Totally Biased Fan Review: Clint Black – On Purpose

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We have waited 10 years for a Clint Black album. It has been too long. He has been making films and doing other things. Perhaps Clint is part of the rescue mission going on in Nashville and parts thereabouts this year, mopping up the mess and rebuilding the once mighty empire of real country music. The legends are coming back and releasing new material. They are returning to the scene of the murder on music row and trying to patch up the ruins where the trainwreck hit.

The black hat, the distinct sound and the heartfelt songs are back. On an awards show a few years ago, Clint was presenting best album and joked that they weren’t really albums these days, most of them had 10 tracks or less on them. This has 14 songs on it, so he stuck to his guns. Clint has said a few things over the years, which have been honest truths, (as they call them in the classics). He says them with a smile, but he always says them.

I am a big Clint fan, I always have been. He has sung some of the best songs in country music history. He can sing Burn One Down For Me or Better Man to me any day, amongst countless others. I am so happy to hear this new music, which fits into my life as smoothly as chocolate or as easy as a merlot at midnight.

Clint hasn’t lost it. His voice is still as strong as ever, his songs still rich and pure country. I love when he does a duet with his wife, actress/singer, Lisa Hartman Black, they blend so well together as they do on You still get to me.

Clint mixes it up, with thoughtful songs, romantic songs; up tempo country rock; a tongue in cheek but direct hit at social media, fun boppy songs and a beer song, of course. The standouts for me were Time for that, a great way to start an album, One way to live, You still get to me, Right on time, Stay gone, Breathing air and the best was saved til last, aptly called: The Last Day.

Mr Black may be singing about slightly different things, the world has changed in ten years, but the heart is there in all of the songs and he has seen the importance in different subjects without sacrificing his style or his essence. I think that some artists think that they have to change with the times to still appeal. Your subjects can change without your belief system changing or what made people love you in the first place. I think that Clint did his homework. He hasn’t sold out, he isn’t stale. He has just put a fresh lick of paint on what has always worked for him and for us, and he has kept up with what is going on in the world. ……maybe not via social media, though he is on Twitter!

In one interview, Clint said: “I’d been talking to record companies but they wanted to find a song they thought could be a hit on radio and get me to sing it. That’s a great deal for a lot of people but not for me – I’ve never been just a singer and I wasn’t going to start at this age…..if you don’t really want me, the songwriter, you don’t get me, the artist.” That’s telling them, Clint.

This Clint will always make my day. He stands by what he believes in and he is a man of purpose and conviction. He does it his way on purpose. Perhaps he can teach some of the new breed out there that it is okay to be yourself. As my dear Australian friend and one of the best Country Music songwriters around would say: Be yourself, everybody else is taken.

Let’s hope that Clint makes another album in less than 10 years.

Tracks:

Time for that

Better and Worse

Summertime Song

One way to live

Doing it now for love

You still get to me with Lisa Hartman Black

Right on time

Still Calling it News

Making you smile

Stay gone

Breathing Air

Beer with Big and Rich

The Trouble

The Last Day

 

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Totally Biased Fan Review: Don Henley- Cass County (Deluxe)

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When you hear that a Don Henley album is coming out, you know that it will be quality. In this star studded album, named after the place in North East Texas where Don comes from, Don is the leading man, and he deserves to be.

The Eagles, along with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, The Bee Gees and U2 form a unique club of probably the best bands that the world has ever seen….or heard. Most of these bands have had members that have released their own music as well.

Don doesn’t fall far from the tree, or nest, as it is in his case. Don is so much a part of the fabric of The Eagles, that his songs have that Eagles quality and it is visa versa….i.e. The Eagles have that Don Henley quality.

Many of the Eagles songs are soft country rock. The fact that Don is from Texas leaves no arguments. He’s country.

