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

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Finding the Devil Through Church

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I hope everyone enjoyed the first July Saturday night of the year last night! l’m impressed to see that you guys made it to Church this Sunday!

Today’s post in the “Sundays Are For Church” series is about me finding the devil through Church. I know y’all are probably thinking that I’ve up and joined the Church of Satan but don’t worry, I still belong to the Church of Eric. Stick with me through this post and everything will all make sense.

Mr. Misunderstood (I Understand)

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Although I probably would’ve found Ray Wylie Hubbard eventually, it took one misunderstood guy to first make the introduction. Eric describes “Mr. Misunderstood” as being the “weird kid in his high-top shoes, sitting in the back of the class” who was “always left out, never fit in.” While his friends were listening to the Top 40 radio, Mr. Misunderstood preferred his dad’s vinyl, which included artists like Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Jeff Tweedy. I figured if Ray Wylie Hubbard was good enough for Mr. Misunderstood that I too should give him a listen and so I did just that. This is how I wound up finding the devil.

“Now, your buddies get their rocks off on Top 40 radio
But you love your daddy’s vinyl, old-time rock and roll
Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and think Jeff Tweedy is one bad mother
Mr. Misunderstood, Mr. Misunderstood”

Hubbard Goes to Hell

The first time I listened to Ray Wylie Hubbard’s 1999 song, “Conversation with the Devil,” I was hooked. What caught my attention wasn’t a catchy chorus (because it has no chorus) but rather it was the storytelling aspect of this song. It’s a narrative in which Hubbard walks you through a dream he had about being cast into hell and having a conversation with the devil, as the song title states.

As one would expect, he’s confused as to why he’s there. After all, Hubbard ain’t a bad guy. He tries to convince the devil of this by letting him know that he always pays his union dues and he doesn’t stay in the passing lane (this is unheard of in the D.C. area- this man is a saint!) The devil comes right back at him and asks him about all of the whiskey and the cocaine that he’s used, to which Hubbard replies with what is probably one of the best lines in the song, “Well, yeah, but that’s no reason to throw me in Hell, ‘Cause I didn’t use the cocaine to get high I just liked the way it smelled.”

The devil takes Hubbard on a tour of hell and all of the unlucky people who wound up there. He starts by pointing out the preachers, or “clowns” as he calls them, and expresses his dislike for them, after all, they’re always blaming him for everything wrong and they’re hypocrites.

“Over there’s where we put the preachers, I never liked those clowns
They’re always blaming me for everything wrong under the sun
It ain’t that harder to do what’s right, it’s just maybe not as much fun
Then they walk around thinking they’re better than me and you
And then they get caught in a motel room
Doing what they said not to do”

The next stop is the fiery lake, where all of the murderers and the rapists go, along with “most of the politicians and the cops on the take.” Mothers who wait until they get to K-Mart to spank their kids also wind up here along with dads who abandon their daughters and sons and “anybody who hurts a child’s gonna burn until it’s done” in this lake of fire.

If all of these people are in hell, Hubbard wants to know who’s up in heaven, to which the devil replies:

“Oh, some saints and mystics and students of Metaphysics 101.
People who care and share and love and try to do what’s right.
Beautiful old souls who read little stories to their babies every night.”

The devil also makes it clear that “What you won’t find up in heaven are Christian Coalition right-wing conservatives, country program directors, and Nashville Record executives.” Damn.

After conversing some more with the devil, Hubbard decides it might be best to try and suck up to him. He brings up the time that the devil went down to Georgia and played fiddle against a kid and lost. In his attempt to earn the devil’s favor, Hubbard tells him, “To be honest, I thought your solo was the better of the two.” Even if Hubbard was just sucking up, I completely agree with him on this, which worries me that the devil and I might actually get along quite well…

Hubbard soon wakes up from his dream, which he takes a sign from God. He then decides to change his ways including giving up red meat. As Hubbard proves from his own personal experience of meeting the devil in a dream, “Some get spiritual ’cause they see the light, And some ’cause they feel the heat.” I guess he had to feel the heat.

