Willie Nelson Is First Place This Year With “Last Man Standing”

Courtesy: Sony Legacy

Country music is big business nowadays.  One need only look at shows like The Voice and America’s Got Talent to see that.  Also, look at the ratings for the Country Music awards shows that air on television every year, as well as the overall record sales and the glut of country music stations airing the past, present and future of the genre nationwide.

Keeping in mind the popularity (and ongoing success) of said genre, it is only fitting for the genre to get its own list of the year’s top new albums.  Phil’s Picks has compiled its own list of those albums, and it — like the noted radio stations — features a who’s who of country music’s past, present and future.

Topping this year’s list is Willie Nelson’s new album Last Man Standing.  The “Red-Headed Stranger” is in fine form in this latest offering, contemplating mortality, friends lost along life’s long road and some other, deeper topics.  Musically speaking, Last Man Standing is just good, old-fashioned country; everything that country music purists enjoy.

Second on this year’s list is fellow country musician John Prine and his new album The Tree of Forgiveness.  The soul in his lyrical themes and his performance make this song so powerful.  It is an album that every country music purist needs to hear.

Taking the third spot in this year’s list is Shooter Jennings, Waylon’s boy.  Shooter is everything that audiences have come to expect from him over the course of his career.  Yet again, listeners get more growth both musically and lyrically from the outlaw country musician that continues to place Jennings in his very own place separate from his contemporaries.  Again, this is another must for those who want to avoid all of the pop country that currently pollutes the country music scene today.

Moving on, the rest of this year’s list features some unexpected names and some more familiar names mixed in for good measure.  As always, the list features 15 total names and titles.  The top 10 are the best, and the next five are honorable mention titles.

Without any further ado, here is the Phil’s PIcks 2018 top 10 New Country Music Albums list.

PHIL’S PICKS 2018 TOP 10 NEW COUNTRY MUSIC ALBUMS

  1. Willie Nelson — Last Man Standing
  2. John Prine — The Tree of Forgiveness
  3. Shooter Jennings — Shooter
  4. Old Crow Medicine Show — Volunteer
  5. Jason Charles Miller — In The Wasteland
  6. David Michael George — 1,000 Yard Stare
  7. Eric Church — Desperate Man
  8. Pistol Annies — Interstate Gospel
  9. Kenny Chesney — Songs for the Saints
  10. Brothers Osborne — Port Saint Joe
  11. DeVotchka — This Night Falls Forever
  12. Dierks Bentley — The Mountain
  13. Devin Dawson — Dark Horse
  14. Patricia Vonne — Top of the Mountain
  15. Sugarland — Bigger

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OCMS’s New LP Will Impress Fans New And Old

Courtesy: ATO Records

Old Crow Medicine Show has only released four albums so far in its time together.  In that time, the band has amassed legions of fans around the world.  Listening to the band’s previous three full length studio releases, it’s no wonder why so many people have become fans of this Nashville, Tennessee based bluegrass band.  The band’s most recent album, Carry Me Back is even more proof of that.  The album is old school bluegrass at its finest.  Even having gone through a lineup change after the release of its last album, OCMS has shown that it hasn’t missed a step.  If anything this sextet of professionals has gotten even better than before this time out.

Carry Me Back opens with its title track.  The balance of the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin along with the vocals of Kevin Hayes make for a strong link back to bluegrass’ Celtic roots.  For those who perhaps don’t know, much of bluegrass and country is rooted deeply in old Celtic music.  Lyrically, it’s an interesting piece.  It tells of a soldier in the Civil War.  Hayes sings about a person wanting to go back to Virginia after fighting in the war.  He sings, “I’m a rebel boy/Born on the banks of the Shenandoah/In ’61 I went to the war/To win one for Virginia/Yeah my brother went first/Then they called me, too/I was green as a clover in the morning dew/So I marched to the drum/And we sang to the tune/Carry me back to Virginia.”   The song goes on, telling of the soldier’s experience on the frontline, seeing other soldiers die around him, and being sent to the hospitals to have limbs amputated, yet he still fights for his Southern pride.  It’s an interesting piece, and a good opener for this album.

From here, the band moves into what can only be described as one of the album’s most interesting tracks in ‘We Don’t Grow Tobacco.’  That’s first and foremost because of the vocals.  If a listener didn’t know any better, one would think that this song was being sung by none other than the late great Hank Williams, Sr.  It’s somewhat fitting that it would sound like Williams, as it comes across as a true old school style country song in its mournful lyrics.  Presented here is the story of someone looking at the changing of the guard so to speak.  The figure in the song sings about how the old way of growing tobacco for income is no more.  He sings, “Grandpa told me this I know/Change is coming/Won’t be slow/Knocking just like thunder at the door/Fallow fields are all around/Empty barns just falling down/Ironweed is coming up through the floor/Once we growed it by the pound/Now the kids all moved to town/And all that’s left are elderly and poor/Now I sure am sad to say/That I lived to see this day/That we don’t grow tobacco round here no more.”  Anyone who has ever driven through the country sides of this country have seen exactly what this song is about.  It really hits home, thinking about it.  The crux of the song isn’t so much about a region not growing tobacco anymore, though.  It’s more about a way of life going by the wayside.  That’s what makes it such a good song.  Despite that introspective lyrical vibe, the song’s musical vibe doesn’t come across as being too sad.  That mix of emotions makes this song another high point to Carry Me Back

For the emotion of Carry Me Back, OCMS also offers its listeners something with a little bit of an edge to it.  ‘Country Gal’ will put a grin on any listener’s face, male and female.  It’s a laid back song that expertly mirrors the song’s somewhat naughty lyrics with a little bit of word play at the same time.  The title of the song says it all.  The lyrics drive it all home.  Hayes sings in this song, “Baby’s on the bench seat/Ready to go/So if you wanna have fun/honey/Let’s have a roll in the hay/Good lookin’ country gal/hey good looking country gal/Mouse in the corn crib/Pig in the pen/pitchforks turn/Just to circle again/It’s a barnyard two-step/Do-si-do/Raising up a ruckus/’Til the rooster crows.”  There’s no doubt what this one’s about.  Yes, it’s got an edge of sorts to it.  But it’s also a fun song that will entertain any older audience because of how it gets its message across.  It’s just one more of so many enjoyable songs on the band’s new album.  There are also slower pieces such as the album’s closer, ‘Ways of Man’, the Bob Dylan-esque ‘Aint It Enough’, and ‘Genevieve.’  They all come together to make an album that shows where Old Crow Medicine Show has been and where it still plans to go in the years to come.  Carry Me Back is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct via the ATO Records website at http://atorecords.shop.musictoday.com/Product.aspx?cp=126_54314&pc=ATCD106.

Fans can also take in the band’s new album live as the band is out touring in support of Carry Me Back now.  The band will be at the Capitol theater in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday, November 15th.  It will also have a semi-hometown show later this month on the 25th in Memphis, Tennessee.  Audiences can get a full tour run down and all the latest news from the band online at http://www.facebook.com/OldCrowMedicineShow and http://crowmedicine.com

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