On this album, he sings songs with Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Martina McBride and Miranda Lambert. Lambert and Henley sing the first track with an up and coming country music singer named Mick Jagger. Three quite extraordinary back up singers are on this album, you may have heard of them: Trisha Yearwood, Alison Krauss and Lucinda Williams.

So just by reading all of this, you are probably curious and you are probably sold already, but what I have written is only the beginning.

If you love the Eagles, you will love this. If you love the pure country sound, then you will love this. If you keep reading you will bless this album.

Bramble Rose with Miranda Lambert and Mick Jagger: This song is written by Tift Merritt, who told us that the trio had recorded one of her songs when she supported Mary Chapin Carpenter in Sydney recently. This song couldn’t be more country if it tried. They all sing separately and then harmonise. Strangely enough, Mick has sounded country on a few early Stones tracks. He probably sounds more country than some so-called country artists today.

The Cost of Living with Merle Haggard: co-written with Stan Lynch. Tailor made to sing with Merle. A song about real life…..just the facts.

No, Thank You: another one co-written with Stan Lynch. Stan was the original drummer in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (another pretty cool band!). He also produced this album. It is a very drum beat influenced song.

Waiting Tables: co-written with Steuart Smith and Timothy B Schmidt (fellow Eagle). It has a very Eagles’ sound and sentiment….think the feel of Peaceful, Easy Feeling; Take it Easy, etc. It could be a companion piece for Beccy Cole’s The Waitress.

Take a picture of this: another co-write with Stan Lynch. I think all of us, a certain age look back on our youth and think similarly. Some people just live in the past though and forget about the now. You can lose people that way.

Too Far Gone, a country classic by Billy Sherrill. This song has been sung by some legends. Waylon Jennings, Dottie West, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello and The Attractions, Tammy Wynette and many others. Beautifully sung and played by Mr Henley.

That Old Flame with Martina McBride: yet another co-write with Stan Lynch. I am a little surprised, I thought when I saw the title and the co-singer that this would have been a lot slower. The Lynch influence gives it a steady drum beat to what you would have called a power ballad back in the 90’s.

The Brand New Tennessee Waltz written by the late Jesse Winchester, obviously a bit of a take on the famous Tennessee Waltz. Beautiful song.

Words can break your heart co-write with Steuart Smith and Stan Lynch. Probably the most beautiful original song on the album. Words are very special. Steuart has been doing some work with the Eagles too and Michelle Branch.

When I stop dreamin’ by the Louvin Brothers…..an absolute musical treat with Dolly Parton. Such a wonderful song sung by two legends. If this doesn’t shivers down your spine and almost shed a tear then you are made of ice. Standing ovation.

Praying for Rain: another co-write with Stan Lynch. Anyone who has lived on the land will have lived every word of this song. I never knock the rain. When you have lived through drought and fire, you bless water. A flood is better than either of those two. It brings more good than bad. A song for all seasons.

Too Much Pride: co-written with Stan Lynch and Steuart Smith. Channelling Ray Charles….not a bad bloke to channel. The piano is very cool.

She sang Hymns out of tune: a Jesse Lee Kincaid song from 1966. Mean fiddle on this one. I thought that it may have been a song about me by the title! A wonderfully sad song. I think Ms Krauss features on this one.

Train in the Distance: co-write with Stan Lynch. I am a sucker for a train song. An easy train rhythm and beautiful bv’s. Awesome song….but you knew that I was going to say that.

A Younger Man: another co write with Stan and Steuart. This is an amazing song. I think the more that I play it, the more that I like it. It will make an old man cry.

Where I am now: another co-write with Stan. A very rocky song, a good way to end an album.

Legends like Don give me faith in a revival of what is best about American Country music. He mixes it up but he doesn’t betray the past Gods and includes a bunch of true country legends and future country legends. He honours what is best about country music but he also makes it accessible to those who don’t normally listen to it…..or who think that they aren’t listening to country music.

This is a must for your collection. It will be a classic.

