I know some musicians aren’t wild about reviews that mention other musicians – they want to think they’re doing something so groundbreaking that it exists in its own little universe, defying all comparison – but the truth is that working in a few reference points is very often in the best interest of music-hungry readers. I learned about Josh Turner – back before “Long Black Train” was on the radio – when a fellow Randy Travis fan directed me to the website of this great new artist with a similar style. Going in the other direction, I was inspired to check out the work of Ed Bruce when an Amazon review of a Trace Adkins record posited that he had the deepest country baritone since – you guessed it – Ed Bruce. Had they stopped at “Adkins has a deep voice,” I might not have become hip to the “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” writer so soon, or at all.
Another illustration: The thing that put me over the edge of picking up Jason Eady’s When the Money’s All Gone was when my friend Ken at That Nashville Sound described him as a “Hal Ketchum-like storyteller with a Joe Nichols voice,” and I thought “Wow, I like Ketchum’s storytelling and Nichols’ voice. I need to hear that.” Were those the best possible comparisons? Would Jason Eady agree with them? Eh, I don’t know. But they got me to check the album out, and I liked what I heard enough to put it on my year-end list, so I’m glad those were the comparisons Ken made.
So, you’ll note the addition of a “Recommended if you like” to the bottom of most ‘straight’ (versus humorous, not lesbian) album reviews from now on. In the case of the latest review, my hope is that fans of Hank III might be inspired to check out Hellbound Glory – but also that fans coming from Hellbound Glory’s Facebook page might be inspired to check out J.B. Beverley and the Wayward Drifters, and that fans of all of the above might get hooked on Oxyco… well, never mind that last one. But I think you get the point.
When I say that A sounds like B, I’m building a bridge that works both ways, and hopefully helping readers navigate their way around neighborhoods of music they’ll enjoy.