Posts Tagged With: LeAnn Rimes

Top 9 Country Music Albums of 2013

So why top 9 and not top 10? Well, still being relatively new to the country music scene I spent a lot of 2013 listening to albums that didn’t actually come out last year. So as much as I might have played Eric Church and Brantley Gilbert a lot, neither of their albums came out last year and are thus not valid. But Eric did have an album out last year I hear you cry! Yes, but I don’t have Caught In The Act, yet (that may change by the end of this article), it was Chief I was referring to.

There were then albums such as Annie Up by The Pistol Annies which I just didn’t find worthy a place in a top list. It was okay, but not a patch on their Hell On Heels album, and nowhere near the quality of the albums I have placed. So, now we have that sorted, let the countdown commence!

9) Pioneer – The Band Perry

The first time I heard the second album from this Perry family trio I wasn’t impressed, and that disappointed me. I loved their debut album and Better Dig Two was one of my absolute favourite songs of the year. I was all ready to throw my toys out of the pram, and CD out the window, when I had a change of heart and decided to give it another chance. Do you know what? It grew on me. Better Dig Two is by far the stand out track, but the title track Pioneer is a cracking song, with Don’t Let Me Be Lonely not far behind. Mother Like Mine still irritates me, in that Kimberley isn’t the only one in the band whose Mother that is. A great pop country album with tons of cross over appeal.

8) Woman On The Wheel – Gretchen Peters

I love live music albums, and after seeing Gretchen Peters live in June, getting her live CD/DVD combination was a given. Woman On The Wheel contains live versions of the songs on her latest album Hello Cruel World, with 3 bonus tracks. One of those extra tracks is Wild Horses, which was originally by The Rolling Stones, and not The Sundays as Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans might think! If you’ve never heard Gretchen before then please check her out as there are few people in music that put as much passion into their music as she does. The album comes presented in a hardback book format with a stack of photos, and a DVD with it. For shame I’ve not yet watched the DVD, but as well as an hour long look back at the tour, it also includes music videos for several of the songs.

7) The Other Life – Shooter Jennings

If Vickye from For The Country Record needs a partner in her crusade against Bro-Country then she need look no further than the son of country legend Waylon Jennings, Shooter Jennings. There are a few tracks on this album that are used as a vehicle for Shooter to vent his frustrations, but none more obviously than Outlaw You, which declares “Hey pretty boy in the baseball hat, You couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat, Country ain’t just about where you’re at, It’s about bein’ true to what’s inside”. Now I’m not against Bro-Country, and that’s something I’ll discuss at a later date, but Outlaw You is easily one of the best country songs of 2013. The album is a showcase for what a fantastic song writer and musician Shooter Jennings is, and proves that not every male country singer of a certain age is shying away from the more traditional roots and only thinking about beer and trucks…not that there is anything wrong with that, not in my eyes (and ears) anyway.

6) Like A Rose – Ashley Monroe

If it wasn’t for Twitter I wouldn’t have even known that a) Ashley Monroe was a member of The Pistol Annies, and b) she had a solo career and an album out last year. Along with a certain Kacey Musgraves, I heard a lot of buzz about her album and so decided to check it out, and thank goodness I did. Here was a young lady who knew what kind of record she wanted to make and didn’t feel the need to compromise in any way. A traditional country album in essence, but with modern influences and a good dose of beguiling attitude. In fact, I would have liked to have seen more of the sassy attitude shown by Ashley on her album, on Annie Up, where I was expecting it. Weed Instead of Roses was one of the songs of 2013, without a doubt. We just need her to tour in the UK, please.

5) Spitfire – LeAnn Rimes

I feel like this should be higher, and if this was based on live performances she most certainly would be, but for now a top 5 spot is pretty damn good. In 2013 I went from not knowing much about LeAnn to seeing her live at Country 2 Country, getting this album, and then seeing her live again in October. It was her performances of songs from her new album at C2C, especially Borrowed, that made me a fan, and I was particularly delighted when I won tickets in a ukCOUNTRYmusic.NET competition to see her for a second time. Spitfire is an eclectic mix of songs showing all sides of LeAnn’s personality, from the aforementioned tear inducing Borrowed to the foot tapping Gasoline And Matches. That last song featured none other Ron Thomas and Jeff Beck – how about that for a superstar lineup! Spitfire is one of those albums that I always chastise myself for not listening to again sooner whenever I do play it.

