The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [April 2014]

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This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here.

While I hate to do another recent chart after having just done 2011 last week, my schedule this week is admittedly pretty busy. Therefore, I wanted to showcase another chart of songs that I am familiar with. I picked April 19th, 2014 since that’s approximately a month before Country Perspective even came into existence, and I thought it would be fun to showcase what the charts were like just before Josh stepped onto the scene.

  1. Blake Shelton – “Doin’ What She Likes” -2
  2. Randy Houser – “Goodnight Kiss” -2
  3. Jerrod Niemann – “Drink To That All Night” -5
  4. Brantley Gilbert – “Bottoms Up” -5
  5. Eric Church – “Give Me Back My Hometown” +1
  6. Rascal Flatts – “Rewind” -2
  7. Thomas Rhett – “Get Me Some Of That” -5
  8. Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan – “This Is How We Roll” -5
  9. Brett Eldredge – “Beat Of The Music” 0
  10. Miranda Lambert – “Automatic” +3 [Best Song]
  11. Dan + Shay – “19 You + Me” -2
  12. Keith Urban – “Cop Car” -2 (I’m sorry, I don’t get the appeal in this song at all)
  13. Luke Bryan – “Play It Again” -3
  14. Justin Moore – “Lettin’ The Night Roll” -1
  15. Tim McGraw – “Lookin’ For That Girl” -5 [Worst Song]
  16. Craig Morgan – “Wake Up Lovin’ You” +2
  17. Sara Evans – “Slow Me Down” 0
  18. Tyler Farr – “Whiskey In My Water” -1
  19. Craig Campbell – “Keep Them Kisses Comin'” +1
  20. The Band Perry – “Chainsaw” -2
  21. Hunter Hayes – “Invisible” -2
  22. Billy Currington – “We Are Tonight” +1
  23. Jake Owen – “Beachin'” -4
  24. Chris Young – “Who I Am With You” +1
  25. Joe Nichols – “Yeah” -2
  26. Sheryl Crow – “Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely” +1
  27. Eric Paslay – “Song About A Girl” -1
  28. Eli Young Band – “Dust” +2
  29. Brad Paisley – “River Bank” -1
  30. Lee Brice – “I Don’t Dance” +2

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: -38

Wow, this is an absolutely terrible chart across the board. How many -5’s was that again?!? It’s hard to believe that a chart from the future could actually look better than this. Yikes.

Alright, so let’s start off with the few good songs here. Miranda Lambert is the only person with a song worthy of an 8/10 (IMO), so she runs away with best song for “Automatic”. The only other good songs come courtesy of Craig Morgan, Lee Brice, and Eli Young Band and I’m sure that even you guys will have something to say about one or more of those songs.

The terrible is easy to digest. It’s quite surreal looking back and seeing just how much bro-country really did plague the genre. There are five songs here that could compete for country music’s worst songs, and to pick the worst of all of them was tough. In the end, I picked Tim since not only does that song absolutely blow, Tim McGraw simply knows better dammit! Trust me folks, I really did consider just tying all five of these songs for worst song. I felt like Negan from the Walking Dead trying to pick a victim. Aside from that…yeah, things aren’t much better outside of those five. Just a sad chart to see.

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

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The Hodgepodge: The Confusing Saga of The Band Perry Continues…..

The Band Perry confuses me. I have no clue what their intention is within the music industry. Are they mindless drones stuck in a contract that rebrands the band every year? Or are the three Perry siblings just trying to do all the different musical genres they can? The spark notes of the band’s short history:

  • In 2010, they release their first album with the great single “If I Die Young.” It’s an album I actually enjoy with a good modern country production.
  • Two years later, the band releases their follow up album Pioneer. The album has a little bit of more edge to it with songs like “Better Dig Two”, “DONE!” and “Chainsaw” being released as singles.
  • In 2014, The Band Perry returns to total country roots with their rendition of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind” released as a standalone single. A recording that won the band a Grammy last year.
  • Late last year, the band takes a 180 turn and decides they want to be a pop group, with “Live Forever” acting as the jumping single for this transition. “Live Forever” bombs on the charts and The Band Perry stumbles through an awkward period of having their third album release get delayed, getting dropped from their label and presumably taking the reigns themselves for their pop move.
  • And now The Band Perry signs a joint deal with UMG’s Interscope and Mercury Nashville and is readying a new single for country radio titled “Comeback Kid.”

