Country Music 2019: In Review – Editor’s Picks
2019 has been another stellar year in country music. Aside from the utterly ridiculous controversy around Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road (seriously, it’s just as country as anything Thomas Rhett or Florida Georgia Line peddle), there have been some great moments. Here’s my pick of the top music and moments from the year – Mark
Album of the Year
Flatland Cavalry – Homeland Insecurity
There have been some really cool albums released in 2019. Midland returned with their sophomore record Let It Roll, a glossy and stylish throwback record, Whiskey Myers blew everyone’s socks off with their eponymous album, Sturgill Simpson’s Sound and Fury landed to much applause from some and much confusion from others, and Cody Jinks dropped two albums in two weeks with After the Fire and The Wanting. The winner for me has to be a record that provides a great example of quality songwriting and excellent musicianship from an up-and-coming band. It just beats Mike and the Moonpies Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold to the title, but with songs like the outstanding Come Back Down, Honeywine and Years from Now on the record, it has to be my favourite.
Song of the Year
Cody Jinks – William and Wanda
This is a tough one. There have been so many great songs this year, especially if you’re looking at album cuts as well as the big singles. Standout tunes for me have been Whiskey Myers – Bitch, a song that many people needed after hearing too much watered-down Nashville country, Mike and the Moonpies continued their ascent through Texas country with the outstanding You Look Good in Neon, a real dive bar classic in the making, Aaron Watson‘s Riding With Red weaved yet another rich cowboy tapestry and formed a beautiful tribute to a lost friend, but there can only be one winner for me. William and Wanda by Cody Jinks is quite simply one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Telling the tale of an elderly married couple (based on Jink’s own grandparents following the death of his grandmother), the song follows his grandfathers journey to the afterlife where he prepares a home for them, nurses their child who was lost at birth and patiently waits for his wife. She joins him at the end of the song and I defy you not to shed a tear. Beautiful stuff.
Favourite Live Show
For a man who’s played the role of Buddy Holly on the West End and portrayed Nashville sideman Deacon Claybourne on TV’s Nashville, you would expect he knows a little about what he’s doing when he hits the stage, and you’d be right! Charles Esten brings so much energy and love to his shows, each and every night, and that encapsulated the crowds during his two UK tours this year. The first, an intimate acoustic affair, and the second, a full band blow-the-roof-off type of thing. We spoke to him before his show in Manchester and positivity and excitement exuded from him. Charles has been rewarded with a place in the main stage lineup for next years Country2Country festival.
Best UK Festival
The Long Road
I think The Long Road has to be commended for it’s continued growth and the focus they put on providing a variety of artists for fans to enjoy, all curated by the great Baylen Leonard. Country2Country has been the big dog for many years, but with increased frustration around their pop-country leaning tendencies and sky-high ticket prices, many people are saving their cash for The Long Road. With artists from Austin Jenckes and Kip Moore to John Paul White and The Steel Woods on the bill this year, it ticked a lot of boxes.
Best Newly Discovered Artist
Texas is a rich breeding ground for outstanding artists and Flatland Cavalry are no different. Their latest album Homeland Insecurity was filled with rich instrumentation, thoughtful lyrics and the solid vocals of lead singer Cleto Cordero, who we spoke to earlier this year. In times where Nashville artists just have to harp on about tailgating over a snaptrack to make the big time, Texas is single handedly saving country music. Flatland Cavalry are a band that are only going to get bigger and bigger, joining the likes of the oft-compared Turnpike Troubadours as arena artists. Here’s to hoping they follow Mike and the Moonpies lead and come to the UK soon!
Most Memorable Moment
Interviewing Bob Harris
Whispering Bob Harris has been the figurehead of bringing country to the UK for some time now, so when the opportunity to interview him came up I just couldn’t miss it! Bob is an absolute joy to speak to and his passion for country music knows no bounds. We spoke for nearly an hour about his thoughts on the future of country in the UK, how it felt being the only person flying the flag and he even gave us a great story about Alan Jackson (I don’t think we’ll be seeing him over here any time soon!). Thank you Bob!
The release of Zac Brown Band – The Owl
By this point they’ve taken enough beatings to last a lifetime, so this’ll be the last one from me. Zac Brown Band are so musically talented that many people hold them as their number one country act, so when they started experimenting with their sound there were bound to be moans and groans. I don’t have a problem with this, what I don’t like, however, is bad music and The Owl is seriously bad music. Listen to God Given again and try to argue…
Hope for 2020…
My biggest hope for 2020 is that we get to see more and more artists making the jump over to the UK and Europe to tour. A lot of the Nashville artists now frequent us, but I’d love to see a Chris Stapleton tour (who wouldn’t?!), that’d be the dream. It’d also be great to see Jason Isbell over here again, he’s due to have a new album out in 2020. I’m thrilled that Mike and the Moonpies are following up on Mike’s promise during our interview and will head over in March. My dream is a Texan music festival. Cody Jinks, Mike and the Moonpies, Flatland Cavalry, William Clark Green, Wade Bowen… sounds amazing, right?! Even just a few of those dipping a toe in the waters here would be plenty for me.