Staff Picks for June 2009

Staff | July 15th, 2009

Juli Thanki

Modern Sounds in Country… by Ray Charles

modern-sounds-iconJune was an excellent month for the entire country music spectrum. In addition to damn good albums from Charlie Robison, Sarah Jarosz, Holly Williams, and Levon Helm, Todd Snider and Brad Paisley also released worthy efforts. If classic country is your thing, June saw the release of George Jones’ Complete Musicor Recordings 1965-1971. For my money, the best release of this past month was Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 1 and 2. The 24 remastered tracks are a fine display not only of Charles’ sheer talent, but the inherent beauty in the songs he chose to cover. Running the gamut of emotion from the good time boogie of “Hey Good Lookin'” to Charles’ tortured take on “Making Believe,” Modern Sounds is nothing less than a masterpiece. Shame on you if this is an album you’ve neglected–after all, it’s been out forty-plus years.

Andrew Lacy

The Rock by Tracy Lawrence

Tracy Lawrence - The Rock Brad Paisley and Holly Williams both deserve the praise they’ve received for their June releases, but I have to give my endorsement to an album that has largely flown under the radar. As someone who takes my faith seriously and loves a good Christian country song, I fall squarely in the target audience for Tracy Lawrence’s new album. It wasn’t too long ago that almost every country artist recorded a gospel album after they were well established in the industry, and by putting together a string of enjoyable tunes with an uplifting religious themes that don’t get too preachy, The Rock successfully hearkens back to those days without being stale.

Sam Gazdziak

Roadhouse Sun by Ryan Bingham

Ryan Bingham - Roadhouse SunAs an album, it’s a little schizophrenic, bouncing from rock to Byrds-esque Dylan tributes to bluegrass-tinged numbers to Steve Earle Copperhead Road-era rockers. But taken as a bunch of individual songs, there’s an awful lot to like about Roadhouse Sun. Bingham’s voice is an acquired taste (think a hoarser, more pissed-off Hayes Carll), but songs like “Dylan’s Hard Rain,” “Roadhouse Blues” and “Tell My Mother I Miss Her So” pretty much require world-weary and ragged vocals. The political songs like “Endless Ways” may not be all that timely, considering the object of his ire is out of the White House and likely clearing brush at his Texas ranch relaxing at his Dallas estate as you read this, but they’ll still sound good coming from the CD player of your hybrid car (you know, the one with the Obama/Biden bumper stickers on the back).

Jim Malec

Beautiful Day by Charlie Robison

Charlie Robison - Beautiful DayArtistic excellence doesn’t necessarily translate to replayability. We can, after all, appreciate the literary, musical and creative accomplishments of a particular work without being especially drawn to that work. Beautiful Day is one of the rare albums that is effective to both of these ends, a hearty social commentary wrapped up in an unusually smooth and digestible Americana casing. Robison’s voice has never sounded better, and although this album doesn’t aim as high as the requisite disc Life of the Party it is altogether more personal.

Ken Morton Jr.

The Rock by Tracy Lawrence

Tracy Lawrence - The RockA passionate, powerful and moving tribute to his parents, heaven and his listeners. It would be easy to think of this as a side project or niche album (as a result of its theme). It isn’t at all. Tracy has always had a neoclassical take on honky-tonk country music, sounding more today like traditional country than much of what is played on radio. Despite its religious bend, this album is no different. Each cut speaks of character, faith, truth, hope, forgiveness and belief, all delivered with the same warm voice and tender approach that Lawrence is known for.

Kelly Dearmore

Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs) by Patterson Hood

Patterson Hood - Murdering OscarEven without the cool, cigarrette-smoking presence of Mike Cooley or the sultry drawl of the recently empowered Shonna Tucker, Hood’s album swaggers with the blood, grit and whiskey-soaked poetry of DBT’s better efforts (the title track wouldve been a nice book-end to Hood’s “The Man I Shot” from The DBT’s 2008 album, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark). Using a crack-band of Hood’s buddies from years of touring, Murdering Oscar isn’t as much Southern Rock as it just simply Rockin’.

Brady Vercher

Beautiful Day by Charlie Robison

Charlie Robison - Beautiful DayThere were a lot of worthy records last month, but Charlie Robison’s ended up capturing the bulk of my time. It took a spin or two to fully get into it; Robison’s trademark wry sense of humor seemed to be missing, but it’s still intact, just a little more subtle this go around. The songs mostly run through the gamut of emotions one would expect from a “divorce record” and are remarkably cohesive throughout without ever feeling bleak. It’s a superb effort from beginning to end.

1 Ping

  1. [...] Other Love Songs) kicked things off in June. I wrote about my enjoyment of it back then and had no problems calling it my favorite album of June, which was packed with great releases. Basically, Hood keeps doing here what he does so well with [...]
  1. Drew
    July 15, 2009 at 10:32 am

    It’s great to see “The Rock” mentioned finally. I’ve been really liking this album but haven’t been hearing anyone talk about it.

  2. Mike Parker
    July 15, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Looks like I have a few that I need to pick up yet. Of the June releases, I’ve probably given more time to Todd Snider’s than any other, but it’s really a toss up between Snider, Robison, and Paisley for me. All of them have a different style of music and a different perspective on life, but they all really know their way around a lyric. It was a good month for singer/songwriters.

  3. Leeann Ward
    July 15, 2009 at 11:18 am

    The paisley and Robison albums were my favorite of the month. I have the Lawrence album, but wasn’t nearly impressed enough by my cursory flip through to give it a serious listen yet. It seemed pretty dull.

  4. Leeann Ward
    July 15, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Oh yeah, I also agree that the Ray Charles album is awesome.

  5. Rick
    July 15, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Hey, where are the picks from Juli, Karlie, and Stephen? The double votes for Charlie Robison and Tracy Lawrence reveal a distinct lack of diversity among the panelists! (lol)

  6. Andrew Lacy
    July 15, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I can’t speak to Karlie and Stephen, but Juli is the first one listed.

  7. Rick
    July 15, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Oops, I saw that as being an introduction to the entire article in my usual inattentiveness! I must drink more coffee! DOH! Of all the albums listed the Ray Charles album is the only one I’d really like to hear, so Juli did not disappoint me! (lol)

  8. Razor X
    July 15, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    The two box sets on George Jones’ Musicor years, recently released by Bear Family Records, are pricy, but well worth having.

  9. Jim Malec
    July 16, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Just an FYI: Everyone is given a chance to participate in this. Some people had other things on their plate when it was due. We didn’t intentionally leave anyone out.

  10. Paul W Dennis
    July 16, 2009 at 8:22 am

    I would like to commend the following album to the group

    Carolina Cotton – THE YODELING BLONDE BOMBSHELL V1

    available from CD Baby or from the website
    http://www.carolinacotton.org

    Carolina was a western swing artist of the late 1940s – early 1950s who sang with Bob Wills and other bands, and had bands of her own. She was more of a radio star than a recording star, and the last track on the CD is a complete 15 minute “Carolina Cotton Calls” radio broadcast

    Great stuff – and she definitely could yodel

  11. Jordan Stacey
    July 16, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Holly and Hank Jr.’s albums were my favorite of June, still haven’t gotten to Todd, Charlie or Brad’s yet though so that may have something to do with it.

  12. Jordan Stacey
    July 16, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Holly and Hank Jr.’s albums were my favorite of June, still haven’t gotten to Todd, Charlie or Brad’s yet though so that may have something to do with it.

  13. Steve Harvey
    July 16, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Thumbs up on the Ray Charles mention – That record is awesome!

  14. Lucas
    July 16, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Ray Charles is on my “favorite music ever” list.

  15. Lucas
    July 16, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    AS IS TRACY LAWRENCE.

  16. Leeann Ward
    July 17, 2009 at 9:16 am

    I haven’t heard the Hank Jr. album. As someone who’s not typically a fan, I’m asking, is it actually good?

  17. Leeann Ward
    July 17, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Tracy Lawrence used to be one of my favorites, but his appeal started to drop off after Time Marches On for me. I still continue to buy all of his albums though.

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