The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of August 14, 2017)

As Steve Azar (a country artist of Syrian and Lebanese descent!! Say what?!) sings, “I don’t have to be me ’til Monday.” Well, it’s Monday so that means it’s back to the weekly routine. Thankfully, I’ve got the tracks below to keep me going this week.

The Tracks I’m Playing 

Tyler Childers- “Whitehouse Road.” Holy Kentucky Smokes this guy is some kinda good! And when you’ve got Sturgill Simpson producing your record, how could you not be? I’ve included the link above to Tyler’s OurVinyl Session version of his song “Whitehouse Road” but it’s also featured on his newly released album Purgatory. I’m excited to see what the future holds for Tyler- maybe an album with him AND Sturgill?! A girl can dream!

Miranda Lambert- “Sweet By and By and Morgane and Chris Stapleton- “You Are My Sunshine.” If you don’t have a southern family of your own, don’t worry, Miranda Lambert, Morgane and Chris Stapleton, Brent Cobb, Jamey Johnson, and Shooter Jennings will let you be a part of theirs with their compilation album, Southern Family, which features the two songs listed above. Other artists that are a part of this Southern Family include Brandy Clark, Anderson East, and Jason Isbell. Everyone could use a southern family to call their own and I couldn’t think of a better one than this!

Since we’re on the topic of Chris Stapleton, it’d be appropriate now to mention The Steeldrivers and their song If It Hadn’t Been For Love.” The Steeldrivers was Stapleton’s band from 2005-2010. If you’re a big fan of Stapleton, I would recommend checking these guys out, especially the stuff they recorded when he was part of the group.

Cody Jinks- “I’m Not the Devil.” Apparently long bearded men is the theme of today because here comes another one by the name of Cody Jinks. Cody is the real deal and one of the artists out there doing justice for country music with songs like “Loud and Heavy,” “Hippies and Cowboys,” and “I’m Not the Devil.” And for the record Cody, I don’t think you’re the devil!

“I’m not the devil you think that I am
It ain’t no excuse, but I’m just a man
I slipped and I fell, it got outta hand
But I’m not the devil you think that I am”

Jon Pardi- “Heartache On The Dance Floor.” Let’s get this Pardi started! I’ve been head over boots for this California cowboy for quite some time. Not only am I digging the boots and cowboy hat look but I’m also digging the music this guy is putting out. See also: “Head Over Boots” and “Dirt On My Boots.

Brandy Clark- “Daughter.” The ultimate revenge is karma- you get to sit back and let the universe work its magic and that’s just what Brandy Clark plans on doing in this song. She’s just waiting for all the men who have done her wrong to one day have daughters who date guys just like they used to be. Karma is one hell of a b**tch, ain’t she?

“So I hope you have a daughter and I hope that she’s a fox
Daddy’s little girl – just as sweet as she is hot
She can’t help but love them boys
Who love to love and leave them girls just like her father
Yeah, karma’s a bitch – so I hope you have a daughter”

Hayes Carll- “She Left Me For Jesus.” If this song doesn’t make you giggle or at least grin, you should go to the doctor and have your sense of humor examined. And since we’re on the topic of funny Hayes Carll songs, check out Another Like You featuring Cary Ann Hearst. These songs aren’t new at all but I’m including them anyway, especially since they’ve brought me nothing but joy since discovering them. And since it’s Monday and the start of another work week for many of us, we could all use some laughs!

“She left me for Jesus and that just ain’t fair
She says that he’s perfect, how could I compare
She says I should find him and I’ll know peace at last
If I ever find Jesus, I’m kickin’ his ass”

Mo Pitney- “Everywhere.” That voice tho! This song comes from his 2016 album, Behind This Guitar. If you wanna hear some mo’ music (pun attempt) from this guy, check out his cover of Merle Haggard’s “Farmer’s Daughter.” No doubt The Hag would be proud of Mo!

Miranda Lambert- “To Learn Her.” Y’all really thought I was only gonna put one Miranda song on this list? lol yeah ok. I’m convinced that there are no bad songs on her The Weight of These Wings album. The more I listen to it the stronger I become in this conviction, and with songs like “To Learn Her,” it’s easy to see why.

