The Best You’ve Never Heard #2 – Mark Chesnutt and George Jones – Talkin’ To Hank

Posted in The Best You've Never Heard with tags , , , on July 27, 2008 by Mike @ Nashville Now

This, my friends, is a fun piece of music.  Released on both George Jones’ “My Very Special Guests” and Mark Chestnutt’s “Longnecks and Short Stories” albums, this song put a grin on my face the very first time I heard it.  The Possum and Mark Chesnutt blend well together, and really seem to both understand and enjoy this lighthearted tune.  It’s a humorous take on the idea that Hank didn’t really pass away in the back of that Cadillac, he just moved off into the mountains to live in peace.  More a dream one might have after a shot or ten, it’s every hardcore country fan’s fantasy, stumbling on Hank Williams, real or his ghost, off in his secluded cabin.  The imagination used in the lyrics, though a bit predictable, is a smooth and oddly comforting train of thought.  The words of wisdom are believable, and could have easily been collected from the recordings Hank did as Luke the Drifter. 

All in all, a song worth digging a bit to find, and a good tune to lighten your mood, and let your mind wander where it will.

Single Review – Rissi Palmer – No Air

Posted in Single Reviews with tags , , on June 3, 2008 by Mike @ Nashville Now

Rissi Palmer at the Country Weekly Fashion Show

Wow.  And not the good kind.  This single is an embarrassment to country music.  No, on second thought, this release might be more embarrassing for R&B and Pop. Because, folks, this is not a country record.  I can’t say for sure what it is, other than a really bad cover of a song that was at best medicore in its original form.  The song, No Air, went to the top of the Pop Chart for Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown.  It is not destined for similar success for Miss Palmer.  For those of you who’ve been with me for a while now, you may recall that I took issue with the material she chose to record on her debut album as being far too pop.  I openly wished for her to record some new material, though this is far from what I had in mind.  This is ridiculous.  Adding a banjo to a pop record, singing it off beat, and shipping it out to country radio does NOT make it country. 

In conclusion, this is the last post that will feature Rissi Palmer on Nashville Now.  I did indeed declare that she had the talent to break the barrier and that she could indeed have a career in country.  But, I find it now very obvious that she has no interest in being a country musician, so I wish her all the luck with her pop career.  You can perhaps follow her career from here on out on a site dedicated to pop, but she is no longer welcome here on Nashville Now.  We’ll stick to country, and it’s sad that Rissi Palmer didn’t chose to do likewise.

The Best You’ve Never Heard #1… “What Would Waylon Do”

Posted in The Best You've Never Heard with tags , , , on June 3, 2008 by Mike @ Nashville Now

To kick off the Best You’ve Never Heard Series, I’ve chosen a track that I only discovered myself this past week.  While thumbing through the Joe Diffie catalog, I realized that I’d never given his 2004 indie debut, Tougher Than Nails, a good listen.  It is much the same as his earlier albums for Sony, and still a little too country for radio to embrace.  But it’s light and fun, and authentic country.  Tucked neatly at track number 8 is a tune titled What Would Waylon Do?  Honestly, I was hooked from there, and this song is just as much fun as you might imagine. 

Pairing Joe and the legendary Possum, George Jones, is a match made in hillbilly heaven.  The banter that leads into the song is classic.  George with his drawled and sarcastic “Yeah” is a touch that still makes me smile.  And the fun just starts there.  True in form to pay tribute to Waylon, we take an average hard luck night in the life of a two bar singers, and twist it around what the old Outlaw might have done.  Kicking in doors, shootin’ out the lights, and going on to “Scare the dog out of the sound man, with a “Hoss, let’s get this right.””  I can actually buy that hook, line, and sinker.  I can hear Ol’ Waylon, eyebrow cocked, saying that.  It’s real.  And it’s one of the best songs that name-drop a legend that I can sign off on.  I say that as this wasn’t thrown down our throats like Taylor Swift (Tim McGraw) and Jason Aldean (Johnny Cash) as nothing more than cashing in on the name-drop, while the song and the title have, dare I say, nothing in common.  Well worth the listen, and well worth the laughs.

Vitals:  Released on 2004’s “Tougher Than Nails”, Broken Bow Records, Joe Diffie featuring George Jones.

The Best You’ve Never Heard…

Posted in The Best You've Never Heard with tags on June 3, 2008 by Mike @ Nashville Now

Welcome to a brand new series here on Nashville Now, “The Best You’ve Never Heard”.  This will be an open-ended series that could never possibly be concluded.  The series will feature both songs that never, or barely, charted, and album cuts that must be heard.  There are no real qualifications or rankings involved, only that the songs be fairly obscure, and that they be worth a good listen.  Diamonds in the rough if you will.  Some may come from household names and superstars, some from folks you’ve never heard of.  You’re suggestions are most welcome.  Email them to us at nashvillenow@live.com

Some of these are easy to find.  Others may require that you scratch around a bit to dig them up.  But I hope that you find these little gems worth the search.  Happy hunting!