4) The Music of Nashville Season 1: Volumes 1 and 2

You can’t have compilation albums in this list! Says who? This is my list, on my website – I say what goes, and these get included, together as one entry no less! As a show Nashville is fun, but a little too soap opera for my liking, but the music is tremendous. Like many I became a huge fan of Scarlett played by Clare Bowen, and her duet with Sam Palladio’s Gunnar of If I Didn’t Know Better was the highlight of the album. We also got the absolutely enchanting Telescope from sisters Lennon Stella and Maisy Stella, which was also done by Hayden Panettiere. It was Volume 2 that I actually preferred, and a lot of that was to do with Panettiere and especially her rendition of Nothing in This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again, which at one time I couldn’t stop playing. We don’t have a start date for season 2 yet here in the UK, but I for one can’t wait for some more CDs of great songs from an interesting mix of actor come singers.

3) Wheelhouse – Brad Paisley

Mr Paisley was one of my discoveries of 2013, and I actually became a fan of his before Wheelhouse came out. That meant I could actually look forward to the new album and even had it pre-ordered. You can read my full review of it here , but like the two albums that make up the number 1 and 2 spots, this is one that I listened to repeatedly and still listen to regularly now. Brad is the act at the upcoming Country 2 Country that I am most looking forward to seeing play live. Aside from Accidental Racist with LL Cool J, it’s an almost flawless album which combines humour, with a good does of emotion, memories, and the all important guitars.

2) Two Lanes of Freedom – Tim McGraw

When I started writing this article last weekend I didn’t even own a Tim McGraw album and couldn’t have named you one his songs if my life depended on it – thankfully it didn’t! Then I played Two Lanes of Freedom, again and again, to the point where I must have listened to it more than 10 times in the last 7 days. Every time I listen I get something new out of it and gain a new appreciation for the songs included in this masterpiece of an album. It really does have everything, and I’m still not sure whether I prefer the very touching and beautiful Annie I Owe You A Dance and Friend of a Friend, or the pulsating Truck Yeah, or maybe even the star studded Highway Don’t Care. You can read the full review I wrote of Two Lanes of Freedeom here, and just know that this album from Tim McGraw came within a whisker of getting the top spot in this countdown.

1) Same Trailer Different Park – Kacey Musgraves

The first time I listened to Kaceys Musgraves’ debut album I was blown away. Such an incredible mix of great song writing, beautiful vocals and all bundled up with that charming attitude that only she can pull off. There’s a dose of traditional, a handful of modern, but quintessentially, it’s Kacey Musgraves, a name and voice you will hear for many years to come. Filler is something quite alien to this album, as every song is pure gold, and Follow Your Arrow was my song of 2013, and like the album, is in my top ten of all time. The fact that in the same year I discovered her, I saw Kacey Musgraves play live twice (April and August), is just the icing on a very special cake. For a debut album it’s a very bold one, as she doesn’t shy away from singing about exactly what she wants, no matter how controversial that may seem. However, she’s been received as well as by the critics as by us fans, and is undoubtedly the breakout star of 2013. There’s only one thing that can come to close to Same Trailer Different Park, and that’s the prospect of a second album.

So there we have it, my top 9 country music albums of 2013, and having just received Drinks After Work by Toby Keith and Caught In the Act by Eric Church, I could well be adding a 10th album to this list very soon. I have only listened to the Brandy Clark and Holly Williams albums once, and have releases from Lindy Ortega, Darius Rucker and Keith Urban still to get, to name but a few. 2013 for me was a year in which I discovered more great music, new and old, than any other in over a decade, and 2014 promises to be every bit as good, and maybe even better.