With songs like this, it’s easy to see why Mr. Misunderstood preferred listening to his dad’s vinyl over the Top 40 radio.

Getting to the Devil as Fast as I Can

This isn’t the only time that Eric and Mr. Hubbard have led me to the devil. In fact, they’re currently leading me there now with the help of Lucinda Williams. Due out in August is Hubbard’s next album, “Tell the Devil I’m Getting There as Fast as I Can.” The title track from this album features both Eric Church and Lucinda Williams who help Hubbard sing the chorus.

If you feel like indulging your inner Mr. Misunderstood, some other Hubbard songs that I would recommend are “Snake Farm” and “Drunken Poet’s Dream.”

If you’re gonna be in Washington, D.C. on August 17th and 18th, Ray Wylie Hubbard will be at Hill Country BBQ. Get your tickets here!

Ms. Misunderstood 

Unfortunately, I didn’t find Ray Wylie Hubbard when I was in high school like Mr. Misunderstood did. Instead, I had my own sort of “Ms. Misunderstood” discovery in high school when I began listening to Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and AC/DC. Perhaps I had already started heading towards the devil during these years through songs like “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Highway to Hell,” and “Hells Bells.”

Locking Horns With the Devil

I’m not really sure what my affection for songs about the devil says about me but songs about this pitchfork-wielding guy with horns always seem to catch my attention. Church has helped me find the devil on other occasions too including through his song, “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)” from The Outsiders album. The song starts off with a spoken monologue (Princess of Darkness) that leads into “Devil, Devil,” which describes a man who has just been left by his woman and now finds the devil preying on his mind as he contemplates suicide with “one foot on the platform and the other on a train.” At the end of the song he asks an angel with a “heavenly body in holy jeans” to wrap him in her wings and love the devil out of him. The words “devil, devil” are repeated up until the song comes to an end and no matter what your relationship to the devil may be, you’re sure to find yourself singing along and calling out the devil’s name.

“Devil, devil, I feel you preying on my mind
I got nine things going wrong right now
And her leaving makes a dime
I’m mad as hell, and drunk, and well
Tonight, I guess we’ll see
If devil, devil, you’re bad enough to lock horns with me”

When Church Beat the Devil

One of the most important songs in Eric Church’s life deals with the devil- that song is Kris Kristofferson’s “To Beat The Devil,” which Eric credits for saving his life many years ago. He talks about the impact that this song had on him right before playing this song at The Life & Times of Kris Kristoffersona filmed concert held in tribute to Kris Kristofferson in March 2016. Eric also discusses the impact that this song had on his life and career in a 2015 Rolling Stone article, saying,

“This song saved my life, pretty much. Kept me in Nashville when I wanted to quit. I was broke. I’d been in town more than a year, working at the Home Shopping Network. I remember putting in the Kristofferson CD I had, and that’s what “To Beat the Devil” talks about: being in town and having a rough patch and being a songwriter. The next day, I got a call that ended up leading to a record deal. That one more day meant this world.”

I know that I speak for a lot of people when I say that I’m glad Kris Kristofferson taught Eric how to beat the devil!

In “To Beat the Devil,” Kristofferson sings about being down and out in Music City. This song reminds me of “Prelude: Princess of Darkness” where Eric sings about the people who didn’t make it in Nashville. What these two songs share is that they show you the ugly side of Nashville- the struggling people who are trying to make it and the ones who never do.

“The devil walks among us folks and Nashville is his bride”
-Eric Church, “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)”

I think it’s safe to say that Church and Kristofferson will agree with the devil in Hubbard’s “Conversation with the Devil” when he said that what you wont find in heaven are “country program directors and Nashville record executives.” As Eric sings in “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness),” – “devil, you can go screw yourself, and then go straight to hell.”

