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

Nov 15, 2013

Single Review: Matt Woods - Deadman's Blues

Matt Woods' "Deadman's Blues" is the sound of an open wound, of the emotional variety. It lays bare a music man's deficiencies in the realm of love. I'm sure it's at least partly autobiographical - all the problems, unavoidable and not, that occur between a touring musician and a significant other left at home. Matt's expressive vocals go a long way towards making this the tour de force it is, but I can't say enough about the sincerity and power in the writing itself. It's almost painful to hear, in the best of ways. It's like we're the accidental witnesses to a late night confessional and I can't help feeling a little guilty finding so much beauty in such a raw disclosure. And those vocals… it's a masculine delivery with a tear deeply embedded; then he rips your heart out when he lets it all go in the final seconds. "Deadman's Blues" is a truly amazing song, that only whets my appetite for the full album to come. Woods is an artist with the talent and heart to someday possibly find himself among the Isbells and Morelands of the world.

You can sample the song and purchase the mp3 here.

Nov 1, 2013

Single Review: Chase Rice - Ready Set Roll

Chase Rice - Ready Set Roll
If you choose to hear this "song," you can do so here.

The first thing you hear is a pop-country-ish intro created with "instruments" (if "instruments" = 0s and 1s) used in hip-hop and pop songs then the voice of a Speak and Spell. Hmm, is this how Hank done it? No, and I don't even think Bocephus on his worst bender would be okay with this shit. 

After listening to this song once, I had to cleanse my ears for an hour with George Strait. Back to the review...

Mr. Rice helped write "Cruise" with a dozen or so other Music Row murderers, and being the young fellow that he is (he must be young, right? Just look at that backwards cap.), he thinks if one time elicits a positive response, you should repeat yourself over and over and over because that will be even better! It's like a young child telling a knock-knock joke. The parent laughs to be polite and nurturing, so the kid figures "Hey, let's do 341 more!" Speaking for everyone on planet Earth, we don't want 1 more "Cruise," much less 341!!

I imagine some semblance of this conversation went on in the writing room:
Rhett Akins: "I'm bored guys, let's challenge ourselves on this one."
Chris De Stefano: "Cool, bro."
Chase Rice: (takes shot of Fireball, grimaces) "I'm in! What's the game?"
Rhett: "Let's see how many cliches we can stuff into one song and still have it released as a potential hit single."
Chris: "But I do that every time."
Chase: "Who's Cleeshay? Is that one of your old groupies, Rhett? You dog, you!"

I count at least 7 oft-used phrases in the first verse alone, but who's counting? Not the 12-19 year olds who are buying this crap. It's all new to them. But is it? It's getting to the point that the writers are repeating themselves as fast as they can wipe their butt-sweat off the tailgate and pour another jar of store-bought moonshine, not just waiting a few years to give people time to forget that last "rock your world." How can you not get sick of the same imagery and thematic concepts (LOL, concepts…that would require conceptualizing) when they show up in 3 out of 4 songs?

We got trucks, we got tires, we got lips, we got sexy, we got hip hop phrasing, we got trucks, we got drinking. We got us a hit song, Rhett! 

If it ain't getting worse, it's dragging the bottom at "ninety to nothin'." This is not even a well written party song, it's just a grocery list of triteness wrapped in false edginess. Move on, Nashville.


May 29, 2013

Single Review: Blackjack Billy - The Booze Cruise

Sometimes there's not anything I can say about a song that's more damaging than the very existence of said song. This is probably one of those times, yet I shall strive to provide ample hatin' on this piece of crap.

"The Booze Cruise." The title alone alerts you that this song is likely not a cover of some unearthed Townes Van Zant gem. That's cool, fun songs are just fine. I can't listen to ALL depressing Americana, so a little levity is appreciated from time to time.

This song is also irredeemably stupid. I suppose dumb songs are okay too. AC/DC lyrics will never be mistaken for Shakespeare and I love 90% of their songs.

It's when you combine fun, stupid and unoriginal that problems arise for me. "The Booze Cruise" nails all three with aplomb. Blackjack Billy is Florida-Georgia Line with more dudes and a less identifiable sound. If that sounds enticing to you, I have to ask: Why are you here?

Let's tackle the lyrical content. You know how people always used to say "I think I just threw up in my mouth?" (If you're still saying it, please stop). Anyway - I actually did feel a bit queasy listening to this. Even though I was in the comfort of my own home, I had to look around and make sure nobody caught me listening to it. I turned off my scrobbler so it would not be recorded that I ever listened to this excrement. But I did.

