[Listen] Country Air Podcast, Episode 1: Songs We First Loved, Songs That Never Get Old and a Deep Dive Into Garth Brooks' "That Summer"
During this episode of the podcast, our first, we take a deep dive into music-- particularly, songs we've always loved, the songs we first loved and songs that never grow old. And yes, things turn colorful when Drew and I discovered are common interest in Garth Brooks' No. 1 hit, "That Summer."
Country Air Podcast // Songs We've Always Loved
As Easter nears, it's important to reflect on what that means to you and your family. Music is one of those things the Lord has given us to connect with him. We've put together the perfect playlist for your Easter weekend. It's fun, poignant, reverent and totally acceptable to your grandma, since everyone from Johnny Cash to Elvis to Alan Jackson has recorded a Gospel album or two.
There is no voice who can shatter mountains and make you weep in the same verse as Alison Krauss'. Between her solo work (including her exquisite covers album Windy City) and collaboration with Union Station, she has tremendously shifted the country landscape, as well as that of bluegrass, through the years. Her voice is unmistakable and her musicianship is equally as marvelous. Her debut album Too Late to Cry (on Rounder Records) arrived exactly 30 years ago this year. One Country takes a look back at her extensive songbook to curate her 10 finest moments.
10 Best Songs from Allison Krauss:
"Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us" (from 2007's Raising Sand with Robert Plant)
Drenched in a smoky cloud of southern gothic-bent instrumentation, this might be Krauss' most haunting vocal performance ever. A wall of OOOs and AHHs make it especially sinister. This is just one of many reasons the collaborative album won the GRAMMY for Album of the Year in 2008.
"All Alone Am I" (from 2017's Windy City)
Taking on a Brenda Lee can be a risky move for most, but Krauss doesn't shy away from tackling on the 1963 classic. It's sweet but brims with anguish. It's polished but cracks underneath the emotional heft. It's mighty but vulnerable.
"When You Say Nothing At All" (from 1994's Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album)
Probably her most well-known hit, this cover of Keith Whitley is timeless. Her vocal is so tender and nuanced, it can sweep you off your feet. While her rendition is a bit more mainstream in texture, her performance far exceeds those bounds.
"Whiskey Lullaby" (from Brad Paisley's 2003 album Mud on the Tires)
No one can possibly forget this sorrowful and devastating story of infidelity, redemption and pain. Paisley's deep baritone is a satisfying balance to Krauss' more ghostly skills here. If you don't truly weep after listening to this, you might need to see a doctor.
"Down to the River to Pray" (from the 2000 Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack)
Backed by only an angelic choir, there's no better Krauss than a practically a cappella Krauss. She weaves her voice between country's gospel roots and southern blues with ease, inviting you to, well, come down to the river to be baptized. Stunning moment, really.
"Stay" (from 1999's Forget About It)
Wrapped in a lovely nostalgic blanket, she meets up with an old flame and reflects on the passage of time and their formerly close-knit relationship. "Love has taken you far from my heart," she states. Later, "But you sail away far than a summer's day."
"Longest Highway" (from 1990's I've Got That Old Feeling)
Krauss' 1990 studio album was important for several reasons, most of all for its accomplished blend of bluegrass, country and pop. The closing track was one (of many) examples of her sharp-shooting talents. Her musicianship was already there, with her feathery but potent vocal coming into its own.
"Dusty Miller" (from 1987's Too Late to Cry)
Given her long-string of records which followed her impressive debut, Too Late to Cry often gets overlooked. But it made its mark on bluegrass and it was clear a trailblazer was just beginning to unfold. She was only 14 at the time, but she bested even the greats with her succinct and passionate playing and a voice which was wise beyond her years. "Dusty Miller" is an instrumental staple that has never lost its luster.
"Paper Airplane" (from 2011's Paper Airplane)
Coming off the massive success of Raising Sand, Krauss reunited with Union Station for a record spun around melancholy themes of struggle, turmoil and ultimately finding a resolve to soldier on. The title track opens the set with one of her most alluring and layered vocals.
