Top Ten Country Songs – May 2014

The month of May brought a lot of bad country songs, but a lot of great country songs too. Here is Country Perspective’s Top Ten Country Songs in May 2014 (in order):

(Note: Song must be released in May 2014 to be eligible)

Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music was by far the best country album and perhaps best album in all of music released in May, so it’s no surprise three of his songs made my list. This album will be one of the front-runners for Country Perspective’s Best Album of 2014. The second best country album released in May was Matt Woods’ With Love From Brushy Mountain. I haven’t had a chance to review this album yet, but expect to see a review on this soon. It also landed three songs on the list, so expect high marks for it too. Woods was kind of overshadowed because his album was released the same week as Simpson’s album, but it certainly deserves a lot of praise. With Love From Brushy Mountain will be a contender for Country Perspective’s Best Album of 2014 too.

Two songs from Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison’s new album Our Year made the top ten. This is another album I hope to review soon. It was just released this week. Two songs that round out my top ten list are Zac Brown, Vince Gill and Gregg Allman’s cover of “Midnight Rider” from All My Friends: Celebrating the Songs & Voice of Gregg Allman and Josh Kelley’s new single “Mandolin Rain.” I was hesitant to put “Midnight Rider” on the list because it sounds more rock than country, but this song is too damn good not to get attention. Gill has an amazing guitar solo at the end of the song. Kelley’s “Mandolin Rain” received a good review on here and it was the biggest surprise I found in May.

All in all, May was a pretty good month to be a real country music fan. Lots of great songs and albums worth checking out. June will be hard pressed to top this list.

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Review – Joy Collins’ “It Ain’t Just Music” & “Unhappy”

Remember how in my recent Zac Brown Band review how I said I appreciated hearing passion in their music? You can truly tell when an artist cares about their music and this is certainly evident when listening to Joy Collins sing. You can hear it in her voice that she enjoys what she does and this makes her music even better. Collins is an independent country music artist trying to cut her teeth in the dog eat dog world of Nashville. Here’s a little more about Collins from her website. Collins spent years writing music in Nashville, but then as she says, “life happened.” But now she’s back doing what she loves and that led her to produce the album It Ain’t Just Music. Today I’m going to review two singles from that album, the album titled track, “It Ain’t Just Music” and “(I Want You) Unhappy.”

First, we’ll take a look “Unhappy.” This song is about a woman retelling the experience of an emotional breakup with her cheating husband and describing her current feelings about “crossing him off the list.” Collins is relating to her own divorce in this song and you can hear the emotional connection she has with it. Lyrically the song is well-written and does a good job telling a story and setting the scene in the listeners head. This is especially on point in the second verse recalling all of the long distance phone calls, the lying and how she says, “it’s only fair we share in this pain.” The best line of the song is “it’s not that I don’t want you happy, I just hope you’re unhappy with anyone with me,” a great play on words and describes the mood perfectly. You can definitely tell Collins’ greatest strength is her songwriting.

My only critiques about “Unhappy” are I would’ve liked to have seen more fire and edge from Collins to really drive the mood of the song home. Other than that I enjoyed it. This is a good breakup song and should be relatable to most listeners.

“It Ain’t Just Music” is the exact opposite of “Unhappy.” This is a song about following your dreams and pursuing your passions. Collins sings about her love of making music and the sense of being born to do this. Lyrically this is flawless from beginning until end. The writers of this song, Jason D. Jones and Jason Fitz, deserve credit for writing such great lyrics. The chorus line really packs a punch, especially at the beginning as it begins with this:

“It’s my drink and it’s my drug/I can’t ever get enough. It’s more than words and more than rhymes/ It’s my life wrote down in time.”

If you read her short biography on her website, Collins had an addiction problem and her covering this song about her true passion is innovative. Just listen to the whole song and you will understand the great songwriting on display. One thing you will notice about Collins’ voice is her low registry. It’s much lower than what you hear from most female singers, which helps her standout a bit. I would say her voice is similar to Jennifer Nettles, who also has a good low registry. You will never have to worry about her screaming through a song. She knows her comfort zone.

Both tracks are great country songs that I would recommend to anyone who appreciates traditional sounding country music.

“Unhappy” Grade: 7.5/10

“It Ain’t Just Music” Grade: 8/10

To get a free download of these two songs, click here.

(Correction: Originally I had that Collins wrote “It Ain’t Just Music.” A commenter pointed out that this is incorrect and I have made the necessary changes. Apologies to the writers of the song who I originally did not credit.)

Review – Dustin Lynch’s “Where It’s At”

Do I hate this song? Yep, yep. Is this a laundry list song full of bro country clichés? Yep, yep. Have you figured out what’s the most annoying part of this song yet? In between singing something about ball caps and his girl, Dustin Lynch utters “yep, yep.” This happens throughout the song and you will inevitably get it stuck in your head making you beg for mercy that the ear worm leaves your thoughts.

Dustin Lynch came onto the country scene two years ago with his self-titled album release. The biggest single from that album was “Cowboys and Angels” and probably the only time you’ve ever heard of this guy. It was a pretty big hit for him and it was truly a breakout song. It peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Country chart and at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was also nominated for CMA’s New Artist Single of the Year and CMA’s New Artist Music Video of the Year. He released another single titled “She Cranks My Tractor” which only peaked at #29 on U.S. Billboard Country chart (thankfully because this song is terrible and the remix of it is even worse). The album was certified platinum.