“Oh, to love her is to learn her
Some things you just can’t learn”

Jason Isbell- “Cumberland Gap.” By now you guys should know that I’m gonna include Jason on pretty much every list I make (along with Miranda). I can’t get enough of this album (The Nashville Sound) or this man. If Jason is out there making music, you can pretty much expect that I’m gonna write about him.

“I ain’t cut out for war, unless I know what I’m fighting for
And there’s nothing here but churches, bars, and grocery stores
Ain’t much money in the old-time mandolin
So I cash my check and I drink ’til I’m on my ass again”

Talking Crap About the Radio (Again) 

I’m gonna take this opportunity to talk some crap about radio again. With the exception of Jon Pardi, Miranda Lambert (though not nearly enough), and sometimes Chris Stapleton, you’ll probably never hear any of these artists on the radio. There’s plenty of airtime for Kelsea Ballerini but none for Brandy Clark? Give me a break! And radios can play the same Jason Aldean song fifty times a day but can’t throw in a Cody Jinks song every once in awhile? Please. This is why I no longer listen to radio and wish I had stopped a long time ago. Mainstream country music needs a revival, however, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. At least that’s not keeping the guys and gals above from doing their thing! And as long as they’re around and putting out music, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be listening!

Spotify 

Last week I created a Spotify account (beltwayboots) where all of the music that I write about can be found. Be sure to check it out!

Currently listening to: Tyler Childers- “Universal Sound.” Told  y’all this was some good stuff!

New to Me: The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of August 7, 2017)

In the two months since I started writing this blog, I’ve learned so much about country music. The fact that I called myself a country music fan just a few short months ago is laughable. As the saying goes, “the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know” and that is exactly how I feel about country music. For example, I knew about some of the greatest country singers like Willie, Waylon, and Johnny but I never knew about John Prine or Gram Parsons. I’m now in love with John Prine and think he’s one of the greatest songwriters of all time- I just wish I’d known about him sooner.

There have been some other changes besides just the new music I’m discovering. For example, I no longer listen to the radio. Like practically never. I used to sometimes listen to Bobby Bones on my morning commute but after realizing how many great new artists are out there that he’s not playing, I figured why should I? I also never liked that he didn’t give Eric Church’s songs a lot of play. I’m not sure how much of this is actually Bobby or the higher-ups making the calls but either way, I’m no longer wasting my time listening to the same Jason Aldean and FGL songs continuously playing on a loop. And it’s not just Bobby Bones. You’d be hard pressed, especially in the Washington, DC area, to find a radio station that plays some of today’s best artists- I’m talking Sturgill Simpson, Brandy Clark, Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Cody Jinks, and many others. I used to at least hear Kacey Musgraves on the radio when “Merry Go ‘Round” first came out but now you never hear her. What happened? I am, however, thankful to the few stations that still play the old stuff (Thunder 104.5 in Fredericksburg, VA WHADDUP!) like Waylon and The Oak Ridge Boys so to those stations who are still spinning those old records, I just wanna say thank ya!

Not only am I learning more about country music and discovering new artists and songs in this genre, but in other genres too. I’ve added a bunch of new rock, oldies, hip-hop, etc. to my music collection over these past few months as well.

The fact that I’m constantly learning about new artists and finding new songs that I love means that I’m achieving one of the goals that I set out to accomplish when I started this blog. My love of country music has only grown stronger and I have developed a deeper appreciation for it. Since I typically write about new music in my “The Tracks I’m Playing” posts, I wanted to change it up this week and write about some of the old stuff that I’ve discovered since starting this blog, or rather, the songs that are “new to me.” Here they are!

New Artists 

John Prine- “In Spite of Ourselves.” John Prine knew that the world needed more songs about sniffing someone’s undies and so he gave us this gem. He also knew that people needed to know what Jesus was up to in his missing years so he gave us, “Jesus, The Missing Years.” He also wanted us all to blow up our TV and throw away our paper so he gave us, “Spanish Pipedream.” Finding these songs has truly bettered my life. Now I just need to go blow up my TV.

Gram Parsons- “Love Hurts.” So this song isn’t “new to me” at all but this version of it is. I’ve known the Nazareth cover of this song for years and was a fan after hearing it for the first time in high school. Not that these two versions are competing against each other or anything but any version of a song that contains the angelic voice of Emmylou Harris automatically wins out in my book.

