I’ve had the pleasure of writing about Whitey Morgan since 2008 when he was just a wet behind the ears unsigned artist out of Flint, Michigan. Since then he has been picked up by Bloodshot Records who rereleased his debut album, Honky Tonks and Cheap Hotels, as well as it’s self-titled follow-up. Well, Bloodshot might be gone but Whitey has pumped out a new album on his own imprint and it is, unquestionably, the best material he has released to date (read: Bloodshot; you done fucked up).
Sonic Ranch is 40 minutes of pure late 70’s/early 80’s country bliss. The album opens with a Whitey original called “Me And The Whiskey” a honky tonking cautionary tale of failed love and finding comfort in booze. A song that, ultimately, sets the tone for the entire album. A tone any Whitey fan is familiar with but it’s nice to hear that little has changed right out of the gate. From there the album heads into some covers. Townes Van Zandt struck gold on the first song he ever wrote when he penned “Waiting Around To Die” and on the third track Whitey gives us his spin on it. The result is probably the best version of the song ever. He gives it a fitting vocal performance and a musical accompaniment that adds 4 shades of black to an already light bending dark song.
“Waiting Around To Die” is immediately followed by a cover of our man Scott H. Biram‘s “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue.” While the song was one of the most country sounding songs in Scott’s catalog Whitey turns it into an instant honky tonk classic while keeping that Biram edge on it.
One of the most fun songs on the album is a Whitey original called “Ain’t Gonna Take It No More,” A song about a man who is having a seriously bad night. You could say the song is a modern take on Skynyrd’s “Gimmie Three Steps” and I mean that in the best way possible.
I read an interview where Whitey was talking about how much his singing has improved over the years and how proud he was of the vocals on Sonic Ranch. In the interview he cited “Leavin’ Again” as his proudest moment on the album and “Leavin’ Again” is about as good as classic country gets. Big instrumentation. Slide guitars. That orchestra like vocal production. It’s all there in spades and leaves you wondering if this is a song from 1980 or 2015. While I agree with Whitey that “Leavin’ Again” is a great song I think his best performance is saved for the final track; a cover of Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got To Memphis.” A cover that falls nothing short of beautiful and might be the best song on the entire album.
Needless to say Sonic Ranch is Essential Listening and undoubtedly one of my Top 10 albums of the year.
Add another to the list in a year that has already featured some amazeballs releases with plenty more on the horizon. The White Buffalo is readying his latest album Love and The Death of Damnation for a fall (?) release and you have the chance to pre-order it. Folks who preo-order the album will get the PledgeMusic AccessPass. The AccessPass unlocks a part of the site where he will be posting videos from the studio, one-of-a-kind photos and even roughs and demos for you to check out.
I’m not entirely sure how to define the Marching Suns but I do know it falls somewhere in the spectrum of the terms above.
Marching Suns are the brain child of 9b fave Scott McDougall, Ezra Meredith of Hearts Of Oak and Mark Folkrod of The Dead Volts. Imagine McDougall’s voice and typical lyrical content over the top of Clutch or Red Fang type riffs and you pretty much describe Marching Suns. Trust me, I know it sounds weird but it actually works for the most part.
I don’t know if there are any plans for the Marching Suns beyond this self-titled EP but judging from their Facebook page I’d say probably not but at least we got this EP.
Willie Nelson is a lot like Lil John for me in the sense that I prefer him when he appears on other people’s albums rather than listening to his albums. Merle Haggard on the other hand, I could listen to Merle on repeat forever. Django & Jimmie marks the sixth time these two have collaborated on an album and I think the pairing is perfect. Nelson’s nasally delivery is the perfect juxtaposition to Merle’s classically smooth vocal delivery.
The albums title track is a tribute song to Django Reinhardt and Jimmie Rodgers that doubles as a mood setter for the over arching theme of the album. An album that, despite taking some 18 months to write and included Merle and Willie co-writing songs via telephone was recorded in a mere 3 days.
The overarching theme of Django & Jimmie is friendship. Friends lost as highlighted in, “Missing Old Johnny Cash” which features an appearance by Bobby Bare Jr. Friends you know you can always count on as highlighted in Merle and Willie’s song to one another, “Unfair Weather Friend.” Friends mutual admiration as shown when they each cover one another; Willie with “Somewhere Between” and Merle with “Family Bible.” All with the backdrop of reality that says Willie and Merle are 80 and 78 respectively and there are a limited number of days ahead of them. A sentiment you can feel in Haggard penned, “The Only Man Wilder The Me,” and acknowledged with a tip of the proverbial hat in “Live This Long.”
