Album Review – Mack McKenzie’s ‘A Million Miles’


Mack McKenzie came across the radar of Country Perspective in 2014. He released debut album One Last, One More late in year and it really impressed me. The Dayton, Ohio area based artist’s vocal style and approach evokes thoughts of Texas-based country artist Jason Eady. A lot of the songs on the album delved into darker matters such as depression and heartbreak, perfectly fitting of his gravel-y toned voice. I think what I enjoyed the most about his debut album was how confident and sure he was in his sound. You could just tell he knows what type of music he wants to make when he goes into a studio and thought behind it. So I was eager to hear how he would follow-up this solid debut with his new sophomore album A Million Miles. One thing that stands out about it immediately is it has a more cohesive theme throughout it. But it doesn’t necessarily always work on each song.

One of the standouts of this album is definitely “Drunk Over Your.” It’s your classic drink your sorrows away country song. This is the kind of song that fits McKenzie really well and can knock out with ease. The amount of sorrow and darkness in his voice really sets the perfect tone for the song. “Tell Me” sees a man pleading and hoping that his ex is missing him as much as he misses her everyday. He wonders if she wakes up from dreams in the middle of the night and if that she wants him back again. It’s a desperate, clinging hope for something that probably still isn’t there. “I Wonder” is very much along the same lines, but I think “Tell Me” gets this desperate hoping across better.

The desperation comes across great too on “M – 3.” The man just refuses to stop giving a damn about the woman he lost and he’s willing to wait a while for her to come back. This could mean him or her changing, but he refuses to give up on something that he feels so strongly about. It’s a really strong song and shows off McKenzie’s ultimate strength: expressing pain and heartbreak in his words and vocals. This theme is kind of reversed on “Where Do You Get Off.” Here the man calls bullshit on his ex saying she still loves him. But then realizes he still loves her too. In other words things are pretty complicated between the two. Neither can really come out and say what they want.

The biggest problem I seem to find with this album is that I find some of the songs over stay their welcome. That’s most exemplified on “Reasons.” It’s a perfectly fine song about a couple giving up on love while still together. But there’s no reason why it should be nearly eight minutes in length. If you’re going to make a song this long, it better be justified. It reminds me of what one of my old English teachers used to tell me: if you can say something in fewer words than what you’ve written, you need to do it. Otherwise you’re just filling space. McKenzie tackles romance and passion in “Give It To Me.” And as much as I want to like it, I just don’t. It comes off too schmaltzy for my taste. It’s not bad, but I just don’t think it fits him and his style. He’s at his best when he’s singing about grittier themes and this just seems a little too polished for him.

For the most part I think a majority of the songs on A Million Miles work well and I can see the idea McKenzie is going for with the whole album. But unfortunately he just doesn’t fully execute it to its full potential. The album kind of gets off to a slow start with its two opening songs, which I find are too broad and similar. Not to mention it doesn’t really hook you into the album like opening songs should do. It wasn’t until the third song that I really started to get into the album. The middle part of this album is where it shines brightest and found myself enjoying the most. McKenzie undoubtedly likes to dig deep with his songwriting, but I think he digs too deep on this album at times to the point where you lose the listener (I had a similar criticism with Jack Ingram’s latest album). What this album also lacked was taking risks and doing more with the sound. Despite my criticisms though, I still find A Million Miles to be a good album with some nice moments that make it worth checking out.

Grade: 7/10


Recommend? – Yes, if you like artists such as Jason Eady, Ryan Bingham and Corb Lund

Album Highlights: Drunk Over You, M – 3, Tell Me, Where Do You Get Off

Bad Songs: None

Wallpaper: A Million Miles, Anywhere But Here

Also the album artwork is fantastic! Kudos to the artist who made it.

You can preview and purchase Mack McKenzie’s A Million Miles at Amazon, Google Play and iTunes.

Album Review – Mo Pitney’s ‘Behind This Guitar’


Right now in popular country music there’s a triumvirate of traditionalists on major labels that have people excited about the future prospects of the genre improving. Those three artists are Jon Pardi, William Michael Morgan and Mo Pitney. The first two artists have certainly gotten their fair share of buzz in 2016, as both racked up their first #1 singles at radio. Pardi’s California Sunrise has gotten mostly positive reviews (mine probably being the most positive) and Morgan’s debut album Vinyl has gotten a lot of high praise (my review probably being the most negative). But Pitney has sort of been the odd man out this year. He has yet to have a single reach the top 30 and there was very little hype leading up to his debut album Behind This Guitar. By very little hype, I mean barely anyone has been talking about it. The crowded fall release schedule is a small factor, but I believe this had more to do with Curb Records. But despite the little talk around the album, I certainly didn’t forget it and was hoping for the best as I dug into it. Unfortunately after listening to it, the problems leading up to its release are only exemplified more in the music.

