Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Country Music Sampler Of Average Contemporary Country Music, Totally Country Volume 4.

The Good: Good variety, Generally good music
The Bad: Very produced sounds, Frontloaded.
The Basics: A very average compilation, Totally Country Vol. 4 replaces Country music radio from a few years back when Country radio isn't available.

While my wife and I were out the other day, her eyes lit up when she actually found a Country music mix c.d. Apparently, they haven't made a Now! Country album that she's been able to find in years. So, when she came across Totally Country Vol. 4 and discovered it had over five songs she knew, she bought it right away. Since she and I met, she's been opening me up more and more to Country, but the truth is I'm not a big fan or anything. After listening to Totally Country Vol. 4 I'm not a convert, but I can see the appeal to some of the artists and performers on the album.

The truth is, Country has become far more poppy in recent years and many of the songs on Totally Country Vol. 4 go a long way to illustrating that. After all, what truly separates Kenny Chesney's "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems" other than Chesney's drawl? Similarly, "Some Beach" has drawl and humor and the steel guitar, but otherwise could be a pop song. I suppose that as music evolves, such crossovers are natural, but those looking for a classic Country sound will be seriously disappointed by this compilation. Before I heard this album, the only song I knew from it was "Redneck Woman" by Gretchen Wilson. I suppose that makes me well in the minority, as my partner informs me that "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)" (which almost sounds like AC/DC level of rock and roll) was huge. As a result, this is probably a review best noted as being outside the community looking in.

With seventeen songs occupying 67:55, Totally Country Vol. 4 is a compilation album geared toward the Now! audience or those who like Country music radio and want something to play when there is no Country music station available on the airwaves. The seventeen songs are each by different Country music artists and performers and the mix is all right, though it is a very masculine mix. By that I mean that Gretchen Wilson and Sara Evans are the only females on the album and Wilson's not even presenting the most feminine persona in her music. The rest of the songs are all by men. At least eight of the songs are written or co-written by the performers singing them. The rest seem to be manufactured by the record companies and the performers sing them and possibly play the instruments on them; the credits on the compilation are a bit unrevealing.

That said, Totally Country Vol. 4 is a fairly decent mix of songs mostly about Country life. Songs like "I Love This Bar," "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems," and even "Brokenheartsville" capture the laid-back Country sensibility that Country music tries to portray. "Redneck Woman" is a cultural pride song for the redneck community, which is little more than a chant in many places. And songs like "Letters From Home" and "Tough Little Boys" illustrate a sense of patriotism and masculinity that Country music values and the artists sing about. And when not singing about the culture and living in the country, the songs sing about love and loss from a manly and Country perspective on songs like "I Can't Sleep," and "Little Moments." There is also "Perfect" which gives a more feminine perspective, but maintains the strength of the Country Woman.

But, most of the songs have a manly drawl to them. The songs are articulate enough so every line may be clearly understood and that is nice for listeners as they almost all tell musical storysongs and having lyrics that can be understood is pretty much essential. Most of the vocalists work in the lower registers, which make sense as they are men. Gary Allan sings a little higher, more in the tenor range, on "Tough Little Boys." Most of the rest of the songs are lower, though.

The songs are generally articulate, though they tend to have a rather simple diction to them. Songs like Montgomery Gentry's "Hell Yeah" embody much of the lyrical style and sentiment of the rest of the album with its lines like "He hasn't had raise since New Years Day in eighty-eight / Gets trampled on by everyone 'cept when comes in here / Now he's a product of the Haggard generation / He's got a redneck side when you get him agitated / He got the gold tooth look from a stiff right hook he's proud he took / For his right wing stand on Vietnam / Says he lost his brother there / He yells out Johnny Cash / And the band starts to play a ring of Fire As he walks up and stands there by the stage / And he says / Hell yeah, turn it up, right on." The album has a small bar, be proud of who you are mentality to it and there is something refreshing to listening to music which is fearless about who it is, as opposed to couching everything in metaphor.

Ultimately, that's what got this album the "recommend" from me. It might be simple and a bit direct with guitars, steel guitars and drums on most songs, but it works for what it is. Sometimes, that's the most one can ask for from a compilation.

The best track is "Little Moments," the low point is "Heaven."

For other Country albums, please check out my reviews of:
Read My Mind - Reba McEntire
20 Great Years - Kenny Rogers
Little Bit Of Everything - Billy Currington


For other album and singles reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment