The Spooky, Scary Tracks I’m Playing

Happy All Hallows Eve and first day of Day of the Dead a.k.a. Dia de los Muertos to all y’all! On the occasion of these two celebrations, I wanted to shine a spotlight on a couple of songs that I think are appropriate for these two holidays.

Zac Brown Band and Dave Grohl- “Day For the Dead” (from The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1)

So Zac Brown Band made an album with David Grohl. That’s right- Dave mother f**king Grohl! “Day For the Dead” is one of four songs from that joining of forces, released in 2013. I have a ton of respect for Dave Grohl, as a musician and as a fellow Virginian (though he was technically born in Ohio his formative years were spent in V to the izz-A). Everything this guy touches turns to gold- from Nirvana to Foo Fighters, so naturally when he teamed up with ZBB, they made some pretty darn good songs, including this one about the “day for the dead to dance among the living.” You can watch their performance of this song from the 2013 CMA Awards here.

I would like to know when The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 2 is planning to come out. Seriously, I’m waiting!

“I see them rise
From beneath the ground
Life was lost but now it’s found
The ghosts want somethin’
To take their turn
To dance around the stone
Work the fingers to the bone
Hold on to nothin'”

 

Ruston Kelly- “Black Magic” (from Halloween)

I wrote about this song back in June on my first “The Tracks I’m Playing” post but it’s perfect for Halloween so I’m posting it again. Do I need any more proof that this is an ideal Halloween song besides the fact that it’s from an album titled Halloween?? No, I don’t. But I’ll give you another reason anyway- the first line in this song goes like this, “Halloween is here with me you left it in this home, stitches on my body, closets full of bones.” Pretty spooky, huh? While the song isn’t actually about Halloween, it’s about black magic (kinda) and love, which seems fitting enough for me for today.

I also want to take this opportunity to say congratulations to Ruston Kelly and Kacey Musgraves on their wedding, which took place earlier this month! The pictures are gorg! See for yourself here. Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Kacey Musgraves!

“Halloween is here with me you left in this home
Stitches on my body, closets full of bones
Blood that won’t stop running ‘cause this wound won’t ever clot
Like the ringing in my ears that don’t ever seem to stop”

 

Other great Halloween and Day of the Dead songs include:

Eagles- “Witchy Woman
Jason Isbell- “If We Were Vampires
Willie Nelson- “Gravedigger
Michael Jackson- “Thriller
Creedence Clearwater Revival- “I Put a Spell on You
Ruston Kelly- “Halloween (Downstairs)”

You can find all of these on my “All Hallows Eve” Spotify playlist here. While these songs may not hold a candle to Monster Mash in the category of Halloween anthems, I think they’ll make a perfect addition to your Halloween playlist. Also, does anybody really know how to do the Monster Mash??

I hope everyone has a great Halloween and Dia de los Muertos! And if you don’t celebrate either, Happy October 31st!

Currently listening to: Werewolf Bar Mitzvah. Because I can’t think of something being spooky, scary without this song coming to mind! If you watch 30 Rock, you get the reference!

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The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of September 11, 2017)

I usually try to start off these posts with a joke or by saying something clever about it being Monday. However, since today is the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11, I’ll start instead by taking this opportunity to remember those we lost on this day sixteen years ago.

The Tracks I’m Playing 

Tyler Childers- “Feathered Indians.” This song had me from the very first lines:

Well my buckle makes impressions
On the inside of her thigh
There are little feathered Indians
Where we tussled through the night”

Damn.

Tyler is a great songwriter and his Kentucky accent makes these songs even more enjoyable to listen to. With that being said, if anyone has an extra ticket to Tyler’s show at Songbyrd Record Cafe and Music House in DC on September 29th and would be willing to part with it, I would be forever in your debt! Help a sister out!

Kip Moore- “Blonde.” If you haven’t listened to Kip Moore’s new album SLOWHEART stop what you’re doing right now and go listen! It just came out on Friday so I don’t really expect you to have listened to it yet. I’m still listening to it myself and so far “Blonde” has been my favorite song. I might be a little biased if I say that this is a great album because admittedly I have a huge crush on Kip Moore.

“You ain’t even blonde girl
Or even true to your roots” 

Ryan Bingham- “Southside Of Heaven.” I don’t believe in heaven but if I did I would want to be on the Southside of it, that’s for sure. I love Ryan’s rough voice and his accompanying rough exterior. If guys that sing like this are on the Southside of heaven, then that’s definitely the side I would want to be on.

Luke Bell- “Loretta.” Is there anything more country then Luke Bell singing a song about a woman named Loretta? I didn’t think so. The next time someone tells you that they aren’t making country music like they used to, play them some Luke Bell and watch them shut up as you prove them wrong. Even the cover of his self-titled album looks like it belongs in a past decade. As long as he keeps making songs like this, I’ll gladly keep him around in this decade!

Lucinda Williams- “Lake Charles.” It’s funny how some songs find their way into our lives and this song is no exception. I saw a line from this song on the back of a Lucinda Williams t-shirt a few weeks ago. The guy wearing the shirt was standing in front of me in line at the Ray Wylie Hubbard concert at Hill Country BBQ in DC. The line on the back of his shirt read, “we used to drive through Lafayette and Baton Rouge in a yellow Camino.” There might’ve been more but that’s all I remember. And I think there was a yellow Camino on the front of the t-shirt. I figured the song that this line came from must be really good to have its own t-shirt so I looked up the lyrics later and found “Lake Charles.” I’ve listened to it over and over and the more I listen to it the more I wanna go to Lake Charles, Louisiana. I’m grateful to that random man in front of me for choosing to wear that specific shirt on that specific night and peaking my curiosity enough to look this song up. I understand why this song got its own t-shirt now!

“We used to drive
Through Lafayette and Baton Rouge
In a yellow Camino
Listening to Howling Wolf
He liked to stop in Lake Charles
Cause that’s the place that he loved”

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit- “Chaos and Clothes.” It’s been awhile since I’ve included Jason Isbell so don’t give me that look! After watching his incredible NPR Tiny Desk Concert last night (recorded last month), I thought it would be fitting to have him on today’s post. Not only was Jason cracking jokes during his performance (including one about Abraham Lincoln- very DC of him!) but he even called a random person from the audience up to play guitar during “Last of My Kind,” which is my favorite song off of his latest album. Shout out to Ashwin, wherever you are! He started off the concert with “Chaos and Clothes,” another great song from The Nashville Sound that I’ve come to love since this album came out this summer. If you’ve got 20 minutes to kill (or 20 minutes that you wanna spend wisely) check out Jason’s performance of these two songs along with “Molotov” from the NPR Tiny Desk Concert.

R.I.P. 

Not only are we remembering those lost on 9/11 today but country music also lost two great artists last Friday- Don Williams a.k.a. the Gentle Giant and Troy Gentry, one half of Montgomery Gentry. In their honor, I’m including some Don Williams and Montgomery Gentry songs in this week’s post.

Don Williams- “Tulsa Time,” “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend,” and I Believe In You.” Ever since hearing the news about Don, I’ve set my watch back to Tulsa Time in his memory. Don had some great songs during his career including my three favorite songs listed above. Earlier this year, some of my favorite artists (The Pistol Annies, Brandy Clark, Jason Isbell, Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks) even recorded an album featuring his best songs titled Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams. I’m glad he got to see this come together in his lifetime!

“Some broken hearts never mend,
Some memories never end,
Some tears will never dry,
My love for you will never die”

Montgomery Gentry- “Lonely and Gone” and She Couldn’t Change Me.” These are probably my two favorite Montgomery Gentry songs. It’s been a long time since I really listened to these guys but now seems like as good a time as any to start playing them again. I can remember thinking how great of a song “Lonely and Gone” was when I was younger. And I loved the whole story behind “She Couldn’t Change Me,” from the hair dying to the change in the woman’s taste in music as she changed her life and her relationship.

“She changed direction, headed back home
She changed her tune, it’s all Haggard and Jones
Had her dark brown hair pulled back and the bluest eyes you ever seen
She changed everything when she couldn’t change me”

R.I.P. Don and Troy!

