Album Review – Mack McKenzie’s ‘A Million Miles’

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Mack McKenzie came across the radar of Country Perspective in 2014. He released debut album One Last, One More late in year and it really impressed me. The Dayton, Ohio area based artist’s vocal style and approach evokes thoughts of Texas-based country artist Jason Eady. A lot of the songs on the album delved into darker matters such as depression and heartbreak, perfectly fitting of his gravel-y toned voice. I think what I enjoyed the most about his debut album was how confident and sure he was in his sound. You could just tell he knows what type of music he wants to make when he goes into a studio and thought behind it. So I was eager to hear how he would follow-up this solid debut with his new sophomore album A Million Miles. One thing that stands out about it immediately is it has a more cohesive theme throughout it. But it doesn’t necessarily always work on each song.

One of the standouts of this album is definitely “Drunk Over Your.” It’s your classic drink your sorrows away country song. This is the kind of song that fits McKenzie really well and can knock out with ease. The amount of sorrow and darkness in his voice really sets the perfect tone for the song. “Tell Me” sees a man pleading and hoping that his ex is missing him as much as he misses her everyday. He wonders if she wakes up from dreams in the middle of the night and if that she wants him back again. It’s a desperate, clinging hope for something that probably still isn’t there. “I Wonder” is very much along the same lines, but I think “Tell Me” gets this desperate hoping across better.

The desperation comes across great too on “M – 3.” The man just refuses to stop giving a damn about the woman he lost and he’s willing to wait a while for her to come back. This could mean him or her changing, but he refuses to give up on something that he feels so strongly about. It’s a really strong song and shows off McKenzie’s ultimate strength: expressing pain and heartbreak in his words and vocals. This theme is kind of reversed on “Where Do You Get Off.” Here the man calls bullshit on his ex saying she still loves him. But then realizes he still loves her too. In other words things are pretty complicated between the two. Neither can really come out and say what they want.

The biggest problem I seem to find with this album is that I find some of the songs over stay their welcome. That’s most exemplified on “Reasons.” It’s a perfectly fine song about a couple giving up on love while still together. But there’s no reason why it should be nearly eight minutes in length. If you’re going to make a song this long, it better be justified. It reminds me of what one of my old English teachers used to tell me: if you can say something in fewer words than what you’ve written, you need to do it. Otherwise you’re just filling space. McKenzie tackles romance and passion in “Give It To Me.” And as much as I want to like it, I just don’t. It comes off too schmaltzy for my taste. It’s not bad, but I just don’t think it fits him and his style. He’s at his best when he’s singing about grittier themes and this just seems a little too polished for him.

For the most part I think a majority of the songs on A Million Miles work well and I can see the idea McKenzie is going for with the whole album. But unfortunately he just doesn’t fully execute it to its full potential. The album kind of gets off to a slow start with its two opening songs, which I find are too broad and similar. Not to mention it doesn’t really hook you into the album like opening songs should do. It wasn’t until the third song that I really started to get into the album. The middle part of this album is where it shines brightest and found myself enjoying the most. McKenzie undoubtedly likes to dig deep with his songwriting, but I think he digs too deep on this album at times to the point where you lose the listener (I had a similar criticism with Jack Ingram’s latest album). What this album also lacked was taking risks and doing more with the sound. Despite my criticisms though, I still find A Million Miles to be a good album with some nice moments that make it worth checking out.

Grade: 7/10

 

Recommend? – Yes, if you like artists such as Jason Eady, Ryan Bingham and Corb Lund

Album Highlights: Drunk Over You, M – 3, Tell Me, Where Do You Get Off

Bad Songs: None

Wallpaper: A Million Miles, Anywhere But Here

Also the album artwork is fantastic! Kudos to the artist who made it.


You can preview and purchase Mack McKenzie’s A Million Miles at Amazon, Google Play and iTunes.

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The Hodgepodge: Country Radio’s 15 Minutes of Fame Strategy

This week’s opening will be short. I just started a new job this week so I haven’t had a ton of time to thoroughly think through this topic, but it’s something I want to dive into and would love to see readers’ thoughts on this.