12 months ago I said Getting into country is like opening the wardrobe to Narnia – an amazing world of music and people that I never knew existed, and wow, is that ever an under-statement. I love how varied the genre of country music is and how it includes so many great artists and styles. There really is something for everyone, and I’m trying to consume as much as I can – it’s a buffet of excellent music I can’t and don’t want to stop going back for more.

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The Blog Is Back!

Who knows what happened 12 months ago – I had a great response form the few weeks of blogging I did on 4000 Miles to Nashville, and then decided to start writing country music articles elsewhere on my personal blog – crazy! Well 2014 is a new year, and part of that new year is a renewed dedication to blogging about what has fast become my favourite genre of music.

When I last updated this blog I hadn’t even seen any country music live, but since then I’ve had the great pleasure to see Gretchen Peters, LeAnn Rimes, Logan Mize, Ben Glover and of course LeAnn Rimes again at Country 2 Country, along with Carrie Underwood, Brantley Gilbert and Darius Rucker. I also saw a young lady called Kacey Musgraves, twice, the second time being when I was invited to a special secret gig of hers in London. I’m still not sure how that happened – maybe down to the review I did of her first gig in April 2013? Who knows!

Speaking of Kacey Musgraves, she was my biggest music love of 2013, and her album Same Trailer, Different Park was by far the most played CD I bought last year. In fact I liked it so much I even bought it on vinyl too – yes, I still buy and play records! Seeing her live and meeting her twice were definitely among the highlights of the previous 12 months, though LeAnn Rimes may have something to say about that. It was quite surreal seeing someone who I previously knew from little more than the Coyote Ugly soundtrack, belting her heart out in such a personal and passionate way in London, twice.

I think one of my first new articles for this blog should be my top 10 albums of 2013, though I think you already know what number 1 will be. Hey, there’s still 9 more places to get excited about, so stick with it. I will also post my country music articles from elsewhere to this blog – it’s mostly gig and album reviews, but damn good ones πŸ˜‰

So, I’m back, to stay this time, and as always if you have any recommendations then please send them my way.

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Gig Review: C2C Country To Country Festival – Sunday 17th March 2013

Country To Country 2013

Country To Country 2013

A little over a year after I started to really get into country music and I finally attended my first country gig. Actually better make that 4, well, 3 and a bit – but more on that later. I booked tickets for the inaugural Country To Country music festival back before Christmas, and having to decide between the Saturday or the Sunday, it was Brantley Gilbert and Carrie Underwood that gave Sunday the nod. So fast forward a few months again to the present and with my cowboy hat and boots proudly worn, off the The O2 I went.

Apart from 4 main acts playing in the arena each day there were also pop up stages around The O2 with UK country artists playing, and also a market type affair with food and merchandise vendors. Within a few hundred square feet I could have bought a gun, saddle and a portion of goat curry. I chose neither, and didn’t even manage to acquire a free copy of Maverick magazine.

Before the music in the arena kicked off with Brantley Gilbert we decided to eat at Frankie and Bennys – big mistake. To say the service was slow would be an insult to those catering staff who pride themselves on being genuinely slow. We waited an hour and ten minutes for our main course and to make use of that time we had to order the same round of drinks twice, almost three times, and asked more times than I can remember for a new set of cutlery. It was an agonising combination of the food taking an age and the staff making Fawlty Towers’ Manuel look like a Michelin Star waiter. The food wasn’t bad when it finally came, though the chips, or fries if you prefer, were cold on delivery.

Even before any of the acts came on we were treated to Whispering Bob Harris welcoming us and it was his job to introduce each act from then on. Bob Harris is the voice of country music in the UK and presents a country music show on a Thursday on BBC Radio 2 from 7-8pm. It was only right having Bob there and nobody else could have filled that role with the same legitimacy.

