As my dear old Grandpa used to say, it’s not how many times you fall down that matters, but how many times you get back up.*
In that spirit, I’ll ignore the fact that Prime Cuts came completely off the rails toward the end of last year and kick off 2013 with the greatest optimism, as if there hadn’t been a months-long lapse in coverage.
Here are the best country album tracks of January 2013, listenable as a quick-and-dirty Amazon sampler (below) or a robust Spotify playlist (bottom of post).
You’re encouraged to dig deeper into anything that strikes your fancy, as good songs very often come from good albums. You’re also invited to share any exciting discoveries, featured or not, in the comments. What were your favorite January album tracks?
*My Grandpa never actually said anything like that.
Kris Kristofferson – “Bread for the Body” (unavailable on Spotify)
from Feeling Mortal
“I built my own chains in the land of the free / A slave to a job that meant nothing to me / With three shiny new cars and a split level home / To furnish the tomb I was dying to own.” Poetry, plain and simple.
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out w/ Sonya Isaacs – “Golden Ring” (unavailable on Spotify)
from Timeless Hits from the Past Bluegrassed
As a general rule, we don’t need more covers of “Golden Ring.” But this one’s worth hearing.
The Living Sisters – “A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold)”
from Run for Cover
LA-based songstresses Inara George (The Bird and the Bee), Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond), Eleni Mandell and Alex Lilly join forces as a girl quartet, offering a likable standards EP that has them sounding an awful lot like a modern Andrews Sisters.
The Dallas Moore Band – “Where You Gonna Be When I’m Gone”
from Blessed Be the Bad Ones
With no new Jamey Johnson music on the horizon, this ought to tide you over.
Rich Mahan – “The Hills of South Dakota”
from Blame Bobby Bare
There’s only one actual cover song on Rich Mahan’s solo debut, but the album title is nevertheless well-chosen: All nine of Mahan’s originals do indeed seem to descend from the playful, insurgent song sense of Bobby Bare (which has quite a bit to do with the playful, insurgent songwriting of Shel Silverstein).
Amber Digby – “Saturday Night”
from The World You’re Living In
Her name is synonymous with good ol’ fashioned honky tonk music. No surprises here.
Gary Allan – “It Ain’t the Whiskey”
from Set You Free
Like “That’s Why I’m Here” without any semblance of a pat resolution. Should be a single.
Daniel Romano – “I’m Not Crying Over You”
from Come Cry With Me
The (former?) Canadian indie-rocker’s 1960s country obsession – cheesy mustache, Nudie-inspired suit and all – might seem nothing but ironic shtick if he weren’t actually writing and singing some impressive classic country heart ballads to back it up. Case in point.
Don Rich – “Love Bug”
from Sings George Jones
Don Rich might not be George Jones, but he is Don Rich. Or was, until a 1974 motorcycle accident cut the life of Buck Owens’ musical partner sadly short. Nearly 40 years after that loss, a new Don Rich record of any sort is a rare and unexpected treat.
Randy Houser – “Power of a Song”
from How Country Feels
Decent enough as a song, but better as a showcase of Houser’s vocal prowess.
Chris Wall – “So Long, I Love You”
from El Western Motel
Probably best known for penning “Trashy Women” (Jerry Jeff Walker, Confederate Railroad), the singer-songwriter’s first album in about a decade finds him in strong voice with intimate, primarily acoustic accompaniment (Lloyd Maines is billed as a co-producer) and an enviable stash of old western songs that don’t sound written as much as cut directly from the plains. Song for song, possibly the strongest album in this month’s roundup.
Jacob Jones – “Nothing Is Gonna Bring Me Down” (unavailable on Amazon)
from Good Timin’ in Waynetown
Somehow, Jacob Jones’ celebration of Motown and classic rock and roll has more to do with country music than much of what’s on country radio, with some tracks that sound straight off of Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music.
Blue Sky Riders – “Little Victories”
from Finally Home
I’m not accustomed to using the term ‘Eaglesy’ in anything but the pejorative sense, but here’s what ‘Eaglesy in a good way’ might sound like. Ebullient, harmony-rich country pop with a sound more organic than, say, Lady Antebellum. Comprised of Kenny Loggins and songwriting supercouple Georgia Middleman (“When the Right One Comes Along,” “Don’t Ruin It for the Rest of Us”) and Gary Burr (“That’s My Job,” “I Try to Think About Elvis”), the trio is clearly having a blast.
Dale Watson – “I Hate to Drink Alone”
from El Rancho Azul
Song quality can vary widely on Watson albums, but moments like this make keeping up worthwhile.
John Driskell Hopkins & Balsam Range – “Nothing”
Deep-voiced Zac Brown Band member joins forces with popular North Carolina bluegrass band. The Zac Brown Band’s recording of this song, written by Driskell Hopkins, was previously featured as a bonus track on You Get What You Give, but this is the superior version.
Chicago Farmer – “Workin’ on It”
from Backenforth, IL
Like the voice of Gary Stewart approaching John Prine via Todd Snider, if that makes any sense.