We’re back with some of the best tracks of February, all but one of which appeared on new albums released within the month. Ya Ain’t Crazy Henny Penny dates back to last year, but it’s Canadian, so taking into account the exchange rate…
Here are the best songs of February 2011.
Carrie Rodriguez and Ben Kyle – “Unwed Fathers”
from We Still Love Our Country
Everyone from Dry Branch Fire Squad to Tammy Wynette has covered it, but I think Ben Kyle’s sensitive reading (with Rodriguez’s beautiful harmonies) might be my favorite since the John Prine original.
Jeff Bates – “One Day Closer”
from One Day Closer
Like “If Heaven” and “Why Me Lord” before it, “One Day Closer” is a religious song that succeeds in reaching the broadest base of people by wondering rather than preaching. As a composition, it’s not the equal of either of the aforementioned titles, but burly-voiced Bates sells it with a likable, heartfelt reading.
Rachel Harrington – “He Started Building My Mansion in Heaven Today”
from Celilo Falls
Sounds like an old spiritual, but it’s a Harrington original. Emmylou Harris and Iris DeMent have a kindred spirit in this fourth-generation Oregonian, who has only been recording since 2004.
Todd Snider – “Bill Elliott Story”
from Live: The Storyteller
Whether in song or just in conversation, Todd Snider is a storyteller. Here’s a favorite anecdote making its first appearance on an ‘official’ Snider release, about the time a meeting with NASCAR champ Bill Elliott didn’t quite go as planned.
Susan Gibson – “The Wood Wouldn’t Burn”
The “Wide Open Spaces” writer has another winner in this ode to the resilience and life-changing power of a 1952 Gibson flat top guitar. Features some great slide work by Gabe Rhodes, the co-producer and only musician other than Gibson featured on the entire album.
Hayes Carll – “Hard Out Here”
from KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories)
There are more poignant songs on Carll’s latest, but “Hard Out Here” hits a road-weary sweet spot.
Sunny Sweeney w/ Jessi Colter – “Good Hearted Woman”
from The Music Inside, A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings, Vol. 1
Not even overcrowded backing can sink this cross-generational pairing of honky tonk angels.
Malcolm Holcombe – “Mountains of Home”
from To Drink the Rain
With a scratched-up voice and a taste for low-down country blues, Holcombe often sounds like he’s circle-dancing with demons, which makes the sweet directness of “Mountains of Home” something else entirely. This might be one of the most straightforwardly country things he has ever recorded.
Charlie Sizemore – “I Don’t Remember Loving You”
from Heartache Looking for a Home
I didn’t realize I needed a country-bluegrass cover of the John Conlee hit until I heard this one. I think I like it better than the original.
Brock Zeman – “Where You Leave Your Car”
from Ya Ain’t Crazy Henny Penny
Like a “That Ain’t My Truck” for the Jack Ingram country-folk set, except that it comes from Canada. Winning couplet: “It ain’t the wine I can’t resist/It’s temptation that I’ve got the problem with.”
Sample all but the Zeman track below. (Editor’s Note: The Hayes Carll track isn’t appearing either, but that looks to be an Amazon bug. Hopefully they’ll get it resolved quickly.)