And I heard lyrics like: "Booze cruise, summer groove, I wanna see your booty move" and "Who wants to do a body shot off a string bikini/We call that a hillbilly martini." Seriously. They're just making up shit, right? They call it a hillbilly martini because it rhymes with bikini, but nobody has ever said that in the history of ever. Also, there are hotties (which is misspelled in the OFFICIAL lyric video!), flip flops, a pontoon, "get some," "it's going down" and "redneck margarita."

There is also a 16 year old on the Booze Cruise. I'm sure she's drinking virgin redneck margaritas though, so it's all good dawg.

This song is misogynistic. It's unoriginal. It will lower your IQ by 20 points in two minutes and fifty-one seconds. Larry Lee would say it's hedonistic, and he'd be right. Let it be said now that anyone who utters the words "it can't get any worse" is flat out wrong. It can and will and just did.


One more thing, in the video that follows, a long haired 50-something on a beach "plays" Blackjack Billy's song on his jam box that clearly has no cassette in the deck. Dear Lord. The stupid must hurt.

May 1, 2013

Single Review: Chris Young - Aw Naw

Chris Young - Aw Naw
(listen here)

Et tu Chris? It seems our boy isn't satisfied with strong airplay, critical approval and selling somewhere in the range of gold with his album releases. Aw naw! It's time Mr. Young stepped into the rarified air of the Aldeans and Sheltons of the world, so here we are. "Aw Naw" isn't as bad as the title or my build-up quite suggest, but it is a step back quality-wise, in my estimation. The guitars are louder than we've ever heard on a Chris Young single. His velvety baritone (one of the best voices in country music, period) becomes more of a talk with the occasional growl. The most obvious shift in Young's commercial presentation is the welcoming in of country buzz words. Patron, partying and painted-on jeans show up for the 16-25 aged suburban country set and I'm sure they'll eat it up. Young is still better than his contemporaries, even with material that is beneath him, so "Aw Naw" comes off a bit like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. driving a Kia. He drives it well, but his talents are more suited for a vehicle with greater power and prestige. The simple fact that an artist of such talent has to drop down a notch to entertain a more casual sort of country fan is disappointing but not surprising. Radio hasn't exactly supported his best material; "Neon" was one of the biggest slights in recent memory. I pray the rest of Young's new album is more reminiscent of his stronger works, his neo-traditional gems and swoon-worthy ballads. "Aw Naw" will likely set the stage for him to move from B-lister to A-lister - let's just hope he doesn't pull a Luke Bryan when he gets there.

My rating:

For the precedent it sets/follows: D-

The song itself: C+

Apr 15, 2013

Single Review: Lee Brice - Parking Lot Party

Lee Brice has gone from releasing a song that sounded like it should be a Nashville circa-2013 standard piece o' crap to putting out one that actually is. "I Drive Your Truck" was a bracing, emotional tribute to a fallen soldier that out-kicked its coverage, so to speak, and went to number one on a wave of both critical and popular acclaim.

"Parking Lot Party" is exactly what you think it is - an anthem for getting pre-sauced in the parking lot before a concert. It's a country keyword fest. Redneckism porn.
Trucks are represented:
"Tailgate buzz just a sippin' on suds"
Name-dropping occurs:
"A little Marshall Tucker on the radio"
"25 tall boys on the chill"
A nod to hip-hop hype men:
"Cause there ain't no party like the pre-party
and after the party is the after-party"
Also, "it's about time to pass that shine around," because what suburban country boy party is complete without a little "moonshine" bought at the grocery store?

It's summer single release season, so none of this is unexpected. It's a disappointment however, coming from Brice, who's proven himself a strong writer who usually steers clear of cliche. I suppose the setting (as opposed to that presumably highly-rutted farmer's pasture all the other parties happen in) makes this a little more unique, but it's really just "same song-different verse."

The fact that the tailgate party never actually proceeds into the concert venue, due to too much fun and possibly financial issues, adds one minor original turn to the story, but really, this is stock Nashville fun. There's even fake crowd noise and a radio station intro (on the album version: I haven't heard the radio mix) to take "PLP" into pure cheese territory.

Thomas Rhett, his dad, and Luke Laird also had a hand in the writing of this tune ...because of course they did.

Let's hope Brice dips back into his well of creativity on the next outing. Nothing to see here.


