Best Songs of August ’08

Brady Vercher | September 10th, 2008

In an attempt to discover and highlight the best music every month, I’ll be publishing a list of the best songs released throughout that period. Hopefully, this will present an opportunity for everyone to discuss the month’s releases, discover new and worthwhile music, and debate over the order of the list and the inclusion or exclusion of particular songs.

The only criteria are that the song must be on an album released during the month prior to the list being compiled. The list will be limited to 20 songs with no more than three songs from a particular artist making the cut, which means it could get pretty hairy if there aren’t many releases during a certain month. Covers of well known songs that don’t bring much new to the table will also be left off in favor of fresher material.

  • Jerry Douglas - Glide (Bonus Instrumental) “Glide” – Jerry Douglas
    All of the instrumentals on Douglas’ album Glide seemingly tell a story, but the title track stands out for it’s laid back, peaceful undertones. Be sure to check out “Home Sweet Home” featuring Earl Scruggs and Tony Rice, as well.
  • Darrell Scott - Modern Hymns 20. “That Old Time Feeling” – Darrell Scott
    Darrell Scott is already well known for his songwriting abilities, so it’s a bit ironic that he’d put out an album of covers to show off his vocal chops. Nevertheless, his cover of the Guy Clark tune, like much of Modern Hymns, is a bit theatrical, but it’s the perfect way to end this list the same way Scott ends the album, with a great song that sounds like it could be an old time hymn. His respect for the song and it’s influential writer make this this seem like an ode to Clark as much as a spiritual psalm.
  • Heidi Newfield - What Am I Waiting For 19. “Wreck You” – Heidi Newfield
    The title phrase was a little awkward on the first few listens, but after getting over that little detail, “Wreck You” makes for a well crafted lyric, like most Lori McKenna tunes. While the song is solid at best, Newfield’s emotional performance is what makes this song shine. She has great potential with a better collection of songs than was present on What Am I Waiting For.

    Read the review of What Am I Waiting For.

  • Crystal Shawanda - Dawn of a New Day 18. “What Do I Have To Do” – Crystal Shawanda
    An anthem for women in neglectful relationships, “What Do I Have To Do” stands out among the contemporary glam and sometimes grating vocals on Shawanda’s Dawn Of A New Day. She borders on melodrama while showing vulnerability in her performance, but masterfully, never crosses the line as she pleads for nothing more than a simple conversation with her lover. It’s interesting to note how long the theme has been a topic of country music and the different way it’s been approached; check out Ernest Tubb & Loretta Lynn’s duet of “Won’t You Come Home And Talk To A Stranger” from 1969 in which the title pretty much sums up the sentiment.

    Read the review of Dawn of a New Day.

  • Glen Campbell - Meet Glen Campbell 17. “All I Want Is You” – Glen Campbell
    Continuing with another cover–and certainly not the last on this list in a month full of them–Campbell’s version of U2’s “All I Want Is You” is lent poignancy by his noticeably aged, but still viable voice–a voice that tells us this is a man that has experienced life and all it’s offerings, but in the end all he wants is the one he loves.

    Read the review of Meet Glen Campbell.

  • Jason Boland - Comal County Blue 16. “May Not Be Love” – Jason Boland
    Slightly reminiscent of “It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad)” by Merle Haggard, “May Not Be Love” is a story of two people who have found a relationship that isn’t quite love, but what they have works because “it’s better than most.” And though they’ve found something that works for them, the feeling lingers that they both want more of each other. Boland’s plaintive vocal suits the song perfectly.

    Read the review of Comal County Blue.

  • Glen Campbell - Meet Glen Campbell 15. “Jesus” – Glen Campbell
    Rather than a cacophony of sound like other songs on the album, the production here adds to the aural pleasure. The lyric is decidedly simple, consisting of only a handful of lines repeated a few times over, but Campbell expertly expresses the despair and search for atonement that makes this song work.

    Read the review of Meet Glen Campbell.

  • Cadillac Sky - Gravity 14. “Wouldn’t Put It Past Love” – Cadillac Sky
    It’ll make a man sacrifice his life, save a man going to hell, make a sane man crazy, and make a crazy man sane. Nothing is too absurd when love enters the mix–that’s the premise behind this song from the progressive bluegrass group Cadillac Sky. The group experiments with the arrangement and melody during the instrumental break, but it doesn’t diminish the message that does what it can to tarnish love’s reputation.
  • Heidi Newfield - What Am I Waiting For 13. “Can’t Let Go” – Heidi Newfield
    Newfield’s cover of the Randy Weeks penned tune adds a little polish to Lucinda Williams’ version, which, in this instance, isn’t a bad thing. It’s an irresistibly catchy rendition dripping with attitude and oozing desperation as Newfield softens to a whisper at the end–all while featuring a rich, interesting arrangement. It’ll have you singing along in no time.