So to keep up his momentum and to stay in the mainstream country spotlight, he released the single “Where It’s At.” The song starts off with a bizarre sound. This bizarre sound is the sound of the guitars being put through a machine and distorting it. Or as the mainstream country artists will tell you, “evolving country music.” Everyone is doing it, including Brad Paisley on his upcoming album. Lynch then begins to sing some of the most forgettable lyrics you will ever hear. To summarize them, it’s a bunch of bro country phrases you probably heard on the previous song you just heard on the radio and will probably hear on the song following this one. The lyrics are boring, dull and overdone. I can see why they added the “yep, yep” to this song because that’s the only way you’ll remember it.

In terms of what the song is about, I got nothing. I have no idea what it’s suppose to be about . Your guess is as good as mine. The writers of this song either forgot to add a theme to this song or they copied and pasted a bunch of lyrics from other songs together. I’m going to say they went with the latter. Throw in your generic mainstream country beat and you get “Where It’s At.” Lynch also uses auto-tune at a few points in this song because it’s an “evolution of country music.”

As far as what was good about this song? Hmm… at least there wasn’t a lot of auto-tune used. There was no dub step or EDM used either. A non-country artist didn’t make an appearance. Lynch also wasn’t wearing the trademark backward baseball cap that bro country artists are famous for wearing on the single’s cover art. So instead of going full bro country he only went 95% bro country. That’s all of the good things I have to say about this song.

“Where It’s At” is rising up both the Billboard and iTunes charts, so expect this song to be a popular hit that plays on radios throughout the summer. Why wouldn’t it since its bro country? Another thing going for Dustin Lynch is the “dreamy factor.” In other words, women and girls want to f*@# him. So that  should translate into a lot of sales for this song.

“Where It’s At” is another generic bro country song that contains one of the most irritating ear worms I have ever heard in a song. It’s bottom of the barrel garbage. I didn’t expect this song to join the Zero Club, but Jerrod Niemann just got some company.

Grade: 0/10 (If it wasn’t for the “yep, yep” this song would’ve got a 1.5)

Throwback Thursday – That Time Luke Bryan Drove His Truck Into a Pond

Remember last September when Luke Bryan tweeted this out? He drove his “big, black, jacked-up truck” into a pond. How do you drive your truck into a pond? By forgetting to put it in park (face palm). For a guy who sings about trucks in literally all of his songs, you would think he would know how to drive one.

Review – Zac Brown Band’s “All Alright”

In mainstream country music, most artists are just trying to keep up with the popular sound. They really have no thoughts or heart behind their music. To take a line from the famous song, “Murder on Music Row,” it’s all done for “the almighty dollar and the lust for worldwide fame.” Now all of us have to make a living, but we like to take pride in our work. Most mainstream country artists don’t really convey this and their music sounds soulless as a result. But there are exceptions to the rule and the Zac Brown Band is definitely one of them. While their music can sound more like southern fried rock at times, one thing that is present in all of their songs is a sense of genuineness. These guys take pride in their music and care about the image they portray. You’ll never hear these guys using auto-tune and EDM in their music. As they’ve stated in numerous interviews, they’re proud to use real instruments in their songs.

When I found out they were releasing new music from their project with Dave Grohl, I was excited to hear what they came up with. For those that don’t know, Dave Grohl is the frontman and founder of the rock band The Foo Fighters. He was also part of a little band you might have heard of called Nirvana. Grohl has a brilliant mind for music and I was anxious to hear how his sound and Zac Brown Band’s sound would mesh together. If you’ve listened to The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1 EP, you can definitely hear the influence of Grohl. And it couldn’t be more present in the lead single on the extended play, “All Alright.”

Grohl starts the song off with a small guitar solo that sets the tone for the song. His guitar licks are fantastic. It then blends in with the rest of the band seamlessly as Brown begins to sing. The story of this song is quite simple. It’s about a guy being in what looked like a good relationship where everything was “all alright,” but then went “all wrong” and is now trying to move on from it. Brown’s voice is flawless as always and the background vocals accompany it nicely. The song is good until about halfway through, where it then goes about a few notches and becomes even better. Grohl busts into an over 30 second long guitar solo, that upon first time listening to it, will absolutely blow you away. I wasn’t that surprised something this good was coming from a musician of Grohl’s caliber. After the solo, the song goes softer and Brown reflects on the cold pillow by the empty night stand (great imagery). But then he sings, “I guess God did not make me a one woman man.” The song then goes louder again and repeats the chorus lines. Brown ends with the great line of, “That’s just how it goes when you’re gone.”

“All Alright” undeniably has a rock influence throughout it (even more than usual for Zac Brown Band). While a select few may not like this for some reason, I think many will appreciate the influence as it is different from other offerings from the band. This is actually a good way to evolve country music, unlike some artists who feel EDM and rapping are a better direction to take country. I honestly don’t understand why more artists don’t try to incorporate more rock influences in their songs if they’re looking for an “evolved sound.” The instruments are implemented well in the song and Grohl is Grohl on the guitar. Lyrically, the song is simple and written well. It’s almost too simple, but Brown finds the perfect balance. The pacing was spot on and did a good job of creating the imagery of the song.

This song will get radio time because Zac Brown Band has a large and dedicated fan base that will tune in to listen. It probably won’t chart too high, as it has only peaked at #44 on Billboard’s U.S. Hot Country Songs chart. It’s hard for the song to cut through the throng of bro country songs infecting the charts (and radio waves).

“All Alright” is one of the best mainstream country songs of 2014 and I’ve already bought it and listened to it several times over. It’s one of the few bright spots on country music radio at the moment. I’m hoping this is just the first great song we hear from the Grohl collaboration and that there are more released later this year.

Grade: 8.5/10