The big take away from all this is that The Band Perry’s attempt to turn pop failed…miserably. The new yellow branding and inspirational, youthful pop anthems like “Live Forever” and “Put Me in the Game Coach” crashed hard and fast. And now with “Comeback Kid,” the band is desperately trying to erase any evidence of the past 11 months. They’ve deleted all their tweets prior to the comeback branding, their website is completely redesigned with the ugly pink/beige color and typewriter text, only promoting upcoming concerts and the Fan Club. Yet going to their online store, for the moment, one can find old shirts for “Live Forever” on a page still designed for the Heart + Beat brand.

Clearly the band is moving on from the failed pop experiment and trying to reestablish themselves in country music. They’ve given no hint or preview as to what “Comeback Kid” may sound like. So maybe it’ll be more country along the lines of “If I Die Young” or “Gentle On My Mind”, or maybe it’ll be a song more in line with the Adult Contemporary musical trend hitting Nashville at the moment. But the real question is, how seriously will people take this move and return?

A year ago, The Band Perry basically admitted that they were a musical sellout by blatantly shifting to pop without warning. Are fans and radio alike ready to welcome the group back with open arms? It’s not like The Band Perry’s absence over the last year has been noticeable or left a gaping hole in country music, unlike Taylor Swift’s departure to pop. I’m sure if UMG is willing to sign the band after this failed move to pop, then the label is ready to invest some time and money to make sure The Band Perry’s image and inclusion in country music isn’t affected.

As someone who has mostly enjoyed the band’s output so far, I can’t say I’m excited about this. I think moving on and forgetting isn’t a good strategy. Personally, I’d like to see some transparency from the band about the move to pop, how it didn’t work, and why they did what they did. I do respect them for returning to country and possibly (hopefully) returning to their folksy/pop country style of music because that’s who they are. I just want to see them approach this comeback with some accountability that their attempt to move pop wasn’t a good move. Even Kimberly Perry took to twitter to throw some shade toward Little Big Town about collaborating with Pharrell, because we can only assume that was what The Band Perry was doing/wanted to do with their pop album. (Can’t link the tweet because even the siblings’ personal accounts have had tweets deleted).

August 1st will be the day that some of these questions will be answered. For some, The Band Perry may be forever tainted by this ungraceful move to pop, and others undoubtedly will be excited for the new music as if nothing happened. Aside from the fact that country radio is congested with singers desperately trying to make a name for themselves, I don’t think The Band Perry’s return to country will be smooth or grand. Maybe they’ll get a top 20 single with “Comeback Kid”, but I think this move pop hurt the band’s standing within the country music industry. And now they’re crawling back as if the last year didn’t happen. Regardless of how good their music ends up being, I think their musical saga lately has hurt the band to the point that they’ll never again be as big a country group as they were in the first half of the decade.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • The Turnpike Troubadours have a new single called “Come As You Are.” The song will officially be available for purchase tomorrow.
  • Blackberry Smoke has released a new single to promote a new album. “Waiting For the Thunder” will be the first track off their upcoming album Like an Arrow, expected October 14.
  • Lori McKenna‘s The Bird & The Rifle will be released tomorrow.
  • Hillary Scott‘s Love Remains will also be released tomorrow.
  • Cody Jinks‘ I’m Not the Devil will be released on August 12.
  • American Aquarium frontman BJ Barham will release a solo album called Rockingham on August 19.

Throwback Thursday Song

“Sick and Tired” Cross Canadian Ragweed (feat. Lee Ann Womack) From the band’s great album Soul Gravity, this collaboration with Womack has some excellent lyrics and great vocal harmonies. The song managed to hit 46 on the charts in 2004.

Non Country Suggestion of the Week

Cold War Kids. I as continue to explore some modern music outside of country and Americana, I heard this song on Alternative radio and I like it a lot. I’ve been listening to the band’s new album Hold My Home and it’s good music to check out.

Tweet of the Week

In the short lived twitter feud between Dylan Scott and Wheeler Walker Jr., Dylan Scott came to defend Chewbacca Mom after she joined him on the Opry stage. If you follow WWJ on twitter, then you probably know he hates that Chewbacca Mom has become so famous from her laugh video, and made fun of modern country’s embrace of the internet sensation. Dylan Scott (who has since deleted all the tweets) claimed that Walker’s music is trash and not representative of country music. That was an entertaining half hour to witness on twitter, and I hope someone somewhere grabbed screenshots of Scott’s tweets.

iTunes Reviews for Brantley Gilbert’s “The Weekend”

We’re sure has hell not going to bother with reviewing “The Weekend”, as I’m pretty sure our regular readers can anticipate what we’d say about it. But in case you’re curious, these reviews about sum up how I feel.

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The consensus here speaks volumes.