 

Currently listening to: Ray Wylie Hubbard and Eric Church- “Screw You We’re From Texas” (from Eric’s show in Dallas on the Holdin’ My Own Tour where he called Hubbard on stage to sing with him)

When Cairo Went Country

Two-Step Like An Egyptian 

Okay, so Cairo was never actually country. My apologies if you clicked on this post after reading the title expecting to see images of Hosni Mubarak in a cowboy hat and boots or Gamal Abdel Nasser learning how to two-step. However, if these pictures do exist, someone please send them to me ASAP!

Instead, this post is about a country song and a music video by two female artists from the 90s: Pam Tillis’ “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial” and Shania Twain’s “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You),” for which the music video was filmed in Cairo and Saqqara, Egypt.

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt” 

Just call Pam Tillis “Cleopatra” because she is the “Queen of Denial” in this 1993 hit. No, this is not Pam’s country accent causing her to mispronounce the river’s name – this woman is really in denial! Her man is obviously a good-for-nothing liar yet she keeps buying his alibis. Pam honestly believes that he couldn’t buy her a ring because he didn’t have any money yet he was able to go out and buy himself a new brand new pick-up truck. Come on girl! Read the hieroglyphic writing on the wall!

As Pam sings in this song, she is “floatin’ down a river of lies” from all the stories this guy has told her. And if he really does lie as much as she says, his “river of lies” sounds comparable to the that of the Nile, measuring in at 4,258 miles long.

“I caught him dancin’ last night with a girl in leopard skin pants” 

In this song, Pam Tillis catches her man dancing with a girl in leopard skin pants, which I swear wasn’t me! Honestly y’all, I didn’t even own these pants back in 1993 (see below)! But can Pam really blame him? Leopard skin pants are pretty hot (see below again)!

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The Sphinx, Giza, Egypt (July 2014)

I would be remiss to not take this chance to say that the actual Cleopatra, the Queen of the Nile, is nothing like the woman in this song. She was extremely intelligent and a strong monarch, reigning as the last active ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt. She is well-known for her romantic affairs- one of her most famous lovers was Julius Caesar who was also her political ally. In Rome, she was regarded as his mistress since their Egyptian marriage was not recognized by Roman Law. Caesar did not try to conceal the fact she was his mistress, in fact, he even erected a statue of her in the temple of Venus Genetrix, which scandalized many Romans. He also openly claimed their son, Caesarion. These were bold statements, especially as she was unpopular with the Romans because she was outspoken and powerful. While she was married to Caesar, she had been forced to also marry her brother Ptolemy XIV in order to keep in line with Egyptian custom. After Caesar’s assassination, in order to prevent any challenges to Caesarion’s succession, she had her brother Ptolemy XIV killed. Another of her lovers was the Roman general Mark Antony with whom she allied herself with after Caesar’s death in order to help prevent Egypt from becoming a vassal to Rome. Although she did play hard to get at first by refusing Antony’s first two requests to meet and discuss their political alliance she eventually met with him and won him over with her charm. Though sources prove that Cleopatra and Antony truly did love one another, even having three children together, their relationship also proved beneficial to Cleopatra in her goal of expanding and protecting her empire. When it came to relationships, unlike Pam Tillis, Cleopatra wore the (leopard skin) pants!

There is, however, one thing that Pam Tillis and Cleopatra have in common and that’s heavy eye makeup- eyeshadow for the former and kohl for the latter.

 

From the Sticks to the Sahara 

I’m sure the days of country artists filming music videos in Egypt are long over but in 1995 this was a completely normal thing to do. In Shania Twain’s music video for “The Woman In Me (Needs The Man In You),” she can be found riding horseback through the pyramids, dancing at the oldest mosque in Cairo (The Mosque of Ibn Tulun), and hanging off a felucca boat over the Nile. It should come as no surprise that this is one of my favorite music videos- it’s Shania Twain….in Egypt!! Masha’Allah! 

