across the pond. We'll all get used to him soon. 

Apr 23, 2015

Single Review: Willie & Merle - It's All Going to Pot

by Jamie Berryhill

Willie and Merle can do whatever they want. Clearly! They don't need your approval, or anyone else's for that matter! Federales included!

 "It's All Going To Pot," Written by Buddy Cannon, Jamey Johnson, and Larry Shell, is the first release from the iconic duo's upcoming duets album, Django And Jimmie. It is solid gold! Acapulco Gold, even! See what I did there? The video is incredible, and the song is a brilliantly crafted story of their favorite pastime, intertwined with clever lyrics and playful potshots at each other! I can't stop with the pot salvos! The song is a veritable celebration of the increasingly legal intoxicant, after all!

Both of these legendary troubadours are clearly still at the top of their game, and they delivered another top notch performance here!  The instrumentation is classic, and professional. Willie's famous guitar tone and phrasing is alive and well, as is Merle's. They just work well together! They get paid well together also, and I think we all know where their money goes!

Jamey Johnson's recognizable baritone voice can be heard as well, thickening up the vocal sound in spots on the track. The video has already racked up millions of views on social media sites across the Internet, and is sure to be a classic!

"It's All Going to Pot" is available now on iTunes, and other outlets. The rest of the album is for pre-order only at this time. See what all the buzz is about right here, via YouTube, and enjoy! I surely did!

Apr 9, 2015

Single Review: Thomas Rhett - Crash and Burn

Thomas Rhett loves him some Bruno Mars. He's made that clear in past interviews. He even covered Mars' "When I Was Your Man" for a one-off single. So? Big deal, you say. Most of us like Bruno Mars; he of throwback rhythms, sock-hop soul, and late night come ons. Mars appeals to teens and olds alike with his general classiness and big, catchy smash hits that are ubiquitous to movie soundtracks, kiddie dance teams, trendy clubs, and awards show spectaculars alike. That's all true, but Thomas Rhett is a country singer, or at least when he filled out the job application his dad handed him, he checked off "country singer" on the Preferred Specialty field.

"Crash and Burn," Rhett's new single, may not be the least country single ever released to country radio (Sam Hunt and Jerrod Niemann have something to say about that), but it continues the push away from anything resembling Hank, Waylon, Tammy, Alan, or hell, Garth… that the Nashville machine continues to support. On the plus side, at least it errs by going the classy-pop-R&B route rather than the trashy-hick-hop route of most of Rhett's peers, but still …it's not country. It's catchy as hell, but it's not country.

The vocals are decent enough, but the performance fairly lacking in the soul you might expect from a tune like this. The songwriting is solid (Chris Stapleton's name is on it after all), it's the production that does all the damage. Snaps, claps, whistles, beats… (I'm not sure I hear a single stringed instrument in there). The backing vocal (which I believe is an unfortunately disguised Stapleton) at times even sounds like that great country music icon, Nelly.

Mainstream country has been trying to rebrand the "country" in its genre name as "every type of music popular in the country called America" rather than "rural music" for a while now. The argument can be made that Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton (at times), Garth Brooks and others already took country away from its roots with their crossover music and that it's all cyclical… but I'm not sure it is anymore. Cyclical now means trading one non-country trend for another, bro-country for EDM for blue-eyed soul for who knows what's next. I'm doubtful the cycle will ever return to traditional or even neo-traditional.

"Crash and Burn" isn't a flashpoint or a particularly aggressive slight against all traditional country fans hold dear; it's just another signpost in a great genre's loss of identity. This sounds like a smash hit; I just wish it was on pop radio alongside Bruno.


Mar 18, 2015

Single Review: Florida-Georgia Line - Sippin' On Fire

Listen here, if you don't believe me.

