Album Review – Kenny Chesney’s ‘Cosmic Hallelujah’

kenny-chesney-cosmic-bullshit

If you asked me what mainstream country artist I get questioned the most on when it comes to my position on them, it would be hands down Kenny Chesney. I usually have a pretty negative or lukewarm take on his music and this seems to take a good bit of people off guard, much to my surprise. I’m not sure why I’m supposed to be impressed by an artist whose career has consisted mostly of music about the beach, simplistic themes that have been done to death and drinking. I thought his last album The Big Revival really drove this across, but apparently it didn’t. So now Chesney returns with the followup to it, Cosmic Hallelujah. This title just screams bullshit to me, but I still gave it chance since there’s not many other releases coming up in November. It was pretty much what I expected all along and further reinforced my stance on his music because Chesney does absolute nothing new on this album.

This is same old tired schtick from Chesney I’ve heard for years from him. There’s a boring, generic song about how we should live it up because we’re alive, so let’s crack a can of (insert current Chesney beer sponsor) and party that I feel like I’ve heard a 1,001 times and counting. Can you guess which song I’m referring to? Trick question! This actually refers to multiple songs, including “Trip Around the Sun,” “Some Town, Somewhere” and “Winnebago.” Of course pretty much every song alludes to this theme in some way or another. Chesney sings about only listening to pretty girls on “All the Pretty Girls.” I don’t what the hell the appeal of this song is and I don’t really want to waste precious air and time on trying to figure it out. It’s three and a half minutes I’ll never get back.

“Setting The World On Fire” is this album’s big hit so far, despite the fact the guest of the song Pink sings more than purported main artist of the song, Chesney. The only thing I have to further add about this song is I would rather be listening to Pink over Chesney any day because her music is actually interesting. There’s a song on this album called “Bar at the End of the World,” which makes no sense because I thought Chesney and Pink already set the world on fire. Yeah I know this is a bad joke, but I assure you that this is more interesting than the song, which is also a bad joke.

I was expecting to like at least one song on the album and the most likely candidate seemed to be “Jesus and Elvis.” That’s because two of the three songwriters on the song are Hayes Carll and Allison Moorer, who I greatly respect and enjoy their work. Well I don’t even like this one because this song seems to have an idea, but never does anything with it. The theme seems to be reuniting with old friends, but this is never expanded upon or has anything meaningful to say. We just keep hearing Chesney drone on about velvet paintings of Jesus and Elvis. The album’s lead single “Noise” is so damn boring that country radio didn’t even like it and they’ll usually play any bullshit Chesney sends to them. That should tell you all you need to know about this lame attempt by Chesney to say something about the prevalence of media today. What’s sad is this is probably the best song on Cosmic Hallelujah. And I haven’t gotten to the very worst of this album.

I’m on record as not being a fan of Chesney’s hit song “Boys of Fall” due to the fact it’s a song that over-glorifies high school football to the point I want to puke and features some of the most saccharine bullshit I’ve ever seen spewed about sports. And this comes from a sport fans. So you can put me down for the same thing when it comes to this album’s concluding song “Coach.” Also I’m officially predicting this will be Chesney’s current single in the fall of 2017. If I had to pick the dumbest song of the album, it would have to go to “Bucket.” Written by Brett James and Craig Wiseman, this song is getting drunk and saying fuck it to your responsibilities. This isn’t just me showing anger; this is what the song is actually about as Chesney sings a line about how you should replace the b in bucket list with an f. Some will argue this is just a dumb fun song, but I argue this is just plain dumb.

There’s a lot of boring crap on this album and it makes me want to rip my hair out. But there’s only song on this album that really pisses me off and that’s “Rich and Miserable.” This might be the worst song of Chesney’s entire career, even worse than “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy.” It’s a stilted, clunky, heavily pop influenced song that is essentially “Noise 2: Electric Boogaloo.” Chesney does not sing on this song, but is rather somewhere between shouting and mumbling. I think the title of the song perfectly personifies where Chesney’s career and mindset is at this time.

I can confidently say after listening to Kenny Chesney’s Cosmic Hallelujah that I never want to hear it again for the rest of my life. I absolutely hate this album and I was actively angry as I forced myself to listen to it. If you made me choose between listening to this album or Florida Georgia Line’s newest album Dig Your Roots, I would choose the latter every single time because the latter actually has some good songs. Chesney clearly isn’t trying anymore and just wants this paycheck. At this point he’s just rehashing the same old songs we’ve heard from him year after year.

Grade: 3/10

 

Recommend? – Hell No!

Album Highlights: Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing to see here.

Bad Songs: Rich and Miserable, Coach, Bucket, All the Pretty Girls

Wallpaper: The rest of the album


Stream The Entire Album Below I Guess:

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Country Perspective’s 40 Most Essential Country & Americana Albums of 2015

Country Perspective's 2015 Most Essential Albums

We’ve reached the end of 2015 and as you’ve seen over this last month there have numerous best of and worst of lists and everything in between. The “listpocalypse” as many dub it is finally ending and we can start focusing on new music really soon. But before we look forward to the new music of 2016, we want to look back one last time on the music of country and Americana in 2015. These are the albums we consider the absolute must listen albums of 2015 if you’re a fan of country and Americana. We should point out that this year’s essential albums list is different in that last year’s list was all albums that we ranked 8/10 or better. This year’s essential list only contains albums (and a few EPs) ranked 9/10 or better.

Originally we wanted to just have it narrowed down to 25 albums, but then it grew to 30 and then 35 before eventually 40. We wanted to make sure we go all of the great music on the list! Keep in mind if we didn’t put an album on this list it’s not because we’re haters or we’re attacking your favorite artist. Do not turn the comments section into “Well you didn’t put (insert name) on the list and you didn’t put this on the list, so I hate it.” Instead put together your own list in the comments if you want, as this is more constructive and creates more interesting conversation.

Now that I’ve gotten all of the ground rules out of the way, let’s get to the music. These are what we consider the 36 most essential country and Americana albums of 2015.

The Best of the Best

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

Whitey Morgan – Sonic Ranch

Chris Stapleton – Traveller 

The Awesome Ones

Don Henley – Cass County 

Tami Neilson – Don’t Be Afraid

Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight 

Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers – Hold My Beer, Vol. 1

Turnpike Troubadours – Turnpike Troubadours

Sam Outlaw – Angeleno 

Jonathan Tyler – Holy Smokes

Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses

Pretty Damn Great

Whitney Rose – Heartbreaker of the Year

Maddie & Tae – Start Here

Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions

Eric Church – Mr. Misunderstood

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material

Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds

Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter

The Malpass Brothers – The Malpass Brothers

Rick Elliot – West of the Rockies EP

The Lone Bellow – Then Came The Morning

“I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair”

Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart 

George Strait – Cold Beer Conversation

Alan Jackson – Angels & Alcohol

James McMurtry – Complicated Game

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django & Jimmie

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – The Traveling Kind

A Little Bit of Everything

John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat

The Mavericks – Mono

Banditos – Banditos

Corb Lund – Things That Can’t Be Undone

Lindi Ortega – Faded Gloryville 

Will Hoge – Small Town Dreams

Jon Pardi – The B-Sides, 2011-2014 EP

Jamie Lin Wilson – Holidays & Wedding Rings

Justin Townes Earle – Absent Fathers 

Tony Furtado – The Bell

Allison Moorer – Down To Believing 

Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet

The Black Lillies – Hard To Please 

Country Perspective’s Best Country Albums of 2015 So Far

We’ve reached the mid-point of 2015, so it’s time to look back at the year so far for country music. Up first we take a look back at the best country albums of 2015 so far. There has certainly been a lot of great albums and the competition for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year award is already tightly contested.

