Fusion Country’s Five Must-Listen Albums of 2018

It’s that time of year again! It’s not Christmas I’m taking about, although you’re surely getting inundated with a lot of Christmas stuff. No, I’m talking about in the music world: The Listpocalypse. This is where all of the music outlets drown you in their lists of favorite albums, songs, artists, etc of the year. Now if you’re anything like me, you get tired of reading these after about the 5th list. My biggest issue is that most of them are way too long. Anything over 15-20 albums is just ridiculous and quite frankly I’m skeptical if you’re actually listening to the music. People read these lists to catch up and catch anything they might have missed out on throughout the year. They don’t need bogged down with these long lists. Instead they should just be suggested the very best. A nice and short, compact list is much more effective. This gives you the reader a chance to get through quickly and start listening.

So that’s why I’ve decided I’m only giving you the five must-listen Fusion Country albums of 2018 to listen to if you haven’t done so yet. And there won’t be a best songs list, as you can find all of Fusion Country’s favorite songs in our 2018 playlist. But I’ll include at the bottom of this post too. Thanks for reading Fusion Country in 2018 and I wish you all a safe and happy holidays!

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Golden Hour is an excellent journey through the ups and downs of the spectrum of human emotions. Happiness, sadness, love, confusion, fun, loneliness, togetherness, cockiness, hope and more are all on display. To be human is to feel and this album makes you feel so many things. This a defining moment for Kacey Musgraves, as a songwriter and an artist. Not only showcasing her top-level songwriting, but fearlessly taking the kind of risks that so many artists are outright scared or incapable of taking with their music. Most music released today sounds timid and lacks creativity. This album is full of confidence and charges ahead without letting the unwritten rules of music hold it back. When you cast away life’s preconceptions, you’re truly free as Kacey Musgraves demonstrates with Golden Hour.

Eric Church – Desperate Man

Desperate Man is a fantastic album. Church’s songwriting has never been better and the production choices made by him and Jay Joyce blow me away. Just like Kacey Musgraves with Golden Hour, Eric Church shows us just how innovative and exciting country music can be when you throw out the “rules” and just create your sound. It’s not about giving people what they want, but giving them what they didn’t know they needed until they heard it. Eric Church did it his way on Desperate Man and his way is excellent.

Caitlyn Smith – Starfire

Caitlyn Smith’s Starfire is fantastic in every way. The songwriting is sharp, smart and relatable to the everyday listener. The production is smooth, flawless and really helps bring the words of the songs to life. Smith without a doubt has one of the best voices you’ll hear in music today. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t listened to this album. It’s one of the best you’ll hear in all of 2018.

The Wild Feathers – Greetings From the Neon Frontier

The Wild Feathers impress me with their brand of country rock on Greetings From The Neon Frontier. This band has a tight, cohesive sound that borrows from the late 70s era of country rock while also sounding fresh and modern-day. What this band absolutely excels at is their ability to paint a picture in your head with their music. Their lyrics are descriptive, engaging and cleverly composed while the instrumentation compliments the words well and add to the scene of the song. Their other strength is their soaring harmonies, which they shouldn’t be afraid to let shine more. Greetings From The Neon Frontier is a memorably fun album of country-flavored rock and roll that can be enjoyed both quietly and at full volume.

Kenny Chesney – Songs For The Saints

Songs For The Saints will go down as one of Kenny Chesney’s best albums at the end of his career. On this album he casts away the lazy tropes and paper-thin depth that has plagued his career at times and delivers an album full of songs about love, happiness and finding peace after destruction. This album’s biggest strength is its songwriting, as it’s rooted in a place of reality of real people and places, highlighting the ups and downs of life. The production of this album is pretty good too, as it’s varied and does a wonderful job of weaving reggae, island and pop influences throughout. Kenny Chesney should be quite proud of this album, as he delivers a real gem in Songs For The Saints.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0jwh1uI46CPgGwWpCdpj03

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Nov. 10)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from three Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 20 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board. It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as all three categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not having an effect on the genre. Onto the chart!


