Getting Out of My Southern Comfort Zone

When I’m not writing about country music, I’m either traveling or planning my next trip. I recently returned from a trip to Kenya (hence the major delay in posts) and am already thinking about where I want to travel next (Uzbekistan? Georgia (the country not the state)? Armenia?) It should come as no surprise that there aren’t too many country songs (or any really) about the places I travel to or about traveling in general. However, there is one song that stands out to me and resonates well with us wanderlusting, country music fans (I can’t be the only one, right?) That song is Brad Paisley’s “Southern Comfort Zone,” in which he sings, “I can’t see this world unless I go outside my Southern Comfort Zone.” The music video, which I’ve included below, even includes scenes that were shot in Kenya!

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Dallas Pub, Maasai Mara, Kenya (July 2017)

What I love about this song (besides the obvious play on words of “southern comfort” and “comfort zone”) is that it discusses getting out of your comfort zone when you travel. I’ve always said that traveling (I’m talking cheap hostels, taking public transportation in foreign countries, trying new (and sometimes questionable) foods) makes you grow because you’re forced to get out of your comfort zone. Brad touches on this in his song with lines like “I know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand” and “I know what it’s like to be the only one like me, to take a good hard look around and be in the minority.” Although Brad mentions traveling to Rome and Paris in his song, where they most likely will also speak English (though maybe not with a southern accent), it’s likely that he has found himself in situations where people did not understand him when he spoke. Finding yourself in situations like this serve as a good reminder that the whole world is not like you. As Brad points out in the beginning of the song, not everybody drives trucks, drinks sweet tea, owns guns (I’ll hold my tongue on this one), and wears a ball cap, boots, and jeans. When you’re around people who are just like you (people who talk like you, think like you, live like you), it’s good to be reminded that your way of life is not the only way of life. This is probably the most important lesson that one learns when they get out of their “southern comfort zone.”

“I have walked the streets of Rome, I have been to foreign lands
I know what it’s like to talk and have nobody understand
I have seen the Eiffel Tower lit up on a Paris night
I have kissed a West Coast girl underneath the Northern Lights”

When traveling, you also begin to miss some of the comforts of home and in return you develop a newfound appreciation for these things. For Brad, it was “biscuits and gravy, fireflies dancing in the night.” For me, especially during the year that I lived in London, it was sweet tea and Chick-fil-A (a number one with a sweet tea, thank you and please!) As Brad travels he realizes how much he misses his Tennessee home, for me it’s my Virginia home.

I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled to 20 countries so far (if we’re including that one time I had to stay in Dubai for a night due to a missed flight, which I am.) While traveling, one thing that never fails to surprise me is when I hear country music in the most unexpected places. In Chiang Mai, Thailand I not only heard someone playing Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” but the live band performing in a local town square performed Old Crow Medicine Show’s (not Darius Rucker’s!) “Wagon Wheel” and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” These were Thai men in cowboy hats singing American country music and I loved everything about it. Just this month in Kenya, I heard Randy Travis’ “Three Wooden Crosses” playing in a boat rental office (on what was probably a Christian gospel radio station) at Lake Naivasha. And at the airport in Nairobi while waiting to head back home, I heard what must’ve been a collection of country love song duets as Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood’s “In Another’s Eyes,” Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black’s “When I Said I Do,” and Vince Gill and Reba McEntire’s “The Heart Won’t Lie” played over the speakers. Brantley Gilbert sings that “Country Must Be Country Wide,” but perhaps it’s also worldwide.

While many people are often scared to travel for fear of getting out of their comfort zone, I’ve learned that once you step out and meet new people, you realize that humans are not all that different from one another. If the songs of John Denver and Merle Haggard can resonate with people from Chiang Mai, Thailand then we really can’t be all that different now can we?