    Read the review of What Am I Waiting For.

  • Jason Allen - Twilight Zone 12. “He’s Still Dancin’ With Her” – Jason Allen
    Allen’s latest, Twilight Zone, wasn’t quite able to achieve it’s goal, but when he sticks to what he’s good at, he’s capable of crafting a worthwhile listening experience. In “He’s Dancin’ With Her,” the narrator wonders about a man dancing alone and the bartender tells him that the man visits the bar every Friday night to play his late wife’s favorite song on the jukebox and prays that he’ll dance with her again one day. It isn’t deep or particularly original, but it’s an example of what country music can be by sticking to the basics; it’s simple and heartfelt.
  • Darrell Scott - Modern Hymns 11. “The Devil” – Darrell Scott
    Scott digs up an old Hoyt Axton song in “The Devil” and gives us a blistering acoustic/bluegrass rendition, adding in a couple of extended instrumental breaks for good measure.
  • Jason Boland - Comal County Blue 10. “Comal County Blue” – Jason Boland
    There’s enough going on in this brilliantly written title track from Jason Boland that it can’t be absorbed in one listen, but that doesn’t drag it down, rather it makes the song a pleasure to listen to over and over again. With the slow, steady chug of a train, Comal County Blue is a metaphor to describe Boland himself as a man who “has a harmless habit of being fine where ever [he is].” The relaxed and unassuming nature of his delivery take some of the edge off of what is otherwise a biting commentary on the unfriendliness of vistors to Comal County: “But it’s the only place made colder/Around here in the middle of June/By endless string of strangers/Brought by the summer moon.”

    Read the review of Comal County Blue.

  • Glen Campbell - Meet Glen Campbell 9. “These Days” – Glen Campbell
    Even in it’s simplicity, Jackson Browne’s “These Days” as sung by Campbell sure seems to say a lot. Perhaps it’s his age and the pondering of what life has left to offer from a man who’s acutely aware of his position in life that makes the meaning a little more immediate or perhaps it’s the contrast of the richly layered accompaniment that hints at a hopefullness for what’s to come. Either way, it’s the best song on Campbell’s recent album and makes for an affecting listen.

    Read the review of Meet Glen Campbell.

  • Jamey Johnson - That Lonesome Song 8. “Dreaming My Dreams With You” – Jamey Johnson
    As far as interpretation goes, this one doesn’t stray from Waylon Jennings’ version, but the reverence with which Johnson treats the song imbues it with an intensity that makes this cover special.

    Read the review of That Lonesome Song.

  • Jamey Johnson - That Lonesome Song 7. “In Color” – Jamey Johnson
    A lot of talk has been dedicated to this song and no, it won’t cure cancer, but that shouldn’t be a detraction against the song.

    Read the review of “In Color.”
    Read the review of That Lonesome Song.

  • Jason Boland - Comal County Blue 6. “Bottle By My Bed” – Jason Boland
    Comparing his life to the empty bottle by his bed, this song serves as the story of Boland’s recovery from his addiction to alcohol. He seemingly extends an invitation to hear his testimony when he sings, “Don’t be afraid to stop me/When I pass you by/We’ll sit and watch the sun go down/As the waters turn to red/If you’d like I could tell you/About the bottle by my bed.” Without being overt, it’s one of the most spiritual songs on this list.

    Read the review of Comal County Blue.

  • Jamey Johnson - That Lonesome Song 5. “High Cost Of Living” – Jamey Johnson
    Displaying the harshness of reality with gritty honesty, Johnson packs a wallop into a simple turn of phrase: “The high cost of livin’/Ain’t nothin’ like the cost of livin’ high.” It doesn’t quite reach the pinnacle to which it aspires, but Johnson has the talent to one day get there.

    Read the review of That Lonesome Song.