"Daylight" (from 2001's New Favorite)
Less than a year after the huge blockbuster film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Krauss keeps one foot planted in that same grainy, Americana thinking and the other in progressive pop, seeped in their signature guitar, fiddle, banjo plucking. The call and response of "Daylight" is one of the band's most interesting moments. There is a lovely juxtaposition of the arrangement's darkness and Krauss' light vocal.
Since they released their self-titled debut album in 2002, Little Big Town has continued to hit their stride time and time again. When you think they've earned their last big hit, they come back even stronger. From The Road to Here in 2005 to 2012's defining Tornado and their most recent record, 2017's The Breaker, the harmonious four-piece push boundaries but remain true to country's ethos. With such a massive hit in 2016 with "Better Man," the stage was set for an even more intriguing chapter. One Country takes a look back at their incredibly impressive catalog for their best songs of all time. There are hits, sure, but some of their best work is nestled as deep cuts.
10 Best Songs From Little Big Town:
"Beat Up Bible" (from 2017's The Breaker)
Kimberly Schlapman really can sell a ballad like no other. Focused on the importance of faith, and, most importantly, the Bible, she reflects on the passage of time, death and how to cope. It's one of the group's most visceral moments...ever. "All you gotta do is just believe...in this beat-up Bible," she whispers.
"Wounded" (from 2005's The Road to Here)
Before the band really began pushing the stylistic boundaries on later albums, their early work was bluegrass-inspired, with plenty of steel guitar and banjo. "I'm wounded, all tore up inside over you," the four-piece lament, juxtaposed against the high-powered plucking and jovial melody.
"Sober" (from 2012's Tornado)
Terrestrial radio can be rather disappointing. Case in point: this smoldering mid-tempo did not go No. 1. How and why is an utter mystery. The quartet compare love to the high of alcohol, and it's magical.
"Shut Up Train" (from 2010's The Reason Why)
As the title suggests, the song unravels the story of an overbearing locomotive disrupting her thoughts. In the aftermath of a breakup, Karen Fairchild wallows in her sorrow over one lone acoustic guitar, but she can't seem to get her feelings in order. "I don't need no more pain, so, shut up, train," she coos.
"Evangeline" (from 2007's A Place to Land)
The group details a harrowing story of verbal abuse, which, they warn, can be just as damaging as physical. They plead with a woman named Evangeline that "it ain't love" and that "he won't lay a finger on you / he won't wreck your pretty face / but hell tell you that your worthless, just to put you in your place." Probably one of their most underrated recordings.
"Tornado" (from 2012's Tornado)
With evident southern-gothic inspiration, particularly in the witchy music video, the song is heavy on the percussion and the metaphors. Fairchild compares herself to the unrelenting force of nature, that of a tornado and it's power to lift a house from its foundation and ability to "toss it in the air."
"Stay" (from 2005's The Road to Here)
The track was originally recorded for their 2002 self-titled debut, but they revisited it on their follow-up. They've stripped away the pop-country production for a earthier rendition. Schlapman once again takes the lead vocal, and they offer up some of their most satisfying harmonies ever.
"Little White Church" (from 2010's The Reason Why)
A strong woman gives her suitor an ultimatum: "you can't ride this gravy chain," "no more calling me baby," "no more lovin' like crazy" until we get married. From the swinging bluegrass-lean to the killer guitar solo, this remains one of LBT's best toe-tappers. "Momma warned me about your game," Fairchild later avows.
"Bones" (from 2005's The Road to Here)
From the swampy guitar playing to the feverish lead vocals, this mid-tempo rattles with the past--lurking in the shadows and "waiting til the sun to go down." Most of the song is sung in unison, with harmonies sprinkled throughout, but the charm lies in the mood they create.
"Silver and Gold" (from 2014's Pain Killer)
LBT's sixth studio album is, perhaps, their most musically-adventurous. They dabble in harder southern rock and adult contemporary pop than they had previously done. The bookend "Silver and Gold" is an atmospheric send-off; their gliding harmonies are among their finest here, creating a mood to encompass the entire journey--rather than having an explosive ending.
Believe it or not, it has been 12 years since Carrie Underwood took the "American Idol" crown. Through five studio albums and one greatest hits compilation, she has blazed her way from a shy girl from Checotah, Oklahoma to one of the biggest superstars on the planet. Last fall, she headlined the prestigious Madison Square Garden to a sold-out crowd, further cementing her place as one of country music's greatest assets. Her continued radio success is the exception, not the rule--out of 20 (plus) singles shipped to radio, they have all peaked within the Top 3 on either Mediabase or Billboard's Country Airplay scorecard. Her most enduring hits include "Jesus Take the Wheel," "Before He Cheats," "Cowboy Casanova," "Blown Away" and "Something in the Water," among others. But often times, her deep cuts are far riskier and musically-ambitious; just take a listen to 2015's Storyteller LP. On her fifth studio album, she explores Delta Blues, Patti Page-bent pop, alt-country and the signature sounds of her songbook.
10 Best Deep Cuts From Carrie Underwood:
10. "Do You Think About Me" (from 2012's Blown Away)
Underwood rarely sings a song as sweet. It's one of her most subdued vocals. She lets the plucky melody guide her, as she reflects on a past flame and if he thinks about her, too, and what could have been. Given her penchant for glory notes, this was a lovely change of pace on an otherwise dramatic record.
9. "Get Out of This Town" (from 2007's Carnival Ride)
Being wild and free is not problem for Underwood, who packs up her entire life and plans to run away into the dead of night. "Let's get out of this town tonight, nothing but dust in the shadows," she wails. "Gone by morning light. Somewhere we won't never get caught, never be found." It's that feeling of escapism that's universally felt; we've all wanted to get away from our lives, if even for a day.
8. "What Can I Say," featuring Sons of Sylvia (from 2009's Play On)
In the aftermath of a relationship, Underwood plays a call-and-response with Sons of Sylvia frontman Ashley Clark (who has since pursued a solo career). They both consider the pain they've caused each other, not pointing fingers but wishing it had ended differently. The production is soft rock with a hint of classic Underwood pop. This could have been such a huge hit at radio.
7. "Someday When I Stop Loving You" (from 2009's Play On)
The powerhouse can pretty much pull off any genre. But when she goes traditional, she truly shines. Touching upon such influences here as Alan Jackson, she pulls back the reigns for one of her most restrained recordings. From the howl of steel guitar and the pitter-patter of percussion, the song creates such a special moment.
6. "Starts with Goodbye" (from 2005's Some Hearts)
Coming off "Idol," Underwood had established a pretty diverse fan base, including plenty of pop fans. When listening to her debut album, there is a country half and a pop half. On many of the songs, she delights in production those pop fans would enjoy the most, even on the searing ballads. This cut frames her vocals in the best way possible, and the arrangement never seems cluttered.
5. "Relapse" (from 2015's Storyteller)
Underwood finds herself caving into her craving for a former lover. "Don't think I'm coming back, it's just a relapse," she attests. While her and her lover do have a storied past, she's not above getting a quick fix. The heavy pop production conjures up '80s influences, with pounding drums and very few country inflections (except for her inescapable twang, of course).
4. "I Know You Won't" (from 2007's Carnival Ride)
Lyrically, it's rather mundane and repetitive, but Underwood's otherworldly voice really sells it. For fans who adore her ability to hit the stratosphere, this song is one power note after another. The vocal acrobatics are a perfect fit for the song's sorrowful message.
3. "Like I'll Never Love You Again" (from 2015's Storyteller)
Tapping into the magical era of the Nashville Sound--ripping a page out of the Patsy Cline playbook--Underwood also tips her hat to Patti Page, who crossed over into country with "The Tennessee Waltz." It contains a hazy, magical feel and paints a rather vivid portrait of love. It's quite different than most of what Underwood has explored in her career, and she would be wise to push the envelope even further.
2. "Wine After Whiskey" (from 2012's Blown Away)
Featuring a smokey guitar line and noticeable stripped production, Underwood's gritty portrayal of heartache is magnetizing. It's one of the closest moments she's gotten to infusing alt-country influences into her work. There's a lonesomeness in the arrangement which serves as atmospheric pressure to the story. Again, how this did not see the light of day at radio is such a travesty.
