Brad Paisley Love and War Album Review

Image result for brad paisley love and war

Brad Paisley’s last album Moonshine in the Trunk appeared to be the beginning of the end for Brad not only from a hit perspective but a creative perspective. His 10th album was far from his greatest work and the lead single from his 11th studio album Love and War failed to even crack the top 10 despite a collaboration with Demi Lovato. “Without a Fight” tried to garner crossover appeal and win over country radio which appeared to be tiring of Paisley and they were unsuccessful. The album was delayed multiple times before finally being released on April  21st.

I’ll be honest I didn’t feel “Without a Fight” was a bad song even though I really can’t stand when pop stars do collaborations with country artists. As a lead single I could absolutely have lived with it. It was however left off of Love and War because they wanted to market “Today” which was actually successful and a number 1 song as the true lead single which I understand. But, I think “Without a Fight is better than a few songs on Love and War which clocks in at a whopping 16 songs.

For years I was on the side of more songs is better but over the last few months I have reviewed albums that would be much better if they had just left some filler songs off completely and this album is no different. Songs like “Contact High” and “Go to Bed Early” are just a complete waste of time. These are Paisley’s sexy songs on the album but to me they are just generic filler tracks that the album would benefit from their removal.

In terms of collaborations I was less than enthusiastic when the album was announced and I learned of appearances by Mick Jagger, Demi Lovato (scrapped) and 2 songs featuring Timbaland. Again, I don’t enjoy when artists outside the genre are forced into “country” songs just to get crossover appeal or to gain radio attention. First, I’ll get to where the collaborations work. “Drive of Shame” is a fun uptempo track featuring Mick Jagger. The song starts out with the two talking in the studio about the song which is something I’m starting to hear on a number of albums. It’s about a one night stand in Vegas that the guy regrets after the woman kicks him out of the hotel room the next morning. What follows is the walk of shame to his car and the drive of shame afterwards. Mick Jagger adds a coolness to this song and he isn’t simply a name on the track he actually has his own lines.

Another collaboration that stands out is “Love and War” which shines the light on the issue of the way that we treat our veterans. They go off to war and when they come home they are forgotten. This song in particular follows the story of a man who went to fight in Afghanistan and came home with a lost leg. He suffered from PTSD when he got home and he has trouble sleeping because of the nightmares.

“They say all is fair in Love and
But that ain’t true, it’s wrong
They ship you out to die for us
Forget about you when you’re done.”

Although I like the 2 songs as a whole I don’t see any enhancement that Timbaland gives to “Grey Goose Chase” or “Solar Power Girl.” “Grey Goose Chase” is a slightly bluegrass inspired song about trying to get over a girl by drinking away his sorrows. I love the instrumentation on this song (i’m a sucker for the fiddle) and Brad Paisley is an exceptional guitarist of course. “Solar Power Girl” is a cool idea and the song describes a girl leaving home for college. She was raised by her mother after her alcoholic father abandoned her and she needs to get away from home and go where there is sunshine away from the darkness that is her home.

“Dying To See Her” with Bill Anderson is another strong collaboration and describes a man who misses his wife and is literally dying to be reunited with her in heaven one day. She was his reason for living and when she passed away he died soon afterwards. The doctors had no idea why he was dying suddenly but it was clear that she was the reason. It’s an incredibly touching love song.

The two singles from the album thus far are “Today” and “Last Time For Everything.” I tend to agree with most people about the lead single. I think it’s a good song but I don’t think it’s a great song. No doubt this song will be played as the wedding song at a number of weddings. “Last Time For Everything” reminds us that there is a last time for everything in our lives. It’s a song that relates to older people as they can look back and reminisce about the days gone by. As a young person myself it makes me think about cherishing the time that I have when I am young because you don’t know when the things/moments that you take for granted will be over.

My personal favorite track on Love and War is the Johnny Cash Poem turned song “Gold All Over the Ground.” This was originally a poem that was written by Johnny Cash to his wife June and was released to the public in 2016. This is a sweet love song/poem about how if he could he would turn the ground gold for the woman he loves. He would give her everything she wanted and he would do anything for her.