Brantley Gilbert
This guy was the main reason I was going to Country To Country, as his brand of self described southern rock appealed to me, being a huge fan of rock music for the past 3 decades. I think country is really more of an attitude than a sound these days and probably always has been, so he may be unnecessarily downplaying the country on his resume. While Brantley’s second album is a lot rockier than his debut, they take it up another notch or twelve when playing live. Make no mistake, Brantley and his band are a full on country rock band who even tease the boundary to country metal, should such a sub-genre even exist. The sound set-up wasn’t perfect and it came over too loud at times, but not enough to spoil a very energetic and well received performance. It was great to finally see songs like Country Must Be Country Wide, Kick It in the Sticks and You Don’t Know Her Like I Do performed live that I’d come to like so much from playing the CDs. Such was my appreciation that I went straight to the merchandise booth after the set had finished and bought a Brantley Gilbert Hell on Wheels Tour 2013 t-shirt. That’ll be perfect for Country To Country 2014.

LeAnn Rimes
I’ll hold my hand up and admit that aside from Can’t Fight the Moonlight, I wasn’t sure I knew or liked a great deal of LeAnn’s music, and a few songs into her set I wondered if it night be nice, but just a little dull. However, as if hearing my thoughts, she kicked it up a gear and from then on we got a LeAnn who opened her heart, bore her soul and gave some of the best vocal performances that I have ever had the pleasure to witness. LeAnn seemed genuinely touched at the fantastic response to her music and at one point, after playing a song particularly close to her heart, was moved to tears, briefly. She of course played the songs we all knew, which upon hearing them was many more than just that song from Coyote Ugly as I had previously feared. She even threw in some Janice Joplin and showcased her new single Spitfire. The aforementioned latest single and other new songs she played were really very good, to the point where I’ll be buying her new album when it comes out next month. Don’t think amazing vocals, likable personality and humble nature was all we got though, oh no. To finish her performance at Country To Country, LeAnn Rimes dismissed her band and closed her set with an absolutely spectacular acapella rendition of Amazing Grace. A song so perfect in it’s execution that it made every hair on my neck stand to attention and resulted in a very well deserved standing ovation from the crowd. In just 60 minutes I was turned from being pretty ignorant to LeAnn’s music to a big fan. In fact, I think I’d even go as far as saying that last song was possibly the single greatest vocal performance I have ever heard live. It’s actually been uploaded by someone on YouTube, though the start is missing unfortunately. As great as it sounds on YouTube, it doesn’t do the remarkable performance justice, but it’s something.

Darius Rucker
One of the friends I met up with is a huge Hootie and the Blowfish fan, but I only know Darius from his country music career of the last few years, and especially his 2010 single Come Back Song. I’ve never seen much of him, aside from an appearance on the Lady Antebellum – Own The Night World Tour DVD & Blu-ray, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I did get is arguably the performance of the night as Darius is both a great a singer and a fantastic entertainer who has nice guy written all over him, apart from on his very cool Avengers t-shirt. There was one song in particular, It Won’t Be Like This for Long, which he said was written about his kids and aside from being a really great song, every single word resonated with my wife and I, as we watched in awe of his performance and how much the song meant to us. If you are a parent then listen to this song, I guarantee you’ll think it was written just for you. He threw in a couple of Hootie songs, much to the delight my friend, and even a brilliant cover of The Joker, originally by Steve Miller. Darius Rucker is a man leading a band on the road, and his band are awesome. Such a mix of talented musicians, all of whom Darius likes to make as a big part of the show as possible, in spite of it being is name in lights. I came away from this gig a huge Darius Rucker fan, and not just because he finished off with Prince hit Purple Rain. Yes, you read that right.