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music [July 25]


Derek here this week!  Josh is out enjoying a vacation, so I’m taking over the Pulse this week.

Each week we 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 one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. 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 +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

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 – “H.O.L.Y.” -2 (Up 1)
  2. Carrie Underwood – “Church Bells” +2 (Down 1)
  3. Eric Church – “Record Year” +4 (Up 1) [Best Song]
  4. Chris Lane – “Fix” -5 (Up 1) [Worst Song]
  5. Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On” -2 (Down 2)
  6. Jon Pardi – “Head Over Boots” +3 (Up 1)
  7. Dan + Shay – “From The Ground Up” +1 (Up 2)
  8. Jake Owen – “American Generic Country Love Song” -2 
  9. Sam Hunt – “Make You Miss Me” -4 (Up 1)
  10. Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” -1 (Up 1)
  11. Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need A Drink” +2 (Up 1)
  12. Blake Shelton – “She’s Got A Way With Words” -2 (Up 3)
  13. Dierks Bentley & Elle King – “Different For Girls” -3 (Up 5)
  14. Kip Moore – “Running For You” +2 (Up 2)
  15. Zac Brown Band – “Castaway” +1 (Up 4)
  16. Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight” +2 (Up 1)
  17. Tucker Beathard – “Rock On” -3 (Up 3)
  18. Miranda Lambert – “Vice”   +3 (New to Top 30)
  19. Billy Currington – “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To” +2 (Up 3)
  20. William Michael Morgan – “I Met A Girl” +3 (Up 1)
  21. LoCash – “I Know Somebody” -5 (Up 3)
  22. Big & Rich (feat. Tim McGraw) – “Lovin’ Lately” +2 (Up 1)
  23. Kenny Chesney – “Noise” (Down 10)
  24. Brett Young – “Sleep Without You” -2 (Up 1)
  25. Cole Swindell – “Middle of a Memory” -2 (Up 2)
  26. Drake White – “Livin’ The Dream” +1 
  27. Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You” +3 (Up 1)
  28. Old Dominion – “Song for Another Time” -2 (Up 1)
  29. Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes”  +1 (New to Top 30)
  30. Jason Aldean – “A Little More Summertime” 0

The Current Pulse of Mainstream Country Music: -3

The pulse improves eight spots this week!

I give Jason Aldean’s “A Little More Summertime” a based on the iTunes preview of the song. We still haven’t heard the full version yet. Grade may change once the full version is heard.

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Keith Urban – “Wasted Time” -3
  • David Nail – “Night’s on Fire” -1

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Miranda Lambert – “Vice”
  • Maren Morris – “80s Mercedes”
    • Josh’s review of the song from Maren’s EP and HERO were positive, praising the pop-country aspect of what could be a big late summer hit. Maren sings the song well, the lyrics are catchy, and the melody is infectious. I honestly debated between scoring this a +1 or 0 and decided to give “80s Mercedes” the benefit of the doubt. Since I’m taking over for Josh this week, this score could change next week if Josh ultimately feels differently than I do.

Song I Predict Will Be #1 Next Week:

  • Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.” (I think FGL is in for a multi-week run with this one).

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Miranda Lambert’s “Vice” debuts on the chart at #18!
  • Dierks Bentley and Elle King’s “Different for Girls” jumps 5 spots from #18 to #13

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Keith Urban’s “Wasted Time” – Out of the Top 30 and recurrent
  • David Nail’s “Night’s On Fire” – Out of the Top 30 and recurrent
  • Kenny Chesney – “Noise” – Down 10 from #13 to #23

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

  • Kenny Chesney – “Noise”
  • Jennifer Nettles – “Unlove You”
  • Jason Aldean – “Lights Come On”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Justin Moore – “You Look Like I Need a Drink”
  • Brad Paisley & Demi Lovato – “Without A Fight”
  • Drake White – “Livin the Dream” (33 weeks on the chart and not making any headway)

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Tim McGraw – “How I’ll Always Be”
  • Brothers Osborne – “21 Summer”
  • Luke Bryan – “Move”
  • Brantley Gilbert – “The Weekend”

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

Album Review – Rob Baird’s ‘Wrong Side of the River’

Rob Baird Wrong Side of the River

One of the things I pride myself on is keeping up with all of the best artists in country and Americana. I do my absolute best to review and cover all of the best and yet there’s always some artists that fall through the cracks. There was one artist in particular I kept hearing about from readers and around the independent country community. I’ve been wanting to cover him for a while and with the slow down in releases this month I finally get to. That artist is Rob Baird. Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, he started out in 2010 with Carnival Recording Company founded by Frank Liddell in Nashville. After releasing two albums under this label, he’s now on his own. Baird released his third studio album earlier this year titled Wrong Side of the River. For this album he got outside of the Nashville bubble and headed west to Austin, Texas for inspiration. And I have to say the Red Dirt influence shines bright on this album.