You may be wondering why she was riding a horse and not a camel at the pyramids. Well, let me tell you, as someone who had ridden many a camel, nobody looks good riding one. Although if anyone could’ve pulled it off, it would’ve been Shania!

The most surprising thing about this video is the fact that none of the men in it seem to notice Shania. Yeah okay, you expect me to believe that Shania Twain, one of the most beautiful women in the world, went to Egypt and wasn’t bombarded with Egyptian men constantly hitting on her? Not buying it!

In Robin Eggar’s Shania Twain: The Biography (2001), this video is discussed briefly. It was filmed over the course of three days with Shania waking up at 3 a.m. so that she could be ready when dawn broke at 5:30 a.m. This video was filmed in the month of July and having been to Egypt myself in July (back in 2014) I know firsthand how hot it can get. I’m mostly impressed by the fact that she didn’t sweat out all of her makeup in this video!

Here’s a short snippet from her biography where she discusses making this video:

“All these women were around me. They were in black, I was in white. In Western culture, white is always the sign of innocence. In Egypt, white is considered a flamboyant color, whereas black is a humble color. We did some magnificent scenes with the women. They were wonderful. If my shawl was to come off, or if I took it off for a second, the women would run up to me like mothers and cover my shoulders for me… The mystery of the place just got to me. I got choked up for a bit while we were doing a take.” (Page 236)

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Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo, Egypt (July 2014)

I too visited the Mosque of Ibn Tulun when I was in Cairo (pictured above). Though the rules must’ve changed since Shania was there as I don’t think they allow dancing anymore.

Yalla, y’all! 

Both of these music videos are posted above so if you haven’t watched them yet go on ahead and do it! Yalla, y’all!

Currently listening to: The Brother Brothers- “Cairo, IL” and Natalie Hemby- “Cairo, IL” (not the same song though it is about the same place- the abandoned City of Cairo, Illinois)

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!

A View From the Church Pew

Put on your Sunday best…it’s time for Church!

I know that I already discussed my love for Eric Church in my first post in the “Sundays Are For Church” series but in case y’all need a reminder- I’m a REALLY big fan. I even had a friend recently ask me if I moved to Falls Church because of Eric Church (fair question, but the answer is no.) As I’ve already mentioned, the first reason I give when people ask me why I love Eric Church so much is that he’s a gifted songwriter. My second reason? He’s an incredible performer.

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The First Time I Went to Church

Eric Church first won me over when I saw him perform as one of the opening acts for Jason Aldean at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA in March 2011. Aldean might’ve been the headlining act but it was Eric’s performance that made that night memorable for me. I was already familiar with some of Eric’s music and liked the songs of his that I knew like “Love Your Love the Most” and “Hell on the Heart.” However, it wasn’t until I saw him perform live that I became a true fan. I can still remember how energetic his performance was that night over six years ago- at one point he even sprayed his can of beer on the crowd (which must’ve been the trend that night as the lady in front of me also spilled her beer on the guy in front of her, however, he was not so thrilled.) It was also my first time hearing some of his songs that are regular crowd favorites and that I now look forward to hearing each time I see him in concert like “Lotta Boot Left To Fill.”

Attending an Eric Church concert is an experience you won’t forget. If you’ve ever seen him live, you can surely attest to this. Below I have provided a rundown of some of my favorite things about being in the pews at a Church service.

Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Vamanos, Vamanos

If you’ve ever been to an MLB game, you know that when the player walks up to bat, a song of their choice is played. Whenever the topic comes up amongst friends about what our own walk-up song would be (please, like you’d ever see me playing baseball), my answer is always, “the same song that Eric Church plays before coming out on stage at his concerts.” That song is “Electric Worry” by Clutch. More specifically, I would play the chorus which goes, “bang, bang, bang, bang, vamanos, vamanos” (0:57 in the video link above) as this is the part of the song that I think gets people fired up the most and is probably why Eric plays this song before taking the stage.