New Songs

Merle Haggard- “Sidewalks of Chicago.” I could listen to Merle Haggard sing the phonebook. And I’d probably download that song and listen to it everyday. Merle’s voice has the power to make you feel the emotions behind the song that he is singing. What I love most about this song in particular is the way he goes back and forth between singing and talking. I also love the way he says certain words in this song like “wine” when he talks about how if he buys bread, he can’t afford the wine. By the end of this song, you actually feel sorry for this guy and the fact that he can’t afford both bread and wine.

Willie Nelson- “Shotgun Willie.” Why is Shotgun Willie sitting in his underwear? Why is Shotgun Willie biting on a bullet and pulling out all of his hair? I don’t know and I also really don’t care. This song is great just the way it is- no explanations are needed. Shotgun Willie- you keep doing you!

Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter- “Honky Tonk Angels.” My all-time favorite country music couple right here, ladies and gentlemen! Any song these two sing together is perfection so of course their version of “Honky Tonk Angels” is gonna be a good one. Even though the original singer of this song was Kitty Wells, Waylon and Jessi made it their own in this performance. Waylon also jokes that Jessi hurt his feelings in this song. Toughen up, Waylon!

Steve Earle- “Guitar Town.” I’m still waiting for a man to tell me that one of these days he’s gonna settle down and take me back with him to the Guitar Town. Just know that when that day comes, I’ll be ready!

Jerry Reed- “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.” One of the greatest life lessons can be found in this song- “when you’re hot, you’re hot and when you’re not, you’re not.” Where would be today as a society if Jerry Reed hadn’t come along to teach us this valuable lesson? I don’t even wanna know!

See also: “Amos Moses.” This poor boy’s daddy used to use him as alligator bait! Bless his heart!

Emmylou Harris- “Queen of the Silver Dollar,” “Bluebird Wine,” “Hank and Lefty,” and Boulder to Birmingham.” If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of the Pieces of the Sky album. And if I could be the queen of anything, it would be the Silver Dollar, as she sings about on this album. As I mentioned above, Emmylou Harris has the voice of an angel. No, really. That’s probably why Gram Parsons included her on his Grievous Angel album that he did with his band “The Fallen Angels.” The man liked to surround himself with angels and Emmylou Harris was no exception. No voice has yet to come along in country music that can rival hers.

The Oak Ridge Boys- “Y’all Come Back SaloonandLeaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.” Me and The Oak Ridge Boys go way back, after all, these are the guys who taught another one of life’s most important lessons in country music- “trying to love two women is like a ball a chain.” I’m just gonna have to take their word on that! When they’re not teaching you about the struggles that come with loving multiple women, these guys are singing other great songs like the ones listed above. And of course, let’s not forget about “Elvira.Giddy up oom poppa omm poppa mow mow. 

I hope none of y’all are judging me for not knowing these songs and artists until recently. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and maybe I wasn’t meant to find these songs until now. Perhaps if I had known about them years ago they wouldn’t have meant as much to me. The important thing is that I know them now!

Currently listening to: John Prine – “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian.” A language I’m now really regretting never taking the time to learn! I’ve always said that you haven’t really mastered a language until you can talk dirty in it. Actually, this is the first time I’ve ever said that, but I’m gonna start saying it.

The Soundtrack to My Safari: The Tracks I Played in Kenya

I have this thing where I pretty much have to be listening to music (or Netflix, etc.) at all times. With the exception of being at work, I rarely sit in silence. So of course when I travel, as there is often a lot of time spent waiting for planes, waiting in lines, riding in cars/buses, etc., I spend a lot of time with my headphones in listening to music. In preparation for my trip to Kenya, where I traveled earlier this month, I made sure my Spotify account was loaded up. Let me just say that one does not truly appreciate the download option on Spotify until they’re forced to go days without (or with very limited) Wi-Fi or data. Thankfully, being the planner that I am, I had downloaded plenty of songs beforehand, which was especially useful during my four day safari to Maasai Mara National Reserve and Lake Nakuru. I made sure to include both new music along with old favorites (like Waylon, Merle, and George.) In this post, I will focus on the newer stuff, all of which will forever remain on my playlists. I’m sure I’ll be calling these songs “old favorites” one day!

The Soundtrack to My Safari

Kurt Vile- Pretty Pimpin.” This is probably the song I played the most. I mean you try listening to it without it getting stuck in your head (spoiler: you can’t). It’s the perfect song to play during almost any kind of activity- riding around in a safari van, getting ready in the morning, walking to work, you name it. You can guarantee that anything you do while listening to this song will be pretty pimpin!

Margo Price- How the Mighty Have Fallen” and other songs from her album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter including “Tennessee Song” and “Hands of Time.” What’s cool is that Margo’s commentary on this album is also on Spotify. It’s always nice to get a little background info on a song before you listen to it, especially when the songs are autobiographical and personal, like “Hands of Time.” In the period of time that has passed since I’ve come back from Kenya and writing this post, Margo has released a new EP titled, Weakness, which I’m excited to start exploring.

John Mayer- Never on the Day You Leave.” If there’s one person who understands breakups, it’s John Mayer. And of course he understands that you can still miss lots of things about someone even after you leave them- even their crazy family. Anyone who has ever missed someone after breaking up with them can relate to this song. I’m still not sure if this song is considered “country” but if John Mayer can write a post-breakup song this good, I think there’s a place for him in country music.

“No, it’s never on the day you leave
That you remember Christmas Eve
And all the things you miss about her crazy family
You’ll know how lonely it is to see 
A little drug store Christmas tree
But never, never on the day you leave”

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit-Last of My Kind.” This song about a country boy feeling misplaced in the city and wondering if he’s the last of his kind completely won me over. It also made me kinda sad because I realized that Jason Isbell is indeed the last of his kind. Sigh.

William Clark Green- Old Fashioned.” While I was listening to Jason Isbell singing about being the last of his kind, William Clark Green was also letting me know that “them good old boys are few and far between.” I’m afraid that the Jason Isbells and the “good old boys” are both dying breeds. If we could get a conservation group going for this endangered species that would be great. Just send me your donation for this great cause!

(In all seriousness, there are many actual endangered animals out there. In Kenya, two of the endangered animals are the Grevy’s Zebra and the Black Rhino, both of which I got to see on my trip. For more information and to donate to African Wildlife Foundation, click here.)

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats- S.O.B.” I looked Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats up when I saw that they were performing at the Outlaw Music Festival with Willie Nelson, Eric Church, Sheryl Crow, and the Avett Brothers in September. I figured if they were in such good company that they too must be good. Finding this fun, toe-tapping song was the result of that search.

Cody Jinks- Loud and Heavy.” I like songs that get straight to the point and this song does just that. Cody doesn’t waste any time once this song starts, jumping straight into that “loud thunder heavy rain” line in the first second. Cody makes great company for long car rides!

Sturgill Simpson- I know this is the first time I’ve mentioned “The Sturge” on this blog (better late than never, right?) but it’s mainly because I was holding out as I felt he deserved his own post. However, as I’ve yet to write that post, I didn’t want to leave Sturgill out too much longer. Some of his songs that I listened to were “Welcome to Earth (Polywog),” “Sea Stories,” and “All Around You.” All of these songs are from his latest Grammy Award Winning album A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. At other points on this trip when I did have Internet, I also listened to stuff from his older albums Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and High Top Mountain which made for a very Sturgill holiday. Trust me when I tell you that a post dedicated to “The Sturge” is coming. Also, how are y’all feeling about the nickname “The Sturge?” I’m kinda digging it.

When I listen to any one of these songs now, I’m reminded of a specific time during my trip when that song was playing in my headphones. I bet Jason Isbell never thought one of his songs would bring to mind a memory of driving around Maasai Mara looking for giraffes and elephants (although one of his best songs is titled, “Elephant,” so maybe? But probably not.)

I did listen to plenty of other songs not listed above, however, most of those songs have already been written about in my past “The Tracks I’m Playing” posts. This includes people like Lori McKenna, Ruston Kelly, and Ashley Monroe.

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Maasai Mara National Reserve (July 2017)

Thanks Kurt, Margo, John, Jason, William, Nathaniel, Cody, and “The Sturge” for coming with me to Kenya! I hope y’all enjoyed the trip!

