“Reviewing” Albums I Didn’t Review In 2017

the order of time

Two days from now is January 5th. In other words, it’ll be the first Friday of the new year, meaning that there will be albums to talk about (Hell, there was one released on New Years Day that I’m working on covering…). That also means that time is running out to cover anymore 2017 albums before we dive into something a little more fresh. Therefore, I complied every album I wanted to cover that I didn’t and gave them all one more listen to see if there was something there. For all of them, I just couldn’t find the right words to say.

Granted, just because that happens doesn’t mean I disliked them. We all have those moments though where we listen to something a couple times and just aren’t sure what to think of it. Sometimes those words floating around in our heads just can’t come out. So, before we put the nail on the coffin of 2017, I want to run down each and every album I wanted to cover (but didn’t) in 2017 by at least giving some short thoughts. Also, I present these in no order.


Overview for the albums:

  1. Kurt Fortmeyer – Ameraucana
    • Favorite tracks: “Can’t Cut The Baby In Half”, “All Fall Down”, “The Wrong Side Of The Roost”
    • Least favorite track: “A Beer In The Hand”
    • Personal rating: 7/10
  2. The Secret Sisters – You Don’t Own Me Anymore
    • Favorite tracks: “The Damage”, “Carry Me”, “Little Again”, “Mississippi”
    • Least favorite track: “‘Til It’s Over”
    • Personal rating: 6/10
  3. Valerie June – The Order Of Time
    • Favorite tracks: “Shakedown”, “Got Soul”, “Man Done Wrong”, “With You”
    • Least favorite track: “If And”
    • Personal rating: 8/10
  4. Rich O’ Toole – American Kid
    • Favorite tracks: “101”, “Sunset Blvd.”, “Casino Lights”
    • Least favorite track: “Back To Back”
    • Personal rating: 5/10
  5. Aaron Vance – My Own Way
    • Favorite tracks: “Forever Young”, “Rocking My Country Soul”
    • Least favorite track: “My Own Way”
    • Personal rating: 4/10
  6. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – Sidelong
    • Favorite tracks: “Sidelong”, “Dwight Yoakam”, “Heal Me”, “Keep The Home Fires Burnin'”, “No Name”
    • Least favorite track: “Fuck Up”
    • Personal rating: 9/10
  7. Charley Pride – Music In My Heart
    • Favorite tracks: “The Way It Was In ’51”, “All By My Lonesome”, “Music In My Heart”
    • Least favorite track: Honestly, it’s hard to pick one. A lot of them are fairly identical.
    • Personal rating: 6/10
  8. Parmalee – 27861
    • Favorite tracks: “Roots”, “Savannah”
    • Least favorite track: “Hotdamalama”
    • Personal rating: 4/10
  9. Ray Wylie Hubbard – Tell The Devil That I’m Getting There As Fast As I Can
    • Favorite tracks: “Lucifer and The Fallen Angels”, the title track with Eric Church and Rhiannon Giddens that I’m not typing again, “In Times Of Cold (w/ Patty Griffin)”, “House Of The White Rose Bouquet”
    • Least favorite track: “Spider, Snake, and Little Sun”
    • Personal rating: 5/10
  10. Brett Young – self-titled
    • Favorite tracks: “Memory Won’t Let Me”, “Olivia Mae”, “Back On The Wagon”
    • Least favorite track: “Makin’ Me Say”
    • Personal rating: 6/10
  11. Jerrod Niemann – This Ride
    • Favorite tracks: “I Ain’t All There (w/ Diamond Rio)”, “Out Of My Heart”
    • Least favorite track: “I Got This”
    • Personal rating: 4/10
  12. Susto – & I’m Fine Today
    • Favorite tracks: “Jah Werx”, “Gay In The South”, “Far Out Feeling”, “Mountain Top”
    • Least favorite track: “Cosmic Cowboy”
    • Personal rating: 8/10