  1. Luke Combs (#1 Streaming) +1
  2. Dan + Shay (#1 Digital Songs) +1
  3. Kane Brown -1
  4. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  5. Florida Georgia Line -1
  6. Jason Aldean +1
  7. Thomas Rhett 0
  8. Bebe Rexha -1
  9. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  10. Brett Young -1
  11. Sam Hunt 0
  12. Jimmie Allen +1
  13. Eric Church +1
  14. Josh Turner 0
  15. Jake Owen -1
  16. Carrie Underwood 0
  17. Lauren Alaina 0
  18. Jon Pardi +1
  19. Cody Johnson +1
  20. Blake Shelton 0

The Ultimate Pulse: +2


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Josh Turner, Jon Pardi, Cody Johnson & Blake Shelton
  • Departures: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Cole Swindell, Old Dominion and Maddie & Tae
  • The Ultimate Pulse drops one spot to +2 this week. As expected Jason Isbell and Maddie & Tae drop out. Meanwhile Cole Swindell and Old Dominion both see a big drop in sales to fall off the chart.
  • Luke Combs is the new #1 this week, his third reign at the top of The Ultimate Pulse. His consistent sales and ever impressive streaming numbers continue to make him the one to beat on the chart.
  • Dan + Shay surprisingly rise to #2 for a new all-time for the duo. Just like Combs they continue to steadily put up great numbers in sales and streaming.
  • Kane Brown falls to #3 coming off a big sales bump from a new single. As always he’ll rebound and is due for a huge week when his album drops.
  • Chris Stapleton finally takes the #4 spot away from Florida Georgia Line, making nice gains in both sales and streaming. If he keeps these kind of gains up he can challenge easily for the top three.
  • Jason Aldean rises back up to #6, as “Girl Like You” is getting good sales to allow for the rebound. Aldean and the rest of the chart are still a long way behind the top five though.
  • Brett Young re-enters the top ten due to finally stabilizing his pop rating from free-falling and artists in front of him falling off in their own pop rating. His new single is still not selling well though.
  • Sam Hunt jumps up to #11, despite releasing two new singles in three years, because the chart is so damn weak. I know I’m beating a dead horse pointing out the weakness of the chart at this point, but it’s worth reminding just how pathetic the genre’s artists are right now outside of the top five. The top five are shining, while the rest are throwing shit against the wall that temporarily sticks.
  • Josh Turner makes his debut on The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music at #14. His new gospel album sold quite well and it’s a good career move for an artist that is no longer mainstream viable. Unfortunately for me I don’t care about gospel music and I can’t be bothered to listen to this album, as I have better music to spend time on.
  • Cody Johnson makes his return to The Ultimate Pulse after being apart of one of the inaugural charts. He released several songs from his new upcoming album due in January and “Dear Rodeo” was the best seller by far. It’s a solid song about Johnson’s time and reflection on his days in the rodeo. It’s worth checking out.
  • Finally Blake Shelton makes hid debut on The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music at #20. He beat out both Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne in a tiebreaker to take the final spot. The combination of sales from his greatest hits album and his current single “Turnin’ Me On” allowed him to make his debut (and of course the weakness of the chart). The single is just okay, as it really doesn’t earn much of a reaction out of me.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Dierks Bentley
  2. Brothers Osborne
  3. Zac Brown Band
  4. Cole Swindell
  5. Maren Morris

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Nov. 3)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from three Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 20 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board. It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as all three categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not having an effect on the genre. Onto the chart!


