Sorry to all my avid readers out there for the long layoff -- I was on vacation and haven't had much time to sit down and write. While I was on the plane -- I believe it was somewhere during our mid-air, turbulence filled delay -- I had a great idea for an piece I'll put up later this week, but for now I'd like to offer my thoughts on 4 songs, all of which are either currently or were recently featured on Country Top 40.
"Dirt Road Dancing" by Matt Stillwell - A really catchy tune, I can see why its garnered a lot of airplay recently. It's not your every-day, Nashville sounding country song, but reminded me both lyrically and rhythmically of an Alabama song, particularly "Dixieland Delight." In fact, this song features a chord progression almost identical to "Dixieland Delight" and very common to tons of country songs. However, it suffers from one bewilderingly simple problem. In the last line of both verses there seem to be one too many syllables, which leads to an awkward sounding build to the chorus. More strangely, the words Matt sings to cause this lyrical oversight could easily be extracted without doing any damage to the song. How could the producer miss this? Such an easy problem to correct on an otherwise pretty solid song. Interesting note on this song, by the way. If you listen to Blake Shelton's "The More I Drink" you'll notice that the intros are virtually identical.
"Ain't Back Yet" by Kenny Chesney - I rarely knock my man Kenny, but this track is just a complete debacle. It's incredibly boring and quite frankly, sounds like every other typical "Nashville" country song. Kenny really isn't singing about much here, and the blaring background doesn't make up for the lack of any real substance up front. It's an absolutely forgettable song from a talented artist who has the recent tendency to overproduce. It seems very obvious that he just needed filler material for his "Greatest Hits II" album released earlier this month. Kenny, we expect better.
"Eight Second Ride" by Jake Owen - Thanks to my buddy Jeff for reminding me of this song. I'm fairly confident I listened to it a while back, and while it does adopt a tried and true formula for a country rock song, it's pretty catchy and a quality listen. Critics hammer Jake Owen for being to formulaic, but he continues to produce some pretty good tracks (in fact, I believe "Dont Think I Can't Love You" and "Starting With Me" are both well above average). This good-timing song isn't going to be a classic, but its an enjoyable tune from a developing talent.
"That's How Country Boys Roll" by Billy Currington - I've saved the best for last. Let me start by saying Billy Currington is an interesting situation. The guy has a great country voice -- pure and simple. He can hit all the low notes with surprising resonance but still possesses a strong upper range, and he's got a very distinctive voice. He hasn't, however, always made the right production decisions. Namely, he's been very erratic in his single release choices; from poppy duets with Shania Twain to middle of the road successes like "Good Directions" to lyrically sparse and critically acclaimed songs like "People Are Crazy," Currington has been all over the map. And in this song, he finds success in a formulaic, but high quality tune. This song won't be a classic, but I guarantee you'll enjoy listening to it, at least the first 10 times. After that, it will become startlingly obvious that this song is basically like many other hits you've heard before, but nonetheless, it does have the components to be a short-lived success.