 

James Otto – Follow Up

Posted in All About... with tags , , , , , , on May 13, 2008 by Mike @ Nashville Now

I hate to brag, but when you nail one, you nail one.  I reviewed “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” back in November, the very week it went for adds.  And I said it was gonna be a big one.  This week, kids, it sits atop the charts, proving that perhaps country radio hasn’t totally lost it.  It led me to thinking about the amazing comeback the Otto has made in the past few years.  He is really a success that is attributed to coming into his own.  It’s rare in this world of handlers and over-bearing career management.  How many of the stars you love present themselves as who they really are?  I can only think of a few.  Look at Otto.  When you listen to him now, or see him in concert, is there any doubt that this is really who he is?  Not one doubt in my mind.  He’s comfortable in his skin, wears it well, and as a result, is turning out some great music.  Can you imagine what, say, Faith Hill would be capable of if she just let loose, like she did at the CMA’s a couple of years ago, carried it over to her music, and just had some fun?  She’s got the pipes, but has just gotten too commercialized.  Now it’s always a gamble.  It doesn’t always turn out so well.  Ask Ray Scott.  Ask Jamey Johnson.  Ask Dale Watson.  Walking your own path doesn’t always take you to the top, but I bet those boys sleep well at night, though they may not see the top of the charts for a long time.  How many record execs told Johnny Cash that a prison album would never sell?  And that it would ruin him?  Folsom and San Quentin later, how must they have felt?  Never underestimate authienticity. 

Now, to be fair, I must go ahead and say that I would rather have a botched root canal than listen to Taylor Swift.  But she’s got the ear of an audience.  Teens and tweens relate to her and can sense that she’s real, and she’s one of them.  She’s a real version of Miley Cyrus.  And like anyone who’s real, it ain’t always pretty.  If you saw her glitter guitared, arm waving performance at the CMA’s last November, you know what I mean.  She may seem a bit manufactured to the 30-something crowd, as it did to me at first.  But she was raised for this.  She was groomed to become exactly what she is.  Real sells records, like it or not.

And as a final example, I gotta pick a bit on Kellie Pickler.  Let me go down the list of sad strikes against her as a genuine persona in country music.  She came from American Idol, having changed her name to a more commercial friendly one, adopted Dolly as a hero, got a fake rack to match, and made an album that is tailored to get airplay on radio.  Decisions that will not put an artist in good standing on Nashville Now.  But, in four short minutes, she melted me.  Her performance of “I Wonder”, which she wrote about her estranged mother, broke my heart.  It was real, and as she ended it in tears, my heart went out to her.  She made me feel it.  And that, if nothing else, is very, very, real.

So, in conclusion, country music fans are very intuitive.  They see most artists for what and who they are.  And we know real.  Perhaps, with guys like James Otto sitting atop the charts, others will follow suit, find themselves, and then turn out a string of the best country music we’ve heard in a very long time.  He’s put it off to a great start.

I’m back, and why I went away…

Posted in Site News with tags , on May 11, 2008 by Mike @ Nashville Now

My last post on this site was all the way back in November of 2007, and after that last post, I walked away and left this little site for dead.  Why, you may wonder, after the great start and response that the site got in its first few months, would I abandon it?  The answer is never so simple to such a question. But, in all fairness, those of you who took the time back then to read my humble posts, and the almost 4,000 of you who have read them in my absence, deserve an answer.

I walked away after the 2007 CMA Awards.  “Country Music’s Biggest Night.”  Or so they say.  It was on that night, telecast from Nashville and done so to showcase our genre of music to the world, that country music sold it’s soul.  Not that it all happened that night, of course, but that was the night the lights went out and the very foundation of my country soul could take no more.  I wish that I could put my finger on just where it all went wrong.  Just when the music stopped.  I couldn’t.  All I know is that there, alone in the rain, I no longer knew what country music was.  Or where it was going.  I’d just watched a child make a complete fool of herself, and everyone not only cheered, but declared her a prodigy.  The show was more pop than anything I’d ever call country.  This wasn’t my Grandpa’s country.  It wasn’t Ol’ Hank’s country.  This wasn’t my country.  So who’s was it?  Or was I right when I said, on the day we laid Johnny Cash to rest, that Country is Dead?

