Album Review – Wheeler Walker Jr.’s ‘Redneck Shit’

Wheeler Walker Jr Redneck Shit

[Warning: This album contains a lot of strong, crude language. There are many sexual themes and references in every song. This review is an uncensored look at it. Children, anyone who is faint at heart or is easily offended should not read this review nor listen to this album. You’ve been warned, so you can’t complain!]

There are great albums. There are bad albums. Then there are albums where you don’t know what the hell you just heard. Wheeler Walker Jr.’s debut album would fall into the latter category. Walker seemingly has appeared out of thin air, although he’ll tell you he’s been around for years now and no major label would have the guts to record the album he wants to record. Well as luck would have it he would catch the eye of Sturgill Simpson, a fellow Kentuckian, who introduced him to Dave Cobb and the rest they say is history. Walker teamed up with Cobb under the Thirty Tigers label to make his debut album Redneck Shit. Never before in my time in running this blog have I heard such a vile and weird album. Yet at the same time I was blown away and impressed. And I had a few laughs along the way too while listening to it.

This raunchy album kicks off with its title track and basically serves as the appetizer to prepare you for the main course of the album. Walker sings about how much he enjoys the most stereotypical redneck shit from drinking Mountain Dew to having sex with his cousin. The instrumentation on this song is pretty damn catchy and country, something I can say about this whole album. Up next is “Beer, Weed, Cooches,” a song where Walker sings about what some of the things he loves most. Among them of course are beer, weed and cooches along with honkytonk music and getting his dick sucked. The steel guitar perfectly goes along with the lyrics and will undoubtedly have you tapping your feet along with it. “Family Tree” is the most disgusting and crude song you’ll hear on Redneck Shit (at least in my opinion). The song is about a woman wanting to break up with her man, but the man admits he only got close to her for one reason: to fuck everyone in her family. The lyrics to this song are absolutely absurd and disgusting, yet you can’t help but laugh. It’s so damn hilarious and yet so wrong. You have to hear this one for yourself.

Despite the ridiculous humorous nature of the songs on this album, there are actually some honest-to-god great country songs on here and one of them is definitely “Can’t Fuck You Off My Mind.” From the instrumentation to the theme, this is really not much different from the stuff you heard in the outlaw era of country music. It’s your classic heartbreak ballad, only with a lot of profanity. The premise of the song is quite simple: the man is fucking every woman in town to try to forget about his ex. If you think about it, this is a more mature approach to a breakup than a lot of mainstream country music. The album’s lead single, “Fuck You Bitch,” follows this. Some people will be offended just by reading the title, but this would be shortsighted. Once again Walker tackles heartbreak, just in a crude and very blunt manner. The story goes the woman has left the man and now he’s left sad and pissed off. And like anyone just after a breakup there’s a lot of anger. So he tells her to not only fuck off, but her friends too, as he felt they tore them apart. Lastly he hopes her dog, which got lost, never comes home either. This is all scathing and pretty damn funny. The production is once again top-notch, a credit to wizard Dave Cobb, who just can’t seem to do wrong.

The shortest and most lighthearted song on the album is “Drop ‘Em Out.” It’s a pretty simple song where Walker sings about boobs, specifically wanting the woman he’s talking to drop them out so he can look at them and pleasure himself. It’s pretty on-the-nose humor with some wacky rhyming that I just can’t but laugh at. As Walker said in an interview with Rolling Stone, it sounds just like an Oak Ridge Boys song. The gritty, guitar-driven “Eatin’ Pussy/Kickin’ Ass” is the album’s rally-crying anthem. If you had to point to the heart of this album, this is it. I don’t think I have to explain what this one’s about, although I will say towards the end of the song Walker takes an unexpected turn you need to hear yourself. Also one of the members of the backing band lets it be known he doesn’t want his name on this song, prompting a reaction from Walker that gave me a pretty good laugh. The self-explanatory “Fightin’, Fuckin’, Fartin’” keeps up the album’s crude bravado, although by this point the humor can start to wear a little thin. It isn’t a bad song, but one of the more forgettable ones on the album.

Another highlight of this album is “Better Off Beatin’ Off.” Walker once again demonstrates he has a surprising knack at pulling off funny, yet sad heartbreak songs. The story of the song goes the man is now swearing off women because they cause him too much heartbreak. So he comes to the realization that’s he better off alone with just himself and his hand. I think doubt begins to creep in his mind eventually though because he’s crying during it at one point, which paints a surprisingly funny image in your head. “Sit On My Face” sees Walker at his most generous on the entire album. Walker finds himself desperate as the bar begins to close and realizes he can’t be picky, so he invites a random woman back to his place to ride his face while he pleasures her. The amount of glee Walker expresses as he sings this song is both amusing and so fitting of this character. The most rocking song of the album closes out Redneck Shit, “Which One O’ You Queers Gonna Suck My Dick?”. This semen and alcohol covered album of course has to end with not only more of this, but try to take the premises even further. Now Walker is at a gay bar and looking for a guy willing to suck his dick. Eventually Walker finds his guy and accomplishes his goal, which we audibly get to hear, making it the appropriate way to finish this album.

Redneck Shit is the foulest and nastiest country album I’ve ever heard. And it’s absolutely great. Walker set out to make a quality country album and to piss off everyone in the process. To him I say mission accomplished. I will say though despite the disgusting nature of this album and how much it pushes the envelope, I still feel like he could have pushed it even further. I hope on the next album he goes even further. The instrumentation and production on this album though is top-notch and couldn’t be more country. It’s the anti-thesis to country radio. Waylon and Willie would be pretty damn proud. Not to mention there’s a lot of laughs to be had in every song. If you’re looking for an artist with a “fuck you” attitude who isn’t afraid to get weird and make traditional country music all at the same time, you need to listen to Wheeler Walker Jr. Move over Earl Dibbles Jr. The more talented and funny Wheeler Walker Jr. is here with Redneck Shit.

Grade: 8/10

 

(Note: If you aren’t aware, Wheeler Walker Jr. is a character played by comedian Ben Hoffman and is not an actual person, although at times it may seem like it. These aren’t his real views and the songs aim to be satire/humor. I treated him like a real artist in the review both because it’s fun and he’s more real than most major label country artists, despite being a character. )
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The Hodgepodge: Zac Brown Band and ‘Jekyll + Hyde’ One Year Later

It was one year ago today that the Zac Brown Band released their 4th studio album, Jekyll + Hyde. Released on the heels of Uncaged, the excellent third album from the band, and a four-song rock EP produced by Dave Grohl, expectations were high for this album. Initially, the album seemed to fall in line with the expectations. We learned that the band would be covering Americana star Jason Isbell, and had a duet with rock star Chris Cornell from Soundgarden and Audioslave. Early access to “Dress Blues” and “Heavy is the Head” along with the album’s lead single “Homegrown” showed promise for another stellar album.

Come April 28th, downloads from iTunes were available, the album was on the shelves in stores for fans to buy. Everyone loaded the album, pressed play for track one, and then heard the unexpected. Electronic dance music pulsed through the speakers as “Beautiful Drug” played to kick off the album. The name Jekyll + Hyde rang true.

Dr. Henry Jekyll from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde conjures a potion that he hopes will suppress his evil thoughts and motivations. Much to his surprise, the potion acts in the opposite way, strengthening Jekyll’s evil alter ego, Edward Hyde. As the story goes, the evil Hyde continues to gain strength and overpower the good Dr. Jekyll. Jekyll and Hyde became synonymous with the good and bad in a person.

Zac Brown naming the album Jekyll + Hyde was perfect. He was completely aware of the content being released on the album, and the title could almost be an excuse or cry for forgiveness from the fans who were disappointed by the album. Those who were upset to hear not one, but two EDM-inspired songs on the album. The fans confused by the fact that the first six songs on the album jump around in six different genres: EDM, R&B, world-like, pop-country, big band/jazz, and rock. And those were the first six songs because those were the songs most we’re meant to hear. The band’s first four singles from the album (3 to country radio, 1 to rock radio) are found in this group.

Hearing Jekyll + Hyde for the first time was jarring. It’s an experimental album also meant to achieve commercial success. If you think the album was just a way for the band to try new things and have fun, they wouldn’t have released “Beautiful Drug” as a single. We had never heard Zac Brown Band sing an EDM/club song before, but they made sure we heard it, and they wrote it simple enough to take it to the top of the Country Airplay chart. Zac Brown saw dollar signs in the future, and he did everything in his power to stuff his pockets.

I was optimistic that the band’s Southern Ground strategic partnership with Big Machine et al. would result in some great opportunities for the band and the label’s lesser acts, all while Zac Brown maintained his creative vision. But Zac didn’t have a creative vision for his music, just a commercialized vision. Not two years after criticizing Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind Of Night,” Zac Brown eats his own words and released “Beautiful Drug” country radio. And I firmly believe that this was 100% the band’s idea. Take a look at this recent tweet from band member Clay Cook.

With a recent string of artists like Chase Rice apologizing for his new music, the Zac Brown Band are defending their crap. They’re happy to have written and recorded songs like “Beautiful Drug” because it was a successful experiment. A band who were once the outspoken gatekeepers calling out Nashville’s crap are now producing the same shit they criticized.

To an extent, you can’t blame a music artist for wanting to achieve a little more commercial success. But when that desire for more comes at the price of compromising the ground on which you once stood, it’s a disappointing transition. The desire for more money, the potion, brought about the band’s inner Edward Hyde.

It remains to be seen what the future will hold and how the band will follow this album era up. The Zac Brown Band island country staple, “Castaway,” is being released to country radio just in time for summer, which is almost guaranteed to help carry the song to another number one on the Airplay chart. With an album of 15 different songs, it’s possible that we could see a 5th single from Jekyll + Hyde be released to country radio. Maybe we’ll hear “Dress Blues” on radio after all, but time will only tell.

The past year has been disappointing in respect to the Zac Brown Band. They were one of the few mainstream artists leading the charge for quality music, and their foray into this EDM experimental world changed the minds of fans eager for something better than Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line. Some respect has been lost, but hope remains that Dr. Jekyll will win this time around.

Upcoming/Recent Country & Americana Releases

  • Tomorrow, Martina McBride’s Reckless will be released.
  • May 6 is a big release day for mainstream country and Americana.
    • Cole Swindell’s You Should Be Here
    • Keith Urban’s Ripcord
    • Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Things That We Are Made Of
    • Cindy Lauper’s Detour
    • Ryan Beaver’s Rx
  • Florida Georgia Line will release their debut single from their upcoming third album. “H.O.L.Y.” will be available tomorrow.
  • Maddie & Tae will release “Sierra” as their next single.

Throwback Thursday Song

Wade Bowen’s “One Step Closer.” I’ve mentioned a few times on this site about how highly I think of Bowen’s album Lost Hotel. This breakup song from the 2006 album is one his best songs, in my opinion. A great example of country music being modern without compromising the genre’s roots.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week


Fort Frances – Alio. Fort Frances is a Chicago-based indie rock band. There’s a hint of Americana roots in their sound and style, but Alio carries a dynamic rock sound throughout the album. The band has a big following in Lithuania, and are looking to expand their fandom with the new album. In Lithuanian, “alio” means “hello.” It’s a well produced album and quite honestly one of my favorite non-country albums I’ve heard so far this year.

Tweet of the Week

In the wake of the world learning of Prince’s death, a generic country account tweets lyrics to a Sam Hunt song. That deserves a bit more criticism, but Wheeler Walker Jr. did pretty well here.

iTunes Review of the Week

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 8.39.28 PM

A simple, yet effective review of Dallas Davidson’s new single “Laid Back.” Yes, the notorious bro-country songwriter has a country-rap single that includes vocals from Maggie Rose, Big Boi, and Mannie Fresh. Take this reviewer’s advice and don’t listen to it. Just say no.

 

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [April 25]

Each week I take a look the Billboard Country Airplay chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive either a +1, -1 or a 0. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +30 and the lowest possible score being a -30. How do I determine if a song is rated a +1, -1 or 0? The rating it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been rated yet, then I will make the call. Songs rated between 7 and 10 receive a +1. Songs rated a 5 or 6 receive a 0. Songs rated 4 or lower receive a -1.

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of mainstream country music and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Florida Georgia Line – “Confession” (Up 1)
  2. Dierks Bentley – “Somewhere On A Beach” -1 (Up 1)
  3. Chris Young & Cassadee Pope – “Think of You” (Up 2)
  4. Old Dominion – “Snapback” -1 (Up 2)
  5. Rascal Flatts – “I Like The Sound of That” -1 (Down 4)
  6. Dustin Lynch – “Mind Reader” -1 (Up 2)
  7. Tim McGraw – “Humble and Kind” +1 (Up 2)
  8. Blake Shelton – “Came Here To Forget” -1 (Up 2)
  9. Luke Bryan – “Huntin’, Fishin’ & Lovin’ Ever Day” -1 (Up 3)
  10. Thomas Rhett – “T-Shirt” -1 (Up 4)
  11. Lee Brice – “That Don’t Sound Like You” -1 
  12. Maren Morris – “My Church” +1 (Up 1)
  13. Kenny Chesney – “Noise” 0 (Up 2)
  14. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” +1 (Up 2)
  15. Keith Urban – “Wasted Time” -1 (Up 2)
  16. Eric Church – “Record Year” +1 (Up 3) [Best Song]
  17. Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” -1 (Up 4)
  18. Chris Lane – “Fix” -1 (Up 2) [Worst Song]
  19. Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” -1 (Up 4)
  20. Frankie Ballard – “It All Started With a Beer” +1 (Up 2)
  21. David Nail – “Night’s On Fire” -1 (Up 3)
  22. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink” +1 (Up 3)
  23. Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells” +1 (Up 7)
  24. Canaan Smith – “Irrelevant Song A Label is Pushing That Nobody Cares About”-1 (Up 2)
  25. Dan + Shay – “From The Ground Up” (Up 2)
  26. Kip Moore – “Running For You” +1 (Up 2)
  27. Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” -1 (Up 2)
  28. Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” -1 (New to Top 30)
  29. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” +1 (New to Top 30)
  30. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” +1 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -6

The pulse improved four spots this week!