1. "Choctaw County Affair" (from 2015's Storyteller)
Sometimes it feels like "The Twilight Zone" when such excellent work as this misses out on a radio release. It would certainly be a gamble, possibly jeopardizing her winning streak. Reportedly, Underwood's Storyteller is finished, ending with her latest No. 1 hit "Dirty Laundry." Written by Jason White (also the writer behind Tim McGraw's "Red Ragtop"), "Choctaw" is the best thing Underwood has ever recorded. Tragically, it only got one TV performance on "CMA Music Festival: Country's Night to Rock" last summer.
Genre-bender Sam Hunt took our time with his 2014 debut album, Montevallo, and we have not looked back. "Not country" labels aside, there's a reason Hunt has connected to so well to his fans-- he is as real as you might imagine and is unashamed of that fact. As he readies his long-awaited follow-up, sampled by the "Drinkin' Too Much" teaser track and the official "Body Like a Backroad" single release, One Country revisits his debut LP and his acoustic Between the Pines mixtape, which also includes songs he has written for other country superstars.
6 Best Songs From Sam Hunt (So Far):
"Take Your Time"
The single we couldn't get out of our heads just had to make this list. It's a perfect mix of the country boy swagger and the R&B-bent that peppers much of Hunt's work. Here, the song works to cement him as a bit progressive and daring in his field.
Recorded by Keith Urban, the song became a moderate hit for the Aussie, but it is Hunt's original version that is far more convincing. A romantic rendezvous on a backroad and getting arrested by the police? Doesn't seem like something Urban would ever done in his life--but Hunt? Totally believable.
There is something just plain cool and mysterious about this deep cut found on his acoustic mixtape. The melody is rugged, as if lifted from the wild, wild west. Undeniable.
From the wailing production in the intro to the acoustic-tilt to the verses, this stands as one of Hunt's best moments. The breakdown in the chorus is fast 'n furious and irresistibly provocative.
"Ex to See"
Gotta admit: the play on words--comparing a lover, who is more concerned with being seen by her ex than living in the moment, to the high of a psychoactive drug--is clever. And the way Hunt delivers the playful but brash lyric is charming and unapologetic.
A song Hunt co-wrote with two of Nashville's mightiest songwriters, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, sees one of Hunt's most compelling vocals. Kenny Chesney earned a hit single with it, but there's something more interesting when Hunt sings it. Underneath his typically-thick and poppy production on his debut album, there is a voice that is not heard or appreciated. But on his acoustic mixtape, he allows himself to prove his chops. Sure, he's not an Andrea Bocelli, but he can hold his own.
If you're one of those people who is going to "leave work a little early" and hit up your local Walmart or Walgreen's for a nice Valentine's Day treat, let me stop you there-- just make a homemade card and whisper these sweet country music lyrics in your sweetie's ear(s).
7 Country Music Lyrics You Can Whisper to Your Valentine:
1. Maren Morris // "Sugar"
You make the morning glow, make the rooster crow, get my juices flowing
You know they won't be hearing that anywhere else.
2. Dierks Bentley // "Light It Up"
Your voice is like a choir
A match that starts a fire
Deep down in my bones where only you can go
When my soul needs an angel's touch
Honestly, it's a little much, but could be believable.
3. Shania Twain // "Don't Be Stupid (You Know I Love You)
Don't be stupid, you know I love you
If you end up at Walmart at 4:45 today and hand your love a stuffed animal, you'll definitely be saying this.
4. Brooks & Dunn // "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You"
There's ain't nothing bout you
That don't do something for me
It's a little vague and somewhat over-the-top obvious, but could work.
5. The Judds // "Love Is Alive"
Love is alive
And at our breakfast table
Every day of the week
If you forgot Valentine's Day, this one could get you out of trouble.
6. Keith Urban // "Even The Stars Fall 4 U"
Every star up in the sky
Has got your name on it tonight...
Even the stars fall for you
This one might be better in a text, if anything-- at least be outside where you can see stars if you use this one.
7. Eric Church // "Like A Wrecking Ball"
I wanna rock some Sheetrock, knock some pictures off the wall
Love you baby, like a wrecking ball
Only use this line if you're a pro. Like, a seasoned veteran of love and affection.