Archive for December, 2011

My “Chaos Theory” playlist

December 26, 2011

Last week C.M. Wilcox of Country California posted his “chaos theory” playlist for 2011. In essence, he mixed all the music he purchased in 2011 into one playlist on iTunes and hit shuffle. The first 20 entries comprised the list.

A couple of commenters did the same, adding their lists to the conversation. I thought it might be fun to see what 20 songs iTunes would pick if I used the same method. My list is below:

1. Alone – Kelly Clarkson

2. Mr. Know It All – Kelly Clarkson

3. NASCAR Party – Julie Roberts

4. The Dreaming Fields – Matraca Berg

5. My Opening Farewell – Alison Krauss and Union Station

6. Honestly – Kelly Clarkson

7. Baggage Claim – Miranda Lambert

8. Away In A Manger – Joey+Rory

9. Love’s Looking Good On You – Randy Travis featuring Kristin Chenoweth

10. Wildwood Flower – Suzy Bogguss

11. Modern Love – Matt Nathanson

12. You Don’t Have To Be A Baby – Del McCory Band and The Prevention Hall Jazz Club

13. Stronger – Julie Roberts

14. Don’t You Wanna Stay – Jason Aldean feat. Kelly Clarkson

15. It Wrecks Me – Sunny Sweeney

16. Blue Velvet – Tony Bennett and k.d. Lang

17. My Name is Emmett Till – Emmylou Harris 

18. Kept – Matt Nathanson

19. Don’t Throw It Away – Foster & Lloyd 

20. Guitar Slinger – Vince Gill

There is some extremely well-crafted music here from some very talented individuals who released new records in 2011. The Emmylou Harris and Suzy Bogguss entires were much better than almost anything getting mainstream exposure and my appreciation for Vince Gill knows no bounds.

While I do wish there was a bit more diversity, whatever popped up is what I went with. In any event it makes for a fun exercise and I enjoyed seeing what iTunes spit back at me on random shuffle.

Favorite Country Albums of 2011

December 21, 2011

Who says real country music is dead? Putting aside the commercial successes that forgot about quality, here is my take for music that mattered in 2011. These albums may not have sold a heck of a lot or even garnered the recognition they warranted, but they achived the mark of great music – the songs came first.

10. Concrete – Sunny Sweeney

Led by the top ten “From A Table Away,” Concrete found Sweeney modifying her sound slightly in order to complete with what’s current on country radio. Of course, her version of slightly is different than most as she’s crafted an outstanding traditional country album worthy of her talents. There are too many highlights here to pick a favorite but the honky-tonkin’ “Drink Myself Single” and the revengeful “Amy” are among the years best songs.

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Top 45 favorite country singles of 2011

December 21, 2011

Here’s my picks for the best of the best, the cream of the crop for country singles in 2011. See, the year wasn’t all bad, now was it?

45. Steel Magnolia – “Last Night Again”

A flirty romance tale finding a couple eyeing each other from across the room is made even sweeter  knowing Megan Lindsay and Joshua Scott Jones are an item in real life.

44. Terri Clark – “Northern Girl”

How refreshing is it to hear a singer singing about where they’re from and instead of a bunch of cliches, it relays to personal experience? Clark, from Canada, sings lovingly of her homeland here and shows just how great her voice still is after more than fifteen years in the industry. If you haven’t paid Clark much attention in a while, she’s worth checking out.

43. Miranda Lambert – “Baggage Claim”

A Beyonce inspired ditty that says everything Reba McEntire wished she could’ve said in “Who’s Ever In New England.” This guy ain’t got a place to come back to.

42. Jacob Lyda – “I’m Doing Alright”

This light and breezy tale is an exercise in being comfortable in your everyday life, something we could use more of in our world. Lyda co-wrote it with legendary songwriter Paul Overstreet (whose son Chord is Sam Evans on Glee) and it has that old-time feel of a great country song. Lyda didn’t make waves in 2011, but he sure deserved to.