“One Beer Can” and “selfie#theinternetisforever” display Brad’s humorous side. “One Beer Can” is literally about one beer can that is left after a party that a teenager throws at his house when his parents are away. When they see it he gets into huge trouble while nothing happens to his friends who attended the party. The ladder talks about our social media addiction and this selfie culture that we find ourselves in. All those pictures that you are taking of yourself will be on the internet forever and you will probably regret a lot of them.

One of the last tracks on the album is another strong track in my opinion but, I seem to have a different view on what Paisley is trying to get across and that track is “The Devil is Alive and Well.” He is talking about all of the horrible stuff going on in the world and how there is so much pain and anger in the world. He concludes that we can all agree that the devil is alive and well. The confusing part about this is that in the chorus he is reaching out to people that believe in heaven/hell and those who don’t.

“I don’t know
If you believe in Heaven
I don’t know
If you believe in Hell
But I bet we can agree that the devil
Is alive and well
Alive and well.”

So to me I believe that the devil is more of a metaphor than the actual devil himself because if we can all agree whether we believe in those things or not how could the devil be anything except a metaphor in this song?

I enjoyed this album and not just for a mainstream album. The instrumentation on this album really enhances it and as I said before Brad is a hell of a guitar player. But besides the guitar we actually get fiddle and steel guitar on a mainstream country album and we get a bluegrass influenced song which you know I love. I think the album could have been better if they just eliminated songs like “Heaven South,” “Contact High,” and “Go to Bed Early” and I didn’t feel all of the collaborations were necessary. All in all though i’m happy to see Brad Paisley get back to really good music. He was never the problem in the mainstream anyway.

Grade: B- 7.5/10

Best Songs: Dying To See Her, Gold All Over The Ground, Grey Goose Chase

Community Writing Piece (April)

Hello everyone and welcome to the second community writing feature. I want to give a special thanks to the people that contributed this month. Please feel free to comment with thoughts/opinions about the work that is displayed. Click here to see last months piece. Enjoy!

Hey Warren by Julian Spivey

You died on my birthday, but I didn’t know you yet

I had heard you howl, but there was so much more to get

And you spoke right to me with your humor and your style

Another excitable boy out here in the wild

Desperadoes often die too young, you proved it to be true

 You’ll always be in my heart and I’ll enjoy every sandwich too

Scarlett by Megan Bledsoe (Country Exclusive) 

Verse 1:
Women never cared for Scarlett.
Word around the county was
That Katie Scarlett’s a common whore.
The men always did love Scarlett.
They’d come from miles around
Just to sit and talk there on her porch.

I’m a little like Scarlett,
And if you read her book,
You’ll see there’s good inside her if you’re willin’ to look.
I’m a little like Scarlett,
She never knew what she had,
And there’s good down deep inside me, it’s just buried under all the bad.

Verse 2:
The war came, it didn’t faze Scarlett.
She always knew the South would win,
And she’d rather talk about her clothes.
But she loved the South, did Scarlett.
She shot a Yankee dead
Just to save the only home she’d known.

I’m a little like Scarlett.
As you read her book,
You’ll see there’s good inside her if you’re willin’ to look.
I’m a little like Scarlett.
She always fought for what she had,
And there’s good down deep inside me, it’s just buried under all the bad.

Verse 3:
Marriage never meant much to Scarlett,
Though she had three in her time.
She took one for fun and two for spite.
Children never came easy for Scarlett,
And though she loved all three,
She never could quite get it right.

I’m a little like Scarlett,
And if you read her book,
You’ll see there’s good inside her if you’re willin’ to look.
I’m a little like Scarlett.
She never knew what she had,
And there’s good down deep inside me, it’s just buried under all the bad.

Verse 4:
Love finally came to Scarlett.
She was just too blind to see
‘Til it walked out on her late one night.
I don’t wanna be like Scarlett,
Always drivin’ love away.
She never knew when it was right.
Oh, Lord, please help me know when it’s right.