Remember for an album to be considered for Album of the Year, it must receive a 10/10 score. Those won’t be the only ones listed below though, as all the highly rated albums so far will be highlighted. Remember too that it’s impossible for us to keep up with every single release and we do our best to cover the most albums possible. So please don’t be that person in the comments section that says something along the lines of: “This list is irrelevant because (insert album) isn’t on it” or “This list sucks.” Agree or disagree all you want, just be respectful about it. Not everyone has the same opinion, so keep this in mind.

So without further ado, the best country albums of 2015 so far (in no particular order)….

(Click on the album name to see the full review)

Album of the Year Candidates

Chris Stapleton Traveller

Chris Stapleton – Traveller

The hype was high heading into Chris Stapleton’s album. Not only did he meet the hype, he surpassed it with Traveller. I don’t think I could ask anymore from a country album than what I hear on this album. It has everything a country music fan should want in their music. What impressed me the most out of all is Stapleton’s voice. Holy shit I did not expect him to blow me away so much vocally. He’s easily one of the best in country music today. The songwriting is top-notch, but we knew that already. The instrumentation and production is spotless, as once again Dave Cobb is in top form. I have no complaints with this album, as Stapleton is a visionary. Traveller is a must-own and is easily one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

Whitey Morgan – Sonic Ranch

Whitey Morgan Sonic Ranch

What makes this album stand out above a lot of other country albums released so far is how cohesive and tight-knit everything is on this album. The instrumentation and the production is flat-out perfect. The lyrics are emotional and tell brilliant stories throughout it. Morgan’s bellowing voice reminds me of a lot of Waylon Jennings and Sturgill Simpson, yet Whitey is much more gruff and gritty giving it a different texture compared to the likes of Jennings and Simpson. The album is the exact right length of 10 songs. It leaves no room for unnecessary filler that can bring the quality down. It’s straight, no-holds barred, outlaw-style country music that will leave you wanting more. This is the kind of album that will make people take notice of Whitey Morgan and put him on the radar of country music fans everywhere. This is an artist and album everyone needs to hear. Sonic Ranch right now is one of the top candidates for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. There are very few country albums better than this one.

Houndmouth Little Neon Limelight

Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight

Little Neon Limelight is flawless in every aspect. Houndmouth’s vocals are dynamic and the harmonies will stick with you for a while. Each song tells a story or conveys some sort of emotion in the listener, which is what great music does. While there are a few somber songs, this album is mostly fun and even mixes in some good humor. This is an album I thinks some people might let slip through the cracks and miss out on. Don’t be one of these people. Anyone who appreciates great music should hear it. If you’re into groups like Shovels & Rope or The Lone Bellow, you’ll enjoy Houndmouth even more. I highly recommend this album. Without a doubt one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2015.

Blackberry Smoke Holding All The Roses

Blackberry Smoke – Holding All The Roses

Overall, Holding All The Roses is what southern rock is all about. Each song is unique and adds quality to the album. The lyrics are fresh and just damn fun to listen to; it’s really hard to find a song on here that’s bad. The album is paced well and even when Blackberry Smoke venture down a country alley for a song or two, those country songs are better than pretty much everything that radio offers. Holding All The Roseshas a throwback feel to a golden era of rock and country music, delivering on every track. Their previous album, The Whippoorwill, was fantastic in its own right, but Blackberry Smoke followed it up with an equally outstanding record. Holding All The Roses will be a tough act to follow.

Bowen & Rogers Hold My Beer

Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – Hold My Beer, Vol. 1

Hold My Beer is simply put a fantastic album. There are no down moments in this album and it holds the listeners’ attentions the whole way through it. The rich and traditional instrumentation makes you want to listen to every song over and over again. I don’t think you can find too many pairs that would gel better than Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers either. This is a perfect example of why I want to see more collaborations in country music. On this album this two great artists in their own right came together and produced something amazing. I like how the full album name is Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. because that means this is the first of hopefully many more collaboration albums from these two. I definitely recommend buying this album. It’s a must-own for fans of country music.

The Malpass Brothers

The Malpass Brothers – The Malpass Brothers

Very rarely am I left speechless and a loss for words when listening to a great album, but this is the case with The Malpass Brothers’ new self-titled album. This is just pure, classic country that words can’t do justice. I’ve listened to this album over and over. I can’t get over how great it is and how two young artists like Chris and Taylor Malpass get country music so damn well. These guys were born to make country music. If you’re a fan of pop country music, don’t listen to this album. It’s simply too country for you. For those who love traditional and classic country, buy this album, press play and prepare to be amazed. You can’t get anymore country than this album. This is one of my favorites of 2015 and I can’t wait to hear more music from The Malpass Brothers for years to come.

Dwight Yoakam Second Hand Heart

Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart

There’s no other way to say it: Second Hand Heart is awesome. You aren’t going to hear many country albums as good as this one for the rest of the year. It has touching ballads, rocking honky-tonk and some of the best instrumentation I’ve heard on an album in recent memory. Yoakam’s voice is as brilliant as ever. I think I speak for Yoakam fans everywhere when I say this: don’t ever leave music again. While I enjoyed Yoakam as Pastor Phil in Four Christmases, I would much rather listen to him produce amazing albums like this one. I give Second Hand Heart my highest recommendation, as it’s definitely a top candidate for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. Just like he did back in the 80s, Yoakam brings us traditional country in a world that badly needs it.

The Mavericks Mono

The Mavericks – Mono

Mono from start to finish seduces you with its sultry songs. The deeper you go into this album, the more you will love it. I thought In Time was the best this group could do, but they proved me wrong. Mono is even better than In Time, which I did not think could be possible. They have just set the bar pretty high for everyone else in country music in 2015. There’s a lot of heavy hitters yet to release their albums in 2015, but they better bring their all if they want to top this album. Without a doubt, a top contender for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year. Go buy this album and listen to it over and over. The Mavericks’ Mono is a shining example of not only how country music should be done, but really how all music should be done.

Gretchen Peters – Blackbirds

Overall, Blackbirds is dark and heartbreaking, but there’s an ironic beauty to the darkness. Gretchen Peters is a seasoned, award-winning songwriter. Her writing onBlackbirds is top-notch; with scenes and feelings described perfectly within each song while still driving the story forward. And as I mentioned before, the production on each track adds even more to the mood of the songs. Regardless of how dark the album may be, the consistency and focus put into making every aspect work in conjunction pays off. Blackbirds is a fantastic album.

The Lone Bellow

The Lone Bellow – Then Came The Morning

The Lone Bellow’s Then Came The Morning simply blows me away. The year is still new, but this album will hold up as one of the best in country music all year. I don’t think it would be a stretch to call this trio one of the most dynamic in music. If you’re looking for a comparison, I would say the closest is Shovels & Rope, except more bluesy and not quite as dark. So if you love Shovels & Rope, you’ll love this group. Some may say this isn’t a country album, but I don’t care what genre you put it under. This is just great music that everyone should hear. This is without a doubt a strong contender for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year.

Diamondwolf – Your Time Has Come

Overall, Your Time Has Come, is a fantastic album. Many times, it’s the Indie music artists who are the most talented in both writing and instrumentation, and Diamondwolf is no exception to that thought. In fact, they’re a great example of that thought. The deep metaphors and meaning found in the writing of these songs are a lost art in mainstream music. Alicia Dara and Glen Cooper sing these deep lyrics beautifully on every track. Even though you may have to listen to some of these songs a few times to fully grasp the meaning, it’s worth it. The reality and honesty grounded in each track only makes Your Time Has Come that much better. I highly recommend this album.

Other Highly Recommended Albums

Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter

Allison Moorer – Down To Believing 

Will Hoge – Small Town Dreams

Jon Pardi – The B-Sides, 2011-2014 EP 

Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie 

Jamie Lin Wilson – Holidays and Wedding Rings 

Justin Townes Earle – Absent Fathers 

Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions

James McMurtry – Complicated Game

John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat 

Reba – Love Somebody

Ryan Bingham – Fear and Saturday Night

Cody Canada and the Departed – HippieLovePunk 

The Western Swing Authority – Now Playing 

Judson Cole Band – Eastern Skies 

Striking Matches – Nothing But The Silence

Aaron Watson – The Underdog 

William Clark Green – Ringling Road

American Aquarium – Wolves 

Derek’s Top Ten Country Songs – March 2015

Derek Top 10 March

Another month, another top ten list! Several independent album releases and one fantastic new single make up my list. April’s looking at many releases, several of which I’m personally looking forward to. However, this is March and women or women in a part of groups, make up quite a bit of my list this month! Without further ado….

1. “Let It Shine” by Rick Elliot – A callback to outlaw country, Elliot has a great voice for country music and this song showcases it. And to think he’s only 18! Rick Elliot is bringing back the golden sound from country’s best era.

2. “Mama Let the Wolf In” by Allison Moorer – This is the best song off Down to Believing. “Mama Let The Wolf In” is a response to Moorer’s son’s diagnosis of autism. She sings from a perspective of blame and guilt, and her emotions fly in this song.

3. “Make A Liar Out of Me” by Striking Matches – Justin Davis’ vocals shine on a track where he rediscovers love. However, the best part of this song is the 75 second guitar solo closing the song. “Make A Liar Out of Me” rocks on all levels.

4. “By God” by Houndmouth – Great production? Check. Awesome vocals? Check. Fantastic lyrics? Check. This song has the whole package! The best song off Little Neon Limelight.

5. “The Stranger At My Door” by Brandi Carlile – This rocker is the standout off of The Firewatcher’s Daughter.” The production here is spectacular and Carlile’s vocals shine.

6. “When the Right One Comes Along” by Striking Matches – Beautiful lyrics describing love in a realistic way. A stripped-down production behind Sarah Zimmerman’s vocals are a perfect accent to the song.

7. “Down To Believing” by Allison Moorer – Touching lyrics exploring the aftermath of a heartbreak: Simply, do we or don’t we believe that we’ll be back together. Moorer’s vocal performance here are flawless.

8. “Wilder (We’re Chained)” by Brandi Carlile – I love the subdued, slow tempo of this song of life and love. From the sound effects to the vocal performance, this is one of my favorites off Carlile’s album.

9. “Sedona” by Houndmouth – I love this song tribute to “Little Hollywood.” The groove of the melody combined with the vocals are awesome on this track.

10. “Windfall” by Joe Pug – This Chicago singer-songwriter sings about taking charge in life. You’ll go nowhere if you wait around for handouts. This is my favorite off Pug’s new album of the same name.

 

Josh’s Top Ten Country Songs – March 2015

March 2015

We started off 2015 with two great months of country music. So it was only natural that March would be a let down. Mainstream country music only produced one pretty good album along with a bunch of garbage. Fortunately independent and alt-country came through with some great releases, including an album of the year candidate. Putting together a top ten this month was a little easier as a few albums dominated the majority of the top ten. Let’s take a look at the best ten country songs of March 2015…

  1. Houndmouth – “15 Years” – The aforementioned album of the year candidate was Houndmouth’s new album Little Neon Limelight and it’s littered with great songs. If you haven’t checked this album out yet, you need to asap. While there were a lot of great songs, the song stood out for me the most was “15 Years.” It essentially captures the feeling of the entire album. It’s fun, well-written, contains good harmonies and the instrumentation is spot-on. Ironically once the song is finished playing, you can hear one of the members say, “Yeah I totally botched that.” If that’s what botched sounds like, give me botched music.
  2. Striking Matches – “Hanging On A Lie” – Mainstream country music wasn’t good at all in the month of March, except for one group. If you want to call them mainstream that is. That group is Striking Matches and their debut album Nothing But The Silence, which is surprisingly pretty good. Derek rightly praised this album for its brilliant harmonies and engaging ballads. I didn’t expect to like it as much, but I enjoyed listening to this album thoroughly. Country music is struggling to find new music on radio, yet this song is right under their noses. Put “Hanging On A Lie” on the radio please.
  3. Allison Moorer – “If I Were Stronger” – Moorer’s first new album in several years, Down To Believing, had a lot of good music throughout. There’s one particular three song stretch on the album though that just blows me away. One of those songs and the third of those three songs is “If I Were Stronger.” This sounds like a stirring ballad you would hear from Martina McBride in the 90s and that isn’t a bad thing. Moorer’s voice soars in this song and the piano gives it the perfect tone.
  4. Lindi Ortega – “Tell It Like It Is” – Can Ortega’s new album come out already? “Tell It Like It Is” is the first song off of it and if it’s any indication of what we’re in for with the album, it may be a candidate for Country Perspective’s 2015 Album of the Year award. The Canadians’ sultry voice and the bluesy instrumentation combine to produce an alluring and enjoyable song. Again I can’t wait to hear the album.
  5. Houndmouth – “By God” – The second appearance from Houndmouth and the song that rounds out the top five is “By God.” Here’s what I had to say about this song in my album review of Little Neon Limelight: “By God” is a rock country song with a rocking beat and a subtle, sinister undertone. It’s about a man who has things going wrong around him and insisting for them to “turn out the lights,” but to leave his “candle burning.” The harmonies are spot-on throughout. Everything in this song simply works to make for one of the best songs on the album. 
  6. Brandi Carlile – “The Stranger At My Door” – Carlile makes her first appearance in the March top ten with “The Stranger At My Door.” It’s from her fiery and damn good album The Firewatcher’s Daughter. This song in particular is quite dark while brilliantly blending country, folk, blues and rock. At the end of the song though it crashes into a rock ‘n roll frenzy and really adds an exclamation point it. This is another album you definitely need to hear.
  7. Allison Moorer – “Down To Believing” – The second Moorer song to make the top ten is also part of the great stretch of three songs on the album. It’s the album’s title track, “Down To Believing,” which is a song that grapples with a difficult relationship and whether it’s worth holding onto. Moorer drew from her past relationship with fellow alt-country artist Steve Earle, so the feelings being expressed by Moorer in this song are real and genuine. It’s makes for emotional and touching music.
  8. Striking Matches – “Make A Liar Out of Me” – The other standout song to me on Striking Matches’ debut album is “Make A Liar Out of Me.” What makes this song so great is you can sense the chemistry between Davis and Zimmerman is completely in-sync. It makes the song feel more believable and emotional. Kudos to producer T Bone Burnett for getting the production just right on this song too.
  9. Rick Elliot – “Let It Shine” – The California, old school country artist makes his first appearance on a Country Perspective top ten list with his second single, “Let It Shine.” And that’s only because I reviewed his first single after that month’s top ten list was published. “Let It Shine” is a brilliant throwback to the Bakersfield sound, while also sounding modern. Elliot’s voice is flawlessly brilliant. The best is yet to come for this young country artist.
  10. Brandi Carlile – “The Eye” – The top ten list for March is rounded out by another Brandi Carlile song, “The Eye.” From my review of the album: “Carlile’s powerful voice punctuates through on “The Eye.” Her powerful voice combined with the backing vocals of the twins, it makes for great harmony.”  

Honorable Mentions:

  • Brandi Carlile – “Beginning To Feel The Years”
  • Houndmouth – “Gasoline” & “Darlin'” 
  • Allison Moorer – “Tear Me Apart”
  • Ronnie Reno – “All That’s Worth Remembering”