Before I get to what’s wrong with this album, there are a few praiseworthy things on Behind This Guitar. The best song of the album is “Clean Up On Aisle Five.” I previously reviewed it and gave it glowing remarks. I still stand by that review, as the song perfectly captures the dread and sadness of running into an ex you’re still in love with. The song represents Pitney at his best and it’s a shame we don’t hear more songs like this on the album. Another highlight of Behind This Guitar is “It’s Just A Dog.” It sees Pitney recalling finding his dog along the side of a road, abandoned and alone. He then goes over the memories and life of the dog and the impact it had on his life. The song centers around how most people would say it’s just a dog, but to him that dog is something more, a friend and a companion. The dog eventually passes away, crushing him. It’s a real tear-jerker of a song, especially to people who may have lost a pet.

“Come Do A Little Life” is a tad on the broad side, but it’s a solid love song. It’s an easy song to sing along with and relate to, making it a worthy candidate of being a single for Pitney. The album’s title track is essentially Pitney paying thanks to the point he has reached in his career and getting to live his dream of making country music for a living. It’s shows his humbleness and dedication to his craft, which is something he will need if he wants to have a long career (more on this in a second). There’s real meaning behind the song, which the listener will feel. People will remember this and connect with the artist more when they give the listeners songs like this one. It’s just straightforward honesty.

Now let’s get to what I have a big problem with on this album. It was something that showed up on Pardi and Morgan’s albums earlier this year too, but it’s to a bigger extent on Behind This Guitar. This album does not stand out and it isn’t distinctive in any way. It seems to heavily rely on the it’s “real country” aspect that I forewarned of in my pandering and “saving” country music piece. Other than “Everywhere,” this album has plenty of fiddle and steel guitar. But the lyrics are completely lacking. The first single and song of the album “Country” is generic and is obviously pandering. The song is all about how country is a state of mind. This is the easiest of easy themes to sing about in a country song. The current single of the album, “Everywhere,” perfectly represents the type of song Pitney does too much throughout this album: generic and meaningless. I know he’s a new artist, but the amount of boring, trite music on Behind This Guitar is staggering.

The previous single “Boy & A Girl Thing,” is one giant gender stereotyping and didn’t surprise me at all that it didn’t do anything at radio (then again Dierks Bentley’s “Different For Girls” was similar and reached #1). I’m assuming Pitney is paying tribute to a legend and an inspiration with “I Met Merle Haggard Today.” Pitney recalls the day he met Haggard, which I’m sure was a special day for him. But even the Hag would agree with me that this song is just not memorable. It’s also centered on expecting the listener to pop for the song just because it mentions Haggard. This goes back to the pandering issue. “Take The Chance,” “When I’m With You” and “Love Her Like I Lost Her” are all the same song essentially. They’re generic, boring and cliché songs that have been done to death and do nothing to rise up and stand out. What’s worse is all three of these songs are in a row, which helps create a giant lull in the back half of the album and bores the listener.

It’s very easy to point the finger at Mo Pitney for Behind This Guitar being a mostly boring album. He certainly deserves some of the blame, as his name is on the album and songs. But this goes back to him being a new artist. So I put most of the blame for this album being lackluster and uneventful on Curb Records, who at this point has completely failed Pitney. Their promoting of him and his music has been absolutely pathetic and they should be ashamed of how badly they’ve mangled his career so far. Here they have a promising young talent and instead they’ve been investing their time and money more in artists past their prime and artists who will never be stars. I didn’t even know Pitney’s current single “Everywhere” was sent to radio this month until I did research for this album and I constantly keep up with country music news.

It’s quite clear that Curb did not put a lot of support behind Pitney and this album. Say what you want about Big Machine and other major labels, but they do a hell of a lot better job with their new artists and actually give them a chance to succeed in comparison to Curb. Behind This Guitar was doomed from the beginning and that’s a damn shame. The best advice for Pitney for his next album would be to 1) get a better producer who can actually put some life and energy behind the songs, 2) step up the songwriting and 3) run away from Curb Records as soon as possible. An artist with the talent of Mo Pitney should be not be relegated to releasing such lazy and forgettable music.

Grade: 5/10


Recommend? – No, only the album highlights

Album Highlights: Clean Up on Aisle Five & It’s Just A Dog

Bad Songs: None

Wallpaper: Country, Everywhere, Boy & A Girl Thing, I Met Merle Haggard Today, Take The Chance, When I’m With You, Love Her Like I Lost Her

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music [March 2001]


This is the past pulse of mainstream country music. Each week, I take a look at the Billboard Country Airplay Chart (or, “Hot Country Songs” as it used to be called) from years ago and grade the top 30 songs. Each week will be a different year. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the past top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. The grade I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the past state of mainstream country music and determine if it was better or worse compared to now. To see the full list of the top 30 country airplay songs for this week, click here. This week’s chart will be from March 31st, 2001.