The music video for “Southern Comfort Zone” (below) contains scenes from different 8 different countries (which he covered in 8 days!) including Ireland, France, Norway, and KENYA! Major kudos to Brad for not only including the animals of Kenya in this video (giraffes, elephants, zebras, etc.) but also the people. Scenes of the Masai people, who I spent some time with on my trip, can be found this video. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see any country music videos being filmed while I was in Kenya.

I’d like to end this post with the same message that Brad ends this music video with: “See This World.”

 

Currently listening to: Thomas Rhett- “Die A Happy Man.” Here Thomas also makes a reference to seeing the Eiffel Tower at night, which seems to be quite a big deal in the country community.

“If I never get to see the Northern lights
Or if I never get to see the Eiffel Tower at night
Oh, if all I got is your hand in my hand
Baby, I could die a happy man”

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The Eiffel Tower lit up on a Paris night” (March 2016)

 

Celebrating America’s Diversity in Country Music

Happy Fourth of July, y’all!

For Independence Day, I wanted to do something other than just listing out all of the best flag-waving, red white and blue, freedom loving country songs. Mainly because that’s already been done and also because that list would be far too long. Instead, I’m choosing to write about the country songs that focus on my favorite things about America like its diversity and acceptance of those differences. 

First up is Dierks Bentley- “Home

Though this song was released in 2011, I think it’s more relevant now in 2017. No, America isn’t perfect, as Dierks sings, “shes’s got her scars.” But trying to make America better and healing those scars should be something that we are constantly working towards. We shouldn’t try to bring America back to the past by making it “great” again but rather we should try to make it greater than it’s ever been. That means moving forwards, not backwards. Because for a lot of people, America wasn’t great to them in the past. Perhaps these are the scars that Dierks references in the beginning of the song. As Dierks repeats in the chorus, “it’s been a long hard ride, got a ways to go, but this is still the place that we all call home.”

“Free, nothing feels like free
Though it sometimes means we don’t get along
Cause same, no we’re not the same
But that’s what makes us strong”

This verse is my favorite because it serves as a reminder of the rich diversity we have in this country. No, we are not all the same, we are many different races, religions, cultures, etc. “But that’s what makes us strong,” as Dierks correctly points out. I think that now, more than ever, we need to stop seeing these differences as barriers that prevent us from coming together and instead to look at them as an expression of what makes America great.

Waylon Jennings- “America

Next on the list is my man Waylon Jennings. Though he may have been an outlaw, this man was still a patriot. “America” is truly a song of acceptance. Though Waylon wasn’t the first to record it, that was the song’s writer Sammy Johns, his version is the one I’m familiar with. In “America,” Waylon sings about his acceptance of all types of Americans. Although he may be from Tennessee (at least for the sake of this song) he sings that the people in California are nice to him. Proving that no matter where you roam in this country, Americans are good people. He also mentions the men who went off to war and “lived through hardship and pain” while also recognizing those who chose not to fight in a war that they did not support- showing his acceptance of people in each of these camps.

“The men who could not fight, In a war that didn’t seem right, You let them come home, America”

This song includes a message of racial acceptance as Waylon refers to those from other races as his brothers. He also acknowledges that America must make good on its promises to the Native Americans. We could use more country songs like this!

“And my brothers are all black and white, yellow too
And the red man is right, to expect a little from you
Promise and then follow through, America”

I also love the way Waylon adds an extra syllable to the word “America,” just like Sammy Johns did. It’s not A-mer-i-ca, it’s A-mer-rer-i-ca.

Aaron Tippin- “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly” 


It’s not so much the song as it is the music video that earns this 2002 hit from Aaron Tippin a spot on this list. Although this song was used by Ted Cruz during the Iowa Caucuses in 2016, Tippin came out and said, “I’m not endorsing anyone, but I hope that my song will help get folks out there and do their patriotic duty…vote!” Regardless of what Aaron Tippin’s politics may be, this video left such a lasting impression on me that I would regret not including it.