  • Jerry Douglas - Glide 4. “Long Hard Road (A Sharecropper’s Dream)” – Jerry Douglas (feat. Rodney Crowell)
    This dobro-driven, slightly tweaked cover, featuring Rodney Crowell on vocals, has a sense of urgency not present when Nitty Gritty Dirt Band sang it. This is nostalgia and country life done right–without all the silly posturing of song’s like “Country Man” and “Holler Back.”
  • George Jones - Burn Your Playhouse Down 3. “The Window Up Above” – George Jones with Leon Russell
    Perhaps the best description of this song was said by Ben: “I thought especially that the Leon Russell duet on “Window Up Above” [was] funky as hell, and could live on a ‘greatest duets’ CD.”

    Read the review of Burn Your Playhouse Down.

  • Cadillac Sky - Gravity 2. “Bible By The Bed” – Cadillac Sky
    In this gripping tale of spousal abuse, a wife torn by the vows she made and the hopelessness of her situation keeps a Bible by the bed and a gun under her pillow. If one doesn’t stop her abusive husband, the other one will. It’s a little overwrought, but sometimes the best bluegrass songs step out of bounds.
  • Jerry Douglas - Glide 1. “A Marriage Made In Hollywood” – Jerry Douglas (feat. Travis Tritt)
    The best song of the month has a lot going for it–a catchy melody and driving beat, some sweet dobro pickin’, a social message–but it raises one important question: what the hell is Travis Tritt doing chasing radio success when he could be recording material like this.

Listen to the Best Songs of August 2008 Playlist on Rhapsody

  1. Charles
    September 10, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Holy Crap. Am I the only one that thinks you missed the EVERY SONG on the Chris Knight Heart of Stone Album??

  2. Brady Vercher
    September 10, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Dude, that album sucked hardcore, quit your whining. I’m only kidding. Heart of Stone came out this month, not in August. I’m sure a few of its songs will make the September list.

  3. Marc
    September 10, 2008 at 9:59 am

    I’ve heard absolutely none of those other than Crystal S. Can’t say any of the other artists interest me either. :(

  4. Chris N.
    September 10, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Someone should do a medley of “Bottle By My Bed” and “Bible By the Bed.”

  5. leeann Ward
    September 10, 2008 at 10:41 am

    I haven’t bought the Jason Boland album yet, but it’s toward the very top of my long list of albums to buy.

    I went right away to amazon to download your #1 song though.

    This really is a cool feature!

  6. m.c.
    September 10, 2008 at 10:45 am

    Brady–Great feature. It’s good to see strong songs highlighted, and it gives readers a sense of what you like, which provides perspective on your tastes for those bothered by the albums you criticize.

    I’m glad to see the Campbell and Douglas albums hightlighted, as well as continued support for Johnson. You left off my favorite song from “Glide” though: listening to Jerry Douglas and Lloyd Green trade instrumental lines on “Two Small Cars in Rome” makes me smile ever time I hear it. But “Long Hard Road” is outstanding, too, as are the others you mention.

  7. Matt B.
    September 10, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Leeann, It’s on eMusic (Jason Boland).

  8. leeann Ward
    September 10, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Awesome, Matt. My downloads renew today, actually.

  9. Rick
    September 10, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Brady, will you be the primary author of this feature each month or will it rotate among The 9513 reviewers? I’m just wondering as this concept gives real insight into the author’s personal tastes in country music and I do find that quite interesting. This way us 9513 participants can guage how similar our personal tastes are to the individual reviewers here so we can know how much to rely on their recommendations……

    Or better yet, how about if each of the regular reviewers including yourself, Brody, Matt C., Jim Malec, and Hollerin’ Ben each picked their 4 favorite songs meeting your selection critera for a composite list of 20 songs which would cover a much broader base of the country music spectrum. After talking to Ben in person, I would expect his choices to be the most eclectic……

    PS – I would put the Jypsi songs “Halfway Home Cafe”, “Shame On Me”, and “I Do What I Want” up against any of your selections and expect them to hold their ground. Its too bad Jypsi’s album came out before this series originated as the band deserved more than to just slip through the cracks of the mainstream country music realm….

  10. Brady Vercher
    September 10, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Glad y’all like the feature.

    Chris, I think that medley would confuse me.

    Leeann, what you’d think of the top song?

    MC, I think album review are a whole different thing than a list like this. I probably would have rated the Shawanda, Newfield, and Brandon Rhyder albums around 2.5 – 3 stars, but I didn’t think any of the songs on Rhyder’s album were strong enough for this list. So even though I don’t think an album is particularly strong, it can still contain some worthwhile material.

    Likewise, I dig the Campbell album to an extent, but that production style isn’t exactly my favorite, even though I recognized three of the songs on this list.

    Choosing an instrumental was kind of a toss up, they’re all good, but I really dug “Glide.”

    Rick, this is a feature that I’m taking on, but it’s a possibility that the rest of the guys may contribute with one here and there. It’s true that the list may give insight to personal tastes to a degree, but it can’t necessarily be considered a list of favorites. I’ll be approaching everything with an open mind and evaluating the songs in relation to each other, and not whether they match my personal tastes or not.

    For the record, I’d expect Jim to have the most eclectic tastes, although it might not necessarily show up on a list like this.

  11. Hollerin' Ben
    September 10, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    awesome list and really enjoyable feature Brady. It’s obvious that you put a lot of work into this, well done.

    and thank you for the shoutout on “The Window Up Above” blurb.

    and
    For the record, I’d expect Jim to have the most eclectic tastes, although it might not necessarily show up on a list like this.

    obviously you only think this because you haven’t met me in person since,apparently, my in-person communication screams eclecticism.

  12. Dan Milliken
    September 10, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I don’t know if I’m ready to agree that “High Cost of Living” is the best song on Johnson’s set, but this is indeed a very cool feature. I’ll have to dig into some of this material I missed. Well done.

  13. Brady Vercher
    September 10, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Thanks, Ben. It did take more time than I was anticipating, but I think it’s worth it.

    Now you’ve gone and done it, Dan. Which song did you think was the best on That Lonesome Song?

  14. Funk
    September 10, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I don’t know if it is your intention but this feature could be used to draw a lot of attention and page views to your site. If you work hard and make an interesting list of songs each month, it’s a real service to even casual listeners. I could see putting 5 or 6 reliable lists like this and then once a month, I could click around, pull up Rhaspody and relatively quickly hear EVERYTHING good in country music. Much better than sitting through 4 weeks of radio.

    Excellent feature and I hope you will consider working with other blogs to do the same. It’s a great way to spread more good music. (For example, no way am I ever going to think of Glen Campbell when I am surfing Rhapsody loading my Zen. Never. Good work. Same with Stragglers but that is the usual new band problem.)

  15. Troy
    September 10, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    maybe instead of songs that were released in cd make it just singles released this month because there are only a few singers on this list

  16. Matt B.
    September 10, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Troy,

    I think the whole point of this post is to draw attention to songs that AREN’T singles from albums that are recently released. There are plenty of songs that aren’t singles that are actually better than the singles released. The amount of artists on this list shouldn’t matter. The quality of songs should.

  17. leeann Ward
    September 10, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    No, please don’t limit this to singles. I’m well aware of the singles, I want ideas of the songs that I’m not so familiar with. That’s what I love about this feature.

    I like the top song, Brady. I’m going to buy the whole Douglas album, actually. I usually shy away from instrumental albums, but he and Paisley are worth the exception. I’ve already bought the Boland album now, but haven’t listened to it yet. Thanks for emptying my bank account. You’re a swell guy.:)

    So…Rick and Ben have met in person? Whoa!

  18. Troy
    September 10, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    not limit it to singles but allow singles that were released would make a more complete list if your saying it the best top 20 songs this months. There are a lot of repeats.

  19. Troy
    September 10, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    It wouldn’t be the best 20 songs of august because its only songs that had a cd come out this month.

  20. leeann Ward
    September 10, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    We can really get a sense of the “best singles” by reading the single reviews throughout the month though. This is cooler, I’m tellin’ ya.:)

  21. Dan Milliken
    September 10, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Brady, I’m actually inclined to say “Angel.” It’s very subtle, and I think it suffers a bit in the context of the album by following “High Cost…”, which is admittedly more distinct. But on its own, I think it’s the best-written thing there. It is a tough call, though.

  22. Rick
    September 10, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Leeann, I encountered Hollerin’ Ben at a free 1100 Springs show at Safari Sams in Hollywood a couple weeks back. The lead singer of local LA honky tonkers “West of Texas” was addressing Ben directly from the stage, so I had a good idea which of the approximately 15 audience members he was. Ben, you missed an awfully good Mike Stinson gig at The Grand Ole Echo this past Sunday and Dave Gleason can really pick up a storm on that guitar. I was waiting to see if my random “eclectic taste” comment would get noticed…(lol)

  23. leeann Ward
    September 10, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Rick,

    That’s hillarious.

  24. Hollerin' Ben
    September 10, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Sunday I was actually at a Willie Nelson show north of San Diego, but that did look like a good GOE.

    The next GOE I’m going to for sure is Justin Townes Earle and Sarah Gayle Meech on Oct 5th (I think, I’m lazy or I would look it up).

    Yeah, Dave Gleason is a hell of picker. I caught his show at Pappy and Harriet’s last weekend with the band Old Calfornio. It was more on the alt-country than honky-tonk side, but it was legendary. I try to catch Dave’s act as much as I can.

    and this Friday in Fullerton is West of Texas and David Serby at The Tropics Lounge. should be a good honky-tonk show.

  25. Charles
    September 10, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    I’ve had the Chris Knight CD for several months, so I sometimes lose sight of when the public release is…let me check…oh…Aug 19th…well I guess that means it won’t make your September list either. Too bad. It will make my year-end top CDs. So will the Grayson Capps album…but that for sure was released in September, so I hope to see one of those songs on your September list.

  26. Brady Vercher
    September 10, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    My bad. I thought I read a release saying it was delayed a couple of weeks and I vaguely remember attending a show on 8/29 where Mr. Knight said his album would be released in September. I guess all that was a figment of my imagination.

  27. Hollerin' Ben
    September 10, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    burn

  28. scooter
    September 10, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    I’m just getting into chris knight. What are some good songs to download? All I have is “framed” and “It ain’t easy being me”. Great songs

  29. wukkbillhicups
    September 11, 2008 at 12:01 am

    Add another singer who has covered “There Days” by Jackson Browne a song he wrote for/about Gregg Allman whom also done a cover of it. Jackson has a new release coming out on the 23rd of September.
    Love Leon Russell grew up on his music. Rollin in my sweet baby’s arms.

  30. Matt B.
    September 11, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Scooter,

    You can’t go wrong with ANY of Chris Knight’s songs. They’re ALL good.

  31. Matt B.
    September 11, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Ben,

    everytime I see/hear someone use “burn” I think of “That 70’s Show.”

  32. Trailer
    September 11, 2008 at 6:33 am

    #2’s storyline sounds like every Drive-by Truckers song. Nice feature, by the way! I’ll have to check out Cadillac Sky.

  33. Trailer
    September 11, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Oh and Scooter, all of Chris Knight’s songs are good, but if you want to cherry-pick some of his best, I’d suggest Rural Route, Down the River, Becky’s Bible, Crooked Road and Hard Edges.

  34. Kelly
    September 11, 2008 at 9:22 am

    also give: “Love & a 45″, “Up from the Hill”, “Carla came home”, “Lord’s Highway”, “Devil Behind the wheel” and “Highway Junkie”….man, i am almost jealous that you are just now discovering all this Chris Knight gold!!

  35. Rich
    September 11, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Great feature! Just bought “Comal County Blue” great album, but my favorite is still “That Lonsome Song”

  36. Funk
    September 11, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Brady, I can see why my post didn’t make much sense. I meant to say that it would be great to see these kinds of lists at 5 or 6 different country music blogs around the Web. That way, plenty of perspectives and tastes get covered and I can go just to those lists on a chosen day and find plenty of music I might miss.

    Sometimes I type slower than my brain thinks.

  37. PaulaW
    September 11, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Dont worry Funk — I frequently type faster than my brain thinks. :-0

  38. leeann Ward
    September 11, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    For the record, I really like the Boland album!

  39. scooter
    September 12, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    I liked the Jason Boland stuff too – found some of his other songs I really liked on amazon. Really impressed with cadillac sky too.

  40. Kelly
    September 12, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    yeah, the boland disc rules, and emusic rules for having it available. i will never forget the time i came home fron nashville a month ago, and i had listened to some really bad pop-country stations in music city, then i get back to texas and the first song i hear on the radio when i get in my car is “Comal County Blue”. Not to “Nashville Bash”, but it cracked me up that I had to leave the Country Music capital to hear soemthing that was really country…

    again, please excuse the generic nashville bashing on my part…

  41. Cindy2
    September 12, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Really nice to see Cadillac Sky mentioned here. Over the past year or two, I’ve really gained an appreciation for some of the younger bluegrass acts-these guys are great musicians.
    I think one of the instrumentals on the cd, “Majestic Swan”, is really magical-the sounds they make together are beautiful then any of the instruments on their own.

  42. Occasional Hope
    September 15, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Just to say I love this idea for a regular feature.

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