"Sippin' On Fire" starts off with a canned beat bed under a bit of generic electric guitar. Then Tyler Hubbard's vocals kick in (vocals: autotuned, processed, altered, filtered) and he tells me that I melt him like ice in whiskey. Okay, he's talking to the understood "girl," not me, but it's still creepy if you imagine he's computer-singing to you. He really wants to byte your bits, gig you with his hard drive, put his memory stick in your USB port…okay too much. Does ice melt in whiskey in a different way than how it would melt in say, lukewarm ginger ale? Probably not, but ginger ale isn't sexy, and sexy is what Tyler aims for. If I'm not reading off some clandestine lyrics website, I honestly don't know what the hell this "voice" is singing for the next few lines, verses and choruses. If you isolated the "singing," it would sound like a particularly nasal robocall dictation of some bad True Blood fan fiction. Something about a dude who sees a girl giving him the look because she's bored with her usual dude and night drink girl flame lighter, blah blah blahhh. None of it sounds very inspired. Even the basest caveman "me wanna screw girl" feelings come off as rote and flippant at the hands of these professional musicians. If they don't believe in the mass produced, tossed-off garbage they're selling, how can we? WE JUST WANT TO BELIEVE, TYLER AND BRIAN!  I'm not sure what Brian does here, I just needed to include him because he's half the duo, after all. This isn't a good song. It's not well written. It's not universally relatable, and it's not some ideal fantasy of romance or sex that those who can't relate would ever daydream about. It's a boring song about bored people doing things that might be risque if they didn't seem so bored about the situation and if it weren't being sung about in such a bored and boring fashion. "Sippin' On Fire" is a tenth generation copy of "Cruise," slowed down, bereft of catchiness, and leached of all fun. Filler shouldn't be singles. 


Mar 3, 2015

Single Review: Gary Allan - Hangover Tonight

Gary Allan returns with a radio-friendly sexytime song, but is it any good? In a word, mostly. Chris Stapleton, Gary, and a couple other guys co-wrote this bluesy, boozy track and it's got a light-hearted feel that texturally fits mainstream's sonic sensibilities better than anything Gary's released in a while. It's modern, catchy, and though laid-back, it has that tempo thing radio desires. So, good for us and radio - we'll be hearing Gary on the airwaves for months to come. My only quibble with the song is that it gives off a vague air of blandness - though the hook of the song is unique enough - there's something of a generic feel to the song. It lacks a real burn, lacks that one über-memorable line. I suppose that's a part of the give and take required to make a song palatable for casual listeners, but it manages to take this tune a few notches down from Allan's best work. Still, it's infinity better than Aldean's recent creepy drinking-and-doing-it tune "Burnin' it Down," and it's great to have Gary back.

Grade: Somewhere between B and B+

I think you can listen to it at Taste of Country, but I'm not linking to them... sorry.

Dec 9, 2014

Three Up Three Down: December '14

3 Up

Maddie & Tae - Girl in a Country Song
This is both a good song and a culturally significant song. Rarely do those two things equal a popular song, but here we are with it sitting at #1 on the Mediabase charts and others. Are listeners grinning a little and moving on to the next booty-on-a-tailgate song or nodding their heads in acknowledgement? It's hard to know right now, but I suppose we'll see in time. The fact that these thoughts about sexism and clichés in country music are now out there beyond FTM's constant complaining and the occasional newspaper website think-piece is a good start. The fact that Maddie and Tae have proven on their recent EP to be more than the vehicle for what some surely consider a novelty song is even more favorable. Fingers crossed.

Eric Church - Talladega
Eric Church does nostalgia better than anyone on the charts right now because he starts with the personal and makes it sound universal, while everyone else seems to be taking the opposite approach. "Talledega" sounds like a big ol' yeehaw, NASCAR loving anthem if you just pay attention to the high points, but it's really a small story wrapped in a big idea. The chorus might call on everybody to sing along and it may beg for sponsorship opportunities, but the verses actually make you miss the fun and friends from that trip you may or may not have ever even made to watch cars turn left. It's wistful and epic and everything this kind of song should be.

Jake Owen - What We Ain't Got
Co-written by Travis Meadows and Travis Jerome Goff, "What We Ain't Got" is a powerful ballad about never being satisfied with with one's situation, possessions and relationships. It's a simple longing that falls into several categories of the Christian concept of sin, but one that no one is immune to. Jake Owen spoke of this song as a harbinger of change and he wasn't over-hyping it. The song opens Owen's field of view and enlivens the possibilities for his future work being more varied and deeper than flip-flops, summer flings and tan lines. It's also great for country radio, since its frequent play forces dunderhead bro's to listen to something with actual artistic merit and positive moral implications. Jake's vocal talent and commercial momentum combined with a truly great song make this a release of considerable importance.

3 Down

Parmalee - Close Your Eyes
They rhyme "hotter" with "water." That's enough to disqualify this song from being anything I'd ever listen to on purpose, but worse than that, "Close Your Eyes" is a color-by-numbers. bro-country lite song created specifically to be airplay filler. And now, it's top 10 airplay filler. The emperor has no clothes and nobody gives a shit. Sing familiar words with a familiar melody that fits into the current sonic model and don't make anybody think negative thoughts and you've got a hit. Well done, Parmalee, former rock band who couldn't hack it without switching genres to take advantage of country radio's doldrums. Take a bow.