Currently listening to: Chris Stapleton- “Traveller

“I’m just a traveler on this earth
Sure as my heart’s behind the pocket of my shirt
I’ll just keep rolling till I’m in the dirt
‘Cause I’m a traveler, oh, I’m a traveler”

The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of July 3, 2017)

Lorrie Morgan once sang that Monday was never good anyway but when you don’t have to work on Tuesday, I would beg to differ. It also doesn’t hurt to have some good music to listen to on your Monday, like the songs listed below. Turning my attention now to another Lori is Lori McKenna who is starting off this list.

The Lori McKenna Party

Lori McKenna- “The Bird & the Rifle and Old Men Young Women.”  I mentioned last week that I was late to the Lori McKenna party but now I’m afraid that I’ve become that party guest that just won’t leave. And it’s why I’ve got not one but two Lori McKenna songs listed this week. The first is “The Bird & the Rifle.” My favorite thing about this song is its symbolism- a woman (the bird) is trapped in a relationship with a man (the rifle) who’s afraid to let her spread her wings and fly. The rifle possesses all the characteristics that you would expect- “he’s dangerous, stubborn, and strong.” He tries to keep the bird from flying away but one night she does anyway. This song reminds me of so many women who’ve had big dreams that were crushed by the rifles in their own lives. I’m glad the bird in this song finally got away from hers.

“And the bird is always dreaming out the window
Looking at that big wide open sky
And the rifle, he used to be a dreamer
But he wasn’t meant to fly”
-The Bird & the Rifle

There’s something about “Old Men Young Women” that reminds me of a certain president. Maybe it’s the reference to this being “wife number three.” And then there’s also the fact that she wants the lights off and he wants the lights on (Come on! You know Melania wants the lights off! I also just threw up a little bit in my mouth.) But as Lori sings, “it’s nobodies business what you’re willing to trade” for the things that he can buy. Yep, I’m definitely gonna be sick.

“Old men, young women
Only work in the beginning
She’s the past in summer dress
He’s a ride in a red corvette
She’s a prize, he’s winning
She thinks it is what it isn’t
And neither one can change what’s missing
Old men, young women”
-Old Men Young Women

If anyone is capable of writing a beautiful song about gold diggers it’s Lori McKenna (no offense to Jamie Foxx and Kanye West.)

Sunny Sweeney- “Bottle by My Bed.” If you saw Sunny Sweeney’s name and thought that we had left the Lori McKenna party I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Seeing as how Lori helped Sunny write this song, we are still very much at the Lori McKenna party. However, you shouldn’t let this divert your attention away from Sunny Sweeney and her deeply personal song.

Just seeing the title “Bottle by My Bed” and knowing country music, I immediately assumed this song was about a bottle of alcohol (probably Jack) by Sunny’s bed. Boy was I wrong! Instead, this song is about a baby bottle and Sunny’s longing to have kids of her own. It tackles that age-old proverb, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” She has the bright lights and the glamorous life and wants a family while her friends are home with their kids wishing they had a more glamorous life. This song is incredibly personal as Sunny and her husband have been struggling with infertility. Sunny even had a miscarriage two weeks before putting the final touches on this song, which is reflected in the emotions you hear coming through in Sunny’s voice.

“My only bed time story is a ‘People’ magazine
I’d rather be in a carpool line than this big cold limousine
I’d trade every pair of high heel shoes for a highchair in the dining room
Don’t even know you yet, but I know I love you”

The Cowboy Hat is Back

I have an announcement to make- the cowboy hat is back! I repeat- the cowboy hat is back! And the fellas who are bringing it back are none other than Sam Outlaw and William Michael Morgan. If a man in a ten-gallon hat tickles your fancy then I suggest checking these guys out.

Sam Outlaw- “Bottomless Mimosas.” A California Cowboy singing about bottomless mimosas? Yes and please! “Bottomless Mimosas” if off of Sam’s newly released album Tenderheart. On this album, and on Sam’s first album Angeleno, you’ll find his unique style of SoCal Country. According to Sam, “There is something special about Los Angeles, a special sadness. There is a faded beauty that is here, that kind of strange following of dreams while dreams are being crushed in a regular basic. You can sense that. That’s why there’s a unique type of country music that comes out of L.A.” And could anything be more SoCal than bottomless mimosas? I think not.