Feb 8, 2013

Single Review: Kenny Chesney - Pirate Flag

(Listen to the single here)

Kenneth Chesney's latest beach-centric tune attempts to stand out from his enormous catalogue of similar work by going the full Tom Petty. "Pirate Flag" is heartland rock n' roll with a verse melody so eerily close to Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance," one has to wonder if that may come up for legal discussion at some point. The theme is typical Chesney - giving up the rat-race for the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle. While Kenny has expanded his repertoire to include some more mature singles in recent years (El Cerrito Place, You and Tequila, Somewhere With You), he reserves the right to fall back on his go-to island boy schtick whenever something more appropriate his age-group fails to chart in the top 10 (El Cerrito Place). Does it sound like a beach song? Hell no. The darker musical approach doesn't line up with the imagery at all... except for the pirate flag, I suppose, but Chesney's no gun-toting boat raider, so nothing lines up. It's not a terrible song. I'm just of the opinion that if you're not going to do something that at least attempts to break new ground, either vocally (this is Kenny Chesney we're talking about), lyrically (um no) or musically (paging Tom Petty), what's the point? Treading blue Caribbean water, I suppose.


Jan 17, 2013

Single Review: Parmalee - Carolina

Failed rock band turned "country" band, Parmalee's first single "Musta Had a Good Time" sucked. That saved me having to waste any time writing about it because I had my doubts it would become a hit (though I did pick on it in graphic form). I can't say the same about "Carolina," so something must be said.

Parmalee may have thrown their hat into the country ring, but they are most certainly, not country. These words will echo previous ones said about Brantley Gilbert's "Kick It In the Sticks" and others of that rock ilk, but this song bears no resemblance to country music whatsoever. In fact, it barely even fits in with today's degraded country scene. Parmalee is Daughtry (the major label band with a Bleeding Cowboys logo, go figure). Not the country version of Daughtry, just Daughtry. Remember them? Chris Daughtry won American Idol (or was a runner up or something, but I don't care enough to Google) with a great set of pipes and proceeded to waste them on Nickelback-lite tripe. That's Parmalee. They even sound a helluva lot alike. Nothing changed except for the genre they're marketed for.

Why do I care? I care because "Carolina" is a catchy, decently-written pop-rock song that will almost certainly become a hit. Why haven't I given up on the contemporary scene altogether? Miranda, Chris Young, Zac Brown Band, Kacey Musgraves and a few others.... that's why. There's still some glimmer of hope shining through the dreck. Maybe it's just the dying embers of real country music smoldering in the pop downpour, but it's something to rest some hopefulness on.

If songs like "Carolina" become the norm, anything with the slightest twang (that isn't singing about the usual laundry list material) will have no chance gaining a foothold on the charts. I've said it before, but I might actually listen to country radio (even with bands like Parmalee and pop singers like Taylor Swift populating the mix) if the big umbrella of country was actually spread wide enough to cover the various forms of the genre like alt-country, Americana and traditional country. That's not happening. If anything, it's closing tighter...around anything that trumpets country in name only. And that's why something must be said.

"Carolina" itself isn't particularly awful, nor is it any good. It's an anthem about the singer hating to leave his woman at home when he's on tour and relating different aspects of her to the various places he does shows. It's moderately poetic, well-performed - as far as delivering from the script proficiently goes, sentimental and yet, miles from original. Sounds like a top 5 hit to me, but I hope not.

I realize there's nothing new under the sun, but couldn't Parmalee have let the daisies grow over Daughtry's career before hijacking his schtick? Is the pop-cred window of opportunity so quick to close that nobody hears this blatant theft? Are country radio listeners too young to even know who Daughtry is? Has anybody noticed that this same version of the song has been around for YEARS... from back when Parmalee were rockers instead of carpetbaggers?

I'll just end this wandering rant here before it starts to make any sense...

Rating (song only): C-
For its potential further damage to the term "country": F

Dec 18, 2012

10 Second Single Review: Darius Rucker - "Wagon Wheel"

This won't be a popular opinion, but I'm gonna say this Darius Rucker "Wagon Wheel" single is a good thing. It could whet appetites for rootsier music and it'll pay Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor. It's pretty bloodless and slick (what do you expect from a Nashville single?), but overall not a bad cover and Lady A doesn't ruin it as backup singers. Also, he didn't change "toke" to "smoke," which is a surprise, given radio's aversion to Eric Church's pot references.


Aug 22, 2012

Single Review: Craig Morgan - More Trucks Than Cars

I've reduced the lyrics of this song to the clich├ęs and really, there's not much else left.

city limit sign
Water tower, swimming holes
county fairs
biscuits, grits and gravy
hell yeah and amen, yeehaw, and y’all come back again
Old Glory
them big city streets (referred to in negative context)
Ford truck, town square
raising our babies and our own green beans

They're just insulting the admittedly low intelligence of the average country radio listener at this point to put this stuff out over and over and over and over and over and over and over and not expect at least one person out there in Walmartica to think "Hey, isn't this the same song they played right before they played this song right after that ad about losing my stubborn belly fat?"