Scotty McCreery - Feelin' It
I've said it before: Scotty McCreery has a fantastic country voice. Much like his vocal doppelganger, Josh Turner, he's struggled to find material that both fits his rich delivery and the whims of commercial country music. He's done it with this track - if by "done it" I mean, focused entirely on the whims portion of that last sentence. Not that he sounds bad singing this craptacular song, it's just that any minuscule thread of artistic quality is foregone for a steady run up Bob Kingsley's countdown. How bad is this song? Well, Ray-Bans are rayin' and cut-offs are cuttin', whatever those two statements mean. The build to the chorus is basically saying "here, I will continue to sing you this song about how we are enjoying chilling in the sun and drinking beverages." The chorus is basically saying "We are greatly enjoying chilling in the sun and drinking beverages." Then he rhymes "hotter" with "water" and you already know my disdain for that sort of thing. This song can take its "glossin' lip gloss" and kiss my ass; it's completely embarrassing and pathetic. Scotty, if you're going to use your gift to unleash tripe like this upon the world, I'd rather you go back and give minor league baseball a shot. "Screwball's screwin', catcher's chewin'…."

Florida-Georgia Line - Sun Daze
I'm sure I've already said enough about this one with memes and whatnot, but hey, it still sucks. While I did actually like "Dirt," I'm starting to think these guys are just lowering the bar with nearly every single to make their mediocre work sound like classics. "Sun Daze" is stupid, derivative, artless, and is only catchy in the way that kidnapping sometimes brings about Stockholm syndrome. FGL's previous low-water mark was "This is How We Roll." That song was at least interesting with its obvious critic trolling slang and attitude. This song is just spectacularly awful and further proof that you can never underestimate the taste of the American public.

Nov 12, 2014

Single Review: Sam Hunt - Take Your Time

Sam Hunt - Take Your Time

Sam Hunt's newest single sent to country radio is another in-no-way-country song in his typical Jason Mraz fan/gated community poet vibe. The verses are, for the most part, spoken word. Not rap, not talk singing exactly… more like the spoken bridges in 90s R&B songs, which makes sense with Hunt claiming Boyz II Men as a major influence. "Take Your Time" is a step up from his previous hit "Leave the Night On" because it's at least more rooted in organic music rather than drum loops and electronica. It's also devoid of any of the annoying youthful lingo (get off my lawn!) and typical 2014 era cliche of partying/hanging out with a Levis-clad girl late into the night. "Take Your Time" is a mature, gracious and less self-assured take on the short term relationships thrown together in bars and clubs. It's a refreshing take - Sam playing the laid back gentleman suitor vs the other bro's trying to get in the girl's pants (possibly his friend Chase Rice). It could come off as a wimpy ploy at separating female listeners from their 99 cents, but it's surprisingly honest. The tune is something of a potboiler, tempo-wise…the chorus sounding right at home on country radio with the chatty verses being the only sonic standout on the track. Much like most of Sam's Montevallo, it's not a bad song at all, it's just in the wrong genre. There's no fiddle, no steel, no twang - just Hunt's understated drawl, and the subject matter is decidedly suburban. Sam seems like a decent guy, far better spoken and self-aware than his brethren; he's just in the wrong place at the right time. As a pop song, I'd give this 75/99 on our old 99 cent review scale. As a country song, it's a goose egg.

Aug 1, 2014

3 Up 3 Down: Tim McGraw, Sam Hunt, Kacey Musgraves, etc.

3 UP

Tyler Farr - A Guy Walks Into a Bar
While this new single from Farr might be a "song of the year" (ACMs or CMAs) contender with a stronger vocalist, it's still a surprisingly great tune. It shows the depth and wit that country songwriting used to be known for before it became a bro free-for-all.  After yet another break-up, Farr realizes that his life is just a cycle of barroom loves gone wrong and frames it with the old "guy walks into a bar" joke format. It balances the hopelessness of the seemingly endless loop with the lightness of self deprecation. A winning single from a previously much-maligned artist here at FTM.

Tim McGraw ft. Faith Hill - Meanwhile Back at Mama's
Remember when Tim McGraw wasn't ashamed of his twang and was one of the best song pickers in the business? Neither do I, but this song certainly harkens back to Tim's better days. It's probably the most traditional sounding song on the charts right now, which wouldn't be so shocking if not for McGraw's recent run of autotune and bro-country bravado. This song is almost certainly bound for some awards show hardware. It's a strong addition to a solid career (if we cut out like 75% of his output for the last 10 years).

Kacey Musgraves - Keep It to Yourself


Sam Hunt - Leave the Night On
I suppose this isn't such a bad pop song, but the fact that it's told to us without so much as an elbow in the ribs or a knowing glance that this is country music really gets my goat. It's hip, in-crowd Jason Mraz lite with bro-country tropes thrown in. And this guy… dressed like a club kid and not even embarrassed about it, shoving 23 syllables into lines that should fit about 10, flat-brim caps, smug, tall, handsome… okay, my jealous hatin' is showing through, but I just can't stand anything about this.  If bro-country is replaced by cool-bro-pop-country, we might be even worse off.

Swon Brothers - Later On
Technically, "Small Town Throwdown" or "Yeah" or the like are much worse than this song, but like Hunt's song, I fear this is where radio is headed. "Oh you're tired of truck party songs? Here are some less offensive truck party songs!" is what they're thinking. Bored is worse than angry when it comes to music and I'd rather dudes like Chase Rice fly their aggro-bro flags in my face than the Swons fly under the radar with their milquetoast brand of fun-time pop country. This is a big ol' pile of meh.

Rascal Flatts - Payback
Really? Gary Levox singing from the perspective of a player who's hoping to pick up a recently single female? This song has all the realism of a Michael Bay movie… with less character development. Tight jeans, throwin' down, get your feel good on? That's just the first verse. It doesn't' get any better. I don't know if this is any worse than "Bob That Head," their previous low water mark, but it certainly isn't any better.

Jul 9, 2014

Single Review: Florida-Georgia Line - Dirt

FGL's "Dirt" is a virtually hookless listing song that covers well-worn ground (pun not intended?). It features a bombastic chorus with difficult-to-discern lyrics. Included in the aforementioned laundry list are bro-country tropes like jeans being peeled off, trucks circling up for a party, bonfires, and boots being used for something other than work. All this from the guys who never met a cliché, irrelevant rapper, canned beat, or cheesy slang phrase they didn't like. "Cruise," "This is How We Roll," "Get Your Shine On"…the list of grievances against Florida-Georgia Line is virtually endless despite them being only one album into their career.

So, why do I like this song as much as I do? Head injury? Reduced expectations? Secret payoff by their record label? All these have been offered up as possible reasons for my positive comments about the song on social media. The answers to those questions are: maybe, possibly, I wish.

"Dirt" is an actual country song, or as close as you're likely to get on mainstream radio these days. I know what you're thinking… "what do you want, a cookie? It's supposed to be country!" Yet, in this day of Sam Hunt's Jason Mraz stylings, Taylor Swift's complete shift to pop, and Hunter Hayes' teenage girl-friendly pop-rock, something that actually resembles country is an anomaly. In FGL's own repertoire, this song is an anomaly. 

It's a serious song that straddles the divide between ballad and mid-tempo anthem. The titular dirt is the common element that ties together all the memories, future plans and simple philosophical musings (someday you'll return to it) on the cycle of rural and small town life. Sure it lists lots of country things, and no, there's no storyline, but the details and the manner in which they are related feel, if not fresh, at least passionate and authentic. It's a mature and moving song, if you let it be.

"Dirt" is also a very good song, and probably the only FGL song I don't mind getting stuck in my head on an endless loop. There's not much range but it's improbably catchy. The other dude even gets to sing a verse and hey, he sings better than the main bro (which I know isn't a high bar to clear, but still).

"I wouldn't have told that" is what some of you are thinking now. Even had a tweet saying they'd lost respect for FTM. Not sure if it was serious or not, but if my opinion on one mainstream song sways your confidence in FTM's credibility, please find your way to the unfollow or unfriend button or make your way to a blog that only speaks glad tidings of gritty, bar-touring independent artists (who we love by the way). We don't want you unhappy. 

I owe it to myself and Farce's readers to be honest - if I like something or think it has strong artistic merit, I'm going to tell you about it. I don't care if it's a song from one guy picking a homemade banjo on a washtub in his yard, a homeless rapper from Taiwan, or a millionaire pretty boy… the song is the thing. And "Dirt" is a good one.

By the old ".99 Cent Review" grading method:


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