There are also very few last names that I would ever be willing to change mine for and Outlaw is one of the names on a very short list that I would change for. Brittany Outlaw- sounds good, don’t ya think?

“You might get low, but you never will run out
You might not know, but nobody’s got it all figured out
The future’s bright in your favorite horoscope
You might get low
You might get low”

William Michael Morgan- “Missing.” He’s been compared to George Strait which is quite an honor because those are some pretty big boots to fill! The first time I remember hearing this song was on the radio as I was driving and I remember thinking “sometimes missing is my favorite place to be” was such a great line. This man has a great voice- smooth, with a southern twang, that harkens back to the way country used to be. Let’s hope this guy doesn’t go missing anytime soon!

“So don’t cha go missing me
‘Cause sometimes missing is my favorite place to be”

Changing the Nashville Sound

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit- “If We Were Vampires.” I’m sure you’re probably sick of hearing about Jason Isbell and this song but I don’t care. It’s getting talked about for a reason and that reason is that Jason Isbell has crafted an amazing song. It’s listed last here but if we were ranking these songs, it would be first.

Unless you’re like that couple in The Notebook that died creepily in each other’s arms, you or your partner will most likely have to spend some days (months, years) without the other after one of you dies. That’s what this song, off of Isbell’s latest album The Nashville Sound, addresses. It’s not a light subject but if anyone can capture the emotions that surround this topic in a song, it’s Jason Isbell. What’s impressive is that he is able to sing about death in a way that doesn’t make you depressed (at least I don’t feel that way). What I hear instead is a beautiful love song being sung by Jason and his wife Amanda Shires, their voices perfectly harmonizing as they sing about life and death.

“It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we’ll get forty years together
But one day I’ll be gone or one day you’ll be gone”

I hope everyone has a safe and fun Independence Day filled with lots of country music!

Currently listening to: Lorrie Morgan- “Except for Monday

The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of June 26, 2017)

Happy Monday, everyone! To quote Mark Chesnutt, “Well it sure is Monday, isn’t it now? Gotta get myself through the week somehow.” Hopefully the songs below will help get you through your Monday and the rest of your week!

New Tracks

Miranda Lambert– Smoking Jacket.” I was unaware that I wanted this kind of man until Miranda made it clear with this song (thanks, girl!) I’ve been listening to her album The Weight of These Wings like crazy and “Smoking Jacket” is one of the many songs that I just can’t get enough of, which is probably because I have a huge crush on whoever this man is. He’s velvet and refined? Sign me up!

“I want a man with a smoking jacket and
A deeper pocket with money to burn
I want a man who knows his status
And he makes a habit of loving me till it hurts”

Other songs from The Weight of These Wings that I’ve been playing on repeat are “Highway Vagabond” and “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Steve Earle and The Dukes– “So You Wanna Be An Outlaw.” If I ever thought I was cut out to be an outlaw Steve Earle and Willie Nelson made sure to set me straight with this song. Living a life where you can never go home and you can’t trust anybody (not even your own momma) ain’t no life for me. This song is the title track from Earle’s latest album, which also features a duet with Earle and Miranda Lambert titled, “This Is How It Ends” that I highly recommend. (Not sure if y’all can tell but I love me some Miranda!)

“So you wanna be outlaw, better listen up kid
Steal a million dollars and you have to keep it hid
Ain’t no place to spend it in the desert if you did
And you can’t take it with you when you go”

Chris Stapleton– “Them Stems.” Let’s just get one thing straight- I’ve never smoked “them stems.” But I can totally sympathize with being in a bad, bad way, as Chris Stapleton describes it in this song, where it seems like nothing’s going right. I guess you could say that metaphorically I’ve smoked “them stems.” In any case, this song has a beat that’s sure to make you groove no matter how relatable you find its content.