  1. Diamond Rio – “One More Day” +3
  2. Jessica Andrews – “Who I Am” +2
  3. Toby Keith – “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This” +3
  4. Travis Tritt – “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” +3
  5. Faith Hill – “If My Heart Had Wings” -1 [Worst Song] (Overproduced and cheesy)
  6. Keith Urban – “But For The Grace Of God” +4 [Best Song] (Yes, Urban is rated higher than Strait, Tritt…etc)
  7. Brooks & Dunn – “Ain’t Nothing Bout You” +1 (Cool sound, not so cool lyrics)
  8. Kenny Chesney – “Don’t Happen Twice” +1
  9. Tim Rushlow – “She Misses Him” +4 (I really don’t like his voice, but I can’t deny this is a damn good song)
  10. Dixie Chicks – “If I Fall (You’re Going Down With Me)” +2
  11. Martina McBride – “It’s My Time” +2
  12. Trick Pony – “Pour Me” +2
  13. Tim McGraw – “Grown Men Don’t Cry” +2
  14. Lee Ann Womack – “Ashes By Now” +3 (Those bongos are pretty cool!)
  15. SheDaisy – “Lucky 4 You (Tonight I’m Just Me)” 0 (Yes, they used 4 instead of “for.” Why? I have no idea)
  16. Gary Allan – “Right Where I Need To Be” +3
  17. The Warren Brothers – “Move On” 0
  18. Jamie O’ Neal – “There Is No Arizona” +3
  19. Mark McGuinn – “Mrs. Steven Rudy” -1 (It’s catchy, but oh so creepy)
  20. Jo Dee Messina – “Burn” +1
  21. Phil Vassar – “Rose Bouquet” +3
  22. George Strait – “If You Can Do Anything Else” +3
  23. Pam Tillis – “Please” 0 (In terms of country, 0. In terms of pop I’d give this a solid +2)
  24. Garth Brooks – “Wild Horses” 0 (Not because I dislike the song, but because Garth can’t put the f***ing song on YouTube, or really anywhere for me to hear)
  25. Patty Loveless – “The Last Thing On My Mind” +3
  26. Sara Evans – “I Could Not Ask For More” +1
  27. Alan Jackson – “When Somebody Loves You” +3
  28. Montgomery Gentry – “She Couldn’t Change Me” +4 (This sort of describes me)
  29. Steve Holy – “The Hunger” +2
  30. Aaron Tippin – “People Like Us” 0 (Good sound, but I’m not a fan of the “I’m so country” lyrical template)

The Past Pulse Of Mainstream Country Music: +56

As always, if you have any questions as to why I gave a song a certain grade feel free to ask me. Also, let me know what you guys think of the chart in the comments!

Review – Little Big Town’s “Better Man”


When it comes to Little Big Town, I’ve always had mixed feelings about them. Earlier songs from the group such as “Little White Church” and “Boondocks” impressed me, but then they follow it up with songs that annoy me like “Pontoon.” Their last album’s lead single “Day Drinking” was probably one of the worst singles they’ve put out, as I harshly criticized it in my review. But then they followed this up with the biggest hit of their career and one of the most talked about country singles of 2015, “Girl Crush.” After being wrongly perceived as a song about a lesbian relationship and getting rebuked initially by country radio, it went on to be a smash hit and racked up numerous awards. With the huge success of this single, it basically defined the Pain Killer era as good, despite the rest of the album being generic 80s rock and featuring producer Jay Joyce at his worst. So now after a bizarre side project with pop artist Pharrell Williams earlier in 2016, Little Big Town returns with a new lead single for their next album, titled “Better Man.”

I have to say coming in I didn’t have high expectations for this song and I only had slight hope they would return to their earlier sound. Fortunately they actually do this because “Better Man” is much closer to their earlier work than their latest music and I couldn’t be happier about this development. Right away we hear a piano and some percussion to open the song and Karen Fairchild’s smokey vocals, who sings lead on the single. The song is about a heartbroken woman who misses the man she used to be in love with, hoping he could be a better man again. She knows it was for the best they split, but she can’t let go of the good memories they had and she’s heartbroken over the loss of something so close to her heart. It’s really solid songwriting with some actual depth and story behind the heartbreak. The harmonizing by the group in the chorus gives the song a good punch and makes it memorable for the listener. The production could have been dialed back a bit and can be a little too loud at times for some listeners, but the blending of pop sounds and country sounds really works well.