Mainstream country labels seems to aim more and more for just one hit single. For all the radio hype Chris Lane got for “Fix,” his album sales tell a different story. Girl Problems hasn’t sold well out of the gate, debuting at #8 on Billboard last week and falling off the charts this week. Outselling Lane last week was Texas Country star Cody Johnson, who still remains on the charts this week. And Cody Jinks, who debuted at #4 this week with I’m Not the Devil sold more than Girl Problems did.

It’s not really breaking news that independent country stars have strong album sales, as we saw last year with Aaron Watson, Jason Isbell, Blackberry Smoke, and Turnpike Troubadours all reaching number one on the album charts. A main reason for this could be the fact that independent fan bases seem more willing to purchase an album to support their favorite artist. But being able to sell an album well, especially at the heels of a hit radio song, could signify the longevity for an artist. Yes, Cody Johnson and Cody Jinks have established careers and released multiple albums prior to Gotta Be Me and I’m Not the Devil, but strong album sales only cement their place with their fans and in the music industry.

However, with Chris Lane selling poorly after “Fix” hit number one just screams one-hit wonder. So many times, we see artists, particularly trend-chasing B/C-level artists, only perform well at radio with a song or two. Most albums seem to get delayed, or they simply just sell like crap. How do Chris Lane or Big Loud Records expect to see any follow-up success? Not that I want to hear another full-fledged pop song from Lane, but why wasn’t Girl Problems given the same type of promotion as “Fix”? I just don’t understand why they chose to play the short game for 15 minutes of fame. Chris Lane isn’t the first, and he won’t be the last. This is just one of many, many problems with mainstream country radio.

Country radio is in the pits, and these hot, one-hit wonder type songs is a short-sighted attempt to gain listeners and revenue. Labels and radio execs aren’t thinking of the long game to improve and crawl out of its self-dug hole. I don’t claim to be a programming expert, but this type of strategy screams short-term thinking. It’s treading on water without looking for a boat to help stay afloat. And as long as radio continues this thought process, we’ll be continually treated to trendy singles followed by poor albums. Artists and labels who think solely about the one single and not the album are not building a sustainable music career.

Upcoming/Recent Country and Americana Releases

  • Jack Ingram‘s Midnight Motel will be released tomorrow.
  • Whiskey Myers’ newest album, Mud will be released September 9.
  • Also coming out on the 9th is St. Paul & The Broken Bones‘ Sea of Noise.
  • Amanda Shires will release her new album My Piece of Land on September 16.
  • Erik Dylan‘s Heart of a Flatland Boy will be released on October 21.
  • Mack McKenzie is releasing his sophomore album A Million Miles on October 22.

Throwback Thursday Song

Merle Haggard’s “My Favorite Memory” This single from Haggard was released on this day in 1981, and would go on to become Merle’s 25th number one single.

Non-Country Suggestion of the Week

Frank Ocean Blonde In an act of defiance against the major labels and streaming, Frank Ocean left his label and self-released his highly anticipated sophomore album exclusively through Apple. With labels/streaming services/artists all at odds, this kind of move is big and could lead to more artists acting in the same fashion.

Tweet of the Week

It’s been a big week for Erik Dylan, who performed at this Guy Clark tribute with the likes of Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, and others. Dylan’s upcoming album was also made available for pre-order.

iTunes Review for Florida Georgia Line

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This was left under Florida Georgia Line’s Dig Your Roots, which is due out tomorrow. I’ve only heard “H.O.L.Y.” and “God, Your Mama, and Me,” but I haven’t been crazy about either song. This review says it all!

Country Perspective’s Best Country Albums of 2014

We have reached the end of 2014 and over the course of the year we’ve reviewed a lot of great country music. So in case you just found the site or don’t remember all of the great country albums we’ve reviewed, you’re in luck. Here are the links to every album we rated an 8/10 or higher over the course of the year. These are the albums we give a solid recommendation or more for you to listen to. Keep in mind this site started in May, so we won’t have every single great album. For example we never got around to reviewing Dierks Bentley’s album or Don Williams’ album, two albums that would have definitely made this list. So if there are albums missing that you love, they were most likely not reviewed. Others of course may have not been rated high enough to make it. I’m also including our album of the year candidates in case you missed those too. One more thing: only albums are included, no EPs. So without further ado here are Country Perspective’s most recommended albums of 2014.

10/10 (Album of the Year Candidates)

Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music 

Shovels & Rope – Swimmin’ Time 

Karen Jonas – Oklahoma Lottery 

Lucette – Black Is The Color 

Tami Neilson – Dynamite! 

Sunny Sweeney – Provoked 

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold 

Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy 

The Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down 

9.5/10

Angaleena Presley – American Middle Class 

Micky & The Motorcars – Hearts From Above 

Stoney LaRue – Aviator 

9/10

Wade Bowen – Wade Bowen 

Matt Woods – With Love From Brushy Mountain 

Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’ 

BlackHawk – Brothers of the Southland 

The Roys – The View 

Jason Eady – Daylight & Dark 

Mack McKenzie – One Last, One More 

Bonnie Montgomery – Bonnie Montgomery 

8.5/10

Jon Pardi – Write You A Song 

Ray Scott – Ray Scott 

Mary Sarah – Bridges 

The Buffalo Ruckus – The Buffalo Ruckus 

Rich O’Toole – Jaded 

Corb Lund – Counterfeit Blues 

8/10

Eric Paslay – Eric Paslay 

Phillip Fox Band – Heartland 

Terri Clark – Some Songs 

Derek’s Top Ten Country Songs – November 2014

My favorite thing about my top ten this month is the number of independent artists represented here. These are some great songs with wonderful vocal deliveries and fantastic songwriting.  My favorite this month by a slight edge is Mack McKenzie’s “Walk With Me”: a heartbreaking song about losing your wife after 50 years. I’m a sucker for that kind of topic, and McKenzie delivers the story with perfection over a simple, acoustic arrangement. At number 2, we have “Old Ways” from Ashley Raines & The New West Revue. Their newest album, After The Bruising was released on Thanksgiving (be on the look out for my review later this month). “Old Ways” is about life’s lessons and understanding the decisions we make have brought us to this point. Mack McKenzie appears again with “I’m Doing Alright”, “One Last, One More”, and “Oceans.” McKenzie’s One Last, One More is simply great country music.

Ashley Raines appears again with the title track from his new album. “After The Bruising” is dark and heavy with room for interpretation within the lyrics. The Doobie Brothers’ reworking of their hit, “Black Water”, with Zac Brown Band was such a pleasure to listen to. I’m convinced there isn’t a song Zac touches that I won’t like and this was no exception. Newcomers Maddie & Tae had an impressive EP released this month. I love the youthful, witty sass they write with, and “Sierra” is a great example of that. It was my favorite of the four songs on that EP. Love and Theft (remember them?) released an impressive single in late November. “Whiskey on My Breath” is about a man who drinks too much and has a life that fell into shambles. When he dies he knows he’ll get into heaven, but the shame of facing Jesus with whiskey on his breath scares him. It’s a wonderful song. And finally, I realize there are only 9 songs on that playlist. My last song comes from Garth Brooks. You know, the man who called Youtube “the Devil” and is anti streaming so I can’t link his studio tracks. I loved “Tacoma” off Man Against Machine.  

As a treat, here’s “Tacoma” songwriter Caitlyn Smith performing the song:

Josh’s Top Ten Country Songs – November 2014

 

The month of November wasn’t exactly brimming with great new country music. That was expected considering the CMA Awards and several artists releasing greatest hits albums. Also from August to September there were a lot of new albums being released, as you’ve seen the numerous reviews we’ve done over the last few months. That being said there was still enough quality country music to compile a good top ten list for the month of November. I thought for sure Garth Brooks would have the #1 song for the month, but a familiar duo snuck in at the last second and stole the top spot.

1. First Aid Kit – “America” (Cover) – The Swedish duo of Johanna & Anna Söderberg’s cover of Paul Simon’s “America” is simply too damn good not to be the #1 country song of November 2014. First Aid Kit impresses me more every time I hear them sing and there’s a reason why you’ll see their names pop up a lot in Country Perspective’s year-end awards. This is one cover I can’t describe to you properly and something you just need to hear yourself.

 

2. Garth Brooks – “Tacoma” – Despite not getting the top spot, Garth occupies the most spots in the top ten with four songs and forced me to break my three songs per artist rule. This is easily the best vocal performance by Garth on his new album Man Against Machine. It’s also his favorite song on the album. One more thing: Garth isn’t on the Spotify playlist for this month’s top ten because he of course isn’t on Spotify. If you would like to hear a preview of his songs on his new album or any of the songs in the top ten, click here.

3. Mack McKenzie – “Walk With Me” – Debut albums aren’t supposed to impress me as much as Mack McKenzie’s new album One Last, One More. And yet it did. The standout song to me from the album is the final track, “Walk With Me.” It’s an emotional song about an older man whose wife has passed away and he’s now lost without her. He recalls all of their memories throughout the song and by the end of the song his time on Earth is coming to an end. The haunting female background vocals puts this song over the top for me.

4. Garth Brooks – “Rodeo and Juliet” – Only Garth would bring Western swing to a country album in 2014. Really he is one of the few in mainstream country who can get away with this kind of creative decision. Nobody does Western swing anymore, yet here’s Garth bringing it back with glee. Thank you Garth and I hope to see another Western swing song on his 2015 album.

5. Garth Brooks – “Send ‘Em on Down the Road” – This is a heartfelt song about parents raising their children, watching them grow up and then sending them off into the world. While “Tacoma” was the best vocal performance on Garth’s new album, I thought this was the best song lyrically. If I could have made one decision for Garth’s new album, I would have made this the first single from it.

6. The Doobie Brothers & The Zac Brown Band – “Black Water” (Cover) – This is the second time this year that Zac Brown Band has managed to make one of my monthly top ten lists by covering another artists’ song. “Black Water” is more of a southern rock song, so it fits Zac Brown Band like a glove. The Doobie Brothers’ Southbound album didn’t blow me away, but this was the brightest spot on the entire album.

 

7. Mack McKenzie – “Oceans” – What makes this song standout to me is how the lyrics paint a perfect picture in the listeners’ heads of what this song is about. It’s ironic McKenzie would be right beside Garth Brooks on this playlist because his incorporation of the ocean sound effects at the beginning and end of the song reminded me of Brooks using thunder sound effects in his famous song “Thunder Rolls.” This song describes the feelings of breakup quite well and demonstrates what a great storyteller McKenzie is with his music.

8. Garth Brooks – “Man Against Machine” – Originally I had “Fish” in this spot, but this past weekend I listened to Garth’s album a few more times and I found myself playing “Man Against Machine” a lot. I realized the more you listen to this song, the more it will grow on you. When I first heard this song I didn’t know what to make of it because it’s so different. It doesn’t exactly have a country sound, but it has a great message and Garth’s current vocals match up well with a song like this. This could have been another great single choice for Garth.

9. Maddie & Tae – “Sierra” – Back in July, Maddie & Tae came out with their polarizing first single “Girl in a Country Song” and captured everyone’s attention. That month in country music, however had so much great music being released that this single just missed out on making my top ten list for July. Other than Garth Brooks’ and Mack McKenzie’s new albums, the month of November had hardly any competition and made it easy for me to put Maddie & Tae in my top ten monthly list for the first time ever. To me this is the best song they have put out yet, although they have only put out four songs total.

 

10. Mack McKenzie – “Your Ways” – The third song for McKenzie in my November top ten playlist. The thing that immediately caught my eye in this song is the piano play. Not only is the instrumentation good, but the lyrics are solid. This is only the first we’re hearing from McKenzie and he’s already pretty good. I think he’s only going to get better as his career progresses.

That’s it for the November playlist! There will probably not be a top ten list for December as there isn’t a lot of new non-holiday music being released. We will however be announcing nominees for Country Perspective’s year-end awards, highlighting the very best and worst of 2014 in country music. Don’t miss it!