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KaceyAlbum Review: Kacey Musgraves 'Star-Crossed'


In July of 2020, Kacey Musgraves and fellow singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly announced their divorce, after two and a half years of marriage, via a joint statement that called the couple’s love “a soul connection that can never be erased.” Musgraves isn’t shying away from her real-life breakup in her music either, telling one recent interviewer that the follow-up to 2018’s brilliant pop-country bliss-out Golden Hour will be a full-fledged “post-divorce album, bursting the fucking bubble.” The first song to arrive from her newly announced album Star-Crossed is the opener and title track, which seems to float in the air significantly, leaving the impression that maybe later tracks are where she’ll come in with a sharp pin.

The rollout for Golden Hour began with a double A-side that included another leisurely song with interstellar imagery and a breakup theme, the stunning, wickedly punning “Space Cowboy.” By contrast, “star-crossed” feels less like a single than an introduction, partly because so much of it is introduction: It takes 45 seconds of mournful oohs and flickering classical guitar before Musgraves sings, “Let me set the scene.” What follows is a fairly literal recounting of a divorce, with papers signed, possessions divided, names changed. By the time the song gets interesting, it’s already almost over, as Musgraves repeats the titular Billy Shakespeare phrase over the type of burbling synths that might leave the Weeknd gasping. She explained to another interviewer that to be star-crossed is “to be fucked by love or luck,” but she withholds her usual cleverness and no-bullshit persona here; as introductions go, it’s tantalizing and a little befuddling.

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Morgan WallenAlbum Review: Morgan Wallen 'Wasted On You’


There may be no more controversial artist in country music today than Morgan Wallen. Similarly, there may be no more popular artist on the circuit either, as the Big Loud Records recording artist is on fire, with accolades, awards, and fans growing by the minute it seems.

Wallen’s latest release, “Wasted On You”, is his fourth radio single from his ‘Dangerous: The Double Album’, released in January 2021. The song has already been certified 2X Platinum, having reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, debuting there after the release of the album.

The song is a heartbreak ballad, pure and simple, as it finds Wallen reflecting on his inability to “get over” his ex. The intricacy of the lyrics, however, present another subject line, as well, as he comes to the realization about how much time and money that he wasted on a relationship that didn’t last.

For country music fans that don’t like Morgan Wallen – you won’t like this song.

For country music fans that love Morgan Wallen – you will love this song.

It finds the singer-songwriter right in his wheelhouse, where he has been on this entire double album from last January. Co-written by Morgan along with Josh Thompson, Ernest K. Smith, and Ryan Vojtesa, this song a crooning ode to a love gone bad, finding an internal conflict (longing to find balance) between bitterness and sadness.

“I’ve wasted on you

All of this time and all of this money

All of these sorrys’ I don’t owe you honey

All of these miles on this Chevy and prayers in a pew, all them days

I spent wasted on you

Wasted on you”

Fresh off his ACM award for Album Of The Year, Wallen is on the road throughout the spring, summer and into the fall on his nationwide “The Dangerous Tour”, as well as appearances at some of the biggest country festivals of the year.

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Willie NelsonAlbum Review: Willie Nelson’s ‘That’s Life’


A common thought you hear expressed from songwriters when they record a song written by someone else is “I picked that song because it sounded like something I had lived,” or that the song was “like something I would’ve written.” Such sentiments are surely the steam that powered country music icon Willie Nelson when he picked songs for his second Frank Sinatra tribute collection, That’s Life.

The follow up to Nelson’s 2018 Sinatra-inspired album My Way, comes only a few months after the Red Headed Stranger’s latest, excellent album of original material, 2020’s First Rose of Spring. Thanks to the boldly vulnerable, expertly translated results of That’s Life, it seems as though the only thing more reliable than Nelson’s ability to churn out one fine record after another is his undying affinity for the jazzy pages of the American Songbook.

For younger country music fans, or for the uninitiated at any age, the notion of Nelson singing Sinatra songs might sound a tad offbeat, but its anything but. Sure, Nelson has long involved himself in some head-scratching collaborations, but for the most part, Nelson has been nothing short of triumphant in terms of working with artists from outside of the country genre. And when it comes to classy pop standards or jazz-inflected efforts, Nelson is nothing if not a grizzled veteran.

Long before he recorded that initial Sinatra tribute record, the Country Music Hall of Famer recorded a killer record with famed jazz bandleader Wynton Marsalis in 2008. And of course, Stardust, the transcendent 1977 LP featuring Nelson’s favorite 20th century pop standards including his take on Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies,” cemented Nelson as a skilled boundary-hopping recording artist a generation ago.

When viewed through not only Willie’s pop crooner filter, but with the understanding that much of his recent albums deal heavily on the meditation of his own mortality, That’s Life immediately carries more weight than a typical tribute record often will.

It’s not that Nelson has turned this into a gloomy, moody record. Many of the songs are rather playful and have been treated by Nelson and producer Buddy Cannon as such. The album opening “Nice Work if You Can Get It” is a jaunty piano-led number, while “Just In Time” is a jazzed-up, lounge-ready tune where Nelson capably hits a few higher notes than he’s attempted on his own recent records.