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Cole Swindell – “You Should Be Here”
  • Chase Bryant – “Little Bit of You” (Nananana, nananana, hey, hey, hey…goodbye!)
  • Brantley Gilbert – “Stone Cold Sober”

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me”
  • William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl”
  • Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately”

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Dierks Bentley – “Somewhere On A Beach”

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells” – Up 7 from #30 to #23
  • Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” – Up 4 from #21 to #17
  • Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” – Up 4 from #23 to #19
  • Thomas Rhett – “T-Shirt” – Up 4 from #14 to #10

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Cole Swindell – “You Should Be Here” – Out of the Top 30
  • Chase Bryant – “Little Bit of You” – Out of the Top 30
  • Brantley Gilbert – “Stone Cold Sober” – Out of the Top 30

Songs I See Going Recurrent & Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Rascal Flatts – “I Like The Sound of That” (A top 30 without Rascal Flatts…I like the sound of that!)
  • Lee Brice – “That Don’t Like Sound Like You”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Chris Lane – “Fix”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Zac Brown Band – “Castaway”
  • Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan”
  • Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”
  • Florida Georgia Line’s new single being released soon

 

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s Pulse in the comments below. 

Album Review – Robbie Fulks’ ‘Upland Stories’

With 13 albums in 20 years, Robbie Fulks is a singer and songwriter who deserves a large audience. Now over 50 years old, Fulks is a songwriter with life experience and wisdom to offer through his music, which is how many will perceive his newest album Upland Stories. An album that put musical production in the back seat in order to make room for storytelling and eloquent lyricism, Upland Stories is a look at the world through Robbie Fulks’ eyes. Songs full of nostalgia and longing for the time of youthful innocence, Fulks’ honest look at life makes for a great album full of story songs.

“Alabama At Night” is one of three songs on the album influenced by James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. The book details the desolate lifestyle of southern farmers during the Great Depression. “Alabama At Night” offers a view of the beauty surrounding the dusty fields and weary workers. Fulks’ writes about an out-of-towner who stops in town and is blown away by the beauty and peace of the night sky over Alabama. “Baby Rocked Her Dolly” details an old man recalling and sharing memories of his family singing and dancing together. Robbie Fulks does a great job with this cover of Frankie Miller’s song written by Merle Kilgore.

Fulks’ strength as a songwriter is capturing emotions, and “Never Come Home” best exemplifies that. It’s a story song that finds an old, dying man returning home for his final days. His presence at home is unwelcome from his family and the locals, and the man regrets his decision to spend his few remaining days at home. Fulks’ vocals perfectly capture the heartbreak of the song. “Sarah Jane” tells the story of a man who’s lonely as he continues to chase the wrong dreams. The man has had rotten luck in pursuit of his dreams, and he misses his home with the woman he loves.

Robbie Fulks brings in his bluegrass roots with “Aunt Peg’s New Old Man.” After the passing of her long time husband, Aunt Peg has a new boyfriend who’s a little quirky to the rest of family, who are only too eager to learn as little as possible about the guy. The lyrics aren’t anything special, but the bluegrass production of the song is great, and it’s a welcome upbeat number as most of the album has an acoustic production. Fulks’ recalls his mistakes and carelessness as a teenager in “Needed.” After falling in love with a girl, she gets pregnant and Fulks gets cold feet with their relationship. It’s a story that builds up heartbreak and regret, only to turn it on its head with the final verse.

Robbie Fulks sings of memories in “South Bend Soldiers On.” A man seasoned with life sees how life around him as changed. And as things continue to change, he relies more on his memories of the past for joy. The song paints a grim picture of memories and includes my favorite lyric on the whole album. “If all that we’re made of is the ghosts inside our head, who could blame us for pretending otherwise?” 

The next two songs were also influenced from Let Us Praise Famous Men. “America Is A Hard Religion” is another bluegrass song. This song correlates directly with the book’s content as Fulks’ sings of the farmers struggling to find prosperity in the dusty fields. “A Miracle” focuses more on how the Great Depression also affected areas beside the south. The big cities aren’t as grand as they once were, and all anyone can do is hope for change. It’s interesting for Fulks to choose that book and time period to write a handful songs about, but he does a great job on spreading his focus and painting a complete picture with “Alabama At Night”, “America Is A Hard Religion”, and “A Miracle.”