Beltway Boots on Spotify

Don’t forget that all of the music featured in my posts can be found on my Spotify playlists (beltwayboots)!

Currently listening to: A whole lotta Sturgill Simpson! Not sure if I’ve told y’all (I have) but I’m seeing him in concert on Friday! I’ve been listening to so much of him in preparation for the big night and still haven’t gotten sick of him. A true testament of a great artist! Be on the lookout for a post on Friday where I’ll write about my favorite songs from The Sturge!

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. Another funny Hayes Carll song to check out is 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”

Watch out, Jesus! Hayes is coming for ya!

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!

That Good Ole Liberal Country Music (Yep, you read that right!)

It’s hard being a liberal country music fan sometimes, especially when you’ve got artists like Toby Keith and Alabama performing for Donald Trump. Toby Keith even took things a step further by performing for Trump on his trip to Saudi Arabia in May. Was he finally going to put a boot in their ass for 9/11?? Nope. Instead he went to kiss some ass (who goes by the name of Donald Trump) by performing a free concert, which was for men only. This might’ve been the first time in Saudi history that women had the advantage over men by not having to sit through that. Though it has been said that Toby Keith is not a supporter of Donald Trump, actions speak louder than words, and his actions are saying otherwise. And Alabama, really!? The same band that sings, “Daddy was a veteran, a southern democrat, They oughta get a rich man to vote like that” in “Song of the South!” Where did these guys go?

Not only do you have country artists cozying up to Trump but the lyrics of some country songs are pretty dang awful. I practically had to pick my jaw up off the ground when I was listening to David Allan Coe’s “If That Ain’t Country” not too long ago and heard the n-word. I even Googled the lyrics just to be sure I didn’t mishear him. I didn’t. He actually said it. As I looked more into Coe’s music, I found that in the ’80s, he released an underground album with a song that has a title too offensive to post here because it contains, you guessed it, the n-word again. If you’re curious about this song, there’s a whole world wide web where you can look this up for yourself. It might just be the liberal snowflake (sarcasm) in me getting offended by things but I think these songs should offend most people, not just us beautiful snowflakes.

Thankfully, for liberal country music fans like myself, there are people like Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, and Will Hoge out there who have restored my faith that there are other like-minded people in this genre.

Not Your Typical Country Song (And Thank Goodness!)

On Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit‘s new album, The Nashville Sound, there’s a song called “White Man’s World.” In addition to discussing race, looking at both African Americans and Native Americans in this country, this song also takes a swing at the patriarchy.

Isbell appeared on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah where he discussed this song along with the emotions that he was feeling the day after Trump won the election, especially in regards to his daughter. In this interview, Isbell said, “The thing that popped into my mind first was ‘Thank God she’s an infant, because I don’t have to explain any of this to her. She’ll figure it out as she grows up, but if she was a couple of years older I would have to be like, ‘OK, honey here’s what happened today and this is why your father doesn’t really know anything about human people in this country anymore.'”

In “White Man’s World,” Isbell brings up the emotions that he was feeling in regards to his daughter after the election by singing about how he once thought this world could be hers, but her momma knew better (her momma being Jason’s wife, singer/songwriter Amanda Shires Isbell). He also talks about looking into a black man’s eyes and “wishing [he’d] never been one of the guys who pretended not to hear another white man’s joke.” These are all topics you’re not likely to find in many country songs, making this song, and Jason’s outspokenness about politics, all that more important and necessary in these troubling times.

Love Trumps Hate


Not only are country songs dealing with the political issues of the day but so too are their music videos. In his video (see below) for “All Around You,” Sturgill Simpson shows a young boy draped in a cape with a superhero mask across his eyes who goes on to battle an enemy who has an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump (take a look at minute 2:34, which is also pictured above.) He manages to defeat this Trumpian enemy with his heart-shaped shield, which he uses to make a hole in this guy’s wall (sound familiar?) for people to walk through. Hearts appear in other parts of the video from the ring on the young superhero’s finger to the shape of the stars that illuminate the sky after his defeat. This song comes from Sturgill’s Grammy Award winning album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, which he wrote as a letter to his son and wife. I can only imagine that Sturgill sees his sons (he now has two) reflected in the little boy in this video. The fact that he’s probably teaching them to use love to combat the hateful things taking place in this world makes me love Sturgill even more than I already did (and that was a lot!)