One thing that comes across on Django & Jimmie is the complete comfort these two legends of country music have with one another. A comfort that can only be achieved by decades together and a few alcohol, weed and cocaine fueled tales. Another thing listening to this album really drives home and that’s how completely vapid modern country music has become and how it really doesn’t have to be. Like my buddy over at Farce The Music says, “Put The Try Back In Country Music.” Well, to country stalwarts did and managed to make an Essential Listening album in the process.
One of my favorite pastimes is getting drunk at home alone while listening to Jason Isbell albums. Another one of my favorite past times is doing that exact same thing with other people and talking with them about the songs and their meanings. I was so happy to see this post show up yesterday as it proved I was not alone in this past time.
The folks at Grantland sat down with Jason recently to talk about his 10 most gut wrenching songs (including his DBT era). It’s a fun read and I ain’t mad about the omission of Dress Blues since it’s so damned obvious.
Jason’s new album, Something More Than Free, comes out July 17 and if Southeastern is any indicator we’re in for a monster.
Unlike Captain’s Dead if you’d have told me 4 years ago when Kent Goolsby played my birthday party with his, now defunct, band The Only Sons I would have been surprised. That said, since disbanding with The Only Sons I have watched Kent’s music change and mature into something that is equal parts in the moment and timeless in sound.
His new album, No Substitute For Handsome, was recorded in his home here in Nashville and then turned over to Glossary front man, Joey Kneisner for his mixing and mastering magic.
No Substitute For Handsome is tentatively scheduled for July 7 but if you preorder it here the word on the street is that you’ll get a download code before that date. Today, however, Kent was kind enough to give ol’ Ninebullets a song to debut to you guys so check it out:
No genre on earth is completely devoid of discussion worth material. I also don’t believe that there is no genre that is completely without merit. Anyone who suggests otherwise is most likely an asshole. Up until a few months ago I was pretty ignorant to the pop country genre but living in Nashville now makes that pretty much impossible. Couple that with the fact that it’s all my office mate at my job listens to and it’s officially impossible. Lately 2 songs have jumped to my attention for 2 different reasons but I feel they’re both worth bringing to your attention. So, without further ado…
Who:Chris Janson What: Buy Me A Boat Why: Is “Buy Me A Boat” a good song? No. Not at all. It sounds exactly like every other pop country song on the radio currently. Furthermore, it is written by the same guy who was part of bringing us Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah.” Basically, Janson is firmly entrenched in everything we hate most of the time.
I recently saw Janson at the Opry and I must admit, as a performer, he is thoroughly enjoyable and his connection with the audience is undeniable but we’re talking about songs right now.
So why is a song that I’ve already admitted is a bad song something you should be aware of? Let’s get into that:
A little over 6 weeks ago an unsigned/unknown Chris Janson was at a charity event with Bobby Bones when bones asked him if he had any new material he was working on. Janson gave Bones an mp3 of Buy Me A Boat. That Monday Bones plays it on his show twice and the rest, as they say, is history. One: can you believe there is still a DJ not on community radio that is allowed to just play something he wants to? I had no idea that even existed anymore on commercial radio.
The cooler thing is that Janson has no label. No media juggernaut behind him. “Buy Me A Truck”, as bad as it might be, became a hit the old-fashioned way; organically. Is it gonna change the music industry? Nope. But it does offer another glimpse that the music industry really is changing. For a decade now we’ve been hearing that artists don’t need labels anymore, that they can do the same things for themselves and while the logic was sound we weren’t really seeing it play out. Then, Macklemore (a rapper) made it to #1 on the pop charts as an “unsigned” artist. Now, Janson’s song is climbing the charts. The times, they are a changing and we’re starting to see the proof. Janson won’t change country music but he is a symptom of a changing business model.
Who:Little Big Town What: Girl Crush Why: Full disclosure: I honestly like this song. I think it’s fun and when put up against the lyrical content of most of pop country it’s a smartly written song. Why should you notice it though? One, it’s a commercial hit that features a woman’s voice not named Miranda Lambert or Carrie Underwood. Two, it’s a waltz. It’s a fucking waltz in heavy rotation in the middle of the hiphop with a fiddle pond that has become pop country radio. Is the bro country trend dead. No. Is it fading? Perhaps.
So there you go. Two pop country songs worth knowing about for 2 different reasons. You know of any others?