The Bear Goes Country
I listen to music. A lot. Like a lot lot. I’m a computer programmer that has music on whenever I’m working. I work out twice a day and my headphones are always on at the gym. It doesn’t matter how long or short a drive is – you can be assured my phone has some playlist going and I have playlists by year from 1965 to 2020 and then a bunch of different ones based on genre. Check my Spotify minutes from 2020. The year isn’t not even over yet!
You might be wondering what I’m listening to all that time and the answer is literally almost everything. It all depends on the mood I’m in and the activity I’m doing. Sometimes when I’m
stressed or need to concentrate I’ll throw on some classical. If I’m at the gym then it’s almost 100% house and club music and I’ll throw in some rap, too. The Lib of the House and I spend a few months in France each year (unfortunately not this year) so I like a lot of French bands. Sometimes I just want an aggressive rock album to get me motivated. Also, Dio rules.
However, one of my favorite genres is country. My parents met in a country music bar called The Wagon Wheel where my mom was singing with her band. Her nickname was “Toke” since she liked the herb and my pa who had just gotten out of the military was a hard-drinking man that loved to party. I guess they had a pretty good time because I came along so they decided to get hitched. After that, they had to settle it down a bit but I grew up with country and bluegrass on the radio or on a CD almost constantly. Classic country takes me back to when I was a kid listening to an old radio working on a project either in the garage or the basement with my pops.
Another reason I love country is it’s a good fit for right-leaning people. Most country artists are patriotic. They don’t necessarily like the government all that much and freedom is the most important issue to them. If living free means being an outlaw that pisses off the government then so be it. They understand why we like our guns and driving trucks. I grew up riding horses and driving ATVs through the woods. I played in haylofts. I shoveled manure and bailed hay for extra money. All stuff that you hear occasionally on a good country track. I’ve fully embraced and am at peace with my inner redneck.
So you’re probably thinking that it’s December of 2020 and I’m here to give you best country album picks from 2020 but you’d be wrong. I didn’t think 2020 was that great for country honestly. There were a lot of decent albums but there were so many better albums from different genres that took my attention off country. However, let me tell you some standout albums from 2019 because that was a great year for country!
The Highwoman (self-titled)
The Highwoman are a country super group composed of Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires. When I first saw this album I thought it was pretty bold of them to do a band name that referenced that great act The Highwaymen from the 1980’s (I’ve seen a member of that band Willie Nelson in concert 3 times). The reference is apt in this case as the album is one of my favorites to throw on. There isn’t one mediocre track on this 12 song album. They’re all about woman power while still retaining their femininity and that’s a balance that modern leftist feminism seems to be lacking. The Highwoman are political but not in an abrasive anti-family way. The tracks range in emotion and tempo but each one was written with care and love. They really are masters of their craft.
Top tracks: My Name Can’t Be Mama. Cocktail And A Song. Redesigning Woman. Loose Change.
Riley Green (Different ‘Round Here)
The Lib of the House calls this album “Pander Country”. I asked why she called it that and she replied “Because he’s always pandering to his audience which is guys like you talking about his truck, his guns, drinking, and that he don’t give a damn if you don’t like that he stands for the flag.” She understands that he’s sniping at libs with that last part because most libs aren’t patriots and think the flag is bad but she won’t accept that is what the Democrat party has become. And maybe he does pander – I don’t care. There’s no tension in this album even on the higher energy tracks. You could throw it on when you have a few beers with a friend or just as easy as when you’re alone and it would just stay loose and flow. Music than can be the focal point or the background music can be tricky to make but this man nails it.
Top tracks: Different ‘Round Here. In A Truck Right Now. Numbers On The Cars. Get That Man A Beer
Mike and the Moonpies (Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold)
The Lib of the House loves this album and I agree 100% with her. This is the first album we sometimes throw on when it’s a warm, lazy Sunday morning with all the windows wide open and there’s a nice breeze rolling through the house because that’s the type of music this album feels like (if that makes sense to you). It’s a super smooth throwback country album with strings and horns and I really enjoy that mid-70’s country sound. Give it a listen!
Top tracks: Cheap Silver. Young In Love. If You Want A Fool Around. London Homesick Blues.
Miranda Lambert (Wildcard)
I’m not normally a “pop country” guy but this album is so darn catchy that the first time I listened to it I put it on again for a second listen. Normally when I see an album with 14 songs you can be sure there’s almost going to be one or two that are filler material but that’s not the case here. Each piece of ear candy is about 3 minutes long with a super catchy course that will have you singing along before you even realize you’re doing it.
Top tracks: Settling Down. Bluebird. Dark Bars. Pretty Bitchin’. Way Too Pretty For Prison.
Jon Pardi (Heartache Medication)
Jon Pardi doesn’t try to do anything fancy on this album other than lay down some solid country tracks with some slide guitar, fiddle, lots of twang, and some good hooks. He’s definitely old hat and the first song opens with that theme - “You can bet your ass there’s a bunch of us old cats wearing old hats and boots that ain’t ready to give old hat the boot”. The rest of the album follows a lot of core themes in country music such as drinking and heartache and it’s catchy, enjoyable album.
Top tracks: Old Hat. Ain’t Always The Cowboy. Me and Jack. Don’t Blame It On The Whiskey
And if you want one album from 2020 that I really thought stood out check out Ashley McBryde’s Never Will.