This video was filmed in New York in September 2001 right after 9/11 and includes scenes of the rubble, members of the NYPD and FDNY, and images of cards with messages like “God Bless America” written on them. It also includes close-up shots of American citizens from a wide range of diverse backgrounds, including Hasidic Jews, a Buddhist monk, a Sikh, among others. I remember watching this video as a kid and having my curiosity peaked as these images of diversity flashed across the TV screen. At the time, I lived in a town that had very little diversity- I can say with certainty that I had never seen a Hasidic Jew, a Buddhist monk, or a Sikh before. I’m sure this was the case for a lot of people in rural America at the time. I’d like to think that the message that Aaron had in mind when filming this video was one of inclusion and of putting aside our differences to come together as a nation, especially after September 11th. This was the message that I received at least. This video resonated with my eleven-year-old self so much that I can still remember watching it to this day. I’m also pretty sure that this video is what led me to become interested in world religions- something that would go on to shape the rest of my life.

 

As Aaron Tippin sings in this song, “there’s a lady that stands in a harbor for what we believe.” As you celebrate today, please remember the words of Emma Lazarus from her poem “The New Colossus” that are written on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Currently listening to: Shooter Jennings- “4th of July.” To be honest, this is my all-time favorite 4th of July jam! He’s also Waylon Jennings’ son which is pretty dang cool! I’ll be listening to this all day today…and other days that aren’t July 4th as well!

“You were pretty as can be, sitting in the front seat
Looking at me, telling me you love me
And your happy to be with me on the 4th of July
We sang ‘Stranglehold’ to the stereo
Couldn’t take no more of that rock ‘n’ roll
So we put on a little George Jones and just sang along”

Happy Independence Day, A-mer-rer-i-ca!

Just letting y’all know- I’ll be heading out to Kenya in a couple of days and will be gone for about two weeks. I’ll be sure to post once I’m back stateside.

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!

Acting Like a Three Year Old: A Father’s Day Post

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Photo from Whiskey Riff’s 2016 list, “12 of Country Music’s Hottest Dads.”  Of course Eric made the list!

It’s Sunday so you know what that means- it’s time for Church! And since it’s also Father’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to look at a song that Eric Church wrote from the perspective of being a dad. That song is “Three Year Old,” the last track on the Mr. Misunderstood album.

Now normally I wouldn’t advise someone to act like a three year old but if you’re acting like the one in this song, then I might actually encourage it. In “Three Year Old,” Eric sings about some of the lessons that he’s learned from his three year old son (who is now a five year old and was later followed by a little brother who is now two.) Lessons like “nothing turns a day around like licking a mixing bowl” and “why go inside when you can go behind a tree?” Though I’m only familiar with one of these first-hand (I’ll let you decide if it’s the former or the latter), I’ll take this three year old’s word for it on both counts!

“And when you’re wrong, you should just say so, I learned that from a three year old”

It’s the final line of the chorus that I like best and that I think contains the most important piece of advice in this song, which is that you should admit when you’re wrong. I’m guilty of not doing this enough and could probably benefit from acting more like a three year old in this regard.

I like that this song shows a different, softer side of Eric. Underneath the aviator sunglasses and the black leather jacket lies a dad- one who takes his son fishing, even if he does throw the fishing pole and tackle box in the water! But what did Eric expect from a son coming from a long line of sinners like him?

Happy Father’s Day to Eric Church and to all you other dads out there!

Currently listening to: Bob Seger- his music is now (finally!) available for streaming! Eric opened for some of his shows in 2006 and he was also a big influence on Eric’s music so listening to him as I post this seems quite fitting.

Stepdads: The Dads Who Didn’t Have To Be


Country music is full of songs about dads. Whether you had a good one or a bad one, or one that named you Sue, you can bet that there’s a country song out there that hits home about your old man. For this Father’s Day weekend post, instead of focusing on country songs about dads, I wanted to look at songs about stepdads as Father’s Day is their day too.

