Country Singles Jubilee 01.05.09: The Just Say No Edition
The holidays are over and everything is starting to get back to normal around here. Christmas/New Years was fun, but I am glad it’s over. Now it’s time to face down a brand new year. It will not take much effort for 2009 to be a better year than 2008. Last year was a total disaster. 2008 was the year that finally killed my youth. My childhood hero, Ric Flair, “retired” and the bowling alley where I worked while I was in high school closed for good. Plus, last summer my mother succumbed to a bout with breast cancer. Barring becoming homeless or the end of the world, 2009 WILL be better.
Top 40 Country Singles Reviews
Martina McBride – “Ride”
My opinion of Martina McBride has changed over the years. When I was younger, I was a big fan. Songs like “Broken Wing”, “Independence Day”, and “The Way That I Am” still have me singing along when they come on the radio. I also used to have the biggest crush on her too. Now-a-days though, I can’t remember the last hit she had that I liked. Probably way back to 2001’s “When God Fearin’ Women Get The Blues”. Perhaps there is some correlation because her last number one country hit, “Blessed”, was also in 2001.
“Ride” can be found on Martina McBride’s yet to be released 2009 album Martina McBride. (The albums’ rumored release date is March 31, 2009). The song has a “live in the moment” theme with some very rocking instrumentation for a country tune. Martina did a CMT Crossroads with Pat Benetar and it appears that it rubbed off on her. Martina’s powerful vocals combined with the rocking background makes up for the over-used theme. Will this song be a number one hit for McBride? I doubt it. After a five year absence from the Top 10 Country Singles Chart, I am afraid it will take something better than “Ride” to break back through. However, I could be wrong. Country fans are easy to please.
Favorite Lyric: “Shine while you still have a chance to shine / Laugh even when you want to cry”
Rating: 2.5/5 – Martina McBride still has the pipes to produce some great stuff. Please break out of the cliche-box and knock one out of the park before it’s too late.
Toby Keith – “God Love Her”
If you are reading this country music column, you know who Toby Keith is and chances are you have a strong opinion of him. You either hate him (smarmy, “sophisticated” country fans and those who are country fans and will not admit it) or you love him (common country fans and rednecks). I stand somewhere in the middle on this one. Obviously I lean toward the smarmy, “sophisticated” country fan because I write this column and crack jokes that get people pissed off at me all the time. However, I have done enough research on Toby Keith and his career that I respect the man. Without enough info, Toby comes off as an abrasive, blindly patriotic republican. In reality though, he describes himself as a “conservative Democrat” who thinks politics are destroying America. Doesn’t sound like the same person that wrote/sings “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” right? Do some research. It might change your mind.
“God Love Her” is the second single from Toby Keith’s twelfth studio album, That Don’t Make Me A Bad Guy. Before listening to the song, I was hoping this wasn’t going to be cheesy country song about God and religion that would make me want to jam pencils into my ears. Luckily, “God Love Her” isn’t one of those songs. In fact, it’s a pretty damn good country tune that never crosses that cheesy religion line. It’s about a preacher’s daughter who, of course, falls for the bad boy. They run off together and make the parents angry. Eventually down the line, the bad boy hits rock bottom from all the hard living. During all this time, the girl has held onto her faith and uses it to save him. It’s a beautiful story about faith in God and faith in the one you love, done right. You hear that Josh Turner? You hear that Reba? You hear that all you other country artists that over-use the country music religion cliche? Toby Keith did it right!
Favorite Lyric: “And then my gypsy life started taking it’s toll / and the fast lane got empty and out of control / and just like an angel / she saved my soul from The Devil”
Rating: 5/5 – This is the way you work religion into a song. I hate it when country music tries to preach to me. “God Love Her” should reach number one. It deserves it.
Jack Ingram – “That’s A Man”
Jack Ingram is a country singer from Texas and is one hell of a workhorse performer. The man was totally committed to his music. He’d been on the music scene since 1992 before finally hitting it big in 2005 with “Wherever You Are”, his first Top 25 country hit and his first number one single. His subsequent singles have dipped further and further down the charts though. His follow-up single “Love You” peaked at 12, “Lips of Angel” at number 16, “Measure of Man” at 18, and “Maybe She’ll Get Lonely” at number 24. His current single “That’s A Man” is currently resting at number 23 on the charts, so there is hope yet for Jack Ingram.