  1. Kane Brown (#1 Digital Songs) -1
  2. Luke Combs (#1 Streaming) +1
  3. Dan + Shay +1
  4. Florida Georgia Line -1
  5. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  6. Thomas Rhett 0
  7. Jason Aldean +1
  8. Bebe Rexha -1
  9. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  10. Eric Church +1
  11. Brett Young -1
  12. Jimmie Allen +1
  13. Cole Swindell 0
  14. Sam Hunt 0
  15. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit +1
  16. Jake Owen -1
  17. Carrie Underwood 0
  18. Old Dominion +1
  19. Maddie & Tae +1
  20. Lauren Alaina 0

The Ultimate Pulse: +3


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit; Maddie & Tae
  • Departures: Morgan Evans & Jon Pardi
  • The Ultimate Pulse improves two spots to +3 this week. Morgan Evans dropped like an absolute rock out of the chart. It was expected, but not this drastically. It was a huge one week blip for him and then right back into irrelevancy. Jon Pardi continues to lack traction with his current single.
  • Kane Brown is the new #1 this week, his third appearance at the top spot. This was expected, as another new single from his upcoming album sold well and also got streaming help too. There’s a good chance he sets a pop rating record when his album drops.
  • Brown has a small lead over Luke Combs, who narrowly kept the top streamer spot. These two will continue to fiercely battle over the #1 spot and as I’ve said before, streaming will likely determine who’s at the top next week.
  • Last week I said Chris Stapleton should take the #4 spot this week. But once again Florida Georgia Line barely holds him off to keep the spot. I’ll be really shocked if Stapleton doesn’t take it next week, as “Millionaire” is selling quite well and Florida Georgia Line’s new single has yet to take off.
  • Jason Aldean’s new single “Girl Like You” is starting to really take off in sales, so his spot near the top will be solidified. If he can get it to stream well too he’ll challenge for the top five again.
  • As expected Mitchell Tenpenny has a small bounce back and re-enters the top ten.
  • Eric Church, Brett Young and Cole Swindell essentially stayed the same in pop rating, so their gains in chart position were more because of artists falling off in front of them and nothing to do with making gains.
  • Jimmie Allen falls out of the top ten to #12, as expected coming off the album bump. “Best Shot” continues to sell and stream well though, so he’ll continue to remain in his current vicinity on the chart and challenge for the top ten.
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit make their debut on The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music at #15 this week. It’s a pleasant surprise from a group that doesn’t really consider themselves to be country. Nevertheless I’ll gladly accept quality artists any time on this chart, especially when they release a good live album like this group did to land on the chart.
  • “Down to the Honkytonk” is looking like a career hit for Jake Owen, as it’s selling really well. So expect him to stick around on the chart for a while.
  • Sales have fallen off for “Make It Sweet” and it has yet to make an impact streaming-wise, so Old Dominion will linger near the bottom of the chart in the coming weeks. It’s interesting to see how this group’s singles similarly perform to each other. Based on my observations, all of their singles get a strong start and then fall off to about the #15-20 range on iTunes.
  • Maddie & Tae make their debut on The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music at #19 this week. Their new single “Die From a Broken Heart” surprisingly sold really well in its opening week. It’s a great surprise to see for a great song to boot. It’s much better than the first single they released. Hopefully this song will find long-term traction.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Jon Pardi
  2. Zac Brown Band
  3. Dierks Bentley
  4. Brothers Osborne
  5. Taylor Swift

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.

Essential Review – Tyminski’s ‘Southern Gothic’

Sometimes it can take years for people to recognize an impactful piece of music. This can happen because the music is by an artist that isn’t well-known or the music is so different that it takes the genre and audience years to catch up. I fully believe this when it comes to Tyminski’s Southern Gothic album he released last year. When it becomes more common place for electronic elements and country to be fused together, people will look back and point to this album as a pioneering effort in electronic country. Dan Tyminski was the perfect artist for an album like this one with his extensive bluegrass experience and being the voice behind the hit “Hey Brother.” Southern Gothic may not be a perfect album, but it shows us just how excellent electronic country can sound.

The album’s title track opens and right away Tyminski delivers one of the best tracks on the album. It’s a scathing, cynical and dark look at the average small town in America. What were once regarded as little Mayberry-like towns with hard-working people is now full of sin and hypocrites. I particularly enjoy how the song shows the dissonance of how the town full of God-fearing people and churches on every corner demonstrate themselves to be anything but Christian-like. The production on this song is so spot on, perfectly creating the haunting, creepy vibe that lulls over the town being described in the song (credit to producer Jesse Frasure). This song is such a refreshingly real look at really the state of small town America right now, exposing the flaws and problems that plague modern society that many seemingly don’t want to acknowledge.

“Breathing Fire” is your “I don’t give a shit anymore” anthem. It’s about being fed up of turning the other cheek and just raising hell instead. It’s fun and catchy, making it impossible to not bob your head along with the beat. The next song “Gone” is about the loss of small town love. While love leaves the small town, the man is left to be haunted by her memories and wondering what if. I enjoy the urgency Tyminski shows in his voice throughout, showing the passion and heartbreak of a broken man well. The bouncy and infectious “Temporary Love” just grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let go. It’s one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in recent memory in country music. Throughout the song the man decries one-night stands and his short-lived relationships, blaming both himself and the intoxication of quick sex. He’s ready for something more permanent and meaningful, but can’t pull himself away to find it. The rhythmic clapping with the interludes of drum machines makes this song so damn danceable, an element that gets under-looked in the genre.

Tyminski follows this with another catchy song in “Perfect Poison.” It could easily serve as the song about the short-term and hook-up relationships mentioned in “Temporary Love.” The opening of the chorus, “You’re no good for me/Like a methamphetamine”, is delivered perfectly by Tyminski and the song just sounds like the chaos of the relationship. “Devil is Downtown” deals with the access of opioids in small town America. It goes into detail of how easy it can be to get a quick hit from the drug dealer downtown and how easy it is to fall into the trap of drugs. It’s a dark, but necessary glimpse into something that is a real problem.

“Hollow Hallelujah” is one of the more underrated moments on the album. I interpret the song to be about being afraid to get help and look for answers, instead just crawling on your own and wandering in your own darkness. The song’s ultimate message is it’s okay to ask for that help and that God and friends are there to help you through. This song demonstrates the importance of showing the light in a dark song, as it provides the contrast necessary to drive home the message. The Celctic-folk influenced “Good For Your Soul” gets back to the fun side of the album. It’s an enjoyable ditty about a man pleading he’s good for his woman and desiring to remain with her wherever she goes. “Wailing Wall” follows a similar line. The heavy bass of the drums gives the song a swaggering, pounding tone that sticks with you.

“Haunted Heart” puts me in the mind of one of my favorite books, The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. It reminds me of the part of the story where it reaches the sweaty and dark jungle. It conveys a sense of urgency, fear and loneliness, just like the heartbroken man described in this song. Tyminski reflects upon his love of music being handed down to him by his family on “Bloodline.” It’s a nice homage to where and who he’s come from, showing how it went from a hobby to a passion for him. For those who dismiss this album for its sound, they miss out on the many meaningful songs like this one.

Tyminski addresses the end of a relationship on “Wanted.” He’s ready to walk out the door and be gone for good, knowing both him and his woman got what they wanted in the relationship. She got his love for a while and he leaves, as he knew what the relationship was destined for from the beginning. It’s a solid track, albeit maybe unnecessary with the album run time going a bit too long for my liking. The album closes out with the ominous sounding “Numb.” It’s one of the rawest moments on the album, as a man realizes he can’t recapture the old feelings of a past love. He feels nothing about her, as the pain of the fallout has made him empty inside from his inability to let it go. In an album full of dark moments, this is perhaps the darkest as it shows a window to the inside of the loneliest type of heartbreak imaginable.

Tyminski’s creativity and innovation is on full display on Southern Gothic. As I said this isn’t a perfect album, but its brilliant moments outshine the few flaws. A big credit should be given to Jesse Frasure, who produced the album and helped write many of the songs. He’s helped introduce many new wrinkles in fusion country and this is perhaps his best work so far, capturing the dark and chaotic nature of the songs throughout this album. I hope this pairing will continue to work together and create more projects in the future. Tyminski is the one who should lead this electronic country sound and demonstrate its potential to the rest of the genre. But regardless of future plans, Tyminski’s Southern Gothic is without a doubt an essential album in the realm of fusion country.