There's no point in reviewing something this insipid and uninspired. Would Apple put out a new iPhone without any new features? Does the '13 Camaro look and perform exactly like the '05? Does CBS just air the same episode of Big Bang Theory every Thursday at 8/7 Central and expect you not to notice? Nope, but the commercial country industry does that shit and they don't give a fried green f*ck what they're doing to the genre as long as you don't change the station and instead maybe get a snippet or two of one of those ads caught in your head. Bottom line is bottoming out country radio. I keep saying it can't go any lower, but they're doing a damn good job of scraping along the ruts.

F f'ing minus
(and for the record, that's without hearing the song even once)

Aug 6, 2012

New Americana Singles - Early Impressions

Dirty Guv'nahs - 3000 Miles
This is a mid-tempo rock anthem that I'm not completely sold on after a couple of listens. It sounds a little like the band might be edging towards Kings of Leon-type arena rock. That gives me concern since, well, that whole thing didn't turn out well for KOL, at least as far as their image and my enjoyment of their music goes. I've heard the Dirty Guv'nahs forthcoming album is supposed to be really strong so I'm holding out hope for a little southern rock goodness coming down the pipe. "3000 Miles" is decent, but I hope it's not indicative of the band's direction.

The Avett Brothers - Live and Die
This sounds like a continuation of where the band was headed with their last album, I and Love and You. That move toward more pop melody and less intricate strings didn't bother me so much, though I certainly prefer the livelier madness of earlier tracks like "Die Die Die." "Live and Die" is well-played though, and very catchy. It has a warmth that tells me the band is moving in a natural direction, not guided by commerce.

Ryan Bingham - Heart of Rhythm
I know a lot of people love this guy, and honestly, I loved Mescalito, but nothing since has lasted me past 5 or 10 plays. "Heart of Rhythm" is a heartland rocker that's way more Mellencamp than Texas troubadour, but it works for Ryan as he's always been more of a rocker. This tune is pretty sneaky. I didn't like it at first, but in the course of listening to it for this review, it has crept into my mind and changed my opinion completely. It seems tossed together and haphazard, but that's part of its charm and the hook is simple but contagious. I had nearly written Bingham off, but "Heart of Rhythm" has me at least mildly interested in what's to come.

Ponderosa - Navajo
This week's iTunes free single from a band whose 2011 album, Moonlight Revival, finished in my top 10 of the year is an utter let-down. Way too much production, not enough song quality. I described them as the Black Crowes by way of Muscle Shoals with a lead singer whose vocals were "stirring." So what'd they do? Bury that superb voice in reverb and take every ounce of southern rocking out of their sound. Yep, Ponderosa is now an indie rock band, apparently. I'm not saying this is a horrible song - it's growing on me. I'm saying this isn't what I expected or wanted from these guys. I'm not one of those fans who cries sell-out about bands who change their sound….slowly. Ponderosa has made such a violent shift in sound that it's artistically jarring and doesn't feel honest. At least they didn't go towards a more commercial sound, I suppose. I may come around on this tune and Ponderosa's genre jump, but for now, I'm not happy.

Jul 31, 2012

Single Review: Greg Bates - Did It For the Girl

According to his iTunes bio, before signing his record deal, Greg Bates "immersed himself in the neo-traditionalist styles of greats such as Dwight Yoakam and Randy Travis." You wouldn't know that by listening to his current single, "Did It For the Girl."

In fact, even the biggest modern country fan couldn't be faulted for thinking Jake Bates and his song had already been a top 10 hit in recent months. It sounds like any and every other male mid-tempo country-pop love song that has graced the airwaves in the last 8 years. It's adequately written, decently sung by Greg James and features an overly familiar but somewhat catchy melody that you might find yourself humming for a week or two, but two months from now, won't be able to distinguish from any other male mid-tempo country-pop love song. It's completely without personality and anything to set it apart.

That to say, Greg Hayes is perfect Clearchannel time-filler. Little Madison's mom won't switch the station while driving from soccer to ballet and that's all that matters. Cha-ching!

I've had more than one online friend/follower tell me to look out for this guy, this Greg Brice. Unfortunately, my first impression is the facelessness of "Did It For the Girl," and that's going to be a difficult impression to shake.