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Top 40 Worst Country Singles of 2011

December 21, 2011

Here you go. My least favorite country singles of 2011. You’ll see some huge hits here. But remember it isn’t about chart performance, but rather about quality:

40. Ronnie Dunn – “Bleed Red”

On his solo debut Dunn could’ve worn any hat. But he choose to go down the route of being over-produced and turned into a pop balladeer. And “We all bleed red” is such a statement of the obvious, it hardly bares drugging up in a song.

39. Jason Michael Carroll – “Numbers”

This is exactly why people hate country music. A laundry list of numerical symbols? Seriously, just how lazy can songwriting get?

38. Keith Urban – “You Gonna Fly”

On its own this isn’t a bad song. But I’m including it here for the simple fact it showcases an artist continuing to coast on their merits with yet another sound alike rocker that has become the norm. Urban will always be hailed for his guitar playing and entertaining abilities but not for his diversity in song selection. He just isn’t exciting anymore.

37. Luke Bryan – “I Don’t Want This Night To End”

A guy and a girl are rockin’ in a truck as if no other modes of transportation exist. Of course, she’s “so damn hot” he can’t stand it. He may not want this night to end, but this song surely can.

36. Jake Owen – “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”

A marriage of 80s rock with banjos coupled with a disposable tale of having fun with not only your buddies but the requisite hot babe, too. I Don’t Wanna Grow Up may be the smartest line in a country song all year.

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EP Review – Julie Roberts – “Who Needs Mistletoe”

December 14, 2011

Julie Roberts

Who Needs Mistletoe

* * * * *

Every year with anticipation, I look forward to adding new Christmas recordings to my personal collection, which I’ve been steadily adding to for more then fifteen years. When I heard Julie Roberts had a holiday record available for download, I jumped at the opportunity to add it amongst my favorites from years past.

Roberts brings to life songs we’ve all know and love such as “Blue Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Away In A Manger,” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and adds newer fare like “Pretty Paper” and the title track. She adds warmth to these tunes that allows them to feel fresh, as though we’re just hearing them for the first time.

“Blue Christmas” showcases the bluesy qualities to her voice and allows Roberts to truly shine. It was a smart choice to open the album as the drum crescendo welcomes you in before being hit by the power of Roberts’ voice. When she sings the opening line, “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you” you know she was born to sing this tune.

But it’s the addition of the mandolin on both “Away in a Manger” and “Pretty Paper” that makes Who Needs Mistletoe the best country Christmas album of 2011. I find it refreshing Roberts didn’t go the full big band route that many a country singer has traveled down with their own Christmas recordings. She’s managed to strike the perfect balance, appealing to both country and non-country fans alike while still sounding like a country singer singing Christmas songs. It’s as elegant as any country album you’ll hear all year.

But in terms of vocal prowess, “O Holy Night” is the biggest surprise. Roberts brings so much power to this song I was blown away. I wasn’t expecting the range in her vocal performance and the simple Dobro and guitar-laced production suits her perfectly. I always new she could sing, but this adds another dimension to her vocal ability that she’s yet to fully cultivate on one of her previous albums.

And like her previous albums, Roberts adds her signature flirty playfulness here, this time by way of the title track. In its own right, “Who Needs Mistletoe” is a well-executed song, but I found the hook, “who needs mistletoe/I’d rather be under you” weirdly placed among tunes celebrating the religious aspects of the Christmas holiday. But it works simply because its so memorable and doesn’t overdue the frank sexual undertones

Who Needs Mistletoe is a first-rate collection of songs all brought to life by Roberts’ stellar voice. Whenever I hear her sing I always wonder why she never broke through and garnered the attention she’s so richly deserved by country radio and the fans. When music is this sophisticated and classy it deserves just such recognition.

I only wish this EP had included more than just seven songs, as by the end I was hungry for so much more. I feel like Roberts has only scratched the surface in what a holiday album from her can sound like and I hope there is much more coming down the line in the years to come.


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