 

Totally Biased Fan Review: Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes: The Mountain

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Despite the changing face of country music in America, I think that Australia is in a boom period of great young and not so young singer/songwriters in the country music genre. Heading the male contingent of the new era are five incredible artists: Luke O’Shea, Bob Corbett, Darren Colston, Shane Nicholson and the subject of this review, Lachlan Bryan. I have had the pleasure and the privilege of seeing Lachlan with and without the Wildes quite a few times now. Either way, it has always been a great experience and I have come away from the gigs feeling a mixture of emotions, as Lachlan’s songwriting makes you think and feel, sometimes wonder, sometimes smile and the words always make you want to return to hear another view….if that makes sense. Lachlan’s songs are like a good old movie. You can watch and listen to it many times and every time you spot something different. Like Shane’s songs, they work on several levels. The songs sound country as, but there is no way that you could play the records backwards and get the dog, the truck, the girl and the whiskey back. What is lost and never to be retrieved is a bit deeper than that.

Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes have a sound that is often described as Americana or Alternative Country but it is a lot of things. Of the 79 types of country music, Lachlan and The Wildes cover about ten types. They can rock it, blues it, swamp it, ballad it, romance it, celtic it, etc.

On some songs here, they channel Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Townes van Zandt, Gram Parsons, Rodney Crowell and many other performers of all different genres. In the end, it is Lachlan and his WIldes, absorbing it all, mixing it all up into one fabulous blend.

Afraid of the Light: Great start to the album. Twisting a line is something that Lachlan does so well.

The Mountain: Title track. Good to see that he has held onto his horn section from Tamworth! Or at least the idea of it. Cross between Van Morrison and Billy Joel with that Lachlan touch. Some great lines.

The Secret I’ll take to my grave: When I heard Lachlan first sing this song at a gig, it became my second favourite Lachlan song. There is no way in the world that anyone could hate this song, it is pretty near perfect.

The King and I: Cool rocky number about you know who and you know what. Get up on the dance floor and do the “Swim”.

I don’t make the rules: Cool bluesy song with some great lines and guitar work.

Dugdemona: One of Lachlan’s infamous darker moments. There’s always a few….he does it so well.

A Long Way to Fall: Only Lachlan could sing a line like: “Don’t try to meet me half way, it’s a long way to fall.” Or “A heart like yours takes time to break but I am working as fast as I can”. You can listen to Lachlan’s songs and hear a sweet song, then you listen to them and discover that they are not so sweet at all, but that is the beauty and the quality of them.

Travelling Companion: You can really smell the highway with this one. Close your eyes and see the lights coming down the road, trucks going by, hours of loneliness on a forgotten track.

Fool for Love: The melody is soothing but the words aren’t. A lot of Lachlan’s songs have that inbuilt irony. Great song.

View from the bridge: I’ve listened to this song about five times and I am getting different things from it each time. I don’t think that it ends happily. Amazing vocals on this one.

‘Til we meet again: A very hummable almost happy tune with sad lyrics….though ones tinged with hope.

Gin and Tonic (Bonus track) – First he gives me my favourite kind of coffee, Black Coffee, then he gives me my fave summer drink: Gin and Tonic. He can be my bartender any day. An upbeat, bluesy song that would go down well in New Orleans.

Downloading from Itunes, you miss the liner notes and the credits. I have a pretty good idea about the bv’s and the writing credits are quintessentially Lachlan, though I am sure that I can detect a few familiar co-writes on there too.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. What you have here is probably Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes’ finest effort, and since I own and love all of their albums, it is a big call. It has been a long awaited and extremely gratefully received new album. The songs are all quite fresh and different, though they all have that Lachlan touch which very few others can replicate.

The future of Australian country music is in good hands and Lachlan Bryan and his Wildes are up there with an elite gang leading the pack.

They have already made some inroads overseas. No doubt, that will continue.

There may be a few more steps to the top of the mountain, but in my eyes, they are already there.