“This morning I smoked them stems
Yeah, that’s the kinda shape I’m in
I’m in a bad, bad way again
‘Cause this morning I smoked them stems”

New to Me

Lori McKenna– “Salt.” It’s no surprise that the lyrics in a Lori McKenna song caught my attention. After all, this is the same lady who wrote “Humble and Kind,” which was a big hit for Tim McGraw and a song that I think will go down in country music history as one of the greatest songs of all time. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this as this song won Song of the Year at the 2016 Country Music Awards, Best Country Song at the Grammy’s in 2017, and Favorite Country Song at the 2016 American Music Awards. I realize that I’m late to the Lori McKenna party as “Salt” came out in 2013 but better late than never! “Salt” is about leaving a man who ain’t worth a whole lot, as Lori lists out in this song, not even her weight in salt.

“But you ain’t worth the time
You ain’t worth the pain
You ain’t worth the spit in my mouth when I scream out your name
You ain’t worth the cost to repair the hole in the kitchen drywall
You ain’t worth the good advice written on a dirty bathroom stall
Or my weight in salt”

Whitey Morgan and the 78’s- I’m on Fire.” I’m a big fan of Bruce Springsteen so I was interested to see how Whitey Morgan and the 78’s chose to cover “I’m on Fire,” which was featured on their 2008 album Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels. While I do enjoy the country feel that his cover has, nothing beats the original Springsteen (sorry Whitey!) This isn’t the only time that Whitey Morgan has covered The Boss- his 2014 album Grandpa’s Guitar also features a version of “Highway Patrolman.”

For all you D.C. peeps- Whitey Morgan will be performing at the Fillmore in Silver Spring on July 19th. I’m afraid I’ll probably be too jetlagged to attend but y’all should go check him out!

“At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
And a freight train running through the
Middle of my head
Only you can cool my desire
I’m on fire”

Currently listening to: Mark Chesnutt- “It Sure Is Monday.” You ain’t lying, Mark!

The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of June 19, 2017)

When I made the decision to write this blog I also made it my mission to actively explore new country music so that I could constantly be expanding my country music horizons. This includes listening to some of the deep cuts from artists that I already know as well as taking the time to familiarize myself with artists, both new and old, that I’ve never listened to before. This exploration has truly been the gift that keeps on giving as I’ve discovered some amazing artists, songwriters, and songs in the process. Below is a list of some of my favorite new songs that I’ve found so far on this journey.

New Discoveries 

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit– White Man’s World.” This song- which tackles both gender and race- is from Isbell’s new album The Nashville Sound, which was released last Friday. From the moment I first heard this song, I was hooked. In it, Isbell discusses white privilege- a topic you’re not likely to find in a country song. I have a lot of respect for Isbell choosing to record such a politically charged song- Nashville could use more artists like him!

“I’m a white man living on a white man’s street
I’ve got the bones of the red man under my feet
The highway runs through their burial grounds
Past the oceans of cotton

I’m a white man looking in a black man’s eyes
Wishing I’d never been one of the guys
Who pretended not to hear another white man’s joke
Oh, the times ain’t forgotten”

Ashley Monroe The Blade.” If you don’t know Ashley Monroe’s name you probably know her voice from Blake Shelton’s “Lonely Tonight.” She’s also one-third of the band Pistol Annies (along with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley) and also has a solo career of her own. I first became a fan of Ashley’s late in high school when her song “I Don’t Want To” came out, which featured Ronnie Dunn (one-half of Brooks & Dunn). I’d heard some of her solo stuff since then and always liked what I heard so I decided to explore her music some more, which is how I found this gem. This song is about the two different experiences that each half of a couple goes through during a breakup- you either catch it by the handle or you catch it by the blade. “The Blade” is off of her album by the same name, which was released in 2015.

“You said “goodbye, it’s not the end
And if you need me, I’m still your friend”
Well, that’s easy for you to say
Cause you caught it by the handle
And I caught it by the blade”

Brent Cobb– Diggin’ Holes.” Brent Cobb has written songs for some of Nashville’s hottest artists like Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, and Miranda Lambert for whom he wrote “Old Shit,” a song that I’m a big fan of. Some people might describe his sound as more Americana than country but it’s this different kinda sound that I like best about this song.

“Yeah I ought to be working in a coal mine
Lord knows I’m good at digging holes”

John Mayer– In the Blood.” I’m not sure if you’ve heard but John Mayer has gone country! And this song is his first release for country radio. Whether you choose to accept him as country or not is up to you but with songs like this I’ll be accepting him with open arms. I’m also a longtime fan of non-country John Mayer so perhaps I’m a little biased.

“How much of my mother has my mother left in me?
How much of my love will be insane to some degree?
And what about this feeling that I’m never good enough?
Will it wash out in the water, or is it always in the blood?”

Blackie & The Rodeo Kings- Bury My Heart.” These guys are a Canadian folk rock-alternative country band (that’s a lot adjectives, eh?) I’m gonna be honest here and say that the only reason I have any idea about this song is because it features Eric Church. Even with that aside, I still dig this song. “Bury My Heart” is from their new album, Kings and Kings, which features lots of other guests including Vince Gill and Jason Isbell just to name a few.

Going to bury my heart deep in the ground
In a hole so deep where it can’t be found
Safe from you
Safe from me
Safe from harm
.”

Angaleena Presley– “Bless My Heart.” This song comes from Angaleena’s new album Wrangled, which was released in April. Angaleena makes up another third of the Pistol Annies and as she’s proved with this album, she’s one hell of a songwriter with something to say, especially about the struggle that women in country music are currently facing.

“‘Cause you cut down anything you don’t understand
Anybody who interferes with your plans
Of riding that high horse on to victory
I know you ain’t that blonde so don’t you play dumb with me”

Ruston Kelly– Black Magic.” You might not be familiar with the soon-to-be Mr. Kacey Musgraves but he’s been around for a little while and has written songs for artists like Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney. “Black Magic,” which came out in 2015, doesn’t have your typical “country” sound to it’s for that reason that it caught my ear and made me want to keep listening.

“Love ain’t nothing more than black magic
You better want what you wish for
It might happen”

 

New Country Remakes

Pistol Annies– Tulsa Time.” I love the Pistol Annies and I love Don Williams so of course I’m gonna love the Pistol Annies’ version of his 1978 hit “Tulsa Time” from Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams. Other artists featured on this album are Brandy Clark, Dierks Bentley, Chris Stapleton, and Jason Isbell & Amanda Shires.

“Well, you know I’ve been through it
When I set my watch back to it
Livin’ on Tulsa time”

Zac Brown Band– All The Best.” This song is off of the Zac Brown Band’s new album Welcome Home, and features Kacey Musgraves. It’s a cover of John Prine’s song by the same title from 1991.

“I wish you love
And happiness
I guess I wish
You all the best
I wish you don’t
Do like I do
And go and fall in love with someone like you

Cause if you fell
Oh, like I did
You’d probably walk around the block like a little kid
But a kid don’t know
He could only guess
How hard it is
To wish you happiness”

 

Artist to Watch

Ashley McBryde– A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega.” When Eric Church invites an artist on stage to perform with him, you’d better believe this artist is worth your time. That’s definitely been the case with Ashley McBryde whose album, Jalopies & Expensive Guitars, I’ve been playing since I first heard her name last week. With songs like “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega,” “Fat and Famous,” and “Bible and a .44,” it’s easy to see why she earned an Eric Church stamp of approval. I’ve named her an “artist to watch” as I think we’ll (hopefully) see much more of her in the future. I know I’ll be watching!

“Here’s to the break ups that didn’t break us
The break down, wrong turn that takes ya
To a little dive bar in Dahlonega
Hear a song from a band that saves ya, man
It’s hittin’ rock bottom smoke ’em if you got ’em
Nothing’s going right
Makin’ the best of a worst day, kind of night”

 

Currently listening to:

Miranda Lambert Pink Sunglasses.” Miranda is the third and final member (or should I say Annie?) of the Pistol Annies to be featured on this post. When I first heard “Pink Sunglasses,” I went out and bought a pair. And trust me when I say that they do make the world seem a little bit better. Although I paid a few dollars more than $9.99 for mine, they still do the trick!

This song is off of her latest two-disc album, The Weight of These Wings (read more about it here.) The album’s two parts are appropriately titled The Nerve and The Heart with”Pink Sunglasses” appearing on the former.

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This is me. Wearing pink sunglasses.

With it sometimes feeling like this world is going to hell in a handbasket, I think we could all use a pair of pink sunglasses!