Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Music

6 - 1

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA


cover art

Johnny Cash

American VI: Ain’t No Grave

(American; US: 23 Feb 2010; UK: 23 Feb 2010)

6


Johnny Cash
American VI: Ain’t No Grave


It goes without saying that these final recordings are historically significant, and the fact that Cash knew he was dying makes for a fascinating, if at times chilling, listen. Posthumous albums are often patchy leftovers, yet this sixth American installment is a worthy finale to the priceless Rick Rubin-produced series that made up the last decade of Cash’s life and recording career. The music is spare and scraggy, most often with a single acoustic guitar and Benmont Tench’s organ, and Johnny’s voice is thin and slurred as time, illness, and grief had taken their tolls. It’s a first-rate collection of windswept songs, like the spooky “Ain’t No Grave”, on which Cash assumes his famous role as the pentecostal hellion both blessed and cursed. The album’s finest moment, though, is its final track, the Hawaiian standard “Aloha Oe”, a gorgeous and peaceful farewell.   Steve Leftridge


 

 



cover art

Taylor Swift

Speak Now

(Big Machine; US: 25 Oct 2010; UK: 25 Oct 2010)

Review [29.Nov.2010]

5


Taylor Swift
Speak Now


As least as omnipresent in 2010 as she was in 2009, Taylor Swift is both the face of country music’s growth and a megastar who may be growing beyond country. In a few years it might seem ridiculous to put her on a country music list. For now it makes sense. While Speak Now builds on the tapestry storytelling and widescreen drama of Fearless by pushing the scope of her music further, taking in many pop-rock tricks of past decades, she is also still taking on boilerplate country-radio subjects (the mother-daughter love ballad, jilted lover’s revenge fantasies) with more intelligence and sense of invention than anyone. While moving past commercial country music, she’s also occasionally reinventing it. Dave Heaton


 

 



cover art

Elizabeth Cook

Welder

(Thirty One Tigers; US: 11 May 2010; UK: 11 May 2010)

Review [12.May.2010]

4


Elizabeth Cook
Welder


Sometimes it takes balls to be a woman, and Elizabeth Cook is particularly well-endowed. With Welder, produced by Don Was, Cook’s fourth album finds her still refusing to kiss a square inch of Nashville butt, remaining too country for country radio. Welder also offers the best proof yet that Cook is a dynamite songwriter, at turns funny, plaintive, and bawdy as a country-queen shapeshifter: She’ll be your Dolly, your Lucinda, your Barbra Mandrell, and your Minnie Pearl, lending her thick drawl across acoustic mountain-stomps (“All the Time”), junkyard grooves (“El Camino”), moonlight ballads (“Not California”), and hillbilly laughers (“Snake in the Bed”). Packed with stellar material and bristling performances, Welder is a hot one. Steve Leftridge


 

 



cover art

Easton Corbin

Easton Corbin

(Mercury Nashville; US: 2 Mar 2010; UK: Import)

3


Easton Corbin
Easton Corbin


Today’s hit country may be the new classic rock, but Easton Corbin never got that memo. The Florida native is, as it turns out, a little more country than that. Corbin’s self-titled record was the year’s best Nashville debut, a terrific-sounding set of polished steel-guitar-and-denim retrograde country. The record’s breezy production (Carson Chamberlain at the knobs) is a throwback to at least the neotraditionlist country movement of the ‘80s, and sometimes even further back. The singer is dogged by George Strait comparisons, but with Corbin’s instincts for hooks and his easy-going vocal charm, Easton is claiming some pure country ground of his own. Steve Leftridge


 

 



cover art

Willie Nelson

Country Music

(Rounder; US: 20 Apr 2010; UK: 3 May 2010)

Review [22.Apr.2010]

2


Willie Nelson
Country Music


Closing in on 80 years old, Willie Nelson continues to be a marvel, performing at the peak of his powers and recording first-rate additions to his catalog, including last year’s terrific genre exercises in pop standards and Western swing. This year, the legend brought it all back home, receiving T-Bone Burnett’s analog treatment on the perfectly titled Country Music. Backed by the mannered picking of masters of the form like mandolinist Ronnie McCoury and banjo frailer Riley Baugus, Willie, the king of the laid-back vocal delivery, settles deep into the comfort of these vintage environs. Burnett lends his trademark hazy austerity to 15 songs penned by the likes of Merle Travis, Ernest Tubb, and Hank Williams. It’s a sublime document, the back-to-basics dream project that had been at the top of the wish list for Willie Nelson lovers. Which, of course, is everybody. Steve Leftridge


 

 



cover art

Jamey Johnson

The Guitar Song

(Mercury Nashville; US: 14 Sep 2010; UK: 14 Sep 2010)

Review [16.Sep.2010]

1


Jamey Johnson
The Guitar Song


Jamey Johnson followed up the critical acclaim of his 2009 album, That Lonesome Song, with an ambitious double LP of dour, old-school country music that paid sincere tribute to the songwriters and singers of the past, emulating them while trying to take their music into the future. It’s an epic of personal struggle in a climate of societal turmoil. The songs are set in a world of perpetual near-disaster, where the rich are pulling puppet-strings, the discontented are preparing to riot, and everyone else is arguing with their lover. “The good times ain’t what they used to be” could be Johnson’s motto, but The Guitar Song is also filled with celebrations of minor moments of pleasure, and with a perpetual movement towards redemption and hope. Dave Heaton


Related Articles
19 Aug 2014
Few can deny that Swift is a talented songwriter, but there are only so many times she can attack her "haters" before that trope feels as worn as a months-old US Weekly still sitting on the top of your toilet.
30 Jul 2014
A recasting of Johnny Cash's most controversial album, Bitter Tears, raises questions about the inclusiveness of American music.
1 Jul 2014
Willie Nelson still makes records that are smart, funny, sexy, and heartbreaking.
9 Jun 2014
Two critical catfights are claiming to have buried art-forms which have shaped our civilisation for decades and centuries apiece. Are they entitled to do that?
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.