 

This isn’t the first time (and I’m sure it won’t be the last) that Sturgill Simpson has gotten political in his music. Take the lyrics from his song “Call to Arms” for example.

“I done Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran
North Korea tell me where does it end
Well the bodies keep piling up with every day
How many more of em they gonna send

Well they send their sons and daughters off to die
For some oil
To control the heroin
Well son I hope you don’t grow up
Believing that you’ve got to be a puppet to be a man”

Country music needs more artists like Sturgill Simpson who aren’t afraid to get political in their songs and music videos!

[Side note: if you aren’t familiar with the genius that is Sturgill Simpson, please take some time to familiarize yourself. This man is one of the best things to happen to country music in a looong time!]

Love Whomever You Damn Well Please

I couldn’t write this post without including my girl Kacey Musgraves. In 2014, she won Song of the Year at the CMA Awards for her song, “Follow Your Arrow.” Despite this achievement, Kacey got some crap for this song. With lines like “Make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into” and encouraging people to roll up a joint (or don’t), people’s panties definitely got in a bunch over this song. According to Fox News, some people saw the song as an “attack on Christians” (insert picture of me rolling my eyes here.) With Trump’s announcement last week that transgender people will no longer be allowed to serve in the military, more friends of the LGBTQ community need to speak up and speak out. Kacey not only did this with her music but she also tweeted her support of pride month back in June and even wrote a love letter to the LGBTQ community featured on Billboard.

To all the members of the LGBTQ community- keep following your arrow!

That Damn Confederate Flag

Country music is synonymous with the south, which unfortunately often brings to mind images of Confederate flags. Thankfully, there are country artists speaking out against this ugly flag in their music. When it comes to the stars and bars, Will Hoge ain’t having it. In his song, “Still a Southern Man,” he makes it clear that you can be a southerner and not support the Confederate flag. However, he hasn’t always felt this way. Growing up in South Carolina, Hoge “used to proudly wave the Confederate flat at high school football games.” After all, his school’s mascot was the rebel soldier. It wasn’t until he graduated and began traveling and meeting people from different walks of life that he finally saw the flag for what it really is: a symbol of “slavery, oppression and secession.” He discusses this realization in his song where he calls the flag “a hammer driving nails in the coffin of a long dead land.”

“There’s a flag flying overhead
And I used to think it meant one thing
But now I’ve grown up and seen the world
And I know what it really means
I wanted it to be the symbol of a boy
Who wasn’t scared to take a stand
But now I know it’s just a hammer driving nails
In the coffin of a long dead land”

The artists that have been mentioned in this post are all newer artists, but as Steve Earle shows, the older guys are also getting in on this. Earle sang about his disdain for the Confederate flag in his 2015 song, “Mississippi It’s Time.” In this song, he tries to reason with Mississippi that it’s time for the flag to come down. As the song states, “we can’t move ahead if we’re lookin’ behind.” Another major kudos goes to the “Copperhead Road” singer for giving all of the proceeds from this song to the Civil Rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center.

Look away, Mississippi
Mississippi, you’re on my mind
All the crosses burned and the lessons unlearned
Left a scar across my heart and it’s ten miles wide
Sick of sloggin’ through the history of this wounded land of mine
Still payin’ the cost cause the war was lost
Mississippi, don’t you reckon it’s time

I wish I was in a land that never held a soul in bondage ever
Wouldn’t have to drag these chains behind 
Mississippi, it’s time

Us liberals know the true meaning of this flag (it’s slavery- anyone who says differently needs to quit kidding themselves) and appreciate artists like Will Hoge and Steve Earle for speaking up about this.

Final Thoughts

Although Johnny Cash never lived to see a Trump presidency (or evan a candidacy- that lucky son of a gun!), I’d like to think that if he were alive today, that he would be opposed to this administration. Because if not, what was wearing all that black really for?

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 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!