To me, it seemed, it was.  And, as with any death, I grieved.  Country music was a life long companion with whom I’d shared most every high and low.  A close friend to say the least.  So, off on an oddyssey of grief I went.  I didn’t miss a single step.  I started with denial.  This had not happened.  I popped in every old album I could find, touching everything I could from 1940 to somewhere around the mid 70’s.  I said to myself that this, my friend, is country.  The way is should be.  Country is indeed alive and well, and better than ever.  Alive in my car, my house, anywhere I could choose what was playing.  But slowly, I realized that I was one of the few still living in the “good ole days”.  Try the radio, I told myself.  It can’t be that bad.  But, denial subsided as I realized that a lot of the crap on the airwaves was actually just as bad as I thought it was.  So on I moved to the next stage:  anger.  I listened to all the “new country” crap I could, soaking it up for hours at a time, and then unleashing it in angry tirades to anyone who would listen.  And, occasionally, to those who could have cared less.  I was a one man idiot crew.  I debated if I could single-handedly bring this new country mess to an end.  And yes, if anyone wondered, I really did get mad and yell at the radio, just hoping it would yell back.  I must here admit that it’s tiring to fight against something that doesn’t know you’re yelling, and would only laugh if it did.  So tired and frustrated, I moved on into bargaining. 

Let’s make a deal.  I can find enough good out there to keep it all rolling along.  For every Taylor Swift there’s a Dale Watson.  For every Rascal Flatts there must be at least one more Alabama.  I tried to sell this to myself for quite sometime.  Then, I looked at the theory for a good hard minute.  And I realized that this was a deal nobody else was gonna buy.  Real country can’t crack the top 40.  And, though it’s out there, it’s just not the main anymore.  Nashville went Hollywood, and I couldn’t bring her back.  So, resigned, I moved on to depression. 

There, I gave up.  I just made the sad but easy decision that I could insulate myself with my vinyls and my re-issues on cd so closely that I wouldn’t have to care anymore.  I could make it tolerable for me, and to hell with the rest of the world.  If they wanna buy that crap, go ahead.  Merle and I could sit and sing and cry in our beers.  We can find enough to worry about without even caring about where country music is today or where it goes tomorrow.  What difference would one man and his opinion really make anyway?  Just shut it down and feel sorry for myself.  So I did.  For months I did.  For many months. 

Then, as it always does, the final stage of grief rode into view.  Acceptance.  Slowly, gradually, I accepted it.  Country, my friends, is indeed dead.  At least my country, my little take on the greatest genre of music to ever grace three chords, is gone forever.  And that’s ok.  It really is.  Because things evolve, and even the best of dreams must end.  And the best part of it is simply this.  As long as I draw breath on this old ball of rock, country will live in me.  And I’m not alone.  There are a few of us left.  And we’re not really the quiet sort. 

So let it be said:  I’m tryin’.  It may take a while, but I’m gonna give it my best shot.  But the reviews are back.  The commentary is back.  The mouth has returned, and this is gonna be fun.  If you’re looking for politically correct, move on.  If you want to hear it smoothed over and sugar coated, then go buy yourself a copy of Country Weekly (from now on known around here as Country Weakly.)  The gloves are off, my friends.  There are no holds barred.  It’s on, and I’m calling all takers.  Read on, and comment away.  Cause this life has no guarentees, and this little site may fall on its collective face, but its gonna be on heck of a ride.  Welcome back… to the new Nashville Now!

Single Review: Eric Church – Sinners Like Me

Posted in Single Reviews with tags , , on November 6, 2007 by Mike @ Nashville Now

eric-church.gif

Relative newcomer Eric Church is back on the charts with the title track from his debut album, Sinners Like Me.  After the success of his first single, How ‘Bout You, he followed up with Two Pink Lines and Guys Like Me, and was met with marginal success.  Strangely, radio all but ignored both, due in part to the sheer number of young men in the same vein sending singles to the air.  This song, however, is sure to get some attention.  It’s simple, catchy, and one of those songs that invariably gets stuck in your head.

As songs that grasp our mortality, and the simple fact that we’re all little more than sinners, this is as good as any.  The arrangement is easy on the ears, and though the foot pedals are used liberally on the guitars, it remains smooth.  Starting from the first verse, Church paints a vivid picture in the mind.  It’s very easy to relate to, and though serious, there is just enough humor worked in to keep the listener from taking the song, life, and this simple truth too seriously. 

I found the second verse very reminiscent of Trent Tomlison’s One Wing In The Fire, though Sinnersis lighter fare, and easier to digest.  Songs like this are rare, having both lyrical weight and deceptively smooth delivery. 

With the recent track record of the powers-that-be at country radio finally realizing that it’s ok for a hit to have some religious overtones, as is evidenced with hits like Three Wooden Crosses, Me and God, Long Black Train, and several others, Sinnersshouldn’t be shied away from as it would have been ten years ago. 

All in all, this is a quality release from a rising star, released at a great time, and if the Country Gods smile upon it, Sinners could well launch Eric Church ahead of the pack, and into the next level of Nashville’s Best.

Grade:  A

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