It look a few concerts for me to catch on that Eric plays this song before coming out on stage at each of his shows. Although on his most recent Holdin’ My Own Tour, it was played right before his second set with Jeff Buckley’s version of “Hallelujah” (originally recorded by Leonard Cohen) being played before the first set (Eric also covers this song on his most recent live album, Mr. Misunderstood on the Rocks.) I enjoy the familiarity that comes with hearing this song- you know that when it comes on you better have your butt in your seat and be ready for the show to start. When Clutch tells Eric to “vamanos, vamonos” he listens.

These Boots are Made for Waving in the Air 

Like a perfectly choreographed dance, when Eric starts playing “These Boots,” his fans take off one boot and wave it around in the air. If you’re close enough to the stage, and have a decent pitching arm on you, your boot might wind up on stage for Eric to sign and throw back to you. It doesn’t matter where you’re at in the crowd though, when you hear Eric say, “these boots,” you take off your boot and join in with the rest of the crowd as they too wave their boot in the air.

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“An’ tip our hats an’ raise our glasses of cold, cold beer”

Maybe this is what that lady in Charlottesville was doing when she spilt her beer on that guy’s head. I mean, poor guy, but that lady was just following Eric’s instructions as they are clearly stated in “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag.” And when Eric tells you to tip your hat and raise your glass of cold beer, you do it! This song is a longtime fan favorite and you can pretty much bet on Eric performing this song on any given night.

Merle Haggard (a.k.a. the Hag) passed away last year (R.I.P.) and at the two concerts I’ve been to since his passing, Eric has displayed his picture on the big screens at the end of this song. Needless to say, the crowd went wild with cheers and applause- truly pledging their allegiance to the Hag!

Location, Location, Location 

It doesn’t matter if you’re in London, England or London, Ontario- when Eric performs “Springsteen” you can bet that he’s gonna change up the end of the song to tailor it for the city that he’s in. For example, “like a soundtrack to a July Saturday night” becomes “like a soundtrack to a Washington, DC Tuesday night.” On the Holdin’ My Own Tour, Eric also incorporated songs about the city that he was in into his setlist. When I went to his concert in Pittsburgh, he played Sawyer Brown’s “Six Days on the Road” (the first line reading, “well, I pulled out of Pittsburgh, rolling down the eastern seaboard.”) In Louisville, he played “Blue Moon of Kentucky” as well as songs by The Kentucky Headhunters. Not only does Eric sing about the city that he’s in but he also incorporates local people into his shows. His song “Mistress Named Music” features a choir and in each city Eric got a local choir group to perform this song with him. At his Washington, DC show it was the choir from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, VA that had the honor of joining him on stage for this song. These little touches, like having Eric incorporate your city into his songs, help to make the night special.

Of course, he’s free to change this up, especially if something has recently happened that Eric feels is more important to sing about. When I saw him in Washington, DC in May, it was right after the passing of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell (R.I.P.) so Eric played a song in memory of him instead. The song he chose was Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage,” which was also later recorded by Johnny Cash.

The Chief Covers The Boss

If you’re a fan of Bruce Springsteen then you’re in luck because there’s a pretty good chance that Eric will play one of his songs right before jumping into “Springsteen.” I’ve heard him sing  both “Thunder Road” and “Born in the U.S.A.” at his shows. And if you were lucky enough to see him in Philadelphia this year, you got to hear him perform both a song about your city as well as a Springsteen song with “Streets of Philadelphia.”

Chief Merch 

Eric’s concerts are the perfect place to grab some new pieces for your wardrobe. Here you’ll find t-shirts for sale with slogans like “I’m A Sinner Somebody Take Me To Church” and “Good Girls Never Miss Church,” of which I own both. You can also pick up a new beer koozie, trucker hat, or bottle opener while you’re at it.