Although “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “Luck Be a Lady” also fit into the jolly side of the emotional scale, Willie’s voice doesn’t quite keep up with the more up-tempo arrangements. A better vehicle for Willie’s current state of vocal abilities is the title track, where Nelson’s trademark behind-the-beat phrasing fit brilliantly with an elegant electric guitar going for a brisk walk alongside him.

On the lower, slower end of the street lies the dimly lit dive bar where the lonely piano tune “Wee Small Hours of the Morning” would be well suited. One listen to the lush orchestration of “Cottage For Sale” will bring to mind those signature black and white photos of Ol’ Blue Eyes singing into the mic at Capitol Studios with dozens of seated orchestra musicians surrounding him.

On top of blaring brass and a gently galloping piano, “You Make Me Feel So Young” offered the peek into the sunset we’ve seen in the past few Nelson records. Closing out the record, “Lonesome Road” begins as a Sinatra-style mortality tune, but beautifully veers into a flourishing gospel vibe, for an ideal Nelson-tinged coda.

At this point in his remarkable career, it would be missing the point to compare any of Nelson’s releases to other modern country efforts. The question isn’t whether or not this album is a fine record—although it is. The only question that matters now is does this album warrant a place in the collection of the Willie Nelson fan, and that answer is a rather easy yes.

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KaneKane Brown Previews Trad-Country Sounding New Track, ‘Whiskey Sour’


For a hit maker who often lives on the cutting edge of modern country, Kane Brown keeps turning back toward a traditional style — almost every chance he gets.

In the past few years, the next-gen superstar has scored respect for forward-thinking collaborations with artists like Marshmello, Swae Lee and Khalid and others — most recently teaming with blackbear on “Memory” and H.E.R. on “Blessed & Free.” But then again, his latest single “One Mississippi” featured a bluesy fiddle melody and a two-stepping rhythm, and it looks like he’ll keep the trad-country trend going.

Sharing a teaser sample of his next single over the holiday, Brown revealed a portion of “Whiskey Sour” that makes it seem like another classically-charged stunner. Looking casual cool in a T-shirt and cap, and standing over a speaker in his kitchen, the chart topper sang along to a tune with a pure country theme — and a timeless sound.

A heartbroken ballad with more than a hint of regret, the track begins with a swaying fiddle and warm acoustic guitar. Brown then joins in with is booming baritone dialed down in quiet despair, and lays out a love story that came oh-so close to forever, only to dissolve into never again. Writing in the post’s caption, he said it will arrive in the middle of next month, and finds him stepping into someone else’s romantic shoes.

“I love getting to sing other people’s stories!” Brown wrote. “This is my next song to release January 14th …”

Meanwhile, “Whiskey Sour” will follow “One Mississippi,” which is currently inside the Top 10 at country radio and marks a new album cycle for the star. Brown and Chris Young topped the 2021 radio charts overall, with their “Famous Friends” going down as the most-played song of the year, and we’ll share more info about Brown’s next album as it comes in. He and wife Katelyn recently celebrated the second birthday of their daughter, Kingsley, and Brown is headlining NBA stadiums on his Blessed & Free tour.

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Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift Shares New Version of Holiday Hit, ‘Christmas Tree Farm’


Taylor Swift has famously spent the last couple of years re-recording her early work, and that includes a recent re-release of Red which has set the internet (and Jake Gyllenhaal’s DMs) on fire. But her viral do-overs don’t just end with her main catalog — they also extends to her holiday classic, “Christmas Tree Farm.”

Just in time for the 2022 Christmas season to kick into overdrive, Swift has shared a new, orchestral version of the hit, recorded as an Amazon Original.

Inspired by her upbringing on a Pennsylvania Christmas tree farm, the charming holiday anthem was originally written and released in 2019, featuring a buoyant melody and vivid lyrics of a little girl’s fondest wintertime memories. The new version is just as warm and cozy, but now takes on an air of timeless sophistication. It was re-recorded at the famous at Abbey Road Studios in London, with Swift being joined by a massive, 70-piece orchestra, as the superstar embodies the role of mid-century American crooner.

“This new version is amazing because it feels like it’s that warm, sort of laid-back Christmas feel of doing all your shopping and relaxing by a fire,” she says in a behind the scenes video. “It’s definitely a little bit more of that old-school Christmas song feel.”

“Christmas Tree Farm (Old Timey Version) (Amazon Original)” can now be found on Amazon’s “Merry Mix” playlist, which features all new Amazon Original songs for the season, in addition to iconic holiday classics.

In other country-related TS news, the pop superstar’s re-released Red album included a decidedly-rootsy duet with another Nashville favorite, as she teamed up with Chris Stapleton on the previously unreleased “I Bet You Think About Me.” The track was written during Swift’s still-country Red-album era, and she even filmed a star-studded video directed by Blake Lively for it.

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