Angaleena Presley Wrangled Album Review

 

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Yesterday I published a fake news type piece where I poked fun at Kelsea Ballerini’s immature pop music. Angaleena Presley however is the antithesis of everything that Kelsea Ballerini is. Angaleena Presley does not get radio play. She doesn’t have 3 number 1 hits, or even 1. Her music is mature and honest and damn sure isn’t Disney glitter pop. Her music is smart, it’s vulnerable and at times it can get pretty gritty. As a member of the group the Pistol Annies, Presely is not alone in making really good country music. The two other members of that group Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe have in the last couple of years released some of the best albums in country music despite limited radio play in the case of Miranda and practically no radio play in the case of Ashley Monroe. I had always planned to review this album when I had learned that it would be released in April but what really peaked me interest was the collaboration that had everyone talking with Yeowolf who is a country rapper.

The song is called “Country” and it is one of the many songs in the last few years that has criticized the direction of mainstream country music. Her and Yeowolf aren’t really even talking about the sound of the music but the substance. The music that is generic and dishonest. In Yeowolf’s part of the song he raps about how corporate radio has become and how there’s no more Hank or Johnny Cash on the radio. It’s all just country posers on the radio. He even drops Sturgill Simpson’s name saying “Thank God for Sturgill Simpson.” Although I like the idea for the country criticism song, the delivery is frankly unpleasant. It’s not a song that I would honestly want to hear again because it is too grungy and loud. It’s almost a mixture of punk rock and garage country which isn’t something I enjoy.

Where the album really shines are on songs that are personal to Presley like “Dreams Don’t Come True” and “Wrangled.” The former is about what Presley had expected when she moved to Nashville to chase her dream of being a country artist. She had expected to get a record deal and drive a fancy car. She would make hit records and eventually get hooked on drugs. In reality however she got pregnant and never became a big star. The message that she tries to get across is that not only do dreams not come true but in the process they break your heart and hurt you. The title track is about Presley feeling like she is physically constrained and trapped being a housewife. She needs to get back to being herself where she can be free.

The theme of personal introspective songs continues with “Outlaw” and “Mama I Tried.” On “Outlaw” she describes how she wants to fit in and be like everyone else but she can’t. People assume that she is simply brave and tough but everything she has ever done has been for desperation. “Mama I Tried” is a rock song that talks about how her mother wanted her to make it big so that she could buy her fancy jewelry and clothes. She tried to make it big and came close but she fell short and will never make it now that age has passed her by.

A track like “High School” does a really good job of delving into the stresses and problems that both girls and boys face. The first part of the song talks about a girl who gets pregnant in high school and is ostracized for it. She tries to hide the pregnancy but she is already starting to show. She is afraid girls will tease her and boys won’t want to date the mother to be. The story then changes perspectives to talk about the boy whose life is all about throwing a ball and trying to be like his father. When he gets upset (being a boy) he’s not supposed to cry or show emotion so he takes pills in order to feel better.

Even though I like the album more than I dislike it I find it hard to get past the production on too many songs. Earlier I had mentioned my problems with “Country” and they are also present and songs like “Good Girl Down” and “Motel Bible.” There is simply to much being done to Presley’s voice and it makes it difficult for me to enjoy even if I find the lyrics to be strong. I can appreciate the honesty and quality of the lyrics of this album but it can’t be one of the best albums of the year for me if half the album is difficult to listen to.

Grade: B- 7/10

Best Songs: Wrangled, Dreams Don’t Come True

Exclusive Kelsea Ballerini New Album Track Listing

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It’s been a slow week for the blog because of how busy I have been but that should change in the coming weeks with school ending. In the meantime I read an article by Nash Country Daily that describes Kelsea Ballerini’s new album as “dark” and “about growing up.” Since I’m a jerk, I decided to make a joke out of this and write up a fake track list with a short description for each song. The descriptions are meant to be written by Kelsea as well. Hope you enjoy.

1. Dunkin’

A truly dark tale of a trip to Dunkin’ Donuts in which I ordered a decaf double foam latte with soy milk only to later realize that it was whole milk instead of soy milk! It happened a few years ago but it still gives me chills.