First on my list is Brad Paisley’s “He Didn’t Have to Be.” The song starts off from the perspective of a five-year-old boy whose single mom, after what I can assume were many failed dates, finally finds a man who didn’t “turn around and run” after finding out that she had a son. This man goes on to marry the boy’s mom and becomes his stepdad, filling in that missing piece that finally made them a family. As is evident in the song and the video, this man eventually becomes less like a stepdad and more like a “real” dad to this boy. Later on that boy grows up and becomes a father himself with his stepdad by his side during this major life event. In the video, you see the two of them looking through the glass of the nursery window together after his child is born. As he thinks about the kind of dad that he wants to be to his newborn child, his stepfather serves as a perfect model to emulate. As Brad sings in the chorus: “I hope I’m at least half the dad that he didn’t have to be.” 

The video for this song always makes me tear up. If you plan on watching it, please make sure you have tissues handy and are in a place where crying is acceptable.

 

Another great song about stepdads is Fishin’ With My Dadby Bobby Bones & The Raging Idiots. If you listen to country music on your morning commute like me, then you’re probably familiar with The Bobby Bones Show. And if your commute involves driving the capital beltway like mine does, then you get to spend A LOT of time with Bobby and the gang. Last year, Bobby and Eddie (another member of the show) released an album for their band, “The Raging Idiots” titled, The Critics Give It 5 Stars. They’re primarily a parody band known for remaking today’s hit country songs, for example, they parodied Thomas Rhett’s “Die A Happy Man” with “Drive A Mini Van.” With that being said, most of the songs on this album are silly- like there’s a song about Starbucks and a Netflix love song on there. There was, however, one sentimental song that managed to make the album’s cut- that song is “Fishin’ With My Dad,” an autobiographical song written by Bobby. He even got Garth Brooks (the G.O.A.T.) to sing backup on this song! The first time I heard Bobby play this song on the radio I was driving to work and of course I started crying (are you noticing a trend here?) I even tweeted at Bobby that morning to let him know that he made me cry and he retweeted me (photographic evidence provided below if you don’t believe me)!

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I was already familiar with the backstory of Bobby’s relationship with his stepdad, Keith. He’d talked about Keith on the show before (even calling him one morning and having him on the air) and I had just recently finished reading his autobiography, Bare Bones: I’m Not Lonely If You’re Reading This Book, in which he wrote about Keith. The song is about Bobby being ten years old and wishing he had a dad to take him fishing. The line that pulls on my heartstrings the most is when he talks about this at the beginning of the song saying, “it’s hard doing anything with someone you don’t have, so how could I go fishing with my dad?” Bobby eventually gains a stepdad when his mom marries a “good man in the summer of ’93.” Bobby wasn’t too sure how his new stepdad felt about him at first. That is until he woke Bobby up one morning to take him fishing and Bobby’s dream of finally getting to go fishing with his dad came true. As Bobby wrote in Bare Bones, “I had fantasized about fishing with my dad, but when the time came to do the real thing I found it pretty darn boring. It didn’t matter, though. Anytime Keith asked if I wanted to go fishing, I said yes, because I just wanted that father-son experience” (page 23).

An important takeaway from this song is found in the line: “We didn’t share a last name but we shared a lot of laughs.” The message here is that biology and sharing a last name doesn’t make you a dad (or even a mom). What makes someone a dad is taking the time to be present in your child’s life and letting them know that you care. It’s looking through the nursery window with your child when they too become a parent and it’s waking them up early to take them fishing. That’s what it means to be a dad. I’m so glad that Bobby finally got to go fishing with his!

Below is the acoustic video of Bobby and Eddie singing this song. The version of this song that appears on his album and features Garth Brooks can be found here (it’s just a lyric video though and I prefer actually getting to see Bobby sing.)

 

Okay, so these are the only two country songs I could think of about stepdads, but there should be more! I dedicate this post to all you dads, stepdads, and moms playing both roles- Happy Father’s Day! And a very happy Father’s Day to my own stepdad!

Currently listening to: Johnny Cash- “Boy Named Sue