Album Review: Lindsay Ell – Heart Theory

In summer I always crave a big sugary country pop album – one that has ambition, blends contemporary sounds with quality songwriting and real personality. Last year Maren’s ‘Girl’ did the trick and this summer that album is ‘Heart Theory’ by Lindsay Ell. I’ve always admired Lindsay as a rare mainstream artist in the country genre who is known equally for her guitar playing as her vocals. It really depresses me to see women putting their instruments aside to appeal to the mainstream charts. So I am happy to report that this new album ‘Heart Theory’ sounds a million times better than most big Nashville pop releases because of Ell’s fantastic guitar riffs. Continue reading “Album Review: Lindsay Ell – Heart Theory”

Album Review: The Chicks – Gaslighter

In their classic hit ‘Goodbye Earl’ the Chicks sang gleefully about murdering an abusive husband, whose violent actions meant there was no other option: he simply ‘had to die’. The song was pure revenge fantasy where two women take back the power and their happy ending is a world of friendship, peace, joy and freedom.

Unfortunately in the real world most of us have to find a way to live alongside those men – husbands, fathers, bosses, heroes etc – who violate and hurt us in varying extremes. We can’t cancel their existence with a shovel and a smile, even if we sing along to the song like we might want to. However that doesn’t mean we can’t fight and scream in protest at the injustice women face daily. When even getting a simple divorce can be a torturous and traumatic experience you have to conclude that something is wrong with the system itself.

Natalie Maines knows this all too well and uses Gaslighter, the first album from the band in fourteen years to reckon with her private pain and the collective struggle of her bandmates and women everywhere to survive this cruel world the patriarchy has built. Continue reading “Album Review: The Chicks – Gaslighter”

Dolly Parton’s Discography – Rainbow (1987)

Rainbow was the first of Dolly’s albums for her new record label Columbia, after her nearly two decade long relationship with RCA ended. When signing with CBS she reportedly envisioned rotating the style of her albums, with one pure pop followed by one pure country. The problem with that plan was exposed almost immediately. Rainbow was Dolly’s lowest charting album for nearly fifteen years and the Trio album with Emmylou and Linda (also released this year) was her most successful in a decade. The public had spoken: they wanted Dolly back singing country music. At age 41 her pop dream was dead. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Rainbow (1987)”

Dolly Parton’s Discography – Real Love (1985)

“I’m commericalminded. If I can’t get my own hit, I’m not too proud to hang on somebody else’s coattails,’ said Dolly in a revealing interview she conducted in the mid-90s. Therefore working with platinum king Kenny Rogers, who she called ‘a magical man’ was a no-brainer. Together they would have a pop smash with Islands in the Stream, a successful Christmas album released in 1984, and a country chart topper with the title track of this 1985 album. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – Real Love (1985)”

Dolly Parton’s Discography – The Great Pretender (1984)

The appeal of Dolly Parton’s image has always been in how the ‘false’ make-up, wigs, gaudy outfits and cosmetic enhancements contrast with her country roots and the vulnerable truths in her music. ‘The Great Pretender’ is what she set out to be as a poor kid playing dress up, writing songs and hoping to become a star. By 1984 she’d successfully created her legendary persona and was a household name. Her musical output in the eighties was wildly inconsistent at best, with dwindling returns from the heady heights of 9 to 5. This album would prove to be a low of her recording career, filled with forgettable cover versions of songs from the fifties and sixties that offered little of what had got her here in the first place. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography – The Great Pretender (1984)”

Dolly Parton’s Discography: Burlap and Satin (1983)

1983 was a year that brought Dolly more crossover chart success thanks to her duet Islands in the Stream with Kenny Rogers. Her 25th solo album released in the same year, Burlap and Satin, in comparison did not contain any real classic or memorable hit songs. The title is an acknowledgement that there will always be two contrasting aspects to her music – and how best to balance pop and country is something she is obviously still struggling to reconcile at this point. This album reached number 5 in the country charts, a disappointment for her, although it did result in a Grammy nomination. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography: Burlap and Satin (1983)”

Album Review: Little Big Town – Nightfall

Before I started this blog I wasn’t hugely familiar with Little Big Town, since their fame in the U.K. is niche at best. Many of my fellow Americana bloggers seemed to scoff at them, as though they were just another bad example of pop county and the Nashville big machine. However when I caught them live at C2C festival a couple of years ago I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed their set. This new album Nightfall has been mainly produced by the band themselves, alongside Golden Hour producers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk.

While a band like this don’t set trends themselves, their work and choice of songs has always been admirable in comparison with some other mainstream, major label county artists. Unfortunately this also means that they too have fallen victim to the current banishment of women from the country music radio airwaves, despite their previous success. Luckily for the listener that seems to have freed them to do something much more interesting on this album. Continue reading “Album Review: Little Big Town – Nightfall”

Dolly Parton’s Discography: 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs

Despite never working a 9 To 5 job in her entire life, Dolly Parton understood the plight of working women and channeled that despair, hope and frustration into an anthem that still resonates today, long after the film of the same name has faded in the cultural consciousness. Her previous album, Dolly, Dolly, Dolly had been entirely written by others, so it was ironic (although not a surprise to anyone who understands her songwriting talent) that she would find the crossover hit she was looking for in her own pen after all. Continue reading “Dolly Parton’s Discography: 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs”

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