“Sweet As Sweet Comes” is a jazzy and bluesy influenced song with a prominent upright bass line in the production mix. It’s a love song where Fulks sings to how much he loves his wife and wouldn’t change a thing about their life together. It’s a good love song and an honest sentiment from Fulks. “Katy Kay” is a rambunctious bluegrass song. Fulks sings of a man who only falls in love with sad girls he can fix, and this man is nervous for the day when Katy Kay will no longer be sad. The story is goofy, but it’s a fun song to listen to. Upland Stories comes to a close with the album’s longest song, “Fare Thee Well, Carolina Gals.” Fulks sings of his foolish escapades while living in North Carolina. He remembers the times he had growing up while he prepares to move on to the next chapter of his life.

Upland Stories is like an invitation into the mind of a man who’s lived a lot of life and has wisdom to pass on to the next generation. Songs about regret, mistakes, and lessons learned are what you’ll find in Robbie Fulks’ thirteenth album. Even with the great songwriting, the album still has its flaws, mainly in the production. There are times where the album falls into a monotoned acoustic production that bridges multiple songs, and there are a few times where Fulks’ voice is hard to hear in the mix of the music. But Robbie Fulks’ seasoned voice fits perfectly with the lyrics he’s written. Upland Stories is an album with rich stories and a unique songwriting style, but you have to devote yourself to the listen in order to fully grasp Robbie Fulks’ stories and wisdom.

Grade: 8/10

Review – Hillary Scott & The Scott Family’s “Thy Will”

Hillary Scott Thy Will

One of the most popular acts of the mid to late 2000s was undoubtedly Lady Antebellum. They really blew up on everyone’s radars with their smash, crossover hit “Need You Now.” The group followed this up with a few more hits before the bro country era came around. Ever since then the only real hit the group achieved was “Bartender” and it heavily appealed to trends. Wisely, the group decided last year to go on hiatus for a while. A break was exactly what this group needed because clearly their brand of music didn’t fit current trends. Then it was announced Charles Kelley was forging a solo career and earlier this year released his solo debut album, which turned out to be an average album with a few nice songs. Now another member of Lady Antebellum is trying their hand at a solo career, lead singer Hillary Scott. The powerful front woman of Lady A has always been a good vocalist, but I’ve yet to hear a song since “Need You Now” that really showed off her strength. As a solo artist we should really get a chance to hear her at her best without the pressures of conforming to radio. Her new album will be Christian-based, showing off a side we really haven’t seen a lot from Scott. The lead single was just released and it’s titled “Thy Will.”

One thing that stands out right away about “Thy Will”: it’s much, much different from anything off of Lady Antebellum’s most recent album 747. The production isn’t overdone and the lyrics aren’t immature. It’s quite the opposite. The song is piano-based and serves as the main instrumentation throughout. Scott’s voice is clear as a bell and is allowed to be front and center. This is the Hillary Scott I’ve been waiting to hear. The song itself is about heartbreak, as Scott is clearly in pain from something that happened in her life. Scott hasn’t revealed what exactly she’s referring to and won’t answer what it is when asked. Scott turns to God in this time of pain, as she wonders why she’s feeling so much pain and worries about what is ahead in her life. Scott though realizes that she’s talking to God and that he has good plans in store and that she must be patient, as this heartbreak is all part of it. The song represents a significant spiritual moment for Scott, an epiphany for her pain. The production does a good job of bringing out the emotion of the song, as the song rises as the tone of the song lifts. In the beginning its somber, with only a lone piano. By the end it has reached bliss, represented by a soaring orchestra of instruments.

Overall “Thy Will” is a solid, coming to God song that fits Hillary Scott’s dynamic voice well. It gets back to the production of songs like “Need You Now” and “Love Don’t Live Here” that made Lady Antebellum so big and highlighted Scott’s big voice. The only complaint I have with this song is it can feel a little bit generic at times. It’s beautifully arranged, but can definitely feel too clean to some listeners and leave them wanting more “meat” to the song. Nevertheless this song has me interested in the album, as Scott exploring her spiritual and family side could make for some great music. Scott including her family on the album tells me how person this is to her, so I don’t expect any trend chasing. I doubt “Thy Will” gets big at country radio, but Christian-radio will definitely pick it up. If you’re a fan of Lady Antebellum or Christian-influenced music, I recommend checking this out. “Thy Will” is something you will enjoy.

Grade: 7/10