Bro Country Satire by Robert (Roberts Country Opinion Blog)

“Bro ain’t dead… Nah, Bro be illin’
Up on ya grrrl, on my tailgate chillin’…
Six pack o’ Nati Light
Moon so bright,
Hank and Drake outta sight killin’

Up. Down. Downtown.
Left side. Right side. All night. Yeah.
Grrrl, git up in my truck, get drunk, get stuck
Woooo-Whooa-oaoaoa !

Holy, holy, holy ! Dirt roads and Backstreets.
Drink it up ! Crank it up ! Hank it up! Sweet !
Blake it up ! Drake it up ! Rap it up ! Slap it up !
Whooooa-oooa-ooooo ooo ooa.

Curves like a dirt road,
No stop sign in sight.
Bro’s on the radio,
So all green lights.
Whooooa-oooa-ooooo ooo ooa

Uh !

Bro ain’t dead… Nah, Bro be illin’
All up on ya grrrl, on my tailgate chillin’”


Someday by The Wide World of Country 

Seems like there’s no relief
From the hurt that leaves me in disbelief
Times like these rain till it pours
Wonder if well ever win the wars

I don’t know what the future holds
Seems like something worse always unfolds

I want to make it to the other side
The golden years here on earth
I got my doubts about up above
The man upstairs don’t give no love
Maybe someday I’ll understand…someday

I got to keep going try to find
The sounds of something better in my mind
Push on to the future for better or for worse
Hope my life don’t put me in a herse

I don’t know what the future holds
Seems like something worse always unfolds

I want to make it to the other side
The golden years here on earth
I got my doubts about up above
The man upstairs don’t give no love
Maybe someday I’ll understand…someday

Sunday Morning Time Capsule

Image result for hank williams i can't help it if i'm still in love with you

Hello all! Welcome to the this week’s feature of Sunday Morning Time Capsule which is a weekly feature here at Critically Country. In this feature I do a throwback spotlight on a song, album or subject. I say spotlight instead of review because I won’t be giving grades for this feature just discussing the piece of work. Nostalgia can be a powerful thing so hopefully you all enjoy this piece as much as I do. I am happy to take requests for the Time Capsule if you have any so speak up if you do.

Last week on the Sunday Morning Time Capsule we went back to 2006 for Carrie Underwood’s single “Don’t Forget To Remember Me.” This week we go way back to 1951 for Hank Williams hit song “I Can’t Help it (If I’m Still In Love With You).” The song reached #2 on the Billboard country charts in 1951 only 2 years before Hank’s death in 1953. As I have tried to become more familiar with country music history, I have been listening to greatest hits albums from artists like Reba, George Strait and most recently Hank Williams.

The song begins with heavy pedal steel guitar and describes a man who can’t help but still be in love with his ex. One day when he is walking down the street he spots her with another man. His heart sinks when he sees her and he is reminded of the past that they shared together. It pains him to know that she has moved on and he misses her a great deal.

Top 10 Current Country Artists

Since I am currently all caught up with the albums that I want to cover this week (next week is another story) I was thinking about different lists that I could make. I think lists can be fun to make and can be useful for the readers. So, I decided to make the least objective list that I could possibly come up with and do a top 10 list of current country artists. Now, I don’t want this to just be a list of all time greats like George Strait and Dolly Parton. I understand that they are still making music however, I wanted this to be a list of more current artists. For the purposes of the list, whether or not the artist is mainstream or independent is irrelevant. The only qualification is that they are a country artist who is semi current. This is just my personal top 10 artists at the moment so there was plenty of artists who could have been swapped. Feel free to comment, agree/disagree. Enjoy!

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10. Josh Turner: One of my all time favorite artists. The mainstream has certainly chased it’s share of trends over Josh Turner’s career however he has stayed true to his neo-traditional sound through it all.

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9. Miranda Lambert: Before The Weight of These Wings was released I would not have had Lambert on this list. However, when you combine her past work with the Weight of These Wings, it’s hard to argue that there are many better artists in the mainstream.

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8. Eric Church: Is there an artist in the mainstream that releases as many quality singles as Eric Church? Sure he’s not a traditional artist but, he makes great, modern country music and he actually has something to say!

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7. Aaron Watson: Perhaps the biggest country artist in Texas and for good reason. Watson does a fantastic job of combining radio sensible songs and powerful songs with a message in his albums. Even in his more modern sounding songs you can still hear tons of country instrumentation.

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6. Kacey Musgraves: Radio doesn’t deserve Kacey Musgraves. A fantastic neo traditional artist who refuses to compromise her art for the radio machine.

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5. Flatland Cavalry: The closest comparison to Flatland Cavalry would be the Turnpike Troubadours and boy is that a hell of a compliment. After only releasing about an album and a half’s worth of songs, they have already established themselves as one of country’s best groups.

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4. Sunny Sweeney: It’s hard to argue Sunny Sweeney isn’t one of country music’s best after her most recent masterpiece Trophy. The neo traditionalist is extremely honest and relateable in her music with loads of traditional instrumentation.

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3. Chris Stapleton: The biggest, most important moment in country music in recent memory was Chris Stapleton performing alongside Justin Timberlake at the 2015 CMA Awards. Stapleton has since become the biggest selling star in country music with perhaps the greatest voice in the genre. He has helped to prove the irrelevance of radio and the fact that people will pay for good music.

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2. Cody Johnson: Cody Johnson is country music. It’s rare that I go a day without listening to a Cody Johnson song. A true cowboy who mixes heartbreak and uptempo tracks with an undeniable country sound.

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1.  The Turnpike Troubadours: The Turnpike Troubadours are the greatest group/artist in country music. Their songs are written so brilliantly it makes you wonder how anyone could have written such brilliant songs. Musically lets just say if you don’t love the fiddle you may want to stay away from this Oklahoma based group.

Re-Charting The Chart

Every week we will take a look at the top 30 Mediabase Country Chart. We will re-rank the songs on the chart based on the quality and overall enjoyment of each song. Next to each song I will provide the ranking that we would give it and the actual ranking on the Mediabase chart in parenthesis (From America’s Music Charts). Songs that are in the color red are songs that are either recurrent or in danger of going recurrent soon, while blue is for songs that I predict will go to number 1 at some point. At the end of each ranking there will be some thoughts about the current chart as well as any news or updates that are deemed important. I hope everyone enjoys this weekly post and feel free to comment/agree/disagree with anything you see.

  1. Zac Brown Band “My Old Man” (20) A
  2. Midland “Drinkin’ Problem” (25) A-
  3. Raelynn “Love Triangle” (28) B+
  4. Old Dominion “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart” (30) B
  5. Brothers Osborne “It Ain’t My Fault” (29) B
  6. Darius Rucker “If I Told You” (13) B
  7. Dan and Shay “How Not To” (12) 
  8. Josh Turner “Hometown Girl” (3) C+
  9. Luke Bryan “Fast” (7) C+
  10. Jason Aldean “Any Ol’ Barstool” (1) C
  11. Luke Combs “Hurricane” (5) C
  12. Kenny Chesney “Bar At The End of the World” (11) C
  13. Trent Harmon “There’s a Girl” (19) C
  14. Lauren Alaina “Road Less Traveled” (6) C
  15. Justin Moore “Somebody Else Will” (23) C-
  16. Tim Mcgraw & Faith Hill “Speak to a Girl” (24) C-
  17. Blake Shelton “Every Time I Hear That Song” (21) C-
  18. Rascal Flatts “Yours If You Want It” (14) C-
  19. Brett Young “In Case You Didn’t Know” (10) C-
  20. Cole Swindell & Sellout “Flatliner” (22) D
  21. Dylan Scott “My Girl” (18) D
  22. Thomas Rhett & Maren Morris  “Craving You”  (26) D- 
  23. Keith Urban & Carrie Underwood “The Fighter” (15) F
  24. Kelsea Ballerini “Yeah Boy” (4) F
  25. Dierks Bentley “Black” (8) F
  26. Lady Antebellum “You Look Good” (16) F
  27. Chris Lane “For Her” (27) F
  28. Brantley Gilbert “The Weekend” (9) F
  29. Florida Georgia Line “Boy Band’s Are Lit” (17) F
  30. Sam Hunt “Body Like a Backroad” (2) F

New To The Top 30:  “No Such Thing As a Broken Heart” Old Dominion’s best song. Click the link for the full review.

“Craving You” Click the link for the full review.

Songs That Left The Top 30: “Dirt on my Boots.” Pardi’s next single is “Heartache on the Dance Floor” which impacts on May 1st.

“Do I Make You Wanna”

Songs In Danger Of Going Recurrent: “Any Ol’ Barstool” is the number 1 song this week. I have to say the last 2 singles from Aldean have been pretty decent. The next single is “They Don’t Know” which gets back to the country rocker style Aldean is known for.

“Fast.” I gave my thoughts about this song on Twitter on Monday night. In my opinion it’s a boring, generic pop country song. Check out Dean Brody’s “Time.” He does this theme a hell of a lot better.

“Road Less Traveled”

“There’s a Girl.” Down two spots this week.

Quick Thoughts: MCA will have consecutive number 1’s with Sam Hunt and then Josh Turner. I’m happy for Josh Turner who hasn’t had a number 1 hit since “All Over Me” 7 years ago. Sam Hunt on the other hand can go to hell. 2 monster hits on this chart with “Hurricane” and “In Case You Didn’t Know.” In the case of Luke Combs I have heard great things about his album that will be out on June 2nd. And not chart related but David Nail is in the beginning stages of a new album so that’s pretty cool 😎.

Sam Outlaw Tenderheart Album Review

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Sam Outlaw was recently one of the artists featured in the La Weekly article 10 Lamest Americana Acts. The author Jonny Whiteside referred to Outlaw as a hipster whose music is just as pop country as Rascal Flatts. Now of course if you are actually familiar with Sam Outlaw’s music you would know how ludicrous that comparison is. Hell, by today’s standards I don’t know how you could even classify Outlaw as “pop country” at all. He also took a shot at the fact that Sam Outlaw’s real name is actually not Sam Outlaw it is Sam Morgan. Whiteside tried to claim that Outlaw is misrepresenting what his actual name is to try to seem cool. Well, Outlaw whose mother passed away made the decision to use his mother’s maiden name as a way of honoring her. There have been plenty of artists who have decided to go with different names than their birth name and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s a silly criticism and has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of his music.

So who is Sam Outlaw anyway? Well Sam was born in Aberdeen South Dakota where he lived until age 10. His family moved to Southern California where he grew up listening to country legends like Emmylou Harris and George Jones who he lists as an inspiration as a songwriter. Outlaw worked in advertising before deciding to chase his dream of being a country artist at the age of 30. Tenderheart which was released on the 14th is Outlaw’s second album and it’s a good one.

The album begins with two songs right off the bat that I believe are related to Outlaw’s journey from being a successful advertising guy to a country artist. “Everyone’s Looking for Home” starts off the album and is in my opinion the best song on Tenderheart. It describes a person who has left home in search of adventure and a life of his own. He left the love of his life at home and is trying to find himself. He’s looking for a place that he can call home. In my mind Outlaw is describing his divorce and the decision that he made to chase his dream. In “Bottomless Mimosas” Outlaw talks about the way that people can become in regards to work. They live for the weekend and drink their sorrows away when they get there. When the weekend ends the beg for more time and then do it all over again. He also questions the idea of money being freedom when all it is doing is keeping you tied down and unhappy.

Some great storytelling is demonstrated on “Bougainvillea, I Think.” He recalls a neighbor that he used to have many years ago. She was an Argentinian immigrant who spent some time in Mexico before settling in the US. The two of them would sit and talk for hours in this garden with flowers on the wall. He can no longer remember what her name was however he thinks that he can remember the name of the flowers on the wall of that garden. He thinks the name was bougainvillea. I would say this is the second best song on a really good album. In the title track “Tenderheart” we have a man that is sitting in a bar who has lost just about everything in his life. The only thing that he has left is a tenderheart for this woman that he loves. She is the only woman that he has ever truly loved. This song is a bit confusing as I’m not sure if he is actually with this woman or not and we are left wondering what caused this man to lose everything.

A song released prior to the album was “Trouble.” This is a catchy song about a friend who is always getting him into trouble He wants to settle down and find a wife and if he keeps this friend that is unlikely to happen. I may be reaching but I wonder if the “friend” is a metaphor for a particular vice or an actual friend. Like a lot of the album you are left to decide for yourself what the answer is. Throughout the album you can hear some nice steel guitar play and that is heard on “She’s Playing Hard to Get Rid Of.” A woman that he loved never treated him right. She left him feeling lonely for too many nights and his feelings towards her have grown cold. There was a time where he may have asked her to marry him but, that day is gone.

We get a sweet love song to follow the sad song “Two Broken Hearts.” This describes two people in a bar that have had their hearts broken by other people. They find each other after the man works up the courage to talk to her and the broken hearts are never seen again. We are led to believe that the two lived happily ever after and never had to deal with a broken heart again. “Diamond Ring” is a song about a man who refuses to settle down. He is in a relationship and it appears the two love each other and the woman wants him to propose. He however, sees no reason to do this and actually questions what is wrong with her that she would want to spend her whole life with him anyway. It appears as though his failure to propose causes the demise of the relationship.

The next couple songs are rather light hearted with “All My Life” being a bit comedic as well. It is basically a proposal where the man explains to the woman that the two of them could spend their whole lives searching for the right man/woman. He however would like to spend that time with her instead for the rest of his life. “Dry In the Sun” is a very short track on this record clocking in at 1 minute 59 seconds. The song simply talks about clothes drying outside on the line. 1 person is telling the other to just relax and leave the clothes out there on the line. If there is a deeper meaning to this song besides taking it easy it’s flying right over my head.

The album ends with 2 very strong songs. “Now She Tells Me,” which has a Mexican vibe involves a woman who makes it difficult to love. She is always busy, she doesn’t try to make her man happy, and she is always leaving him lonely. The man in this song wishes that she had told him that this is how it would be before he fell for her. She won’t leave him and it appears he doesn’t have the strength to leave her. The album ends with the mostly acoustic and live sounding song “Look at you Now.” This song examines the end of a relationship and the broken heart that ensues. It’s a very sad song and it feels very deep and personal.

I had originally planned to have this review out by Monday however, this took more listens than I had anticipated to really be coherent about it. There were a number of songs where I had missed the meaning originally so I revisited the album about 7 times until I felt I had a good grasp. I really love this album and none of the nonsense about his name or former career is of any relevance to me personally when accessing Sam’s Music.

Grade: A- 9/10

Best Songs:  Everyone’s Looking For Home, Bougainvillea I Think

Sunday Morning Time Capsule

Image result for don't forget to remember me carrie underwood

Hello all! Welcome to the this week’s feature of Sunday Morning Time Capsule which is a weekly feature here at Critically Country. In this feature I do a throwback spotlight on a song, album or subject. I say spotlight instead of review because I won’t be giving grades for this feature just discussing the piece of work. Nostalgia can be a powerful thing so hopefully you all enjoy this piece as much as I do. I am happy to take requests for the Time Capsule if you have any so speak up if you do.

Last week on the Sunday Morning Time Capsule we went back to 2009 for Matt Kennon’s top 40 hit “The Call.” This week we move to 2006 for Carrie Underwood’s second single “Don’t Forget to Remember Me.” Underwood’s second single peaked at #2 on the Billboard hot country chart. The song describes an 18 year old girl moving out of her parent’s house and going out on her own for the first time. Before she leaves her mother stalls and tries putting off goodbye because she is sad to see her baby leave home. Her mother leaves a few items in her car before she leaves in case she needs them like money, a map and a bible. Her mother asks her not to forget to remember her even though she is leaving home.

When she gets to her new apartment it finally hits her that she is on her own. Like every Sunday she calls up her mom and tells her everything is alright even if things aren’t alright. As her mom did in the first verse, the daughter asks her mother not to forget to remember her. The song ends with the daughter praying to God which is something she hadn’t done in awhile. She tells God about how small she feels in this big world now that she’s on her own. She ask’s God not to forget to remember her.

Carrie Underwood’s early albums were really enjoyable to listen to and are loaded with genuine country instrumentation. Even though I still like Carrie Underwood’s music I have to admit I miss the fiddle and steel guitar in her song’s.