Our first album up is Kurt Fortmeyer’s Ameraucana. Kurt reached out to me through Twitter to cover this album, and I had always meant to. Unfortunately time just slipped away, and with each and every listen I’m just not sure if I have enough to say for a full review. One thing you’ll notice about Kurt is that he has a knack for creating some very wacky song titles. They don’t always stick the landing (“Call The Bitch Doctor On You” being one example), but other times you have a song like “Can’t Cut The Baby In Half” which is actually a profound statement on divorce and the effects it can have on a child – even if those effects won’t actually fluctuate until they’re a tad older. The production is very 90’s country reminiscent at times, save for the darker, menacing “All Fall Down” which I really enjoyed. Again, it doesn’t always stick the landing, but for the most part this is a quirky, oddly enjoyable listen that sure, may take some time to warm up on you, but also is worth a chance.

Next up, we have the comeback album from The Secret Sisters titled You Don’t Own Me Anymore, and wow do I wish I liked this more than I do. I loved their 2014 album, Put Your Needle Down, but the sisters encountered some financial troubles after that album era. We’re lucky we got another album from them really. Now though, they’re back with Brandi Carlile as their producer, so I was all psyched to love this when I heard about its arrival. This is one of those rare instances where I will admit that this is very well done material that’s just not for me. This album reflects a growing frustration I had with many albums in 2017 in that the pacing was frustratingly slow and the diversity was lacking. I kept trying to love this, but with every listen I found my attention waning fast. Still, there are several tracks here that succeed on their own, particularly “The Damage”. Plus, again I am happy to see them finally be able to release this. I just knew that this was a rare instance of the material actually being good while I still couldn’t do much more than be happy for them.

 

the order of timeOn the other hand, we now come to an album that was almost too good for me to handle! Valerie June’s The Order Of Time was supposedly inspired by fragments of different pieces of history in America’s music, and upon every listen, I knew I liked this. Still, for the life of me, I can’t tell you how many times I sat down to write a review only to come up empty handed. I don’t know what it is about it either. “Shakedown” is a monster of a jam, and yes, you better believe it would have been one of my favorite songs of the year had I reviewed this. Her voice can admittedly take some time to get used to, and like The Secret Sisters up above, this album does reach a lull every now and then. Still, it’s easily one of the most fascinating projects I heard all year, and while I didn’t know what to say about it, maybe you do.

This next artist can be a little tough to deal with, mostly because the fact that I wasn’t quite that wild about his album might label me as a “hater” or something. Whatever. Rich O’ Toole’s American Kid actually didn’t start off that bad minus the title track. I like the more straightforward atmospheric rockers like “Sunset Blvd.” and “Casino Lights”, but the album just grows tamer after that without much to really draw me back in. “101” is very well done, but this is one of those instances where I just didn’t have a lot to go off.

Of course, with Rich, I didn’t know what to expect. With Aaron Vance, I expected something good. His last release, 2016’s Shifting Gears wasn’t mindblowingly awesome by any means, but it was very solid country that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the 90’s. I don’t know what happened with My Own Way, but wow is this ever watered down. While Gears was more organic, his new album opts for very sleep production techniques. Plus, lyrically this has everything you expect from someone trying to get credit from the independent scene. We have him establishing his authenticity, him missing home as well as a Nashville bash track. It’s like a starter kit for what you need to establish your authenticity, and Aaron is better than that.

sidelongI love that people touted this “new” album called Sidelong in 2017, mostly because it was released…in 2015. Oh marketing, you sneaky one, you. I guess I can’t laugh though. I realized as the year went on that I hadn’t even reviewed this well, ever! I found it at the tail end of 2015 and just never got around to covering it, so I guess now is as good of a time as any. With that said, it’s friggin’ awesome. I love the “screw you” attitude (to put it lightly) that Sarah brings to the table, and my God, sonically this is so pleasing to my ears. It’s whiskey soaked Country music that is filled with so many standouts and isn’t afraid to just explode at times like on the title track. While I wish people would stop acting as if this is some brand new album, at least people are finally paying attention to it, because it deserves all of it. Thankfully it seems as if Sarah is releasing another project this year.

