Posts Tagged With: Tim McGraw

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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Album Review: Tim McGraw – Two Lanes of Freedom

Tim McGraw - Two Lanes of Freedom

Tim McGraw – Two Lanes of Freedom

Yes, I know I’m late to the game writing an article on this album, but I only got it at the weekend. Buy hey, better late than never, and this is an album, that after listening to a few times, I just absolutely had to write about. I got the Accelerated Deluxe version, though Amazon in the UK didn’t actually list another, normal version.

At last year’s Country 2 Country music festival I attended Day 2, and missed Tim McGraw playing on Day 1. At the time I wasn’t that fussed, not knowing who Tim McGraw was outside of his starring role in Country Strong. Bear that in mind as you read this review…

I was drawn to Two Lanes of Freedom after recently seeing a few people mention that it was rockier than his normal material. Not having listened to any Tim McGraw previously I had nothing as a reference to what his usual sound is, but as someone who grew up loving 80s hair rock, anything labelled rockier is going to appeal to me. I have to admit, after the first few songs I had to wonder what the pace of his previous songs was, as this didn’t seem that rocky, well, apart from some pretty slick guitar solos. In fact, coming to think of it, those guitar solos, especially in Friend of a Friend and Southern Girl were reminiscent of the those I’d heard played by long haired spandex wearing bands 3 decades ago. That’s a good thing in case you were wondering. Though my own guitar playing has started but stumbled at the first hurdle many times, my appreciation for good axe handling is very high.

Spoke to soon didn’t I, as the fifth song on the album, Truck yeah, certainly upped the rock stakes, with an intro that kind of reminded me of Insane Clown Posse’s Take It. To answer your question, I was a wrestling fan back in the day and that song was part of World Championship Wrestling, okay? Anyway, Truck Yeah – awesome! Every album, well most, need a song that you want to roll the windows down and crank up whilst driving along, and this is Two Lanes of Freedom’s. There are plenty of examples of reflection, melancholy and sentiment elsewhere on this album, this is an ar$e kicking anthem that could well be my new getting ready to go out song. We even get it again later on in the album in the form of a live version, complete with a testosterone pumping, engine revving intro – Truck Yeah!

After that we go straight into a song called Nashville Without You which celebrates Nashville and all the talent that has made it so special. With a blog called 4000 Miles to Nashville I could hardly go without talking about such a song. Nobody is mentioned by name, but if you know your country music history, you know who is being referenced. The people alluded too are pretty mainstream, so you don’t need to be a Music City anorak to get them, after all, I did!

So it was the rock reputation that got me interested, it was the rock solos and song that first caught my attention, but after a few listens it was the amazing storytelling that really made me sit up and take notice. Take for example Annie I Owe You A Dance – an absolutely beautiful song about a guy regretting not taking his girlfriend to the prom, but finally getting the dance he’d promised, in the supermarket. I really haven’t done it justice with that short description, but suffice to say, this is a song that almost brought me to tears whilst listening to it in my car on the way to work. This is listed as a bonus track and if that means the vanilla version never included this song, well, that’s an absolute travesty.

Throw in the aforementioned Friend of a Friend and Number 37405 and you have three songs that tell as good a story as is possible in 3 – 4 minutes. How can a guy being locked up for killing someone whilst drink driving be good material for a song? You’d be forgiven for wondering that, but listening to Number 37405 and it all becomes clear, and is a song which is one of the highlights of an incredible album.

This is a collection of songs that are so varied that there really is one for very occasion and mood. However they don’t feel out of place with each other, and I love the juxtaposition of going from Annie I Owe You A Dance to Mexicoma, which opens with the line I’m sittin’ here stoned, at Tortilla Jo’s and has a chorus I’ve been singing to myself all day.

I haven’t even mentioned the best known song on Two Lanes of Freedom, which is a collaboration between Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban. You may have heard of it, Highway Don’t Care? This is a song that sits a top a lot of people’s songs of 2013 and is the perfect melding of three very talented musicians. Tim and Taylor’s voices work in perfect contrast and you can say what you want about Taylor Swift, and much has been said, but the girl has a stupendous voice. Keith on guitar is a virtuoso and has me thinking an album of his should be my next country music purchase.

The more I listen to this album the more I like it, to the point where I’m not sure where it will sit in my list of top albums of 2013 that I am currently working on. Could it really take away that top spot from an artist many would never think I would see usurped from number one? It’s Your World having an almost Steve Vai-esque solo in it could help, given that Mr Vai is somewhat of a guitar her of mine.

Two Lanes of Freedom is a superb album which demonstrates Tim’s skill as a singer, songwriter, musician and as someone who can give us a bunch of songs that showcase both his fun and sensitive sides in fabulous harmony. I’m sure I’m not the only one who after listening to Book of John will at least try to start keeping a physical record of experiences and memories. I honestly can’t recommend this album enough, and if you are one of the few, like myself, who didn’t buy it last year, then please get it now, as a matter of importance. I’m now off to listen again, for probably the eighth time in three days.

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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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