Carrie Underwood
This is where the story starts to go wrong, unfortunately so. Carrie is one of the first country artists I listened to and so apart from being a damn fine singer, has a special place in my heart. However, something went awry with the sound, which I later found out affected some people and not others, depending on where you were sat. From where we were sitting her mic and the lead guitar were set up way way too loud, and I’ve seen Iron Maiden perform at The O2 – they were like choirboys compared to this. It wasn’t just loud, it was very trebly and the sound we ended up getting was, and not to mince my words, painful. We gave it six songs, during which we said we’ll give it one more song each time, as people from all over started to leave. It really did become unbearable, and much to our disappointment we had to leave too. We were not alone as dozens of people were leaving at the same time, all complaining about the sound. Apparently, though not to the same extent, this happened on the previous night with Tim McGraw, so something was obviously very wrong with the changes to the set-up they made for the headliner each night. It would have been to great see Carrie’s whole performance, but if we’d have stayed any longer I may have ended up associating the awful sound engineering with Carrie’s music, and I didn’t want that.

In spite of the debacle during Carrie Underwood’s set I thoroughly enjoyed Country To Country. I saw 3 great acts perform live and enjoyed being in a friendly atmosphere of country music fans. Rumours are starting to spread that Country To Country will be returning in 2014. This time I want to attend for both days and I hope the sound is sorted by then too. A fantastic first outing for Country To Country and the start of more country music in the UK, I hope.

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Country To Country 2013 AKA My First Country Music Gigs

Even though I have a friend who’s been desperately trying to get me to a country gig, circumstances have conspired against me and I’m yet to experience my first one. That is all about to change thanks to seeing an advert for Country To Country online some time in December. It was a fortuitous spot as tickets were to go on sale the very next day. I had a little think, considered who would look after our 4 year old son, and then the next morning bit the bullet and bought tickets for my wife and I to go on the Sunday. So I’d be kicking off my country music live adventures in style, with 4 huge artists all on the same day.

Country To Country 2013

Country To Country 2013

Why did I go for the Sunday you might ask? Well, I’m going to tell you even if you didn’t. The big headliner for the Saturday is Tim McGraw, and though he’s somewhat of a legend in the country music business, I only really know him from the film Country Strong. I know, that’s a bit poor on my part, but I’ve been a country music fan for less than 12 months and there’s only so much I’ve been able to consume in that time, and Mr McGraw is one of those who has thus far slipped through the net. Vince Gill is someone I’ve heard of, but not knowingly heard any music of. Little Big Town I hadn’t even heard of before I watched the video on YouTube of the 2012 CMA Awards and saw them both being both presented with an award and being part of the motorboating hilarity. In fact, now I mention that I am going to include the video of the opening segment that was recommended to me by @NewCountryUK. Most reading this will have probably already seen it, but on the off chance you haven’t, stop what you are doing immediately and watch now. Please do not drink whilst viewing, I will not be held responsible for coke splattered monitors. For those of us that have seen it, you know we are going to watch again.

Anyway, let’s get back on track and the 4th artist for Saturday is Kristian Bush, who I only know from Sugarland, a band I do know and like. See, there are some country artists I have actually listened to! So that’s Saturday. Now compare that to Sunday: Carrie Underwood is headlining and is someone I have been listening to for all of my 11 months as a country music fan and like a lot. I am one of the few who probably don’t know Darius Rucker from Hootie & the Blowfish, and in fact I thought I didn’t know him at all. That was until I did some research and found that he was the guy who released Come Back Song a couple of years ago, and that’s a song I really like. LeAnn Rimes needs no introduction, being one of those country artists who has transcended country music into what we know as popular culture. I have owned Leann Rimes CDs since even before my recent foray into country music and unashamedly pronounce my love for Coyote Ugly. That leaves us with Brantley Gilbert, someone I was introduced to by my friend Claire, who is somewhat responsible for me getting into country music. I have both of Brantley’s albums and especially like his more rocky sound on Halfway to Heaven.

After reading that I think you’ll agree that out of the two days, Sunday was tailor made for me. To say I am excited would be somewhat of an understatement, not just for the music, but because I’ll be able to wear my cowboy hat without getting strange looks. Well, fewer than I’d ordinarily get…possibly. This is just the start though and I’d like to get to as many country gigs as I can this year, so if you know of any I should be checking out, then let me know. Please also recommend any albums I should check out from the artists above that I’ve confessed to not knowing much about – my country music education is ever expanding.

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