Of course, Sarah is a new artist, so let’s switch things over to a bonafide country legend. Charley Pride’s Music In My Heart is actually an album I got requested to cover, and honestly? The best way to sum it up would be that it’s alright. It’s what you really expect from someone in Charley’s place at this point. He was never a strong album artist, and what you get with this album is a solid collection of tunes that you may or may not come back to. Either way, it’s nice to hear from a legend, and while this isn’t an essential listen, let’s show some support for the legends while we’ve still got them.

Annnnnddddd we’re back to the present, and it looks like we have Parmalee up next. Yay. Look, I think this band is capable of making some great songs like “Another Day Gone”. However, they turned in their rock edge on their newest album, 27861 for your average, run of the mill pop country tunes that I don’t care about. It’s a shame too. “Roots” was an excellent lead single for this project, and it even convinced me to give this album a chance in the first place! Instead, the band chose to pander rather than try and be unique, and considering they haven’t had a hit in years now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it backfire on them.

tell the devil i'm getting there as fast as I can cover - him sitting on a chair with a crow on his shouldersSpeaking of disappointments, it’s time to take a look at Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest album, Tell The Devil That I’m Getting There As Fast As I Can. Really, Megan over at Country Exclusive said it best – the problem with this album is that most of these songs lack any real strong melodies to draw you in. For the most part it’s a very dry effort that sometimes will surprise you like on “Lucifer And The Fallen Angels” or the humorous “Open G”. Other than that, it’s just an album that I wanted to like more than I do. This album seems to end somewhat of a trilogy for Ray though, so it remains to be seen what the future has in store for Ray as far as new music goes.

To go back to the mainstream, I’m going to talk about another artist besides Luke Combs who managed to grow on me (to a significantly lesser extent but still…), Brett Young. His self-titled album is by no means perfect. There’s little variety sonically, and there are also some poorly constructed tracks like “Makin’ Me Say” and “Like I Loved You”. You know though, Brett Young isn’t a bad writer overall, and he’s got a knack for crafting some decent melodies with some more tasteful instrumentation. Overall, this is an album that slowly grew on me throughout the duration of the year.

Truthfully, I forgot this next album even existed until I went record shopping last weekend (where I saw a lone copy that I sure as hell didn’t buy). That album was Jerrod Niemann’s “comeback” album, This Ride. Look, I liked this guy a lot from around 2010 to 2012. Then “Donkey” happened and he sank his career FAST. Since then, he’s just been chasing trends hoping to salvage any last bit of relevancy he still may have. His new album This Ride inspires nothing out of me. It just exists. The production is your typical vanilla, radio-friendly schlock, and the songs leave a lot to be desired lyrically. Next!

Let’s not end with Jerrod Niemann though. Let’s end on a good note with Susto, an album I returned to more than at least half of the albums on my year end list. Like Kurt Fortmeyer’s album, this album is also weird. It’s just approximately ten times weirder. When I say that I didn’t have the words to describe some of these, I really mean it with & I’m Fine Today. It’s almost as if you’re high when you listen to this. What’s amazing is just how damn catchy the melodies and hooks on this project are! Plus, it’s not like the band isn’t capable of making profound statements like on “Gay In The South”. I always meant to cover this album, but truthfully I’m not sure there’s much more else to say than that. It’s a twisted, dark, and oddly fun project that will likely take a spin or two or several to really get.


And of course, I wouldn’t want to completely close off this piece without highlighting even more albums that I couldn’t even write a full sentence on. So, without further ado, here are some final highlights from 2017 –

  • John Baumann – Proving Grounds
  • Travis Meadows – First Cigarette
  • The Whiskey Charmers – The Valley
  • Billy Strings – Turmoil and Tinfoil
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2 comments

  1. I wish I liked VJ’s album. I have seen her live too and just cannot get into her. Maybe it’s one of those things where you either like her voice or you don’t?

    Like

    • Vocals are sort of a weird element in music. With Valerie June, I totally get it. For me I really had to warm up to them before I really got into this, so trust me, I get where you’re coming from.

      I usually get comments saying how I can’t criticize vocals on other reviews, but come on, it’s an element of the music that can potentially make or break it for us.

      Like

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