2. No Phone, Alone

This one is still hard to talk about. One day on the way home from the mall I left my phone in the limo. I was without my phone for like 2 hours and I wanted to die. I wonder how like the pilgrims didn’t get to text the Indians about stuff.

3. Boy 

This track is a lot more uptempo and happy than the previous two dark songs. Basically I like say the word boy a lot of times. The music video for this is like so lit, I can’t wait for everyone to see it!

4. Daddy Where’s My Glitter?

Yet another dark track on this album. I go back to a traumatic day during my childhood when I ran out of glitter and Daddy wouldn’t get me more. He claimed it was because he had a broken leg but, I think he was just faking.

5. Real Housewives

I like love all the reality shows on TV. I just wanted to honor all the incredible people that work so hard to be on these shows. It’s so tough being famous.

6. Brave

So like a lot of people don’t know this about me but I’m like really brave. On the tour bus one night there was like a spider and I hardly cried at all. I calmed myself down by playing some of my new music and then the spider for some reason just died on it’s own. So weird!

7. Country Boy Shake It For Me

This song was such an inspiration growing up! I love Luke Bryan and I wanted to do the song Country Girl Shake It For Me from the female perspective. The song was a little more on the traditional side so I changed the music a little to fit with my personality.

8. Song 8

Writing an album is like really hard. I just ran out of ideas so I said “How bout we just call a song song 8?” Well my label loved it and we decided to run with it! It’s not really about like anything but, it’s really happy and fun.

9. Dibs Remix feat Katy Perry

Dibs was such an inspiring track to so many people that I thought it would be great if we could do a remix with Katy Perry! She’s so incredible and her music is actually pretty country if you think about it.

10. Country Radio Your Like The Coolest!

This is my little hey hey to country radio. You guys are like so awesome! You will play anything I send you and I think that’s like so cool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

New To The Top 30: “Somethin’ I’m Good At.” Brett Eldredge’ lead single. Not the worst song but it’s just boring like so many other songs on the radio and nothing really country about it either. Brett has the potential to be a special artist but there’s no reason to believe we will ever see that potential come to fruition.

Songs That Left The Top 30: “Road Less Traveled.” Next single is “Doin’ Fine”

Songs In Danger Of Going Recurrent: “There’s a Girl” is finally done.

“Hometown Girl.” The next single is “All About You.” I’m a little bit surprised as this is one of the weaker tracks on the album. At least it sounds country.

“Body Like a Backroad” is number 1 again. It would have been a 3 week number 1 but MCA made sure that Josh who is also with MCA got a number 1. Chart manipulation at it’s finest.

“Any Ol’ Barstool”

“Love Triangle” looks to be about done.

“Yours If You Want It” went down 2 spots this week. I never thought this would be a number 1 hit. The label will want to keep this alive until the new album comes out May 19th so I expect it to peak in the top 10 and go recurrent after the album drops. And that should be the end of any big hits for Rascal Flatts. Radio has moved on.

Community Writing Piece (May)

The Community Writing Pieces in March and April were really cool and enjoyable so I would like to continue this into May. When I first came up with this idea I had no idea whether or not this was a good feature or whether or not anyone would contribute but those questions have been answered. To anyone that is new to the blog or this feature, this is an opportunity for you the reader to submit any piece of writing/s that you would like. It could be a song, poem, story, really anything you want. On Friday May 19th I will close submissions and the piece will be shared on Monday the 22nd. You can submit your writing in the comments section of this post or you may email me at criticallycountry@gmail.com. I look forward to reading and sharing your writings!

The Country Music Chat Featuring Country Exclusive

Welcome to the second collaboration piece that I have done summing up the month in country music. For the month of April I have had a chat with Megan at Country Exclusive and you can see it below.

 

 

Alex: Okay so let’s start it off with what was the best thing you reviewed this month

 

Megan: Angaleena Presley’s Wrangled. That just struck some chords with me and just kept getting better every time I listened to it. Jason Eady stands out too, but not quite on the level of Angaleena’s album.

 

Alex: Presley’s album seems to be hit or miss for a lot of people. For me that album has gotten better the more I listen to it and I’ll have my review out next week. As far as Jason Eady I have only listened to it once fully so I’ll reserve judgement

 

Alex: My favorite album that I reviewed this month was no doubt Sam Outlaw’s Tenderheart

 

Megan: On Presley’s, you’re right, that seems to be hitting a lot of people differently. I was telling Leon of Country Music Minds that I think Wrangled will fundamentally speak to women on possibly a deeper level. Stuff like the title track and “Good Girl Down” especially. But I love how that album, along with several others recently, has sparked so many different opinions. It’s boring to read the same opinion from everyone, and true music and art gives us something to talk about. I’ll take polarizing over boring any day because at least that artist/album had something to say.

 

Megan: Tenderheart was good, but it didn’t quite impress me on the level of Angeleno. But Sam Outlaw goes along with what I was just saying, his style is specific and seems to be hit and miss for different people.

 

Alex: One thing I will say negatively about Presley’s album is that it can be a little too grungy for me if that makes sense. Complete opposite of Tenderheart in sound. I definitely like it more than I dislike it though. It comes across as honest and she has something to say whether you agree with her or not.

 

Megan: Yeah, grungy makes perfect sense, and I’ve been struggling for a word to accurately define the production on it, but that one’s good. Sam Outlaw’s is so clean, and I will say again, it reminds you that it doesn’t take grit to be real. Polish can work too.

 

Alex: So on to a different subject, we both wrote rebukes of that horrible Whiskey Riff piece as did Leon at Country Music Minds and Farce. Would you like to talk about what you thought about it?

 

Megan: I thought pretty much what you and Leon and Farce thought, that it was offensive and untrue. And plus, I thought that by saying people are only hating on these guys, FGL, Luke, Sam, because they get the girls, that completely ignores women who might have a problem with this music. I just wanted to address it from a female perspective because that’s not represented enough in Nashville, Texas, hell, even on these blogs. I guess I felt like I had something to say about it that hadn’t been addressed, I don’t know if that made sense.

 

Alex: Absolutely! To me the article was brilliant for what they were trying to accomplish and that was clicks. They knew that it would rile up people who like independent and traditional country and it would bring in traffic to their site. And by Whiskey Riff leaving out the female perspective completely in their article only further proves the point that in country music the female perspective is hardly ever expressed.

 

Megan: Yeah, Whiskey Riff basically tweeted me the same thing, that they were happy to be getting the hits our responses fueled. They also mentioned “our 6 interns, all of whom are girls” to which someone replied that they’d rather be called women. I think the female perspective has taken a direct hit as a result of music like this because it’s not interesting to hear from women if your view of them doesn’t extend beyond hooking up on tailgates or posing in Canaan Smith covers.

 

Alex: I actually couldn’t believe that Canaan Smith’s song cover art was actually a woman’s behind. But worse than the cover art is the song. It’s really brutal and Miranda Lambert should not be dragged along for that ride.

 

Alex: Is there anything specifically that you wanted to talk about?

 

Megan: She absolutely shouldn’t. Let’s talk about IHeart. Could be the way forward for radio when they finally collapse. They’ve got 12 months to figure it out, but something tells me they’ll be just as clueless when that 12 months runs out. Still, could be the end for the Canaan Smiths of the world at least.

 

Alex: I make no secret that I cannot wait until the day when IHeart and Cumulus collapse. I have no idea what the impact will be on country as a whole but it doesn’t seem like the industry is doing anything for when radio collapses. It’s so silly that these labels continue to spend millions of dollars promoting these horrible singles to radio still. Chris Stapleton is projected to sell a quarter of a million records in his debut week for pete sake. People want better music and when you give it to them they give you their money!

 

Alex: What good is promoting these garbage singles doing for a majority of these artists careers? Look at how many Cannan Smith type artists are out there that nobody cares about. Even guys like Jake Owen who have had some success. Radio needs to collapse to fix the problem

 

Megan: I couldn’t agree with you more. I think collapsing can only help it. It could be that we’ll start to see more local radio again and support for local artists. I mean, only time will tell obviously, but people say that radio means nothing in 2017 because of streaming and easier access to better music, but I think radio has its unique purposes, and I think if it went back to being more localized, and DJ’s could have the freedom to play what they wanted, people would listen.

 

Megan: Trigger at SCM made a point that podcasts are on a massive rise, so people still gravitate toward something personal like that, and if radio can adapt, it can probably stay around a good while.

 

Alex: I just have a feeling that radio won’t learn from their mistakes. I doubt localized radio is coming back on a large scale. Adaptation is not something that radio or country music knows how to do but maybe I’m being overly cynical.

 

Megan: Country music definitely has a problem adapting, that’s been one of its biggest issues throughout the history of the genre.

 

Alex: There’s two more things I wanted to get to. Was there anything that you heard this month that you didn’t like or that didn’t click with you and what are your plans for your blog in May?

 

Megan: Somehow I feel like that first question was inspired by my very public reaction to Charlie Worsham and “Birthday Suit.” Honestly, with the exception of the title track, “Please People Please” and “Cut Your Groove,” that album just bored me. Brianna reviewed it, an it didn’t especially click with her either, although she also liked “Old Time’s Sake.” In May, let’s see….Stapleton, Zac Brown Ban, Willie Nelson coming quite soon…really looking forward to ZBB’s album especially. Other than that, not much is planned, we tend to cover what hits us, whether that be in a great way or in a pretty horrific way, and there’s not much rhyme or reason or planning to it. But hoping to find something surprising in May that blows me away like Presley did in April.

 

Alex: I liked Worsham’s new album but not every song was great to me. “Birthday Suit” is one of the weirder songs that I have heard for sure haha. And same with me I plan to review all that stuff and I’d like to get my Presley and Eady reviews out asap. And believe it or not but one album that I’m a bit excited for which is out in June is Wheeler Walker Jr. I didn’t think that he would follow up his debut with a better album but the first 3 songs from the new album have been good to me. Not sure how you feel about it being a woman but I like him.

 

Megan: Lol I like him and respect him. I’ve only heard the first song from the new album, and it didn’t impress me as much as his debut album, didn’t really like the bluesy direction it went in. I’ll have to reserve judgment on the others. In June, I am now excited for Steve Earl, that announcement made my Friday.

 

Alex: Steve Earl in June and Turnpike Troubadours in October is pretty damn cool. And not to brag but I go see the Troubadours in June and Stapleton in July.

 

Megan: That reminds me, one of the cooler things I got to do in April was seeing Jason Eady at his album release show. Definitely do this if you get the chance. Jealous about Stapleton, that sold out in 5 minutes here. I’ll probably get to see Turnpike in September at Medicine Stone, so can’t hate you too much for that, lol.

Alex: Alright, this was fun thanks for the convo!

 

Megan: Thanks, this was really cool to do. I enjoyed it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Morning Time Capsule

Image result for falling again don williams

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 1951 for Hank Williams hit song “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You).” This week we move up to the year 1981 for Don Williams’ hit song “Falling Again.” “Falling Again” peaked at 6 on the Billboard Country charts in 1981 and was the second single from his album I Believe In You. In this track a man is following old habits by falling for a woman too soon after his heart was broken by a previous woman. He knows that he should take his time and let his heart recover but then a woman smiles at him and he returns to the same cycle. The song was written by Bob McDill.

Charlie Worsham Beginning of Things Album Review

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Count myself among the people who like Charlie Worsham. Besides the fact that he comes across as an extremely likable guy, he makes great music. He’s not afraid to be different from the crowd and release music that although still country, is innovative and unique. Charlie’s debut album Rubberband was released in 2013 at the height of the bro country era when quality music did not fit in well on country radio (it still doesn’t). Prior to releasing his first album since 2013, Worsham released a few songs from the upcoming album basically an ep’s worth of material. I have to say I was very intrigued by the sounds that I was hearing and even wrote a review for the title track  The Beginning of Things.

This album although country definitely pushes boundaries and includes something that is becoming more common on country songs and that is horns. We hear the horns loud and clear on one of my favorite tracks on this album “Call You Up” which tells the story of a man who plans to call up his ex one day if he ever gets over her. He wants to call her to find out how she’s doing, if she ever met anyone and to laugh about the way that she broke his heart. He thinks about her all the time no matter what is going on. It’s a very smooth, catchy song which is the case with a number of songs on this album.

Worsham also displays a great sense of humor with songs like “Take Me Drunk” and “Lawn Chair Don’t Care.” The latter is a song I have seen that a lot of people don’t really care for and see it as label meddling however, I have to admit I kind of like it. It’s a catchy, relaxing song about all the stresses and problems in life. Despite all this he is going to just sit back in his lawn chair for awhile and not think about it. Is it a great song or one of the best tracks on the album? No, but it’s harmless.

One of the songs on the album that I agree with the consensus is “Birthday Suit.” What the hell is that?! I know that he was trying to be different with the album and Worsham has a sense of humor but what in tarnation? This is in stark contrast to “Beginning of Things” which displays excellent storytelling. This is the story of a man named Bill, his wife Samantha and their daughter. Bill only likes the beginning of things in life and shortly after marrying Samantha and having a daughter, Bill leaves them. Eventually, Sam’s mother gets dementia and has days where she doesn’t even remember who her daughter is. When she passes away the daughter and Bill show up to the funeral where she confronts her father about what he did to her mother. She tells him that Samantha never blamed you for what he did to them but she (his daughter) always did. To avoid the confrontation Bill grabs his things and leaves. He only likes the beginning of things and a funeral is of course the end.

The lead single “Cut Your Groove” is a great example of a fun, uptempo song that actually has something to say. This argues that if you have something to say, or a melody to get it out there. Make other people hear it even if you have to shout it out there. There’s a little bit of the idea of chasing your dreams as an artist which we get more clearly on “Only Way to Fly.” Chase your dreams and leave all your baggage behind, it’s the only way to live your life.

The most traditional track on this album is “Old Time Sake” which has some steel guitar and light acoustic guitar. The setting is a bar where the man meets a woman. He likes her and asks her to sit with him and talk for awhile. He is getting over a broken heart and is looking to start something new for old time sake. When a song comes on that they both like he asks her to dance. At the end of the night, instead of hooking up with her he simply walks her to her car because he doesn’t want to move too fast since this could be something special. It’s a refreshing take on the idea of two people meeting in a bar. With all the bar hookup songs circulating the last few years it’s nice to hear something like this. “Southern By the Grace of God” isn’t traditional sounding but is pretty standard country in theme with references to unlocked doors, crickets and a slow southern drawl. He even makes the joke that you can’t out country him.

“Please People Please” feels like a realization for Worsham in the mainstream country business. You can never please people no matter what you do and he’s not going to chase after trends and try and be something that he is not. He’s going to write and sing songs about what he’s feeling and if your music is going to just be a targeted, formulaic thing than what is the point?

“I Ain’t Going Nowhere” is a song that feels like one of the weaker tracks on the album even if it’s not a bad song. Two people in a relationship are having an argument but regardless of how bad it gets the man tells the woman he’s not going anywhere. The ah, ah’s in this song are incredibly annoying to me.

A really strong track “I-55” is one of the last songs on the album and one of the best. This is the story about returning to your hometown after being gone for a long time. The man in this song makes the long drive home any time he feels his life is getting to be to much or when he wants to catch up with old friends.

I like this album and I like that Charlie Worsham is doing something different while still remaining country. You will actually hear real music (not computerized) being played on this album and clever, non generic songwriting. This album was not perfect and there were a few songs I could have done without but overall this is an enjoyable album and a nice return for Charlie Worsham. Unfortunately, Charlie’s current single is struggling at radio but, the good news is radio is about to implode!

Grade: B- 7/10

Best Songs: The Beginning of Things, Call You Up, I-55