Is it a terrible song? No. Does Gary Bates show potential? Honestly, I don't know… maybe it's in there, buried below the meh and blah and unremarkableness. Time will tell, but for now, I'm not even interested in what comes next from Brad Gates.


Update: I just heard a few songs from Bates' album and most of them are fairly neo-traditional. Still, it doesn't change the fact that I'm not a fan of this single.

Jul 12, 2012

Single Review: Moonshine Bandits - Super Goggles

I'd rather listen to fresh dog feces steaming in a hot summer backyard. I'd rather listen to Nicki Minaj sing the National Anthem. I'd rather listen to a possum stuck in a barbed wire fence. You get the point.

In a year pock-marked by superstars seeing who can outdo the last with the biggest festering pile of crap tagged with mp4 or mp3, this, from the utterly talentless Moonshine Bandits, ups the ante on all of them. What you got Luke Bryan?

At least iTunes has the decency to put this song in the "alternative" category rather than country, but make no mistake, this is marketed as country music. What's country about it, you ask (I know you didn't ask that, but hypothetically)? Um, let me think. Give me a minute. Uhh. Hmmm. Well, the band is called the Moonshine Bandits. That's pretty country, right?

This is a rap song about how all the girls get prettier at closing time. Hey, that's catchy. Somebody should write a song with that line in it. Anyway, the chorus is some white dude singing through the T-Pain app on his iPhone. The verses are just sub-par rapping about getting drunk and 2's turning into 7's (at least they aren't setting their sights too high, have you seen these guys?). Hey, they mentioned Jimmy Super Fly Snuka in one of the verses. Wrasslin' is pretty country! I stand corrected. This IS a country song. 

Charlie Worsham's dad had this wonderful comment on the Taste of Country post about this song:
"Just imagine how much better Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, George Jones, etc. could have sounded if they had been autotuned and had great, meaningful lyrics like this. Maybe they could have even gone on to be in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Hopefully, we will see more really awesome groups like this in the future. They certainly have a wonderful look and are sure to last for years and years. Talent like this only come around once in a lifetime. Awesome boys."

I think ol' Gary's been reading Farce the Music!


Jun 12, 2012

Single Review: Kenny Chesney - Come Over

Kenny Chesney - Come Over

Looks like he's finally embracing his baldness.
When I heard this song for the first time on the CMT Awards last week, I remarked that I'd rather listen to paint dry. This was before I'd actually paid any attention to the lyrics. In the beginning of the song, ol' Kenny is flipping the TV off and on and watching the ceiling fan spin. So, pretty much, I described the song perfectly without even giving it much mind.

It's nice to see that Kenny has continued releasing more mature songs lately, like last year's gem "You & Tequila" and the somewhat duller "Somewhere With You." He's finally realizing he can't put out the same old beach song with different words for every single. That said, he hasn't yet grasped the concept that adult life doesn't have to sound boring, even if it is quite often more regimented and expected. 

This is another grown-up "booty call" song. The theme is much more exciting than the vehicle and the delivery. Unmemorable and dry, nothing in this song will stick with you besides the droning repetition of "come over come over come over" over and over. Chesney sounds as bored as the listener does.

Two lonely adults living lifeless lives, hooking up more out of malaise than even habit or fading passion - at least, that's what the delivery tells us, if not the words. It's a sad subject and a sadly spiritless release.


Jun 5, 2012

Zac Brown Band - The Wind (single review)

The ".99 Review" format is a bit restrictive, especially for songs I actually enjoy, so I'm going to drop in some short single reviews from time to time now. I'll still do the .99 Reviews sometimes too, but I've gotten to the point that I'm unwilling to spend even ninety-nine cents (or 1.29) on a song I don't like.

Yep, that's the album cover.
Zac Brown Band - The Wind
(click to see an admittedly low-quality live recording or hear a high quality version at The Boot)

I had lowered expectations for the first single for the forthcoming ZBB album, Uncaged, due to some weak single choices from the previous release and the news of the band's expansion. Happily, "The Wind" is homerun of a first single.

It's an organic-sounding, lively, mostly-acoustic country jam that blows their last few charting songs out of the water. My worries about more band members causing an overly convoluted sound were unfounded. Somehow, all 42 members of the ZBB are perfectly integrated into the number with nary a shade of overkill. In fact, it's a surprisingly simple tune about a man whose love follows the object of his affections wherever she may travel.

"The Wind" is catchy, warm and charming. Perhaps the influx of new players has had an enlivening effect on the band's creativity and spark. Let's hope this winning single is a harbinger of good things to come on Uncaged, which drops July 10.



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