Album’s Top Highlights: Southern Gothic, Temporary Love, Hollow Hallelujah, Bloodline, Breathing Fire, Perfect Poison, Numb, Devil is Downtown


Producer: Jesse Frasure

Songwriters: Dan Tyminski, Jesse Frasure, Josh Kear, Will Weatherly, Cary Barlowe, Nick Bailey, Kyle Fishman, Paul Moak, Ashley Monroe, Amy Wadge, Sarah Buxton, Tofer Brown, Andrew Dorff, Ryan Ogren

 

The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music (Oct. 27)

Let me introduce you to The Ultimate Pulse of Country Music. This chart takes data from three Billboard country music charts: Digital Song Sales, Album Sales and Streaming. I take the numbers from these charts, plug them into my formulas and methodology and it spits out a number I refer to as a Popularity Rating or Pop Rating for short. This determines the order of the top 20 rankings you’ll see below.

What I love about my chart is it’s simple, but fluid and dynamic. It accounts for all types of artists across the board. It allows independent and older artists to enter it too, as all three categories are ultimately controlled by you the listeners. Not to mention I feel it’s more inclusive of a variety of styles of country music and women artists. It’s a true real-time indicator of who is popular in country music with built-in natural weights that ensures fairness.

One last thing: I will of course be adding my own personal opinion to the chart with a rating of +1, 0 or -1 based on whether I think the artist’s contributions towards their pop rating are helping, hurting or not having an effect on the genre. Onto the chart!


  1. Luke Combs (#1 Streaming) +1
  2. Kane Brown -1
  3. Dan + Shay (#1 Digital Songs) +1
  4. Florida Georgia Line -1
  5. Chris Stapleton (#1 Album) +1
  6. Thomas Rhett 0
  7. Jason Aldean +1
  8. Jimmie Allen +1
  9. Morgan Evans -1
  10. Bebe Rexha -1
  11. Eric Church +1
  12. Mitchell Tenpenny -1
  13. Old Dominion +1
  14. Brett Young -1
  15. Cole Swindell 0
  16. Carrie Underwood 0
  17. Sam Hunt 0
  18. Lauren Alaina 0
  19. Jake Owen -1
  20. Jon Pardi +1

