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”

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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!