Posted in Reviews

Singles Tuesday: “Wherever Is Your Heart,” “Going Out Like That”

-And with that, the first single of 2015 that pertains to this blog finds me wanting it to be March already. Brandi Carlile is leaning more heavily on the twins than ever in her latest two folk-rock singles.

Admittedly, “Wherever Is Your Heart” is one of the simpler entries in the singer-songwriter’s impressive catalogue, and one that does not live up to “The Story” or “Hard Way Home.” But “Wherever” is a showcase for Carlile’s vocal and harmonizing skills as well as the band’s ability to turn up the energy with a simple pair of guitars.

I’d say this one serves best as a hint of what’s to come in March when “The Firewatcher’s Daughter” drops, rather than as an album highlight. “The Eye,” the new album’s first single, falls squarely into the latter category, so check that out too.

Reba McEntire is also back with new music in the form of “Going Out Like That,” an uplifting radio-ready single that’s traditional enough to please at least some of her loyal fans. Her voice is a little deeper these days, but the heavy hooks and voice alterations make her sound slightly more modern. Don’t get me wrong. This single would still do better a couple of decades ago, but it’s still good and may work anyway.

It may not be a stretch to read into the title in terms of McEntire’s career. A cancelled sitcom was certainly not going to be her last appearance on the big stage. Her NASH Icon debut seems like a more ambitious release than I once thought. Hopefully this comeback goes well, though it may find more traction in the realm of adult contemporary than pop-country.

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Posted in Reviews

Garth Brooks Return a Mixed Bag

With the news of Garth Brooks’ first album in 13 years came a certain amount of anticipation and a certain amount of dread. Longtime fans hoping to know which feeling was correct may still have to wonder after the release of ‘Man Against Machine’ today as the album contained both befuddling tracks best left off and solid, even spectacular additions to one of the greatest catalogues in country music.

The best takeaway from ‘Man Against Machine’ is that Brooks decided not to modernize, instead appealing directly to the fans he’s held since the early 90s. Thank God for that. He may have even gone back further, relying heavily on elements of 80s rock in two of his first three tracks. The songs are solid, but perhaps not what people were expecting.

The two songs offered as previews, including lead single ‘People Loving People’ and ‘Send ‘Em On Down the Road,’ are both bland and unworthy representatives at the good contained within the album.

That good is captured well in ‘Mom,’ a conversation between a baby and God that probably brought most people who listened to it to tears. When Brooks assumes the voice of the Almighty, it sounds just about like what one might expect him to sound like. Expect it to become a standard on Mother’s Day.

‘She’s Tired of Boys’ and ‘Fish’ are also highlights, with the ridiculous ‘Rodeo and Juliet’ and weak ‘Cowboys Forever’ representing worst of what ‘Machine’ has to offer. The two better tracks are conversational and carry a unique message, as do many of Brooks’ better songs. But even Garth can’t slip “thoust” into a song without it becoming awkward, nor can he rhyme “nation” and “generation” without pushing the limits of what people will want to hear.

‘Midnight Train’ is the safe choice for best on the album, with ‘Tacoma’ being slightly more divisive. The latter, which ends the album with a touch of heartbreaking gospel, is a flawed but beautiful southern soul song. It’s slightly over-performed, but largely retains its power thanks to good writing and vocals that work the majority of the time. ‘Midnight Train’ relies on exception drum and steel guitar work, as well as a straightforward and earnest performance from Brooks.

Had Brooks released an album more typical to his format, trimming the three of four songs that run more than five minutes and leaving off the four weakest songs to keep it to 10 tracks, we may be looking at something incredible. Instead, it’s an above average album for its time but below par for the lofty standards Brooks created for himself in the 90s with classics such as ‘No Fences’ and ‘Ropin’ the Wind.’

Image courtesy Garth Brooks’ Twitter. Yeah, he has a Twitter now and that’s awesome. @GarthBrooks

Posted in Reviews

Wade Bowen and the Good Small Label Album that Actually Sold

Image courtesy of Wade Bowen

By Trevor Christian

There may no longer be a place at Sony Nashville for Texas singer-songwriter Wade Bowen, but there’s clearly a place on iTunes for him. And on the morning of his album’s release, that place was second on the country charts and fourth overall.

Bowen is most well known for his singles “Saturday Night” and “Songs About Trucks,” which both go against the grain of the country radio narrative of wild nights and dirt roads. “Saturday Night” is the melancholy story of a man in a bar wishing for quiet; “Songs About Trucks” is literally a request for someone to stop singing about trucks. Sony Nashville and Bowen decided to part ways after the later of the two tunes failed to chart in 2013. Bowen moved to Amp, a much smaller label that has a history of allowing for some pretty creative work. Continue reading “Wade Bowen and the Good Small Label Album that Actually Sold”

Posted in Reviews

Angaleena Up: Presley’s Album Among Year’s Best

Image courtesy of Angaleena Presley’s website.

By Trevor Christian

Angaleena Presley, the least known of the country supergroup Pistol Annies, could be well on her way to stardom herself.

Thanks to Presley’s amazing work with Pistol Annies — see “Lemon Drop” for one she penned herself — and the four rewarding singles she released leading up to her debut album, “American Middle Class,” earned a place as one of the most anticipated albums of the year among a certain type of country fan. Yet, upon getting a hold of it, most will find that her earthy tone and relatable lyrics make it feel like she’s been around for a long time already. Continue reading “Angaleena Up: Presley’s Album Among Year’s Best”

Posted in Reviews

Doug Seegers’ Stunning Debut at 62

Photo courtesy of Doug Seegers

By Trevor Christian

In the past year, Doug Seegers has gone from homeless on the streets of Nashville to being the top-selling artist in Sweden by singing a style of country blues not popular in either nationfor decades. Perhaps the only thing more incredible than Seegers’ story is his debut album, “Going Down to the River.”

Seegers, who was born in neighboring Setauket 62 years ago, beautifully wails tragic love songs and waltzes through blues tracks in a voice that any true fan of American roots music will instantly recognize as classic and soulful. It’s almost as if the only thing Seegers needed to succeed was the ability to draw on the pain of living in Nashville for 17 years, watching others make it big while continuing to fall short and battle addiction.

Continue reading “Doug Seegers’ Stunning Debut at 62”