I wouldn’t say this is the best single of Little Big Town’s career, but “Better Man” is definitely near the top for them. They did with this song what I’ve been saying for a while: get back to a more organic sound and put focus back on the harmonies. This song accomplishes both and they were able to even give it enough polish that radio should give it some kind of chance. The songwriting is notably improved and shouldn’t be overlooked either. I hope this is an indication of what’s come on their new album because this is the Little Big Town country music needs.

Grade: 7/10

Recommend? – Yes

Written by Blair Daly and Skidd Mills

Listen to it on Spotify by clicking here.

Album Review – Karen Jonas’ ‘Country Songs’


In 2014 it was very clear to many what was the best country album of the year. That was until one album gave me pause and made a very serious case as to being the best country album. And it came from the most unlikely of places. She was a new artist out of Virginia named Karen Jonas and her debut album Oklahoma Lottery. It blew me away from start to finish and clearly established Jonas as one of the premiere up and coming talents in country music. If you haven’t heard it yet, I highly recommend you do. Her sophomore album is one I’ve been personally anticipating for a while. It’s titled Country Songs. With such a highly regarded debut, the expectation were certainly high for Country Songs. Well I can confidently say after listening to this album that the high expectations were met.

Jonas appropriate opens the album with a love letter to country music, the album’s title track. She sings of her love of Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam, explaining she’ll never love someone as much as she loves country music. The steel guitar and fiddles are layered thick throughout too. It’s just an all-around great song that will make you smile. This song came out about a year or so and it’s held up 100%. The rollicking, upbeat “Keep Your Hands To Yourself” sees Jonas telling a hands-on man to back the hell off. “Ophelia” is about women not settling for guys who treat them like crap and standing up for themselves. Most importantly Jonas warns in the song, don’t let a guy make you crazy over their behavior. “The Fair Shake” is about treating others how you want to be treated and walking away from those who won’t treat you the same. It’s simple, yet on a bad day can really resonate with you.

I’m not sure though if words can properly describe the haunting beauty of “The Garden.” Let’s start with the lyrics of the song, which are poignant and mysterious. It takes multiple listens to really comprehend what the song is about. Based on what I can put together, it’s a song about forbidden love. The mother of the boy seems to disapprove of her son’s love of a girl, she 17 and him 21. The song is from the girl’s point of view, as she reflects back on these events from 20 years ago and the deep love they had at the time. She knows when they meet in again in that garden where they shared a night of passion that their “love will be whole.” The lyricism on display here is fantastic. To top it all off there’s an electrifying guitar solo in the bridge that puts an exclamation point on this phenomenal song.

We get to see a more vulnerable side to Jonas on “Wasting Time.” It’s about an exasperation of holding out for finding love, but more importantly not being able to let go of a long lost love. It haunts her and causes her to hold on to something that may not even be there, but in her heart it’s still out there waiting for her like she’s waiting for it. But as the title of the song says, it’s wasting time. The song is both uplifting (being able to care about something so much) and sad (not being able to let go when you should have done it long ago). This is probably one of the best love songs I’ve heard in country music in 2016.

Jonas nails heartbreak again on songs like “Wandering Heart” and “Why Don’t You Stay.” On the former a woman’s husband is constantly out on the road working and this causes her to have a wandering heart, contemplating cheating on him. She knows she loves him with all of her heart, but she feels her loneliness is getting the best of her. On the latter a woman watches a man who loves her choose the open road over her and walk away from what they have. Both songs fit the classic country heartbreak mold to a T. While Jonas does a great job with heartbreak, she demonstrates she’s equally good when love is going good on “Whiskey and Dandelions.” The song is about a couple who doesn’t have a lot of money, but that doesn’t matter because they have love. They wish they had the money for a little house and the finer things, but they’re happy with simpler things in life. The album concludes with an interesting one, “Yankee Doodle Went Home.” For Americans they will understand this refers to the patriotic song whose origins go back to the Revolutionary War. Jonas takes a different spin on the character, placing it in the modern era. The character struggles to find his way and finds bad luck behind every turn, eventually deciding it’s best to head back home after striking out on the road. It’s one of those tragic tales that many people everyday feel like they’re entangled in.

Country Songs is another fantastic album from Karen Jonas. She’s only two albums into her career and has already delivered better albums than many artists will release over a 20 year career. I know this is quite hight praise, but when I listen to Jonas sing I hear something special. She has the potential to go down as a great if she continues to make more albums like the two she has released. All of the praise she gets is deserved and there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be mentioned amongst the very best in country music today. You’re not going to find too many albums better than Country Songs.

Grade: 9/10


Recommend? – Absolutely Yes!

Album Highlights: The Garden, Wasting Time, Country Songs, Wandering Heart, Why Don’t You Stay, Whiskey & Dandelions, Ophelia

Bad Songs: None

Wallpaper: None

Stream The Entire Album Below: