Prime Cuts: May 2011

If the best revenge is living well, the best response to the bacchanalia of misguided musical choices and unrepentant celebrity worship that was last night’s CMT Music Awards is… well, ignoring it as best we can and focusing instead on the good stuff. You know, the stuff that makes us want to associate ourselves with this genre of music rather than qualify every discussion of musical preference with “I like country, but not X.”

(The letter X is here meant to stand in for “Jason Aldean rapping with Ludacris.”)

To that end, here are Country California’s picks for the best tracks on new albums released in May. In keeping with the awards show theme, we’ve swapped the usual mini-reviews for the titles of the made-up categories we think each song would sweep. Let us know of your own picks in the comments.

Blind Boys of Alabama – “I Know a Place”
from Take the High Road
Best Proof That the Blind Boys Don’t Need Fancy Guest Vocalists to Excel

Amanda Shires – “Detroit or Buffalo”
from Carrying Lightning
Best Song Suggesting Relocation as a Means of Escaping Heartache

Mandy Barnett – “Faded Love”
from Sweet Dreams
Best Use of Slightly Altered Phrasing to Improve on a Patsy Cline Classic

Burns & Poe – “Is This Lonely?”
from Burns & Poe
Best Imitation of a Trisha Yearwood/Don Henley Collaboration Not Featuring Trisha Yearwood or Don Henley

Chris Thile and Michael Daves – “Sleep With One Eye Open”
from Sleep With One Eye Open
Best Thrillingly Energetic Revitalization of a Flatt & Scruggs Classic

Jimmie Dale Gilmore w/ The Wronglers – “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes”
from Heirloom Music
Best Use of Pinched Nasal Tone to Reinforce a Wistful Lyrical Message

Ted Russell Kamp – “If I Had a Dollar”
from Get Back to the Land
Best Catchy Song About Love and Money That Sounds Like It Belongs on a Rodney Crowell Hits Collection, Sung by a Guy Who Plays in Shooter Jennings’ Band

Town Mountain – “Diggin’ on the Mountainside”
from Steady Operator
Best Eco-Minded Rural Activism in a Bluegrass Song

Jim Quick – “Rewind”
from Down South
Best Ronnie Milsap Hit That Ronnie Milsap Forgot to Cut

Laura Cantrell – “I Gave My Wedding Dress Away”
from Kitty Wells Dresses: Songs of the Queen of Country Music
Best Gateway Drug to Kitty Wells and/or Old-Timey Recitations

Matraca Berg – “Your Husband’s Cheating On Us”
from The Dreaming Fields
Best Slithering, Sassy Story Song in Which a Cheater Is Brought to Justice by Unlikely Accomplices

Sarah Jarosz – “Old Smitty”
from Follow Me Down
Best Instrumental That Makes Me Self-Conscious About Not Having Accomplished More at a Younger Age

Brad Paisley – “A Man Don’t Have to Die,” “Toothbrush,” “Life’s Railway to Heaven”
from This Is Country Music
Best Proof That Brad Paisley Should Stop Writing His Own Songs for a While

Buddy Miller – “Sneaky Snake”
from I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow
Best Funky Reworking of a Children’s Song Featuring Guitar Legend Duane Eddy

Sample most of the tracks below.

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About C.M. Wilcox

A freelance writer and humorist with an abiding love of country music, C.M. Wilcox's cutting, clear-eyed take on the genre has drawn the attention of Country Weekly, The Washington Post, and The Tennessean in the years since this site began. He lives near Sacramento and can be reached by email at CMW (at)

Things People Are Saying

  1. I loved “Your Husband’s Cheating On Us,” as well as the rest of the new Matraca Berg album.

    As for Paisley… I think just about any track on the new album could be cited as a reason for him to stop writing his own songs for a while. Oh wait… I forgot – Any artist who writes his own songs is automatically a great artist (or so the superfans would tell us).

  2. You nailed the only songs I like from that Paisley album.

  3. Doesn’t X always stand for Jason Aldean?

  4. CM and Ben, I’ve also fallen in love with that Matraca Berg song. It’s one of my favorites of the year thus far. I thought “One Of Those Lives” from Paisley was also a winner on that album, although I’ve got a close friend who has a son whose been/going to treatment through St. Jude’s so it hit home for me and made it personal.

  5. I’m still playing catch up on a lot of these but the Berg album is exquisite and the killer track you mentioned immediately stood out as my favorite on the disc. It brought to mind Bobbie Gentry the first time I heard it.

    Based on the reviews I’ve read, I seem to enjoy the Paisley record more than most. I didn’t expect that as I had very low expectations based on the first single. “A Man Don’t Have To Die” is a great, timely song and I really hope it’s the 4th radio single. Country radio desperately needs more tunes in this vein.

  6. I don’t know why I don’t like “A Man Don’t Have to Die” more.


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