You can really hear the Texas influence from the start on “Ain’t Nobody Got a Hold on Me.” A prominent guitar gives the song a real catchy melody throughout and really allows Baird’s voice to shine. It’s a subtly smooth song that draws the listener right in. The steel guitar-laden “Mercy Me” sees Baird tackling heartbreak. He questions why he runs and the things he’s done in his life, holding him back from finding love. And I did mention there’s a lot of steel guitar? If you love steel guitar, this song has plenty. “Pocket Change” has a more hard rock influence about it. It’s another heartbreak song and features some of the best instrumentation on the album. The roaring electric guitars and the lingering organ in the background really make for some fun music. In other words, it fits perfectly in the Red Dirt scene.

The quieter, subdued “Run of Good Luck” shows a softer side to Baird’s voice. The song is about a man and woman knowing it’s time for them to leave their town of Abilene and “roll the dice” in their lives. They know what they’re doing is a risk, but at the same time they don’t have much to lose either. This is definitely one of the standouts of Wrong Side of the River, as Baird’s vocals and the instrumentation blend together perfectly. The album’s title track begins with some eerie guitar play, giving the song an almost psychedelic feel. It’s one of the most intriguing openers to a song I’ve heard this year. The whole song really features some stellar instrumentation. If there’s one thing this album just nails, it’s this aspect.

The outro for “Wrong Side of the River” bleeds right into “Oklahoma.” Baird sings of the traveling musician being on the road and feeling lonely without the woman he loves in his life all the time. He wishes she was with him and that they weren’t apart all the time. It’s a pretty solid track. Baird draws upon his experiences as a rancher out west on “Horses.” The song is about how he watches the horses live and makes him ponder his own life. It’s one of those reflective songs that pulls you in and reminds you that you need slow down in this fast-paced life. The song is a very relaxing listen. “Mississippi Moon” is a song title that upon first listen might make you think of bro country, but I assure there’s no bro country here. At the same time this heartbreak song doesn’t stand out that well lyrically compared to the other heartbreak songs on this album.

Baird sings of his own mortality on “When I Go.” The somber, yet definitive reflection in his voice as he thinks of his mistakes and what lies ahead for him really resonates with you. It’s one of the lyrical high points on this album for sure, as the emotion of it really makes it stand out. While Baird does a great job with the faster paced, more fun songs, it’s these softer songs where you can really feel his talent shine the brightest. Wrong Side of the River ends with “Cowboy Cliché.” Baird is preparing himself for the impending breakup coming his way and wants it come so he can start living the clichéd cowboy lifestyle. He knows he will drift around and live with the skeletons that haunt him in his closet. It’s yet another solid heartbreak tune on an album full of them.

Overall Wrong Side of the River is a pretty good album with some impressive instrumentation. This is the absolute best part of the album, as I really don’t have any complaints in this regards. It’s catchy, it’s fun, it sets the tone perfectly on the sadder songs and it’s very country. Rob Baird’s voice really impresses me on this album too. It’s very smooth and emotive. The comparison I instantly thought of was Wade Bowen, which I know is high praise, but Baird is most certainly worthy. If I were Baird I would stick around Austin because I think he would fit in well next to the likes of Bowen and other Red Dirt artists. The only thing this album needed that it lacked was a few more “wow” moments. Other than that I think it’s a great album and I’m excited to hear what Baird has in-store next. He certainly shows a ton of potential with Wrong Side of the River.

Grade: 9/10

Album Review – David Nail’s ‘Fighter’ is Surprisingly Solid

David Nail Fighter

David Nail is one of those artists I’ve always seen potential in when looking the popular country landscape. But I feel like he’s never really shown it in an album and definitely not in his singles (the exception being “Let It Rain”). I hear a lot of love for Nail from mainstream country fans and I’ve been waiting to see this validated. When Nail announced his new album Fighter, I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much. In fact I really didn’t plan to review it. I figured I would just give a cursory listen when I was bored and hear the mediocre album I was expecting it to be (like I’ve did with a lot of mainstream albums this year). It’s not like the lead single inspired much confidence and his label MCA Nashville hasn’t handled him the best. So I listened to Fighter and it didn’t meet my expectations at all. It surprisingly exceeded them by a lot.

Fighter kicks off with the upbeat and fun “Good at Tonight.” The Brothers Osborne join Nail and the thing that immediately sticks out about this song is the strong harmonies in the chorus. It immediately hooks the listener in. While the feel good summer night song has been done to death, the infectious vocal performance and warm instrumentation make this not only a solid opening song to the album, but a great future single choice. The album’s lead single “Night’s On Fire” is next. Derek previously reviewed this song and I agree with everything he said in it. This isn’t a completely terrible song, but it’s just generically mediocre in terms of both production and songwriting. Unfortunately, Nail falls into one of my least favorite songwriting pitfalls to hit country in recent years on “Ease Your Pain.” That pitfall is the “your love is my drug” type comparisons that litter this song. So the songwriting wears thin pretty quickly for me here, which might come as a shock because one of the writers of this song is Chris Stapleton (the others are Jesse Frasure and Lee Thomas Miller). The instrumentation isn’t bad, but I just can’t tolerate another song comparing love to drugs because it’s a trope that’s been beaten to death.

Nail rebounds though with “Home,” where he’s joined by the talented Lori McKenna. The song is a piano-driven ballad (with acoustic tinges) about the meaning of home and the relationship bonds tied to them. The songwriting has a lot of heart and it’s very easy to connect with. McKenna sounds fantastic and I’m glad to see her given a chance to shine (definitely looking forward to her upcoming album). This is definitely one of the standouts of Fighter. “Lie With Me” is a love ballad with a great sense of urgency. Upon the first few listens, it feels like this song isn’t much. But upon further listens I find it to be surprisingly catchy. The songwriting isn’t bad and the instrumentation is mostly solid. It could have been better if the production was toned down though.

Nail continues to hit home runs on collaborations with “I Won’t Let You Go.” Here the iconic Vince Gill joins him. Written solely by Nail, it’s a heartbreak song about a man not being able to let go of the relationship he had with his wife. Gill’s contribution to the song comes in the form of his harmonizing with Nail on the chorus, which sounds quite good. It’s kind of perfect for Nail to collaborate with Gill, as I feel they have some striking similarities (strong voices, not traditionally country but clearly talented). The album’s title track is another strong one on the album. The song is about a man praising all of the great qualities of his woman (without reverting to sexist descriptors) and how he admires the fighter in her. While the chorus of this can get a tad checklist-y, it’s a solid effort from Nail. I also enjoy the faint fiddle that intertwines throughout. It’s another song I would like to see as a single.

“Babies” sees Nail reflect on his upbringing, which was crazy at times. But now he has a new kind of crazy in having his own children. He also thinks about how he met his wife and where they’re at now. It’s nice to see Nail show a more vulnerable, personal side to himself, as it’s songs like this that show his true potential and why I hear from so many mainstream fans that support him. There are a few sub par tracks on this album and one is definitely “Got Me Gone.” It’s your standard, shallow love song that relies too much on vanity descriptors in its chorus. It also features some pretty mediocre production, as the pop influences and drum loops are overbearing. Not to mention the effects applied to Nail in the bridge are annoying. This one should have been left on the cutting room floor.

“Champagne Promise” is about a man realizing the woman he’s met is worth nothing more than a champagne promise. Basically she’s just a one-night stand, as she’s not the kind for long-term relationships. For a top 40 adult contemporary song it isn’t bad, but for a country song it relies too heavily on the drum machine. The production is also too smooth and vanilla for my taste. Nail closes the album with his second solo written song on it, “Old Man’s Symphony.” Bear & Bo Rinehart of Christian rock band Needtobreathe join Nail on the song. Nail wrote the song about his own father and once again he shines when he digs deep into his own personal life. Nail sings about how his father played the piano and how he expressed doubt of ever breaking his shadow. He also expresses the great respect he has for his father and how he knows he’ll never be the lead in the band, but only entertain with his words. It’s a refreshingly honest song and perhaps the best on the album.

David Nail delivers his best album yet with Fighter. For most of this album, Nail realizes the potential I’ve seen in him for years. It’s good to finally see it shine through in the music and hopefully this will continue when picking the rest of the singles for this album. While I wouldn’t call this album a traditional country record by any stretch of the imagination, its not pop one either despite it’s adult contemporary leanings at times. It sits somewhere between country and pop, depending on how you draw your lines. The songwriting at it’s worst is banal and unexciting, while it’s best brilliantly draws upon personal experiences to bring raw emotion and passion to the music. While this album won’t set the world on fire, it’s the type of solid music that’s missing too much from the mainstream scene. I will gladly admit David Nail proved me wrong with Fighter.

Grade: 7/10