Something really cool that Eric started doing on the Holdin’ On My Own Tour is selling limited edition posters that are specific to the city that he’s in. I was lucky enough to score both the Pittsburgh and Washington, DC ones! Check out these bad boys below.

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Holdin’ My Own Tour in Pittsburgh (April 2017)
Holdin’ My Own Tour in Washington, DC (May 2017)

Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots Shots….of Jack

I’ve seen Eric get his ass kicked on stage a time or two. After all, Jack Daniels does pack a mean punch. I don’t think I’ve ever been to another concert where the artist took shots of whiskey mid-performance but what else are you supposed to do when you’re singing a song about “Jack Daniels?

The Choir Loft

Eric cares about the fan experience and this is reflected in every aspect of his shows right down to the stage setup. Starting with The Outsiders World Tour in 2014, Eric created the Choir Loft, which are the seats located behind the stage that he opened up to create a 360-degree stage. Eric’s goal in creating the Choir Loft is to replicate the feel that his shows had from the very beginning when he was performing in small rooms, clubs, and bars. Having experienced a view from the Church Choir loft on three occasions now, I can attest to the fact that they are great seats. Eric always makes sure to include those in the Choir Loft during his shows by walking around and making full use of the 360-degree stage as he performs.

And you know what’s great about being in this Church Choir Loft? You don’t have to wear those ugly choir robes!

You’d Better Get Your Butt to Church

If you haven’t been to an Eric Church concert but still want a taste of what one is like, I suggest listening to his two live albums, Caught In The Act and Mr. Misunderstood on the Rocks, the latter recorded during his two-day concert series at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in August 2016. Even though these albums are great nothing beats actually being in the Church pew!

Eric is the epitome of what it means to be an entertainer. If you ever get a chance to be a part of the Church congregation, I suggest you take it. I can guarantee that some melodies will turn into memories!

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Currently listening to: Johnny Cash- “Rusty Cage” (after all, Eric’s the one who introduced me to this song)

Throw It On Back Thursday- The Immortality of Keith Whitley

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Keith Whitley is proof that one’s musical career doesn’t need to be long to leave a lasting impression on an entire genre. Whitley passed away in 1989 at the young age of 33 from alcohol poisoning, managing to chart 12 hits before his life was cut short, not including the seven hits that he had after his death. Even if you’re not familiar with Keith Whitley by name, you probably know one of his most popular songs, “When You Say Nothing At All.” Alison Krauss and Ronan Keating each recorded their own versions of this song, both having success with it, but it was Whitley who first recorded and charted it in 1988. Since his passing, his songs have been covered by artists such as Alan Jackson, Mark Chesnutt, and Tracy Lawrence, ensuring that his name lives on in country music history.

Although he died the year before I was born, Keith Whitley was a household name for me as a kid because he was my dad’s favorite singer. Whenever I hear “I’m No Stranger to the Rain,” I’m transported back to being eight-years-old and this song is playing on my dad’s stereo. The fact that I’m still listening to him now as a 27-year-old, some 28 years after his death, is a testament to the immortality of Whitley’s music.

Out of the many hits that Whitley had in his short career, my favorite is “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” which was his first number one song from 1988. This song is about a man who’s in love with a woman who’s still not over a past romance. He asks her not to close her eyes “when you love me tonight” because he knows that when she does, she’ll be thinking about this other man. Even though Whitley didn’t write this song, he sings it in such a way that it feels as though he’s speaking from personal experience. When you listen to the words in this song, your heart breaks for this man and his simple request. Keith Whitley’s anthology is full of heartfelt songs like this one and it’s for this reason that he will forever remain a country music legend.

“Don’t close your eyes, let it be me
Don’t pretend it’s him, in some fantasy
Darling just once, let yesterday go
And you’ll find more love than you’ll ever know
Just hold me tight, when you love me tonight
And don’t close your eyes”

 

Currently listening to: Keith Whitley- “I’m Over You

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!