This morning I have a new song for you by Brandy Clark, not to be confused with my beloved Brandi Carlile. “Who You Thought I Was” is off her third album, Your Life is a Record, which came out last Friday. It’s been getting a lot of excellent praise, which is well deserved because it is a fantastic record. Brandy has been writing and recording in Nashville for about the past decade or so and despite much critical acclaim has never really managed to break through on country radio, which with this record she says she has come to terms with and is happy with where her career is now. I still think it’s a shame because she is wonderful songwriter and performer. The larger country music world is missing out.
The Dixie Chicks are back and this time with new music! They did a reunion tour a couple years ago that I went to, but they didn’t record any new music to go along with it. They’re releasing a new album for the first time in 14 years on May 1 and just dropped the first single, “Gaslighter”, from it on Wednesday. Shock of all shocks my local country radio station even played it! I never thought I’d hear another Dixie Chicks song on mainstream country radio again. Add in their history with country radio to today’s antipathy towards female country artists and it’s a modern day miracle!
It’s not my favorite Dixie Chicks song ever. It may or may not grow on me. The Dixie Chicks have never been a band where I have loved every single song that they’ve put out, so I’m not that concerned that I don’t love this particular song. I’m super excited to have new music by them and am very much looking forward to hearing what’s on the rest of the album.
I had a completely different country song by a female artist lined up to talk about this morning, but instead I’m going to talk about this song that isn’t really new at all by any stretch of the imagination. Based on the date it was released on YouTube it’s actually almost exactly one year old. However I’m going to go with it for a couple reasons. First, I heard it on actual country radio for the first time yesterday, which makes it count as new to me. Second, the reason that was notable for me was because this is one of the songs I heard the songwriter Zach Kale sing at the Listening Room Cafe in my recent trip to Nashville.
I don’t want to actually say too much about the song “I Hope” by Gabby Barrett because part of the fun of hearing this song for the first time is not really knowing where it’s going. It’s a great country song that way. I don’t know of any other genre that is so good with lyrical turns as country music is. This was one of my favorite songs of the night, and I’m excited to have heard it on country radio and sung by a woman no less.
I hope you all are ready for some country music by women because after my latest trip to Nashville I’m even more determined to promote female country artists. Despite what country radio would have you believe, they do in fact exist. It’s only January 24 and I already have enough new music tagged to write New Music Friday posts for an entire month. That will obviously only continue to grow. I think I might just write about country ladies until I run out of them.
My first post is actually about Little Big Town, a country group that is mostly fronted by ladies but which is composed of two women and two men. So there are some songs fronted by men, but for the most part Karen Fairchild is their frontwoman so I’m going to go with it. They have actually been a fixture in country music radio for the past decade until this album apparently. Their new album Nightfall came out last Friday, but I haven’t heard either of the singles that have been out since last fall on my local country station.
It’s probably because the new album for the most part doesn’t fit into country music’s current obsession with men and their obsessions with trucks, women, and drinking. Stephen Thompson from NPR music called it “…very adult songwriting. Songs for grownups about grownups.” That is not something country music seems terribly interested in. It’s not really a surprise that country music radio didn’t want to touch the first single off the album, “The Daughters”, which contains lyrics like
“And pose like a trophy on a shelf
Dream for everyone, but not yourself
I’ve heard of God the Son and God the Father
I’m just looking for a God for the daughters”.
Aside from the one dumb drinking song that I guess they thought was obligatory and which I skip every time I listen to the album, the whole thing is fantastic. It’s beautiful and profound country music with songs that address real issues. It’s by far my favorite Little Big Town album. Of course it’s the only Little Big Town album I think I’ve listened to all the way through. Although I’ve enjoyed their singles in the past they did not for whatever reason ever inspire me to dig deeper, but the two songs I heard off this album to start made me want to listen to the whole thing and I’m so very glad I did.
I really do encourage you to listen to the entire album, but if you don’t want to at least listen to “The Daughters”.
I’m in Nashville right now so it feels right that this week’s New Music Friday post is about Ashley McBryde’s “Martha Divine”. It’s a great country rock song with a great twist on the old country trope of songs about taking some sort of revenge on the woman who cheated with your man. In this case it’s actually a daughter going after the woman who her father cheated on her mother with. This is a fantastic song, and I’m going to super mad when country music radio completely ignores it. Don’t let the literal man get you down. Let me help you find the great female country artists that the Nashville machine will make you think don’t exist anymore.
Today I have a new holiday song for you from the recently released compilation record, A Dualtone Christmas, containing Christmas songs by artists on the label. I’m talking about “Holiday Song” by Amos Lee. I love the ideas in this song. This time of year more than any other we talk about peace and in this song Amos Lee talks about not just wishing for peace but being an agent of peace even in the smallest of ways with lyrics like “my peace will start with me” and “to my gift I will be true and do what little I can do”.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and the little things that can bring great joy. I was thinking about some of the things that have brought me the most joy this year are little things that people in my neighborhood do. I’ve written about some of them here and some of them I’ve been planning to write about but haven’t yet even though I have the photos to go with the posts. It’s just little things like switching out flags, putting little seasonal hats on the spiral of ceramic cats they have on the wall of their house, painting light posts, and creating a gnome garden for neighborhood children. Also, the man who started cleaning the library overnight this fall before he leaves in the morning writes messages of encouragement on a whiteboard near the entrance. I love seeing them when I come in every morning and was especially delighted to see his final message of the year on Wednesday. It’s hard to read the actual message in the picture, but the fact that he brought in this Santa balloon and drew him going down the chimney made mine and I know a lot of other people’s days.
It makes me think about what am I doing to bring joy to people or to try and create peace. At my church we talk about shalom meaning nothing missing, nothing broken and that’s the peace we’re working towards. Living in a city where the problems seem so intractable and are getting worse every year instead of better sometimes it’s hard to see how anything can make a difference. Add to that everything else horrible that’s going on int he world and most of the time I just feel a sense of defeated hopelessness. But then I’m reminded that sometimes even little things matter. It’s part of the reason I did the year of the cookie project in 2018 to try and bring a little joy into the world. I never feel like I’m doing enough on a larger scale. I mostly just throw money at the things I believe in, which is of course needed but it never feels like enough and I know the sacrifice would be giving more of my time because it’s what I’m more selfish with. So I will spend this season reflecting once again on as Amos Lee says what my gifts are and using them to do what little I can do to do my part to create peace and a world where nothing is missing and nothing is broken.
As I’ve mentioned here before I collect Christmas ornaments as souvenirs. I think they are the perfect souvenir because they don’t take up a ton of room, they’re useful, and when I pull them out every year I get remember all the great trips I’ve taken. In general they’re also pretty easy to find and keychains will work as a stand-in in a pinch. These are the ornaments I added to my collection in 2019.
- Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – I picked this ornament up when I went to Cleveland for a conference this past spring. The conference reception was at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which I of course loved. I actually wound up buying this ornament in the airport because the line in the museum gift shop was out of control. It would have taken me at least an hour. I didn’t want an ornament that bad. Luckily the airport provided and I managed to get one, though not the one I had picked out in the museum gift shop.
- Hogwarts’ Express – I got this ornament during our trip to Orlando this past February. Obviously it came from inside Harry Potter World in Universal Studios.
- The Greek Theatre – I had to substitute a key chain for an actual ornament for The Greek. They had a little kiosk that sold The Greek merchandise where I bought this. There was actually a Christmas ornament listed on their price list, but there wasn’t one on the shelf so they keychain sufficed. I tried to pretty it up a little with a gold bow.
- 2019 Mickey and Minnie – This one as you may have guessed came from the same trip to Orlando where I got the Hogwarts ornament. This one I got in Disney World. Way back when we got married our friends bought us a Just Married ornament from Disney World that broke when our tree fell over a few years ago. Not surprisingly they no longer have that same ornament a decade later, and I didn’t want to replace it with a different wedding ornament. So I bought this one instead. I thought it fit my new souvenir ornament rule in that if possible I will only buy something non-breakable because see above story about the tree falling over and broken ornaments. I was obviously wrong about this ornament being something that wouldn’t break easily because I must have not hung it on a sturdy enough branch for its weight and it fell down the first night and their arms where they’re holding hands broke off. I managed to super glue them back on, but I also managed to superglue myself to a paper towel and also get super glue on my great-great grandmother’s ring. I’m hoping if I take it to a professional jeweler to clean they can get it off. At least if they can’t most of it is on the inside of the ring where you can’t see it.
- The St. Louis Arch – I bought this one when we went to St. Louis for my cousin’s wedding party in October.
- Maryland – The Maryland shaped ornament was one of my anniversary gifts for this year. It’s cut out of stainless steel and steel is the 11th anniversary gift.