The Ultimate Pulse: +1


Notes & Observations

  • New Arrivals: Morgan Evans & Cole Swindell
  • Departures: Tim McGraw & Zac Brown Band
  • The Ultimate Pulse drops four spots to +1 this week. There was some movement this week, but much less compared to the last two weeks. Unfortunately Tim McGraw’s sales of “Neon Church” didn’t sustain, so he drops out. The shuffling of the album sales chart knocks out Zac Brown Band.
  • Luke Combs remains at #1 for a second straight week. He extended his lead this week thanks to a small boost in streaming, which also allowed him to take the #1 Streaming spot away from Kane Brown. I expect “Beautiful Crazy” will be his next single, so expect Combs’ dominant numbers to continue.
  • Kane Brown just barely hangs onto the #2 spot this week over Dan + Shay. A small loss in sales and streaming nearly dropped him to #3. Dan + Shay’s consistency nearly got them to their highest spot yet. Expect Brown though to possibly temporarily regain the top spot, as he just released another song and as usual it’s selling well.
  • After the top three it’s a drop down to #4, where this week Florida Georgia Line and Chris Stapleton tied. Florida Georgia Line though gets the spot based on tiebreaker rules. The duo continues to steadily drop in pop rating, so they need their new single “Talk You Out of It” to take off in sales and streaming if they want to regain their top status.
  • On the flip side, Chris Stapleton just continues to gain thanks to the increasing sales of “Millionaire.” Even better is it shows no signs of slowing in sales. Don’t be surprised if Stapleton takes the #4 spot outright next week.
  • After these two it’s a big drop down to the rest of the field. I point this out because after the top five it’s a mess. The chart is weaker and weaker as you go down it, which shows just how much the top five is dominating the genre and how everyone else is playing catch-up.
  • Thomas Rhett and Jason Aldean have their spots thanks to the absolute strength of past singles. The good news for both is their new singles are starting to slowly sell, as Aldean’s “Girl Like You” finally makes a dent in the chart and “Sixteen” for Rhett is climbing iTunes.
  • We then get to the most interesting spot on The Ultimate Pulse this week, as there was a three-way tie for #8 between Jimmie Allen, Morgan Evans and Bebe Rexha. Based on tiebreaker rules…
  • Jimmie Allen gets the #8 spot thanks to having strength in all three categories, as his debut album sold well. He made a whopping 11 spot jump! Meanwhile “Best Shot” just continues to sell and rise in streaming, with no signs of slowing down. Allen has a true hit on his hands and it’s setting him up to become a new star in the genre.
  • Morgan Evans gets the #9 spot, as he beats Rexha in two of the three categories. His debut album also sold well. Evans made an even bigger jump, going from no points and unranked to the top ten for the first time ever. He also got help from the great sales of “Thing That We Drink To.” Unfortunately I’m not a fan of the single or the album. I don’t expect these numbers to keep up and he’ll probably be off the chart again in a couple of weeks.
  • Eric Church stabilizes well coming off his album bump, only dropping a spot. Just like Carrie Underwood, expect him to have a solidly safe spot on the chart thanks to great album sales.
  • Mitchell Tenpenny falls out of the top ten to #12, as his sales and streaming took a slight loss. As I said before he’s peaked for now, as he’ll probably get a slight boost back up and not much more.
  • Old Dominion jumps up two spots to #13 this week, as their new single continues to sell well. It’s starting slightly fall off though now and will cause them to drop in the coming weeks. They need streaming help for sure.
  • Brett Young’s fall continues, as “Here Tonight” is just not selling and streaming well. His only hope is that rising airplay will help boost sales and streams.
  • Cole Swindell makes his return to The Ultimate Pulse at #15 after a one week hiatus. His sales bounced back and will need them to stay back to keep his spot.
  • Lauren Alaina falls seven spots to #18. The sales for “Ladies of the ’90s” have cratered, dropping her on the The Ultimate Pulse as a result. She’ll need airplay and/or streaming to help her bounce back.

Next Five Artists Knocking on the Door of the Top 20

  1. Zac Brown Band
  2. Blake Shelton
  3. Dierks Bentley
  4. Brothers Osborne
  5. Russell Dickerson

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts below and feel free to make predictions for next week’s rankings. Feel free to ask questions if you need any clarification on the methodology and rankings.

Review – Florida Georgia Line’s “Talk You Out of It”

Florida Georgia Line have been hearing from grumpy traditionalists that they’ve lost their relevancy and popularity. Of course I’ve already provided the numbers that prove otherwise. Regardless of how you feel about them, there’s no other duo or group doing better popularity-wise than Florida Georgia Line right now. “Simple” was a smash for them and now they’ve chosen “Talk You Out of It” as their newest single. It’s an R&B meets country slow jam with an enticing sultry feel. The song centers on the guy waiting for his woman to pick a dress and go out. But once she finds that perfect dress, now he just wants to see her without it. Put simply it’s a couples sex jam. What really makes this song and what I would call its secret sauce is the hook: “Now you’re looking like a line from a Vandross song/I’m looking at that fine little dress you got on.” It just captures the whole vibe of the song and it’s instantly memorable. It also makes it easy to sing along. I’m glad the production isn’t heavy-handed either, as it just kind of lingers in the background and provides the ideal backdrop for the lyrics. It’s another solid single from Florida Georgia Line.

Grade: 7/10


Songwriters: Jameson Rodgers, Hunter Phelps, Michael Hardy & Alysa Vanderheym

The Poison Pen, Volume 2: Expecting More Than Generic Mediocrity

This feature is called The Poison Pen. It’s really quite simple: this is where I’m going to share my negative reviews. They won’t be near as long as full reviews, but at the same time long enough to properly convey my points. Because at the end of the day the bad music still needs to be called out. So without further ado, here are some albums I do not like.

Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty 

At this point in Carrie Underwood’s career, an album of this quality is just completely unacceptable. Her albums though have been on a steady decline since the “Cowboy Casanova” era, so I guess I can’t be too surprised. But usually her albums have some songs of merit. I can’t find any on this album. Really this album exemplifies everything I hate in modern music: its generic mediocrity that has been market-tested and put through the blender to make the most safe and boring music to appeal to the most amount of people as possible. When you try to appeal to all, you appeal to none.

The album’s title track is one of the most cut and paste vanilla motivational tracks you’ll hear this year. It’s the very definition of a wallpaper song. “Ghosts On The Stereo” is another pandering song that relies on name-dropping of country legends to garner your support. Just like the Brothers Osborne though, Carrie will get a pass for it because she’s another media darling who is immune to certain criticisms, while other artists will get dragged through the coals for it. Songs like “Backsliding,” “Southbound” and “Drinking Alone” are your average, dime-a-dozen pop diva songs that have absolutely nothing to say. They’re not fun or catchy either. Underwood has pretty much given up using her voice to deliver spin-tingling vocal performances and instead just screams over the most average production possible.

The rest of the album just sort of blends into each other. Every song is just slightly different from the other. “Kingdom” and “Spinning Bottles” also sees Underwood doing her best Martina McBride impersonations, reminding us that sappy grocery store country that McBride helped popularize is unfortunately still alive and well. If I had to pick the best song on the album, it would be the bonus track “The Champion” because at least it’s catchy and I’ll remember it. Ludacris did well on his feature too. The other good news is at least I’ll have forgotten the songs on this album weeks from now.

David Nail and The Well Ravens – Only This and Nothing More 

The lead single “Heavy” made me excited to hear this album. I thought we were going to hear David Nail really flex his creative muscles in his first project since being dropped from his major label. Instead Nail and his band deliver generic rock music with Only This and Nothing More. “The Gun” appears to try to be a song about domestic violence, but it doesn’t really go anywhere significant lyrically. You can pretty much say this for the whole album. Each song just kind of glazes over you, with two exceptions. While “Heavy” is the one lone bright spot on this album, the biggest stain by far on the album is “White Trash Girl.” The term “white trash” is beyond antiquated with its negative connotations it evokes. Yet being “white trash” is cause for celebration and praise in the song. It’s just plain stupid. I can’t believe how much better The Fighter is compared to this album.

Jimmie Allen – Mercury Lane

Man I was hoping I didn’t have to put this album here. But when the majority of the lyrics on an album sound like the leftovers from Chris Young’s last couple of albums, it’s not a surprise. Jimmie Allen has a pretty good voice and the production on this album isn’t bad. But he has to step up lyrically if he wants to be taken more seriously on future projects. Fortunately there are hints of promise. “All Tractors Ain’t Green” is the gem of the album, as Allen addresses his race in a genre that is mostly white. It’s a great song that I hope he builds off of for the next album. “Best Shot” and “How To Be Single” are good moments on the album because they don’t try to cram every kind of cliché in like a lot of the other songs. Allen’s rendition of “Boy Gets a Truck” is better than Keith Urban’s version. Perhaps the biggest problem on this album though is there are wayyyyy too many Jack and Diane references. In fact there are too many in country music nowadays period. I vote that this reference to be banned from here on out. The quota has been met and then some.

Walker Hayes – “90’s Country”

This guy’s voice just plain blows. It’s painfully thin, as Hayes couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. The lyrics, unlike Lauren Alaina’s “Ladies of the ’90s”, don’t take any time to show the references have any sort of meaning or feelings behind them. They’re just crammed in like MadLibs and we’re expected to be impressed that Hayes can name drop a bunch of 90’s country. I’m not. It’s a shame the great production gets wasted on this terrible song and artist.