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Country music has come a long way since the days of Merle Haggard and Patsy Cline, and the noughties saw a surge in popularity of modern country. With Miley and Taylor covering the teen audience and Lady Antebellum’s ‘Need You Now’ representing adult orientated country, the genre could do no wrong as the noughties progressed.
Today I’m bringing you some of the best neglected country tracks of the new century, and one or two you might recognise. Grab your cowboy hat and join me on the dusty road to the heart of country…
Why the moments pass me by?//Memories that I can’t keep as hard as I may try//Oh life, you’re so beautiful//I wish it wasn’t so but I can only stay until
Essential album: ‘World Wide Open’ (2009)
The debut album from Nashville band Love&Theft, ‘World Wide Open’ is one of my ‘absolutely must-hear’ recommendations. From the opening bars of the title track to the uplifting, anthemic ‘Freedom’, this album is guaranteed to keep even the pickiest country fan entertained.
Peaking at #10 on the US Country charts, ‘World Wide Open’ spawned two singles – ‘Runaway’ and ‘Dancing in Circles’, but elicited mixed reviews from critics. Personally, I really like Love & Theft’s down-to-earth approach to country music and the band’s style is simple yet effective.
Killer hooks, sweet harmonies and some stellar tracks make ‘World Wide Open’ the perfect addition to any music lovers’ playlist. Check out this cracking country gem today. Just fantastic!
And I, finally see the sun peeking up, chasing my doubt//And I got a smile whenever you are near cause when you’re here//You’re like a beautiful day//Such a beautiful day
Essential track: ‘Beautiful Day’ (2010)
Canadian country artist Crystal Shawanda hit the ground running, with her debut album ‘Dawn of a New Day’ peaking at #2 on the Canadian Country Charts, and reaching the top twenty in the US. The lead single ‘You Can Let Go’ with its heartbreaking lyric is probably her best known track to date.
What surprises me most about Crystal Shawanda is that despite a steady release of incredible tracks, she’s never managed to hit the #1 spot, indeed the majority of her singles stay low in the charts. This hasn’t stopped this phenomenal full-blooded Ojibwe country artist from founding her own record label, and producing tracks such as my song choice today, ‘Beautiful Day’.
Crystal’s gutsy vocal performance on this modern country track is superb, and the emotion she pours into the lyric makes her one of my favourite female country artists. If you’ve never sampled this lady’s talent, I suggest you remedy that today!
Isn’t she long gone by now//I heard she was livin’ in a West Coast town//Sellin’ marguaritas from a tiki hut on the beach (yeah)
Essential album: ‘Weather the Storm’ (2006)
The only album released by Nashville band Carolina Rain, ‘Weather the Storm’ showcased a band with a promising career that sadly didn’t pan out after a run of singles either charted low or failed to chart at all.
Signed to Clint Black’s record label and with some catchy, country rock tracks to their name, it’s a shock Carolina Rain didn’t fare better. After a second album was shelved due to the record label folding, the band has yet to resurface.
Back to the album, though! Packed with feel good country tunes like ‘Get Outta My Way’ and pretty ballads like ‘Isn’t She’, this is smooth, easy going country with tight harmonies, radio friendly hooks and a guitar driven, Eagles-esque style.
Looking to give some love to a neglected country album? Look no further than Carlolina Rain’s ‘Weather the Storm’
Hey there little homecoming queen in that back seat//I’ll bet his brown eyes are promising you everything//And I know you want to be just like your friends//But he’ll still love you if you don’t give in
Essential track: ‘Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful’ (2008)
Kellie Pickler rose to fame after being a contestant on season five of American Idol in 2006. Releasing her debut album ‘Small Time Girl’ later that same year, the single ‘Red High Heels’ became somewhat of a signature tune for this all-American country girl.
‘Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful’ is as upbeat and catchy as it is a positive reinforcement for little girls, teens and grown women alike. Serving as the lead single from Kellie’s self-titled second album, this kick up your heels track didn’t quite make it into the Billboard Hot Country Top Twenty.
I really can’t understand why this track was met with such mixed reviews upon its release; all I hear is a fun, country track with a great message and a fabulous vocal from a talent who just doesn’t get the credit she deserves.
‘Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful’ is accessible country with a twist of pop, done to perfection!
Life is a highway//I wanna ride it all night long//If you’re going my way//I wanna drive it all night long
Essential track: ‘Life is a Highway’ (2006)
‘Life is a Highway’ was written and recorded by Canadian artist Tom Cochrane and featured on his album ‘Mad, Mad World’ in 1991, hitting #1 in his homeland and becoming his most well-known track. Today, I’ve chosen Rascal Flatt’s 2006 cover version, purely for the energy the band injects into this rocking country track.
Scoring the Ohio boys a top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and a People’s Choice Award for ‘Favourite Song from a Movie’; ‘Life is a Highway’ appeared on the soundtrack for Disney Pixar’s ‘Cars’. It rocks, it rolls and it drives along like the great country anthem it is, not asking you to sing along with the uplifting killer hook, but demanding it!
I defy anyone not to love this track, so get it on your summer country playlist today and make sure it’s cranked up loud!
I’m from the dirt road poison ivy league of campfires, guitars, and river swings//Got the good life down and if you hang around we can get a little dust on that collar//Cause I’m a genuine, certified dirt road scholar
Essential track: ‘Dirt Road Scholar’ (2009)
Canadian country artist Dean Brody kicks off our list in boot scooting style with this must-hear track from his self-titled debut album. ‘Dirt Roads Scholar’ is unadulterated classic country, complete with steel guitar, fiddle and a catchy chorus just begging you to sing along.
Personally, I love Dean’s vocal style, and his rich, velvet quality and emotive country lilt on this good time track is just spine-tinglingly good. Despite mostly favourable reviews for his brand of radio friendly music, Dean is one of the unsung heroes of country.
If you like classic country with a contemporary twist, then you can’t go far wrong with Dean Brody, and ‘Dirt Road Scholar’ is a perfect feel good, summer time track!
I’m winding up today with a salute to one of the most prestigious venues for country music in the States – The Grand Ole Opry. Originating 90 years ago, The Grand Ole Opry has become synonymous with incredible country artists. The list of names to walk the stage is endless, from Patsy Cline to Dolly Parton to Garth Brookes, and countless more in between.
Launching the careers of some of the best names in country and showcasing upcoming talent, The Grand Ole Opry is more than a musical institution, it’s part of the culture of country. I fondly remember watching televised shows during the eighties with my parents and loving every history laden moment.
Have you loved reading this article? I really hope so! And if you’d care to add your own favourites to this list, get commenting!
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