“That’s A Man” will be included on Jack Ingram’s forthcoming 2009 album that according to CMT will take Ingram to the next level. Whatever that means. The song is an ode to a young daddy doing right by his family, an ode to a soldier who did his damnedest to save his friend, and an ode to the true-blue farmer all rolled up into one song. Ingram claims these guys are the true definition of being a man. The message is definitely worthy of a song, but a better written one. Some of the phrasing is awkward and a better choice of words could be used in some places. The music is adequate for the song, but it could use a little more energy.
Favorite Lyric: “Yeah, he says he’d do anything he could in this world / Just to give his young family a better life / yeah, a better life / Oh, that’s a man / That’s a 19-year-old, modern-day hero man”
Rating: 2.5/5 – “That’s A Man” is good in concept, but lackluster in execution.
Retro Country Single Review
John Prine – “Illegal Smile”
John Prine is an “under the radar” artist for most people, but to those who are familiar with his work he is one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Prine started out playing country/folk music in the Chicago area in the 1960s and is still writing and recording today. (His latest album being 2007’s Standard Songs For Average People). His dry wit, his way with words, and his odd subjects make him stand out from the pack. He can make you feel uncomfortable and sad (“Sam Stone”) or can make you burst with laughter (“Dear Abby”). He can make you think (“Paradise”) or he can make you throw your hands in the air and just let things happen (“That’s the Way That The World Goes Round”).
“Illegal Smile” is a sly little ditty about having a good time illegally. It can be found on John Prine’s 1971 debut album John Prine. The poor guy in the song is having a bad day and all-round rough time. Fortunately for him, he “has the key to escape reality”. Of course he’s talking about taking drugs. Marijuana to be exact, because it “doesn’t cost very much”. Prine does a great job lyrically of painting the story of man who smokes a little marijuana to escape his bad day and then hallucinates a couple of things. He starts to think his friends are trying to sell him insurance for some reason. Then he gets paranoid and thinks he’s on trial because the police can read his thoughts. It’s a fun little song that will leave a smile on your face.
Favorite Lyric: “A bowl of oatmeal tried to stare me down / and won”
Interesting Fact: John Prine’s song “Storm Windows” appears on four of his cds (Storm Windows, two greatest hits, and a live cd) and is track number seven on all of them.
Rating: 4.5/5 – “Illegal Smile” makes me smile…legally of course.
I Bet You’ve Never Heard This Song, Review
The Boxmasters – “The Poor House”
Billy Bob Thorton is a musician. I bet you didn’t know that? He’s the front-man for the electric hillbilly group known as The Boxmasters. At the core, The Boxmasters are Billy Bob Thorton on lead vocals and drums, J.D. Andrew on rhythm and acoustic guitar and bass, and Mike Butler on lead guitar and lap steel. They produce a sound that includes influences from Dwight Yoakam to Dean Martin and from Johnny Cash to The Animals. Thorton’s voice is an acquired taste but somehow fits the music so well. They’ve already released their debut album and a Christmas album this year and plan to release another album in the spring.
“The Poor House” is the lead off single to The Boxmaster’s debut album entitled The Boxmasters. It’s a slide guitar driven song about a man whose got a plan to save his family from the dreaded poor house. It’s alluded to in the song that it’s because of the man’s addictions and gambling problems that the family is in trouble anyway. The man pledges to find a way to save his family though. “The Poor House” sounds like Merle Haggard playing the Bakersfield sound while on acid. Now how cool is that? Plus a band whose road band includes Alice Cooper’s bass player, Chuck Garric, and the re-animated, homosexual, zombie corpse of Waylon Jennings is fucking rocking in my book.
Favorite Lyric: “I’ll sit with the grannies at the nickel machines and pull handles to my hands are blue / I’ll do just about anything to bring a future home to you”
Rating: 4.5/5 – “The Poor House” is perfect for any country music fan who doesn’t mind poking a little fun at themselves.
That’s all for this week’s Country Singles Jubilee. Keep your chin up, because we’ll be back next week!